Colombian army major in charge of drug crackdown is killed

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A Colombian army major in charge of drug eradication in one of the country’s biggest coca-growing regions has been killed, the military said Monday.

Coca leaf is used in producing cocaine, of which Colombia is the world’s biggest producer, according to the United Nations, and the United States the biggest consumer.

Major Fulber Norley Ayala Zuluaga, based in the Putumayo department, was shot dead on Sunday night while travelling to a military unit near the border with Ecuador, the military said in a statement.

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It did not identify the killers but said dissident FARC guerillas who defy a 2016 peace agreement with the government is known to operate in the region.

Some 2,500 former FARC fighters remain active in Colombia, financed by drug trafficking, illegal mining and extortion of local communities, according to intelligence officials.

With no central leadership, they battle each other, the ELN – Colombia’s last active rebel group – and drug gangs for control of trafficking routes.

President Ivan Duque, in office since 2018, has redoubled efforts to clamp down on the drug trade, with soldiers destroying coca plantations that are the only way of making a living for thousands of peasants and migrant laborers.

According to the UN, Colombia has more than 142,000 hectares under coca cultivation. Putumayo is the third-largest coca-growing region.

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