Fact Sheet: Cooperation Between the United States and Colombia on Counter-Drug Programs

Cooperation Between the United States and Colombia on Counter-Drug Programs
(Cartagena, Colombia)

The increased U.S. assistance for Colombia provided in the Emergency Supplemental Act, as enacted in the Military Construction Appropriations Act of 2001, includes substantial funding for counter-drug programs. The major counter-drug components of this initiative are:

U.S. assistance for Colombian counter-drug programs is fully in line with our $18.5 billion National Drug Control Strategy, which outlines a comprehensive attack on the illicit drug trade. Its goals and related programs include eliminating production at the source, interdicting drug shipments and prosecuting traffickers, and reducing U.S. domestic consumption through $6 billion worth of prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation programs.

This increased assistance for Colombia also reflects significant recent trends in the Andean source zone. Andean net coca cultivation and potential cocaine production continued to decline in 1999 and are now at the lowest levels since 1987. Overall Andean net coca cultivation declined to 183,000 hectares in 1999, four percent less than the 1998 figure, and 15 percent less than in 1995. Potential cocaine production fell to 765 metric tons, a drop of seven percent from the 1998 figure, and an 18 percent drop since 1995.

While the overall regional trend is positive, Colombia's role in drug production has increased dramatically over the last several years. Until 1997, most of the world's coca was grown in Peru and Bolivia, and coca base was then shipped to Colombia for processing and distribution. Aggressive drug crop eradication and interdiction operations in combination with alternative economic development programs in Peru and Bolivia have reduced coca cultivation in those countries by 66 percent and 55 percent, respectively, since 1995.

Unfortunately, the traffickers found favorable conditions to move coca cultivation to Colombia, particularly to areas dominated by insurgent or paramilitary groups. Recent estimates of coca cultivation in Colombia show a 140-percent increase over the past five years in the basic raw material for cocaine. Colombia now is the source of two-thirds of the world's cocaine. Ninety percent of the cocaine in the U.S. market comes from Colombia as does an estimated two-thirds of the heroin on the East Coast.

The Government of Colombia recognizes the severity of the threat and is committed to cooperating with the United States on counter-drug issues. President Pastrana has responded to this threat with Plan Colombia, a comprehensive strategy which addresses not only the drug trafficking problem, but also the broader rule of law and socioeconomic challenges Colombia faces.

For the United States, this is an historic opportunity to help President Pastrana implement a strategy which serves important national security interests of both countries. Each year, illegal drug abuse is linked to 52,000 American deaths and costs our society nearly $110 billion dollars in health care, accidents, and lost productivity.

The supply reduction efforts being implemented by Colombian authorities pursuant to Plan Colombia include illicit crop eradication and related alternative development initiatives, lab destruction operations, control of precursor and essential chemicals, interdiction of drug smuggling shipments, and investigation and prosecution of major drug traffickers. All of these efforts are essential to reducing the availability of illegal drugs and affording U.S. domestic demand reduction programs a better chance of success.

"Operation Journey" is an excellent recent example of effective law enforcement cooperation between the United States and Colombia. A two year, multi-national initiative against a Colombian drug transportation organization that used commercial ships to haul multi-ton loads of cocaine to 12 countries, "Operation Journey" resulted in the seizure of nearly 25 tons of cocaine and the arrest of 43 individuals, including the organization's alleged leader, Ivan De La Vega. De La Vega was arrested in Venezuela earlier this month and turned over to U.S. custody.

Colombia also recently extradited accused drug kingpin Alberto Orlandez-Gamboa, alias "Caracol", to the United States, the third Colombian drug trafficker extradited since the constitutional reform legislation passed in December 1997 authorized extradition of Colombian nationals for crimes committed after the effective date of enactment.

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