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US President Biden says no to ‘defunding the police’ | Black Lives Matter News



US President would put more money into local policing to hire more diverse officers and train them better for the job.

United States President Joe Biden said that instead of defunding the police, a main demand of the protest movement that erupted last year following the death of a Black man in police custody, he would put more money into local policing.

During a televised town hall in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on Tuesday night, Biden outlined the improvements he hopes to make to criminal justice and policing in the country.

Floyd’s death on May 25 last year ignited protests against police brutality led by the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, with calls for abolishing or defunding the police raised, not just for Floyd, but for many Black Americans killed by law enforcement officers.

Some Democrats had pushed for reviews of local police budgets after Floyd’s death, calling for the diversion of funding to social and mental health services.

BLM activists say the demand is not about eliminating police departments or stripping agencies of all of their money, rather, it is a call for the country to address systemic problems in policing and spend more on what communities need, such as housing and education.

‘Not defunding the police’

When asked how US law enforcement could protect citizens in high-crime neighbourhoods while training officers to police compassionately, Biden answered: “By, number one, not defunding the police.

“We have to put more money for this to work so we have legitimate community policing, and we are in a situation where we can change the legislation,” he added.

On the campaign trail last year, Biden promised to invest $300m in a programme that gives grants to hire more diverse officers and trains them to develop less adversarial relationships with communities. He had supported redirecting some police funding to address mental health or to change the prison system.

He also reiterated another campaign promise on Tuesday, ending jail sentences for drug use alone.

“No one should go to jail for a drug offence. No one should go to jail for the use of a drug, they should go to drug rehabilitation,” he said.

“Every cop, when they get up in the morning and put on that shield, has a right to expect to be able to go home to their family that night,” Biden added. “Conversely, every kid walking across the street wearing a hoodie is not a member of a gang and about to knock somebody off.”

COVID relief bill

Tuesday’s visit, as well as a trip scheduled for Thursday that will take Biden to a vaccine manufacturing site in the state of Michigan, offered the Democrat president an opportunity to tout the importance of a new relief bill even as Republicans remain largely opposed to its massive price tag.

Biden wants Congress to pass the legislation in the coming weeks in order to get $1,400 stimulus checks out to Americans and bolster unemployment payments.

Some aspects of the bill, including Biden’s push to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025, may have a difficult time gaining enough support to pass.

After a small business owner raised concerns at Tuesday’s town hall, Biden suggested he might be willing to consider a more gradual phase-in.

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Colombia launches ‘elite force’ to target rebels, drug gangs | Crime News



The new unit consisting of 7,000 personnel will be deployed to border with Venezuela and to drug trafficking hotspots.

Colombia on Friday launched a new military unit to target coca crops and cocaine production, illicit mining, and the illegal armed groups who use such activities for financial gain.

Colombia’s decision to launch the unit, known as CONAT in its Spanish initials, came while the country was preparing to restart aerial spraying of coca crops with the herbicide glyphosate – possibly starting at the end of March – depending on the government receiving approval from the Constitutional Court.

“The unit was born to hit, repress, and break down the structures of drug trafficking and transnational threats linked to illegal mining, the trafficking of wildlife and people, and – of course – any transnational form of terrorism,” President Ivan Duque said at a military base in Tolemaida.

Colombia, considered the world’s leading producer of cocaine, suspended aerial spraying of glyphosate in 2015 following warnings by the World Health Organization that the chemical was potentially damaging to health and the environment.

The new unit will be deployed to zones such as the Catatumbo region on the border with Venezuela, as well as the provinces of Cauca and Putamayo [Courtesy Colombian Presidency/Handout via Reuters]

The new unit, consisting of 7,000 personnel, will be deployed to zones such as the Catatumbo region on the border with Venezuela, as well as the provinces of Cauca and Putamayo, Defence Minister Diego Molano said.

Colombia has faced constant pressure from the United States, a major destination for cocaine, to reduce the size of crops of coca, the drug’s chief ingredient.

During 2019, coca crops covered some 154,000 hectares (380,000 acres) in Colombia, with a potential to produce 1,137 tonnes of cocaine, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. There are no figures available for 2020.

The armed forces eradicated 321,240 acres (130,000 hectares) of coca last year, according to the government, and seized 500 tonnes of cocaine.

Drug trafficking has long driven Colombia’s internal armed conflict, which has left more than 260,000 dead and millions displaced.

During his address, surrounded by helicopters, tanks and hundreds of soldiers, Duque also said the force would pursue “without qualms” members of the ELN – the last active rebel group in Colombia, as well as drug gangs and ex-FARC rebels who have abandoned the terms of a 2016 peace deal, he said.

“Soldiers, it is a morally necessary, morally correct battle … Let’s go for the defence of Colombia!” he said.

Surrounded by helicopters, tanks and hundreds of soldiers, President Ivan Duque also said the force would pursue ‘without qualms’ members of the ELN and ex-FARC rebels [Courtesy Colombian Presidency/Handout via Reuters]

When he first announced the creation of the elite force earlier this month, he said many of its targets “are protected in Venezuela” though he did not mention direct military action in the neighbouring country. On Friday, Duque did not mention Venezuela.

But his statement prompted Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to pledge to “respond forcefully”.

From Caracas, he said the country’s security forces should “clean the barrels of our rifles to answer them at any level we need to answer if Ivan Duque dares violate the sovereignty of Venezuela.”

Colombia and dozens of other countries recognise opposition leader Juan Guaido as interim president, prompting Venezuela to break off diplomatic ties with its neighbour in 2019.

Colombia has repeatedly accused Venezuela of providing refuge to leftist armed groups, a charge Caracas has denied.

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