Colombian President Iván Duque met with President Donald J. Trump on Tuesday morning to discuss a host of topics relating to counternarcotics, organized crime and energy security. The two heads of state also spoke on the worsening situation in Venezuela and allowed for reporters to ask questions prior to their meeting.
Speaking to the press corps in English, Duque stated that Colombia wants “to continue the efforts against illegal drugs. It’s not only prevention but it’s also dismantling the cartels. So we’re very committed.”
For his part, Duque also promised to crackdown on drug consumption on the homefront as well by doing away with possession of “minimum doses” that had previously been allowed under the law. The legal maximum currently allowed is 20g for marijuana and a gram for cocaine.
When asked the same question, President Trump responded that “[w]hat I want — what I want and what we’ve discussed, and one of the reasons I was so happy to see the President’s victory — that was a great victory and there was a very worldwide, world-renowned victory because of his strong stance on drugs. Now, if he comes through, we think he’s the greatest. If he doesn’t come through, he’s just another President of Colombia. (Laughter.) But I think he’s going to come through. I really do.”
Asked then whether the ELN would be discussed, Duque fielded the response saying that the “ELN is a terrorist group that has been killing people, producing kidnappings for the last 17 months as they were negotiating with the past administration.” The group will have to end all criminal activities, President Duque said. “Otherwise there will be no chance for negotiations.”
On the issue of Venezuela, Trump was equivocal in what the nature of his response would be. He initially stated that the US was “ looking very strongly at Venezuela. It’s a horrible thing that’s going on there…People are dying. People are being killed. They’re also dying of hunger and lots of other things. The medical is in horrible shape.”
However, later in the same press conference the President appeared more coy about publicising possible options. “I don’t like to talk about military. Why should I talk to you about military? I’m going to tell you like President Obama — he used to say exactly what he was going to do — and then it would be 10 times tougher to do it. I don’t do that.”
The meeting occurred shortly after Trump had delivered remarks before the UN Assembly at its 73rd Session in New York. The US President had also referred to the tragedy unfolding in Venezuela and issued a strong line on foreign aid in the future. “We are only going to give foreign aid to those that respect us and, frankly, are our friends.”
Given the cordial nature of the meeting between the two heads of state–and Colombia’s continued reliance on foreign aid–President Duque can remain assured that the US still considers Colombia a friend.