Blinken supports Colombia’s “holistic” approach to drug policy

BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) — U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken on Monday supported Colombia’s recent efforts to overhaul its drug policy and said the Biden administration and Colombia’s newly elected government will work together on rural development programs and efforts prohibition, while they will exchange information on drug trafficking groups.

The comments came after a meeting between Blinken and Colombian President Gustavo Petro in Bogota, the first stop on a South American tour that will also see the foreign minister visit Chile and Peru.

“We strongly support President Petro’s administration’s holistic approach to combating drugs through comprehensive agricultural security, justice, development, environmental protection, supply reduction as well as demand reduction, including in the United States,” Blinken said. at a press conference.

Last month Petro addressed the United Nations General Assembly and said US-led efforts to combat drug trafficking around the world had “failed”. He accused the US and other developed countries of taking a punitive approach to the drug trade that hurt small farmers in developing countries.

On Monday, Colombia’s president took a less combative tone.

After the meeting with Blinken, Petro said both sides talked about “more flexible” ways to deal with the drug trade that seeks to reduce production and consumption across the hemisphere.

Petro said coca farmers in remote areas of Colombia should receive land titles so they can more easily integrate into the legal economy. He proposed that the US support a $7 billion plan to buy land for landless farmers in Colombia and said an international fund should be created to support projects that would pay some coca farmers to give up the drug trade and become protectors of the tropics Amazon forest.

Colombia is struggling to control cocaine production as many armed groups take over rural areas abandoned by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia after their 2016 peace deal with the government, while government institutions are slow to arrive.

Petro said tougher action was needed against white-collar criminals who profit from the cocaine trade in Colombia and the United States, but argued that law enforcement should not target poor farmers who grow coca for a living in remote areas.

The Colombian president said the aerial fumigation of coca crops with chemicals would continue to be banned to protect the environment, but added that his government would seek to manually eradicate “industrial-sized” coca fields run by organized crime.

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