Bart De Wever eyes Colombian partners
Bart De Wever, Mayor of Antwerp and leader of Belgium’s largest political party, the Flemish nationalist N-VA, is seeking partners in Colombia to combat drug trafficking. “95% of the cocaine that ends up here originates there” he says.
Mr De Wever has been joined by Ahmed Aboutaleb, the Mayor of Rotterdam, another port city that is dogged by cocaine trafficking, on a trip to Colombia.
“Every year we see an increase in drugs, chiefly cocaine, ending up in European cities” says De Wever.
Last year 91 tons of the drug were seized in the port of Antwerp. The figure for Rotterdam was 70 tons. Both figures are records.
Mr De Wever, who is accompanied by customs officers, told VRT he was on a fact-finding mission.
“We are looking for a circle of people we can trust to improve co-operation. We believe there are numerous opportunities”.
“At this minute Colombia is the only country in the region with which you can really co-operate, where there is a strong state apparatus and where the ambition to combat the drug exists”.
The mayor also warns that we should not ignore the social reality in the country and its difficulties.
In Colombia Mr De Wever spoke with the president, Ivan Duque. “This is a man who really means it” he says. Conversations often focused on Europe’s responsibility.
“At each meeting they identify the problem: ‘You guys in western Europe snort this rubbish. You are responsible for an ecocide here. Hundreds of thousands of hectares of rainforest are burned to the ground to plant coca. Plus all the murders connected to that!’”
The mayors’ trip is also intended to tug the authorities here out of their sleep says De Wever, who believes they should realise what the import of so much cocaine means.
“The industry has a billion-euro turnover. These billions are spent on weapons and prostitution, the exploitation of minors.”
“You see this in Colombia, but also in Antwerp and Rotterdam. This isn’t just a problem for our port cities but for Europe as a whole. We are asleep, while it gets worse and worse. We should realise Europe isn’t immune”.