AP | El Universal
Arturo Sarukhan said Tuesday at a forum of the US-Mexico Foundation that his country has only been fighting the drug cartels for 4 years and that "there are no magic bullets" to end the scourge that has led to at least 35,000 deaths since President Felipe Calderon launched the drug war in 2006.
"If you look at the impact of Plan Colombia on the total tonnage of drugs that come into the international consumer market or the total number of hectares under coca cultivation in Colombia, I believe that, without upsetting our Colombian friends, we can say that Plan Colombia has not had an impact in mitigating the production or trafficking of cocaine.”
"But if you measure Plan Colombia in terms of how Colombian society and the Colombian government have improved the rule of law, reduced violent crime and strengthen the judiciary, it has been a great success," he added.
Colombia remains the largest producer and exporter of cocaine worldwide, according to a State Department report released in the United States in March.
The so-called Plan Colombia is a U.S. aid package that has funneled more than 6 billion dollars to combat the drug trade in that Andean nation.
Colombia’s Interior Minister, German Vargas Lleras, said recently that the cultivation of illicit crops in 2010 fell to 59,000 hectares (1 hectare = 2.47 acres), a figure 13% lower than in 2009, according to preliminary data from a United Nations report to be released in June.
According to UN data the area under coca cultivation in Colombia has been steadily decreasing. For historical perspective, the area under coca cultivation in 1998 was 102,000 hectares which rose to 163,000 hectares in 2000. By 2009 the area under cultivation had decreased to 68,000 hectares.
Sarukhan also described the relationship between Mexico and the United States as "extremely positive" because for the first time since the negotiation of the free trade act in 1994 it has acquired a "strategic vision."
"What we see today with our security cooperation complements the big changes that happened with NAFTA and this is the next logical step in the relationship," the ambassador said after admitting that there are still complex issues "that require more careful attention.”