BOGOTA (Reuters) – Colombia’s armed forces seized 10 tonnes of cocaine on Tuesday, the largest shipment so far this year, and destroyed two drug labs in an anti-narcotics mission in the southeast of the country, Defense Minister Diego Molano said.
The cocaine and the labs, which belonged to leftist rebels the National Liberation Army (ELN), were found in a rural zone of the Samaniego municipality, located in Colombia’s Narino province near the border with Ecuador, Molano said.
“This is the most important blow in terms of cocaine seizures this year,” Molano said in a recorded message. “Ten tonnes would have seen the ELN receive more than $300 million.”
Despite decades of fighting against drug trafficking, Colombia remains a top global producer of cocaine and faces constant pressure from the United States to lower the size of coca crops, the drug’s main ingredient, as well as production of cocaine.
Drug trafficking helps finance illegal armed groups in Colombia amid a long-running internal armed conflict, which has left more than 260,000 dead.
Aside from the ELN, ex-members of the demobilized FARC guerrillas who reject a 2016 peace deal are involved in drug trafficking, as well as criminal gangs, according to security sources.
Colombia’s military and police confiscated a record 505 tonnes of cocaine in 2020.
(Reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta; Writing by Oliver Griffin; Editing by Leslie Adler)