Colombian Defense Minister Will Visit U.S. to Discuss Drug Trafficking

By Dialogo
January 20, 2011

Colombian Defense Minister Rodrigo Rivera will visit Washington the first week in February, when he will meet with U. S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, with whom he will discuss the issue of drug trafficking, the Ministry announced on 19 January.

“Drug trafficking and the strategic importance it has as fuel for the violence in Colombia and in the region are going to be central topics of that visit,” Rivera said, quoted in a statement issued by his office.

The minister specified that he will stress “issues such as prevention, fighting microtrafficking, drug use, and rehabilitation, in such a way that we take the social basis of demand away from drug trafficking in the continent.”

In fact, Rivera held a meeting the same day, at Defense Ministry headquarters in Bogotá, with U.S. drug czar Gil Kerlikowske, who is visiting Colombia.

In Washington, the Colombian minister will also meet with “high-ranking officials” at the State Department, the statement added, indicating that Rivera is also seeking “to improve effectiveness in intelligence and law-enforcement cooperation.”

Since 2000, the United States has been supporting Bogotá in the fight against drug trafficking through a program known as Plan Colombia, which in recent years has been extended to the fight against irregular armed groups, and as part of this plan, has given Colombia nearly seven billion dollars.

According to Washington, this aid has reduced Colombian cocaine production from 700 tons in 2001 to 270 in 2009.