Colombia

Colombia, U.S. continue war on drugs amid shifting battlefield

An AT-802 plane is seen fumigating over coca fields in San Miguel, close to the border with Ecuador, some 400 miles south of Bogota, Colombia, Monday, Dec.11, 2006. Ecuador has complained that the fumigation is a health hazard for the people that live in the region.
An AT-802 plane is seen fumigating over coca fields in San Miguel, close to the border with Ecuador, some 400 miles south of Bogota, Colombia, Monday, Dec.11, 2006. Ecuador has complained that the fumigation is a health hazard for the people that live in the region. AP

The White House on Tuesday requested $450.6 million for fiscal year 2017 to support Colombia’s anti-narcotics campaign and peace-building efforts in a program it’s dubbing Paz Colombia, officials said.

In a conference call with reporters Tuesday, William Brownfield, the assistant secretary for the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, said the money would be roughly split 50-50 between economic and social programs and the fight against narcotics.

The renewed commitment (it’s roughly $150 million more than previous years) comes as both President Barack Obama and Colombia’s Juan Manuel Santos recognize that old drug-control strategies have fallen short, Brownfield said.

A new path, he suggested, might be forged in April during the United Nations General Assembly’s special session on the world drug problem.

At the meeting “we’ll be hearing ideas from the two extremes . . . those who say we have to legalize drugs and all our problems will go away, and those who say we have to prohibit everything and all our problems will go away,” Brownfield said. “Between those two [positions] there will be those who offer new ideas.”

The U.S. delegation will make proposals that acknowledge addiction as a public health issue, consider alternatives to jail for drug offenses, and strengthen ties between anti-narcotics efforts and economic and social development, he said.

Brownfield, who was the U.S. ambassador to Colombia from 2007-2010, admitted that the U.S. was approaching the international debate amid shifting grounds at home.

Paz Colombia, which was announced last week during Santos’ visit to Washington, is considered the successor to Plan Colombia, launched in 1999 and credited with breaking the back of Marxist rebels and pulling this nation back from the brink of being a failed state.

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