Although the focus of last week’s meeting between Ecuador and Colombia was on controlling drug trafficking near the border and dealing with the flood of immigrants from Venezuela, it also delivered good news to travelers.
One of the agreements signed Friday guarantees free emergency medical care for residents of Ecuador and Colombia when they visit the other country. “The agreement provides peace of mind to citizens of our two nations that a health emergency while they are traveling will not cause financial distress,” Ecuador President Lenin Moreno said. “Residents of Ecuador with a valid cedula visiting Colombia now know they are protected.”
Moreno and Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, along with their cabinets, met for three days in the Colombia city of Pereira to discuss growing drug trafficking concerns, border protection, immigration and other issues. In all, 80 agreements were signed.
Both Moreno and Santos agreed that confronting the threat from drug production and trafficking was the central concern of the meeting. By some estimates, the amount of land devoted to coca crops in Colombia has doubled with cocaine production also sky-rocking. An emerging concern is the heroin production in southern Colombia.
Violence from the drug trade spilled over the border into Ecuador’s Esmeraldas Province January 27 when a powerful bomb destroyed much of a police command center in the town of San Lorenzo. On the same day, six Colombia police officers were killed in drug-related bombings in northern Colombia.
“We are very aware that we face a major challenge controlling these illegal operations and we must work together with Ecuador to control and stop it,” Santos said. “The explosion in San Lorenzo makes us aware that drug trafficking is a bilateral concern.”
During the meeting, Santos doubled the award offered by the Colombian government for the capture of those responsible for the San Lorenzo bombing, from 150 million pesos to 300 million pesos (about $105,000).
Colombia and Ecuador agreed to commit additional police and military personnel to the border area near the Pacific coast. In separate agreement, the two countries said they would establish a joint command to improve intelligence sharing in the region.