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Marco Rubio, Rick Scott: Re-certify Colombia in the fight against drugs

The Senators are urging Trump to certify Colombia is an ally against illegal drugs.

Senators Rick Scott and Marco Rubio urge Donald Trump to certify Colombia in the fight against illegal drugs.

Colombia, somewhat notoriously, is known for the drug trade that comes out of the country. It’s estimated 70% of the cocaine supply, globally, is grown in Colombia and traded through the Western hemisphere to its final destination.

Over decades past, U.S. presidents and their administrations have worked closely with the Colombian government to come down on drug traffickers. The U.S. does this via the President of the United States formally certifying to Congress the country’s commitment to combating illegal drug-trade side-by-side with the U.S.

The certification comes with a number of benefits, including an appropriation of funds. A report by the Congressional Research Service suggests the legislature has appropriated “more than $10 billion of bilateral foreign assistance to support a Colombian-written strategy known as Plan Colombia and its successor programs” between 2000 – 2016.

Bloomberg reports that’s more than any country outside of the Middle East and Asia.

In 2016, Colombia’s Congress ratified a peace agreement with the left-wing insurgent political group called Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). 

The FARC agreement changed some of the ways Colombia approaches drug control, including that they would stop aerial spraying of chemicals that kill coca crops. In doing so, it changed the terms of its certification agreement with the United States, which had mandated the controversial practice of aerial spraying.

In September 2017, Trump surprised everyone when he announced that he reserves the right to decertify Colombia.

Colombia’s national government responded to Trump’s comments by saying:

“For more than 30 years Colombia has demonstrated its commitment – paying a very high cost in human lives – with overcoming the drug problem.

 “This commitment stems from the profound conviction that the consumption, production and trafficking of drugs constitute a serious threat to the well-being and security of citizens. Colombia is undoubtedly the country that has fought the most drugs and with more successes on this front. No one has to threaten us to meet this challenge.”

In July, Colombia’s court upheld the aerial spraying of glyphosate on coca, which has strong implications for the country’s relationship with the U.S. Today, in a letter to Trump, Senators Rubio and Scott pleaded:

“We urge you to certify to Congress that Colombia is fully committed to working with the U.S. government on efforts to combat the illegal drug trade. 

“As you know, Colombia is the most proactive nation countering narco-trafficking in the Western Hemisphere, only second to the U.S. in this regard. It is one of our nation’s strongest and most capable partners in Latin America and the Caribbean.

“Our free trade agreement with Colombia greatly benefits our economy, as well as our home State of Florida. For decades, Colombia has been fighting a Marxist communist insurgency, narcoterrorists, and cartels that have sought to replace the democratically elected government with a narcostate. 

“Successive U.S. administrations have worked closely with Colombia’s elected leaders and security forces to build the capacity of Colombian security forces, stem the flow of illicit trafficking, and interdict narcotics bound for the U.S. 

“We have witnessed firsthand the results of this partnership … It is our hope that Colombia will continue to build on this progress as a result of their Constitutional Court authorizing the Colombian government to restart aerial spraying of glyphosate on coca.”

Some political analysts believe it’s a pipe dream to think that Colombia can meet the new demands of the court ruling that establishes certain requirements for the aerial spraying of glyphosate, like continuous environmental monitoring. 

Will the gesture be enough to re-establish a clear certification from Trump of Colombia’s commitment to fighting drug trafficking? The Florida Senators are holding out hope for a continued arrangement between the two countries who have established strong ties due combating the illegal drug trade, together.

Written By

Melissa S. Razdrih is a Tampa correspondent for Florida Politics. Razdrih graduated with a Bachelor's degree from the University of Tampa in 2006 and went on to earn a Master's degree before switching gears to write professionally. Since then, Razdrih has been published in national blogs, like PopSugar, and local publications, like Tampa Bay Business and Wealth, on everything from self-care to cryptocurrency, but politics is her passion. Contact her at melissarazdrih@me.com.

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