US, Colombia reach new anti-drug trafficking plan
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.