Colombia's defense minister divulged new coca eradication figures ahead of a meeting between Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and his United States counterpart Donald Trump, a sign of commitment to USA policy preferences that may come at the expense of harming trust between Colombia's government and important segments of its own population.
After the White House put out a subdued statement on Wednesday night about former FBI Director Robert Mueller being named special counsel, Trump publicly vented on Thursday morning about the new probe.
The press conference is also the president's first public appearance after Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced the appointment of former FBI Director Robert Mueller to be special counsel to investigate any ties between Russian Federation and The Trump campaign.
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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I respect the move, but the entire thing has been a witch hunt. Santos supported the policy change at the time, and past year he again ruled out Colombia returning to this means of eradication, instead authorizing only less efficient manual fumigation methods carried out by personnel on the ground.
President Juan Manuel Santos is seeking Trump's support for a peace accord Colombia signed a year ago with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.
Some conservatives, here and in Colombia, oppose the peace treaty because they contend that it makes too many concessions to the former guerrillas and allows them to return to civilian life, unpunished.More news: Palestinian protesters clash with Israeli forces in West Bank, Gaza
PRESIDENT JUAN MANUEL SANTOS: (Speaking Spanish). Last year, the crop covered almost half a million acres, enough to produce 700 metric tons of cocaine. Previous crop substitution programs floundered due to rebel attacks and a lack of roads.
Slashing support for Colombia would be a major setback to the peace process and could undermine decades of USA effort against violent insurgency and narcotics trafficking.
"For a long time our nations have had a strategic alliance", Santos said.
Trump asked reporters: "Does anybody have any questions?" The dispute led Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto to cancel his trip to Washington weeks after Trump took office.
Since the United States launched its "Plan Colombia" in the late 1990s, the country has sent more than $10 billion Dollars in military, anti-narcotics, and development aid to Colombia. But there are real questions about the future of that cooperation with the Trump administration wanting to cut back sharply on all forms of worldwide aid.
The United States continues to play a major role in Colombia. In exchange, they will receive technical support and monthly stipends of about $350 over the next year.
Trump said "there's no collusion between, certainly, myself and my campaign, but I can only speak for myself, and the Russians - zero". Roy Blunt, R-Mo., and Roy Cardin, D-Md, co-chairs of a Colombia Task Force that promoted continued engagement.