Colombia launches ‘elite power’ to focus on rebels, drug gangs | Crime Information

The brand new unit consisting of seven,000 personnel can be deployed to frame with Venezuela and to drug trafficking hotspots.

Colombia on Friday launched a brand new army unit to focus on coca crops and cocaine manufacturing, illicit mining, and the unlawful armed teams who use such actions for monetary achieve.

Colombia’s resolution to launch the unit, often called CONAT in its Spanish initials, got here whereas the nation was making ready to restart aerial spraying of coca crops with the herbicide glyphosate – presumably beginning on the finish of March – relying on the federal government receiving approval from the Constitutional Courtroom.

“The unit was born to hit, repress, and break down the constructions of drug trafficking and transnational threats linked to unlawful mining, the trafficking of wildlife and folks, and – in fact – any transnational type of terrorism,” President Ivan Duque mentioned at a army base in Tolemaida.

Colombia, thought-about the world’s main producer of cocaine, suspended aerial spraying of glyphosate in 2015 following warnings the World Well being Group that the chemical was probably damaging to well being and the setting.

The brand new unit can be deployed to zones such because the Catatumbo area on the border with Venezuela, in addition to the provinces of Cauca and Putamayo [Courtesy Colombian Presidency/Handout via Reuters]

The brand new unit, consisting of seven,000 personnel, can be deployed to zones such because the Catatumbo area on the border with Venezuela, in addition to the provinces of Cauca and Putamayo, Defence Minister Diego Molano mentioned.

Colombia has confronted fixed stress from the US, a significant vacation spot for cocaine, to cut back the dimensions of crops of coca, the drug’s chief ingredient.

Throughout 2019, coca crops lined some 154,000 hectares (380,000 acres) in Colombia, with a possible to provide 1,137 tonnes of cocaine, based on the United Nations Workplace on Medicine and Crime. There aren’t any figures obtainable for 2020.

The armed forces eradicated 321,240 acres (130,000 hectares) of coca final yr, based on the federal government, and seized 500 tonnes of cocaine.

Drug trafficking has lengthy pushed Colombia’s inner armed battle, which has left greater than 260,000 lifeless and hundreds of thousands displaced.

Throughout his deal with, surrounded helicopters, tanks and a whole lot of troopers, Duque additionally mentioned the power would pursue “with out qualms” members of the ELN – the final energetic insurgent group in Colombia, in addition to drug gangs and ex-FARC rebels who’ve deserted the phrases of a 2016 peace deal, he mentioned.

“Troopers, it’s a morally needed, morally right battle … Let’s go for the defence of Colombia!” he mentioned.

Surrounded helicopters, tanks and a whole lot of troopers, President Ivan Duque additionally mentioned the power would pursue ‘with out qualms’ members of the ELN and ex-FARC rebels [Courtesy Colombian Presidency/Handout via Reuters]

When he first introduced the creation of the elite power earlier this month, he mentioned a lot of its targets “are protected in Venezuela” although he didn’t point out direct army motion within the neighbouring nation. On Friday, Duque didn’t point out Venezuela.

However his assertion prompted Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to pledge to “reply forcefully”.

From Caracas, he mentioned the nation’s safety forces ought to “clear the barrels of our rifles to reply them at any degree we have to reply if Ivan Duque dares violate the sovereignty of Venezuela.”

Colombia and dozens of different international locations recognise opposition chief Juan Guaido as interim president, prompting Venezuela to interrupt off diplomatic ties with its neighbour in 2019.

Colombia has repeatedly accused Venezuela of offering refuge to leftist armed teams, a cost Caracas has denied.

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