US Drug Czar Hails Cocaine Drop in Colombia
By Dialogo January 20, 2011
US drug czar Gil Kerlikowske hailed progress in reducing the cocaine trade during a visit to Colombia on 18 January and said a new US policy would place more focus on prevention and treatment for addicts.
“We understand that the US is a very large market,” Kerlikowske, director of the White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy, said ahead of a meeting with Colombian President Juan Santos.
He added that Washington recognized “its shared responsibility” with Colombia, the world’s largest cocaine producer.
“Colombia’s progress in improving security, reducing the influence of drug cartels, improving the economic situation for its people and stabilizing the country is nothing short of astonishing,” Kerlikowske said after the meeting.
Bogota serves “as a beacon of hope for other nations struggling with the threat to democracy posed by drug trafficking and related crime,” he added, in a statement released by the White House.
US officials highlighted estimates that showed a dramatic drop in cocaine production in Colombia, from some 700 metric tons in 2001 to 270 tons in 2009.
The number of American cocaine users over the age of 12 has meanwhile dropped 21 percent in three years from an estimated 2.1 million users in 2007 to an estimated 1.6 million users in 2009, according to the White House.
Kerlikowske, a former police chief appointed by President Barack Obama, said he had discussed with Santos how efforts to curb consumption in the United States were helping to reduce production in Colombia.
“We must work much harder to keep our young people from being involved in drugs,” he told reporters.
He added that a new US approach “calls for reducing illicit drug use and its harmful consequences through prevention, early intervention, and treatment.”
Washington and Bogota are key allies in the drug war, with ongoing military aid under the six-billion-dollar Plan Colombia in place since 2000.
The funds help Colombia deal with drug trafficking and guerrilla violence but also includes the monitoring of human rights abuses by security forces.