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U.S. Department of State

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U.S. Department of State
Office of the Spokesman
Press Statement

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Statement by Richard Boucher, Spokesman
January 19, 2001

Counternarcotics Cooperation With Colombia

On January 18, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency announced that law enforcement authorities from the United States and Colombia concluded a ten month-long investigation, called "Operation White Horse," with the arrest of more than 50 individuals who were part of a major organization trafficking heroin between Colombia and the United States. Colombia is the source for the overwhelming majority of the heroin sold along the East Coast, and the rolled-up heroin ring had distribution groups operating in both New York and Philadelphia. We welcome this latest interdiction success as an example of the excellent law enforcement cooperation between the United States and the Government of Colombia.

Four weeks ago, the Colombian Government began implementing its Plan Colombia counternarcotics strategy in the southern Colombia. The Colombian Government has focused its efforts in the Department of Putumayo, which in recent years has become the single largest producer of coca in the world. Today an estimated 70,000 hectares of coca is grown in the department.

In Putumayo Department the Colombian Government has simultaneously carried out an ambitious aerial eradication effort against large-scale coca producers and initiated an equally ambitious alternative development assistance program to encourage small farmers to eradicate voluntarily their coca crops.

Concentrating on large-scale coca producers in Putumayo, the Colombian Government's aerial eradication effort has covered since mid-December an impressive 20,000 hectares. In tandem, the Colombian Government has enrolled approximately 1,500 families in the department to voluntarily eradicate their coca holdings in six months. The United States is dedicating $106 million to support the Colombian Government's alternative development and resettlement programs in Putumayo and elsewhere. Colombian counternarcotics police and military units have also seized and destroyed numerous coca paste producing laboratories in the department.

We share the Colombian Government's assessment that a counternarcotics strategy which synergistically combines aerial eradication, alternative development assistance, interdiction and law enforcement cooperation offers the best prospects for long-term success. We congratulate the Pastrana Administration for its impressive efforts to plan and launch the implementation of Plan Colombia.

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