US, Colom­bia reach new anti-drug traf­fick­ing plan

The Pak Banker - - FRONT PAGE - -REUTERS

The United States and Colom­bia on Mon­day an­nounced the launch of a new joint plan to com­bat drug traf­fick­ing, in­clud­ing in­vest­ments in ar­eas af­fected by vi­o­lence.

Colom­bian pres­i­dent Ivan Duque and US Na­tional Se­cu­rity Ad­vi­sor Robert O'Brien made the joint state­ment at the pres­i­den­tial palace in Bo­gota, fol­low­ing a meet­ing. They did not spec­ify the ex­act amount of re­sources al­lo­cated to the plan.

O'Brien said the US "will sup­port all of Colom­bia's ef­forts... to en­sure se­cu­rity in the coun­try, to com­bat crim­i­nal or­ga­ni­za­tions, some of which are transna­tional, and in do­ing so, we will help cre­ate the con­di­tions for eco­nomic growth" in both na­tions.

Duque added that the US govern­ment "has not only seen the im­por­tance of... con­tin­u­ing to ef­fec­tively com­bat drug traf­fick­ing and ter­ror­ism," but also of "com­bin­ing those ef­forts... with qual­ity in­vest­ment in places that have been af­fected by vi­o­lence."

They both pre­sented the ini­tia­tive as a new phase of the "Plan Colom­bia," an aid pack­age from Wash­ing­ton aimed at com­bat­ing drug traf­fick­ing in the South Amer­i­can coun­try. The US gave Colom­bia more than $7 bil­lion be­tween 2000 and 2016 un­der the Plan Colom­bia agree­ment, but the money ended up be­ing used to fight gueril­las with­out elim­i­nat­ing the drug trade.

The an­nounce­ment comes amid a spike in vi­o­lence through­out Colom­bia, re­sult­ing in 33 mas­sacres so far this year, ac­cord­ing to the UN.

The UN be­lieves that crim­i­nal gangs are re­spon­si­ble for nearly 80 per­cent of mas­sacres in Colom­bia this year, the vast ma­jor­ity of them oc­cur­ring in de­part­ments with "il­le­gal co­capro­duc­ing en­claves."

US Democrats opened their un­prece­dented on­line nom­i­nat­ing con­ven­tion Mon­day with a show of unity be­hind Joe Bi­den, as for­mer first lady Michelle Obama said the party's pres­i­den­tial can­di­date "knows what it takes" to lead the na­tion out of cri­sis.

With the Demo­cratic Party poised to of­fi­cially anoint the 77-year-old Bi­den as its nom­i­nee, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump de­fied coro­n­avirus con­cerns and staged com­pet­ing events in Wis­con­sin and neigh­bor­ing Min­nesota.

But at 8:00 pm (0100 GMT Tues­day) Wis­con­sin time, Amer­i­cans tuned in to what ap­peared to be a care­fully chore­ographed open­ing for the four-day uni­fy­ing con­fab.

"Ev­ery four years we come to­gether to reaf­firm our democ­racy," the con­ven­tion's mod­er­a­tor, ac­tress Eva Lon­go­ria, said in the open­ing mo­ments. "This year we've come to save it." Barack Obama's pop­u­lar wife Michelle was given the prime­time slot on the open­ing night of the con­ven­tion, which was to have been held over four days in Mil­wau­kee, Wis­con­sin, but which is now tak­ing place al­most en­tirely on­line be­cause of the COVID19 out­break.

In ex­cerpts of her re­marks re­leased ahead of her taped speech, Obama said Bi­den was a "ter­rific vice pres­i­dent" dur­ing the eight years he served as her hus­band's num­ber two. "I know Joe. He is a pro­foundly de­cent man guided by faith," she said. "He knows what it takes to res­cue an econ­omy, beat back a pan­demic and lead our coun­try," the for­mer first lady said.

"He will tell the truth, and trust sci­ence," she said in a jab at Trump, who has been ac­cused of re­peat­edly ig­nor­ing the ad­vice of his sci­en­tific ad­vi­sors on how to re­spond to the pan­demic.

Ver­mont Sen­a­tor Bernie San­ders, who chal­lenged Bi­den for the nom­i­na­tion from the pro­gres­sive left, was also due to ad­dress the con­ven­tion, which is be­ing live-streamed, on Mon­day. "This elec­tion is the most im­por­tant in the mod­ern his­tory of this coun­try," San­ders said in pre­pared re­marks.

"The fu­ture of our democ­racy is at stake," he said. "The fu­ture of our planet is at stake." Elect­ing Bi­den over Trump is an ab­so­lute ne­ces­sity, he stressed. "My friends, the price of fail­ure is just too great to imag­ine."

Trump flew on Air Force One mean­while to Mankato, Min­nesota, and Oshkosh, Wis­con­sin and de­liv­ered re­marks to sup­port­ers gath­ered on the air­port tar­macs. Speak­ing in Oshkosh, Trump ac­cused Bi­den and his run­ning mate Ka­mala Har­ris of seek­ing to en­act "crazy so­cial­ist poli­cies."

"This is the most dan­ger­ous elec­tion we've ever had," Trump said. "This will be a very large-scale Venezuela if they win." "The only way we're go­ing to lose this elec­tion is if the elec­tion is rigged," added the pres­i­dent, who trails Bi­den in nearly all na­tional polls as well as mul­ti­ple bat­tle­ground states. The Demo­cratic con­ven­tion is tak­ing place amid a furor over Trump's own ef­forts to limit mail-in vot­ing.

In­sist­ing with­out proof that it fos­ters fraud, Trump has threat­ened to block ex­tra fund­ing that Democrats say is ur­gently needed to al­low the US Postal Ser­vice to process mil­lions of bal­lots.


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