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New Colombian government offers 'huge opportunity' to tackle deforestation - U.S. official

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Bogota — Planned A policy shift under Colombia's new left-wing president Gustavo Petro represents a "huge opportunity" in combating deforestation and climate change, senior US official Samantha Power said Monday.

Progress against deforestation and climate change is elusive, but Colombia is a regional leader in the fight to stop both, says USAID administrator Power told journalists in Bogotá on Monday.

"Right now what we have is a president and a vice president who consider themselves environmentalists. It's pretty much the first stage." ' said Power. “We see it as a huge opportunity.”

In April, US President Joe Biden announced a number of initiatives, including efforts to combat commodity-driven deforestation and support sustainable forest management. Signed an Executive Order expanding our efforts to tackle climate change.

Petro has long denounced the US-led war on drugs as a failure, and in his Sunday speech called for a new international strategy to deal with drug trafficking.

Colombia is a top producer of cocaine and faces constant pressure from Washington to eradicate the drug crop and tackle human trafficking.

Petro promised to ban all new oil development, keep Colombia away from coal production, and favor cleaner energy options.

The private sector is watching changes in the country, Power said, adding that investment could grow quickly.

"The private sector is very interested in what is happening in Colombia," she said. “There are many ways to accelerate investment in the renewable energy transition, and you will see the pace picking up again.” (Reporting by Oliver Griffin, Editing by Aurora Ellis)