U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will travel to Ecuador and Colombia on Tuesday to discuss a range of issues, including countering drug trafficking and tackling irregular migration, State Department spokesperson Ned Price said on Friday.
“In Quito on October 19, the Secretary will meet with President Guillermo Lasso and Foreign Minister Mauricio Montalvo to continue discussions on democratic governance, counter-narcotics cooperation,” Price said in a press release.
The top U.S. diplomat will then travel to Bogota on October 20, where he will meet with President Ivan Duque and Vice President-Foreign Minister Marta Lucia Ramirez to “discuss our shared priorities, including advocating for strong democratic governments throughout the region, supporting sustainable peace and reconciliation, tackling irregular migration, combatting narcotics trafficking, promoting and protecting human rights, and addressing the climate crisis.”On October 20 in Quito, the Secretary will take part in a business event with a focus on opportunities for collaboration with small- and medium-sized businesses, the release said.
In Bogota, Blinken will join a ministerial meeting with U.S. regional partners to address irregular migration and support safe and orderly humane migration policies, according to the release.
Last week, US President Joe Biden in an executive order extended the national emergency related to the threat of Colombian narcotics trafficking for another year.
The national emergency, enacted through Executive Order 12978, was first declared in 1995 to address the actions of Colombian narcotics traffickers and their impact on the U.S. The Biden administration in September also listed Colombia as a major drug transit country in a memorandum to the State Department.
Although there had been improvement in the late 1990s through about 2015 in Colombia’s anti-drug law enforcement, the situation has worsened in recent years. Coca production has reached record levels in recent years as cocaine exports have increased. Drug violence has also increased, as the Colombian murder rate has increased dramatically.
Ecuador is not a coca producer but has become an illegal drug transport hub in recent years, repackaging shipments from Peru and Colombia.