The brand new unit consisting of seven,000 personnel might be deployed to frame with Venezuela and to drug trafficking hotspots.
Colombia on Friday launched a brand new navy 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 choice to launch the unit, referred to as 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 buildings of drug trafficking and transnational threats linked to unlawful mining, the trafficking of wildlife and other people, and – in fact – any transnational type of terrorism,” President Ivan Duque mentioned at a navy base in Tolemaida.
Colombia, thought-about the world’s main producer of cocaine, suspended aerial spraying of glyphosate in 2015 following warnings by the World Well being Group that the chemical was probably damaging to well being and the atmosphere.
The brand new unit, consisting of seven,000 personnel, might 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 serious vacation spot for cocaine, to scale back the dimensions of crops of coca, the drug’s chief ingredient.
Throughout 2019, coca crops coated some 154,000 hectares (380,000 acres) in Colombia, with a possible to supply 1,137 tonnes of cocaine, in accordance with the United Nations Workplace on Medicine and Crime. There aren’t any figures accessible for 2020.
The armed forces eradicated 321,240 acres (130,000 hectares) of coca final yr, in accordance with 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 useless and thousands and thousands displaced.
Throughout his tackle, surrounded by helicopters, tanks and a whole lot of troopers, Duque additionally mentioned the power would pursue “with out qualms” members of the ELN – the final lively 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 vital, morally appropriate battle … Let’s go for the defence of Colombia!” he mentioned.
When he first introduced the creation of the elite power earlier this month, he mentioned lots of its targets “are protected in Venezuela” although he didn’t point out direct navy 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 nations 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.