As drug crime soars, Ecuador, Colombia presidents and cabinets meet to develop stratagies
Presidents Guillermo Lasso of Ecuador and Gustavo Petro of Colombia Tuesday launched the XI Binational Cabinet between the two countries to jointly develop “a work agenda to strengthen relations between the two nations,” according to a statement from Quito.
The meeting comes as both countries face rising crime rates as a result of illegal drug trafficking.
Prior to the Cabinet meeting in the Andean border city of Tulcán, the two leaders held a meeting at the State Polytechnic University of Carchi, “which ratifies their commitment to work together for the security and welfare of their peoples.”
According to Lasso’s office, the two leaders were to adopt new commitments within the framework of the so-called 2023 Action Plan between the two countries regarding security and defense, infrastructure and connectivity, border issues, environmental issues, social and cultural issues, as well as economic and trade issues.
Since 2020, crime rates have soared in both Colombia and Ecuador, with an estimated 90% of it the result of drug cartel activity. The two presidents have named drug violence as their top priority/
In addition, the “Binational Plan for the Border Integration Zone” includes a set of actions to promote development among populations living near the border.
The X Binational Cabinet was held in the Colombian city of Cartagena de Indias on Dec. 17, 2021, when the conservative Iván Duque was still President of Colombia. The Binational Cabinet is an instance of political dialogue institutionalized in 2007 which involves ministerial teams from both countries.
“Today’s meeting is the result of hard work in recent months in which both countries have made progress in the realization of numerous commitments related to the seven axes in which we have agreed to work to advance our bilateral relationship,” Lasso said.
“We must confront phenomena such as organized crime, illicit drug trafficking and its related crimes, that is, trafficking in arms, ammunition, and explosives, money laundering, illegal mining, hired assassins, among others, whose dimension puts at serious risk the peaceful coexistence and democratic institutions of our countries,” he added.
The Armed Forces and the Police of Ecuador “will act within the scope of a strategic plan that will effectively strengthen bilateral coordination in the fight against these scourges, always in accordance with the legal system and sovereignty of each country,” he went on.
Petro underscored the need to strengthen binational integration, among other issues, in the climate crisis because South America is the region of the planet with the greatest potential to generate clean energy in the world and hence the importance of integration through cooperation projects to move towards a decarbonized economy.
Colombia and Ecuador can “be a fundamental axis in this new reality of the planet, of geopolitics, but ultimately of life and human existence, issues that I propose to discuss in these joint cabinets and in our bilateral relations,” Petro argued.
Previously, Lasso and Petro held a private presidential meeting in which they ratified their commitment to work together for the security and welfare of their peoples, as published via Twitter by the Ecuadorian Presidency.
Ecuador and Colombia share a border of some 700 kilometers where violence has soared due to the presence of drug gangs, illegal armed groups, and ordinary crime, according to local authorities.
Among the decisions made Tuesday was the creation of a Binational Council against environmental crimes which is to convene every six months. “I would like to highlight our agreement on the environment; by preserving our environment together we have the power to overcome the greatest challenge facing the world: climate change. I believe that this is one of the great coincidences of this meeting,” Lasso said.
“We will fight together against this scourge,” he said, after announcing the support of both Andean countries to strengthen the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization.
Credit: Merco Press