Ollanta Humala and Juan Manuel Santos

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos released a statement Tuesday declaring that Colombia and Peru will increase bilateral efforts to combat the illegal mining and drug trafficking industries in their respective countries. 

Santos’ comments were delivered to the media in Cartagena, where Peruvian President Ollanta Humala was gathered with Santos and other Pacific Alliance leaders to sign a new trade pact that would reduce tariffs between the member countries.

MORE: Pacific Alliance members sign tariff reduction agreement at Cartagena summit 

Santos said that illegal mining generates a “dynamic of violence” in the two counties, stating, ” we will attack this problem at the root.”

Illegal mining has become a growing problem in Colombia in recent times but also afflicts Peru, Ecuador and Brasil.

MORE: 2/3rd of Colombia’s states affected by illegal mining: Environmental prosecutors

A report published by the Peruvian government in September 2013 states that illegal mining has increased geographically as much as 400% in the Madre de Dios region of the Peruvian Amazon between 1999-2012.

Similarly, as eradication policies and other government crackdowns have increased in Colombia, Peru has supplanted its Andean neighbor as the primary producer of coca leaf, from which cocaine is derived, in the world.

MORE: Peru overtook Colombia as world’s #1 coca leaf grower: UN 

Within Colombia itself, unlicensed mining has become one of the primary sources of financing for armed insurgent groups, which previously relied on “taxes” on the drug industry for most of their funding.

Because of largely porous borders and weak state presences in the jungle and mountain regions shared between the two countries, many illegal operations in southern Colombia have traditionally jumped international boundaries, with activities dispersed throughout the confluence areas of Ecuador, Peru and Colombia.

“We have common enemies,” said Santos, “we have common problems. Thus we have decided to communicate at the highest level of police and armed forces to attack specific problems.”


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