Colombian authorities have committed to seize the “largest amount of cocaine in history,” according to an early 2023 directive from the Colombian government to combat narcotrafficking, Spanish news site Notimerica reported.
“There needs to be a [total] seizure that represents historic figures […],” said Colombian Defense Minister Iván Velásquez on February 25, during a security council held in the northern Magdalena department, Infobae reported. “What we have learned is that this area of Magdalena is used for drug transit from the south of Bolívar or from Catatumbo or to the ports, which means that greater action by the security forces is necessary,” the minister added.
That same day, the National Army issued a statement announcing a major blow to narcotrafficking with the destruction of a laboratory with more than 8.3 tons of cocaine hydrochloride in Catatumbo, Norte de Santander department, bordering Venezuela. The find was announced as one of the largest so far this year, reported Colombian newspaper El Tiempo.
This achievement led by the Army was made within the framework of Plan Ayacucho, the military strategy that accompanies the goal of the government of President Gustavo Petro for “total peace,” with the support of the Colombian Air Force and the Attorney General’s Office.
“Norte de Santander is one of the main enclaves in Colombia, according to the U.N. observatory for the fight against illicit drugs. This allows us to identify the department as one of the regions of the country most affected by narcotrafficking, organized armed groups [GAOs] and organized criminal groups,” Colombian Army Brigadier General Javier Hernando Africano López, commander of the Command Against Drug Trafficking and Transnational Threats (CONAT), told Diálogo.
The laboratory, which processed and produced cocaine hydrochloride, was located in a mountainous area difficult to access not only because of the geographical conditions of the terrain, but also due to the presence of armed groups. On site, in addition to the drugs, authorities found more than 31,800 liters of liquid chemical precursors and 1,750 kilograms of solid chemical precursors, the army said.
Also in February, the U.S. government reiterated its support for Colombia’s efforts in the fight against narcotrafficking. In a tweet, the U.S. State Department’s International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Bureau (ILN) highlighted the meeting between Colombia’s Attorney General Francisco Barbosa and Deputy Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Programs in the ILN Bureau Charisse Phillips, which “reaffirmed the shared commitment to the fight against drug trafficking and transnational organized crime in the region.”
So far in 2023 (as of April 3), CONAT has already destroyed 88 laboratories, seized more than 20 tons of cocaine hydrochloride, neutralized 185 coca leaf seedbeds, and destroyed more than 1 million coca leaf plants. “These results affect the illicit economies of the GAOs and transnational organized crime,” Brig. Gen. Africano said.