BOGOTA (Reuters) - A multilateral naval anti-drug operation confiscated 50 tonnes of cocaine in 45 days, Colombia President Ivan Duque said on Friday.
The Orion V operation - which includes 26 countries from the Americas and Europe - took place from the start of April until May 15. Some 150 people were arrested and dozens of watercraft and four airplanes were confiscated.
“During the development of this phase, when we see that the confiscated tonnes (of cocaine) continues growing and are above the dozens, it allows us to reaffirm that the commitment to multilateralism in the fight against drug trafficking is fundamental,” Duque said during virtual presentation.
The confiscated cocaine is equivalent to some 126 million doses and $1.7 billion in earnings for criminal gangs, Defense Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo said. The operation also confiscated 7 tonnes of marijuana worth about $36.7 million.
The South American country has come under sustained pressure from the White House to reduce cultivation of the coca, the base ingredient in cocaine. Colombia’s potential cocaine production was up by 8% to 951 metric tons last year, the White House says.
The Orion operation - part of a series of joint efforts to combat trafficking - has confiscated 180.3 tonnes of cocaine and 22.6 tonnes of marijuana so far this year.
Drug trafficking has long fed the Andean country’s internal armed conflict. Leftist rebel group the National Liberation Army (ELN), dissidents from the former Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrillas - who demobilized under a 2016 peace deal - and criminal groups all make money from the trade, according to security sources.
Reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta; Writing by Julia Symmes Cobb; Editing by David Gregorio
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