Colombia/Transnational issues

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Disputes - international: maritime boundary dispute with Venezuela in the Gulf of Venezuela; territorial disputes with Nicaragua over Archipelago de San Andres y Providencia and Quita Sueno Bank

Illicit drugs: illicit producer of coca, opium poppies, and cannabis; world's leading coca cultivator (cultivation of coca in 1998 - 101,500 hectares, a 28% increase over 1997); cultivation of opium in 1998 remained steady at 6,600 hectares; potential production of opium in 1997 - 66 metric tons, a 5% increase over 1996; the world's largest processor of coca derivatives into cocaine; supplier of cocaine to the US and other international drug markets, and an important supplier of heroin to the US market; active aerial eradication program Narcotics Cultivation and Control Colombia is the world's leading supplier of refined cocaine and a growing source for heroin. More than 90% of the cocaine that enters the United States is produced, processed, or transshipped in Colombia. The cultivation of coca more than doubled in 1999 to 302,500 acres from 125,700 acres in 1995, primarily in areas where government control is weak. Despite the death of Medellin cartel drug kingpin Pablo Escobar in 1993 and the arrests of major Cali cartel leaders in 1995 and 1996, Colombian drug cartels remain among the most sophisticated criminal organizations in the world, controlling cocaine processing, international wholesale distribution chains, and markets. In 1999 Colombian police arrested over 30 narcotraffickers, most of them extraditable, in "Operation Millennium" involving extensive international cooperation. More arrests were made in a following "Operation Millennium II." Colombia is engaged in a broad range of narcotics control activities. Through aerial spraying of herbicide and manual eradication, Colombia has attempted to keep coca, opium poppy, and cannabis cultivation from expanding. The government has committed itself to the eradication of all illicit crops, interdiction of drug shipments, and financial controls to prevent money laundering. Alternative development programs were introduced in 1999. Corruption and intimidation by traffickers complicate the drug-control efforts of the institutions of government. Colombia passed revised criminal procedures code in 1993 that permits traffickers to surrender and negotiate lenient sentences in return for cooperating with prosecutors. In December 1996 and February 1997, however, the Colombian Congress passed legislation to toughen sentencing, asset forfeiture, and money-laundering penalties. In November 1997, the Colombian Congress amended the constitution to permit the extradition of Colombian nationals, albeit not retroactively. In late 1999, President Pastrana authorized the first extradition in almost 10 years of a Colombian trafficker to stand trial for U.S. crimes. Three such extraditions to the United States have taken place, the most recent in August 2000, with cases against others pending in Colombian courts.