Colombia to meet 2020 coca eradication target, defense minister says

BOGOTA (Reuters) - Colombia will meet its 2020 target for eradicating coca - the chief ingredient in cocaine - increasing removals by 30% year-on-year to record levels, the defense ministry said on Monday.

The government of President Ivan Duque, under pressure from the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump to reduce coca cultivation, set out to eradicate 130,000 hectares (321,236 acres) of coca this year.

It has so far destroyed 111,131 hectares in 2020.

The Andean country must speed up destruction of coca to stem drug-related violence, Defense Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo said, adding aerial spraying of the crops with the herbicide glyphosate - a much-derided strategy - could be useful.

"Colombia's enemy is drug trafficking, not glyphosate," Trujillo told journalists at a press conference. "The violence of drug traffickers, who commit massacres and murder social leaders, demands we hasten our progress in destroying illicit crops."

Duque has said he is not a fan of using glyphosate, but backs the reintroduction of its use in aerial spraying where needed.

Spraying with the herbicide was suspended in 2015 after the World Health Organization said it could potentially cause cancer.

More than 4,800 structures used by drug traffickers have been destroyed this year, the ministry added. Some 456 tonnes of cocaine hydrochloride and 480 tonnes of marijuana have also been seized.

Drug trafficking has long fed Colombia's internal armed conflict. Leftist rebel group the National Liberation Army (ELN), former members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrillas and criminal groups all make money from the trade, according to security sources.

(Reporting by Oliver Griffin; Editing by Chris Reese)