BOGOTA, Aug. 3 (UPI) — Colombian officials said security forces destroyed 104 cocaine production laboratories hidden within jungles where FARC rebels have been operating.
FARC rebels, who are close to sealing a peace agreement with the Colombian government, deny involvement in the drug trade. Colombian officials on Tuesday said the raids are part of a new strategy to target cocaine producers and traffickers instead of farmers who grow the coca plant who are predominantly poor.
Colombian police said the destroyed cocaine labs all together had the ability to produce about 100 tons of cocaine a year. The raids were conducted over five days mainly in Colombia’s Guaviare state.
Peace talks have been taking place between the government and FARC in Havana since 2012. The sides in June said they were able to overcome the most contentious aspect of the negotiations: the disarmament of the 7,000-strong guerilla group and details of the transition of its members into civilian life. In the early 2000s, about 17,000 militants fought for FARC.
A final peace agreement that will end the 52-year Colombian conflict is expected to be signed soon but it will need the final approval of the Colombian people through a referendum.