The United States and Colombia must align their anti-drug strategies to be able to take on current challenges and take advantage, as much as possible, of a changing global panorama in the fight against narcotics. Broadly speaking, that is one of the main conclusions of a new report published this Thursday by the Atlantic Council think tank and that it was written by former officials of both countries and other personalities with extensive experience in the bilateral relationship.
The report, obtained by EL TIEMPO, will be presented at 10 in the morning during an event in which, among others, former ambassadors Kevin Whitaker, Michael McKinley, Carolina Barco and the Minister of Justice, Néstor Osuna, participate.
The document includes a series of recommendations to give a new approach to an alliance that has been in place for more than three decades. and whose importance, they say, is vital for the interests of both countries.
The Atlantic Council’s analysis is based on two realities. On the one hand, the arrival of Gustavo Petro to the presidency with a new approach to combat the problem of illicit crops and which finally materialized through a strategy presented on September 7 in which it emphasizes rural development and interdiction.
(Also read: These are the extreme measures that Trump proposes to stop immigration in the US.)
On the other, the apparent change of priorities in Washington where fentanyl has become the main concern.
Two circumstances to which the explosion of illicit crops in the country that causes alarm among US authorities, due to the deterioration of security that has resulted in the strengthening of criminal organizations and a rarefied political climate in Washington where a sector of the Republican party distrusts Petro and his objectives in the matter.
Despite the challenges, Experts believe that there are areas where both countries can work as well as opportunities, perhaps unique, emanating from the current cocaine market.
According to the Council, the current trend of falling coca leaf and cocaine prices in Colombia presents a natural incentive for growers to look for alternatives to illicit crops.
(You can read: US Ambassador to Colombia talks about the Petro government’s anti-drug approach)
That, they maintain, could increase the success rate of crop substitution programs, but as long as it is accompanied by a comprehensive security strategy for the affected areas.
The report states that Petro’s plan to bring development and security to the regions would cost at least $21 billion over a decade. Which would imply an enormous fiscal effort for the country as well as the participation of the international community. For this reason, he suggests creating a donor fund headed by the World Bank to collect and channel resources.
“The United States and Colombia have a 30-year history of collaboration on this issue. However, there is still a long way to go… This cooperation will require a delicate balance between reducing large-scale coca cultivation and building the capabilities of security services to disrupt organized criminal networks, as well as to invest in rural areas and communities most affected by the phenomenon,” the report says.
The report also indicates that, although fentanyl is their top priority, The US must not forget that drug cartels are interconnected nor the deterioration in regional security that can be caused by an unchecked coca trade in South America and that is already seeking other markets in Asia and Africa.
These are some of the recommendations included in the report.
1. Create a multilateral trust fund that can provide sustained financing for replacement and alternative development programs
“Colombia’s new anti-drug strategy carries an estimated cost of more than $21 billion over the next decade. To secure international support and incentivize donors to contribute to the long-term success of substitution crops and alternative development programs, “We propose the establishment of a trust fund directed by a recognized international financial institution,” points out the text.
Given that the World Bank has a proven track record of efficiently mobilizing resources through trust funds, it may be best suited to leverage its broad convening power both on the international stage and within individual countries.
(Keep reading: The United States certified Colombia’s performance in the fight against drugs)
2. Arrests on the high seas
Under Colombian law, any person arrested at sea must be presented to judicial authorities within 48 hours.
In practice, this means that maritime patrols must leave their area of operation to return detainees, causing a temporary suspension of surveillance. The US can support Colombia by offering equipment and training to incorporate technology that allows video processing of those arrested without the need to return to the port.
3. Industrial crops
The United States and Colombia must agree on precise criteria to define what is considered an industrial coca plantation and therefore can be eradicated manually. Likewise, when replacing illicit crops with agricultural products on an industrial scale, one must first consider the type of industrial crop most suitable for the area, the presence of an external market for that product and compliance with sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) standards in abroad so that they can have guaranteed access to other markets.
4. Intelligence against the cartels
Prioritize real-time intelligence sharing on drug trafficking that includes routes and money laundering as well as promote advanced technologies for surveillance, interdiction and data analysis.
(Also: The United States reacts to the increase in crops and Gustavo Petro’s drug plan)
5. Debt for protection of the Amazon and reforestation
The Atlantic suggests that the US accompany the Colombian government in the process of an eventual debt restructuring to allocate saved funds to initiatives focused on forest preservation, sustainable land use, and community development.
“To achieve this, both countries can start by collaborating on a detailed framework that outlines specific conservation objectives and reforestation objectives and then decide on the allocation of saved debt funds towards a mix of projects, particularly in coca-growing areas. “The United States could become a key player in monitoring and verifying that committed funds are being used effectively,” the report says.
SERGIO GÓMEZ MASERI
EL TIEMPO correspondent
On Twitter: @sergom68
#Atlantic #Councils #recommendations #USColombia #antinarcotics #cooperation