US hails Colombia drug trade deal with rebels

The United States cheered a deal clinched by Colombia and leftist FARC rebels on ending the country`s vast illicit drugs trade.

AFP| Last Updated: May 19, 2014, 01:47 AM IST

Washington: The United States cheered a deal clinched by Colombia and leftist FARC rebels on ending the country`s vast illicit drugs trade.

The issue was the third on a six-point agenda for peace talks, which began November 2012, aimed at putting a stop to the longest-running insurgency in Latin America.

"Resolving the question of narcotics production and trafficking is central to achieving" peace, Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement.

"We congratulate President (Juan Manuel) Santos and the Colombian government for this advance," he said.

The deal, announced Friday, would see a campaign to eradicate illicit crops such as coca -- the source plant of cocaine -- and heroin, according to Rodolfo Benitez of Cuba, whose country is a guarantor of the process.

The plants will be forcefully eradicated if farmers insist on growing them.

Colombia and Peru are the world`s top producers of cocaine, a product that comes exclusively from coca bushes grown on the eastern slopes of the Andes.

The drug trade has fueled the leftist insurgency as well as right-wing paramilitary groups and organized crime.

"The FARC has long been deeply involved in, and profited from, cocaine production and transshipment," Kerry said.

In perhaps a nod toward the close partnership between the United States and Colombia on drug enforcement efforts, Kerry said "reducing cocaine trafficking, including through eradication and interdiction, helped establish the conditions for the peace process now underway."

"As this process moves forward, we will engage with our Colombian partners on this important topic," he added.

The FARC, with an estimated 7,000 to 8,000 fighters, have been at war with the state since its founding in 1964. Hundreds of thousands of people have died in the conflict.

Negotiators earlier agreed on issues of rural development and guerrilla integration into the political process.

The points that remain to be discussed include how FARC fighters will lay down their weapons, compensation for conflict victims and determining whether a final peace deal should be put to a national vote, as called by the government.

Tags: