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Pompeo acknowledges Colombian 'sacrifices' in drug trafficking fight

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (L) shakes hands with Colombian policemen victims of landmines during his visit at an anti-drug base in Bogota (AFP Photo/Raul ARBOLEDA)

Bogota (AFP) - US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday praised Colombia's efforts in tackling drug trafficking and acknowledged the "great sacrifices" of security forces injured in such operations.

Two weeks ago, Colombia announced it had manually destroyed a record amount of coca leaf plantations in 2019.

Coca leaf is the primary ingredient used to make cocaine.

Colombia is the world's biggest producer of cocaine, with the United States its largest market.

Pompeo said the United States is "grateful for the sustained partnership" with Colombia and praised the "great sacrifices" of the security forces injured in tackling drug traffickers and armed gangs.

The US chief diplomat, who is touring Latin America and the Caribbean, pledged one million dollars to support the security forces' "wounded warriors," without specifying how.

Last week, Washington announced a $5 billion investment in Colombia in areas affected by drug trafficking.

Three police officers were killed and seven injured after a bomb attack on a police station in November in the troubled southwest -- an area saturated with violent gangs and illegal drug plantations.

Colombia aims to reduce by half its illegal coca leaf plantations by 2022-23.

According to the United Nations, 169,000 hectares (417,600 acres) of coca leaf were planted illegally in Colombia in 2018, enough to produce 1,120 tonnes of cocaine.

President Ivan Duque said recently that 100,000 hectares (247,000 acres) of such plantations were destroyed in 2019 and 434 tonnes of cocaine were confiscated.

"These results demonstrate the commitment and determined will to defeat the common enemy of drug trafficking," said Colombia's Defense Minister, Carlos Holmes Trujillo, after meeting with Pompeo.