The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) works to keep Americans safe at home by countering international crime, illegal drugs, and instability abroad. INL helps countries deliver justice and fairness by strengthening their police, courts, and corrections systems. These efforts reduce the amount of crime and illegal drugs reaching U.S. shores.
Colombia is the world’s largest producer of cocaine and the source of more than 90 percent of the cocaine seized in the United States. From 2013 to 2017, pure cocaine production potential increased by 292 percent while coca cultivation increased by 160 percent according to U.S. government estimates. Although the Colombian government continues to counter the production and trafficking of illicit drugs through eradication, interdiction, and counter-organized crime operations, Colombian coca cultivation and cocaine production exceeded record levels during 2017. For additional information, please see the International Narcotics Control Strategy Report.
Key challenges facing Colombia include the cultivation of illicit crops, production and trafficking of illegal drugs, criminal activities and associated violence committed by transnational criminal organizations, a lack of governance in rural areas, corruption, and a weak judicial system.
INL supports Colombian government efforts to reduce coca cultivation, disrupt the production and trafficking of cocaine, and dismantle transnational organized criminal groups. INL builds the capacity of the Colombian National Police (CNP) and other Colombian criminal justice system partners to investigate and prosecute crime more effectively. INL also strengthens Colombia’s capacity to share its considerable security expertise with other countries in the region, an effort that leverages the successes of past assistance provided under Plan Colombia.
The United States and Colombia reaffirmed their enduring partnership at the March 2018 Colombia-U.S. High Level Dialogue, at which they pledged to expand counternarcotics cooperation over the next five years, in recognition of shared interests and responsibilities to achieve a sustained reduction in illegal narcotics trafficking. Colombia and the United States aim to reduce Colombia’s cocaine production and coca cultivation to 50 percent of 2017 levels (910 metric tons and 209,000 hectares) by the end of 2023.
- Colombia and the United States have collaborated effectively to confront transnational crime for nearly two decades. With bipartisan Congressional support, the United States has made a sustained investment in Colombian peace and security representing one of the top foreign policy successes of the past half century.
- Colombian police and military forces are key partners in our counternarcotics, counter-transnational organized crime, and citizen security capacity-building efforts in transit zone countries through Central America and the Caribbean. Through the U.S.-Colombia Action Plan (USCAP) on Regional Security Cooperation, Colombian police and military forces export law enforcement capabilities and build regional partnerships by training Central America and the Caribbean counterparts. In 2013, USCAP supported fewer than fifteen activities; in 2018, INL supported more than 320 USCAP activities implemented by the CNP; more than 13,000 police officers have been trained since inception. Over this same period, activities with third countries have evolved from predominantly basic training courses to more advanced training and long-term mentoring through embedded advisors.
- In 2018, with robust enabling support from INL, the Colombian government eradicated approximately 85,000 hectares through forced eradication and crop substitution. The Colombian government only achieved this level of manual coca eradication three times since 2000. INL will continue to play a critical role in the Colombia’s efforts to implement its integrated eradication program in order to achieve our joint objective of reducing coca cultivation and cocaine production by 50 percent by the end of 2023.
- Colombian forces maintained pressure on criminal groups and the Colombian government continued to be a steadfast partner on judicial cooperation, including on extraditions.
- In July 2018, INL and the CNP added 10 Blackhawk helicoptersto the Colombian fleet through joint investment. The additional helicopters grew the CNP’s Blackhawk fleet from nine to 19, providing an additional 3,000 flight hours per year in support of interdiction, eradication, and other law enforcement missions. Over the course of CY 2017, the expanded Blackhawk fleet directly enabled the CNP’s seizure of over 200 metric tons of cocaine.
- INL launched three new police engagement projects to assist the CNP in building public trust with communities in key zones of high coca cultivation. These projects are designed to aid the police in establishing a permanent presence in under-governed areas, particularly those vacated by the FARC following the peace accord, to provide public security and bring greater sustainability to eradication efforts over the long-term. INL will also support the CNP in expanding its permanent presence in these areas through police base and station construction and refurbishment projects.
- With INL support and in coordination with the Colombian judiciary, the Department of Justice Office of Overseas Prosecutorial Development Assistance and Training (OPDAT) developed a benchbook to serve as a key reference tool outlining legal procedures for judges for criminal proceedings. This benchbook has reduced hearing times significantly, helping reduce debilitating court congestion in Colombia. The Rodrigo Lara Bonilla judicial training school has published the benchbook on its official website and is incorporating this into its judicial training; the Attorney General’s Office has also incorporated it into its training for prosecutors.