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US, Colombia address war on drugs, migration, climate crisis

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Oct 04, 2022 - 01:44 AM

BOGOTA, Colombia (AA) – US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met Monday with Colombian President Gustavo Petro to discuss ways to strengthen their countries’ long-standing relationship.

They spoke about the peace process supported by Petro with armed groups and the US-led war on drugs, which has been heavily criticized by the president.

​​Blinken said at a press conference held in the capital Bogota that the US “strongly” supports the comprehensive approach to curb drug trafficking proposed by Petro.

Colombia’s first leftist president is a staunch critic of the drug war, which he says has been an unmitigated failure.

According to the latest White House report, in 2021, there were 234,000 hectares of coca leaves planted in Colombia, making it a top producer of cocaine.

While the South American country has historically faced pressure from the US to eradicate drug crops, Petro has supported the legalization of drugs, including cocaine.

Petro also said it was a “mistake” for the US to include Cuba on its list of countries that sponsor terrorism after Colombia negotiated peace with the FARC guerrilla group in Havana, which concluded with a peace agreement signed in 2016.

Blinken and Petro also addressed irregular migration and climate change.

“Petro has proven world leadership on the climate crisis,” Blinken said.

After Colombia, Blinken will visit Chile and Peru, where he will attend a ministerial summit and hold talks on regional issues including migration and the crisis in Venezuela.

The three countries he is visiting, which have always been strong US allies, are now led by leftist presidents with whom Washington is seeking to build strong partnerships.

“We have never had such strong relations with the southern hemisphere,” Assistant Secretary Brian Nichols, the State Department’s top diplomat on the Western Hemisphere, told reporters Friday.

“We are not judging countries based on where they fall on the political spectrum but rather their commitment to democracy, the rule of law and human rights,” he added.

Blinken’s Latin American tour kicks off a day after the first presidential election round in Brazil, which was won by leftist former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva over far right-wing populist President Jair Bolsonaro but will now head to a runoff due to the failure of either candidate to obtain 50% of the vote.

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