Authorities announced an embarrassing discovery Friday as Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo arrived to discuss anti-drug strategies: a large stash of cocaine and heroin on a naval warship he is to visit.
Adm. Mauricio Soto, the commander of the Colombian navy, said about 37 pounds of cocaine and 22 pounds of heroin were found Thursday in the engine room of the Gloria — Colombia’s flagship naval vessel, which is to embark next month on a six-month trip to the United States and Europe.
Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo is to go aboard the Gloria in Cartagena, a port city along the Caribbean, on Saturday to dine with military commanders and discuss increased cooperation in the fight against drug trafficking. Soto said three sailors have been detained in connection with the seizure.
While visiting the presidential palace in Bogota, the Colombian capital, Toledo noted Friday that “drug trafficking is a problem and the events on that ship are evidence of that.”
Colombia is the biggest producer of cocaine in the world. Peru is one of the Andean nations along with Colombia that produces coca, the main ingredient of the drug.
Toledo and Uribe spoke Friday on a range of issues, including ways to stem the flow of drugs, weapons and rebels across their porous border and boost trade.
The Peruvian president called for a meeting of all Andean nations in which coca is grown to pool their efforts in the war against drugs.
“We need to design a common strategy to battle drug trafficking,” Toledo said, adding that consumer nations should also do more.
Toledo, marking his first presidential visit to Colombia, has expressed concern that Colombian rebels, who are heavily involved in drug trafficking, are slipping across the 1,000-mile border and destabilizing Peru. He said both sides need to deploy more troops along their shared borders.
However, Toledo has dismissed the possibility that the rebel Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia has ties to remnants of Peru’s Shining Path insurgency movement, which waged a 20-year battle with government forces in Peru. The remaining Peruvian insurgents now provide protection for drug traffickers in jungle regions of Peru where coca is grown.
Toledo also said Friday that said authorities from both countries were looking to draw up an extradition treaty to prosecute drug traffickers and rebels suspected of terrorism.
On the economic front, the Andean leaders will be looking to remove trade barriers between their two countries and build a common position ahead of planned hemisphere-wide free trade negotiations with the United States.