U.S. and Colombian officials vowed Thursday to redouble efforts against drug trafficking as the South American nation contends with a record surge in coca production that has tested the relationship between the two nations, the Associated Press reports. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions met with his Colombian counterpart, chief prosecutor Nestor Martinez, and a delegation from Mexico in the Caribbean city of Cartagena. The meeting came three months after President Trump threatened to decertify Colombia as a partner in the war against drugs unless Colombia reverses a rise in coca cultivation.
Cultivation of the plant used to make cocaine rose in 2016 to levels unseen in nearly two decades of U.S. eradication efforts, said a White House report. The prosecutors also discussed money laundering and human trafficking, two issues frequently intertwined with the illegal drug trade. Martinez said the three nations would “strengthen cooperation among each other to effectively battle this scourge.” Sessions said, “We’re gonna make progress.” Colombia is the U.S.’s staunchest ally in the region and one of the largest recipients of U.S. foreign aid. The U.S. has spent more than $10 billion in counter-narcotics work in Colombia over the course of nearly two decades. The amount of land devoted to coca cultivation had steadily declined but began rising again in 2014, says the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.