Senators worry Colombian peace deal failed to stem cocaine trade

Senators worry Colombian peace deal failed to stem cocaine trade

Lawmakers expressed concerns at a Senate hearing Tuesday that a Colombian peace deal with the FARC terrorist group has failed to stem the flow of cocaine from that country into the United States.

Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleySenators push mandatory sexual harassment training for members, staff Senate panel to hold hearing on bump stocks, background checks Senate panel to hold hearing on bump stocks MORE (R-Iowa), chairman of the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control, and Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinSenators push mandatory sexual harassment training for members, staff Bipartisan group of lawmakers aim to reform US sugar program Senate panel to hold hearing on bump stocks MORE (D-Calif.), the co-chairwoman, questioned the impact of Colombian efforts to negotiate with drug traffickers, citing a surge in coca production in the country and rising cocaine use in the U.S.

“I was an early supporter of the plan as a matter of the fact, and I very much hoped it would be a success. The plan has failed,” said Feinstein.

Between 2012 and 2017 coca planting has skyrocketed by 110,000 hectares in Colombia. And the amount of export-quality cocaine has increased from 470 metric tons in 2013 to 910 metric tons in 2016.

Cocaine overdose deaths in the U.S. have increased by 52 percent from 2015 to 2017.

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Grassley noted that an overwhelming majority of the cocaine found in the U.S., 90 percent, comes from Colombia.

Witnesses before the Senate drug caucus highlighted the program and said targeting trafficking routes from Colombia remains the best strategy for intercepting drugs.

Vice Admiral Charles Ray of the U.S Coast Guard said cocaine traffickers also used these routes for drugs other than cocaine.

“Every one of these bad guys has the connections to network and traffic in fentanyl, heroin, engage in money laundering [and] running weapons, and sustaining the Coast Guard’s unique capabilities is essential,” said Ray.

At the hearing, Feinstein also expressed concern about President Trump’s budget cuts to domestic drug prevention programs and international enforcement.

She said more resources needed to be devoted to the Coast Guard and other interdiction efforts.

“I’m very concerned that the president’s fiscal year 2018 drug control budget request will not allow this to happen,” said Feinstein.