Bogota, Colombia (CNN) -- It was a massive operation in Colombia. Over three days, the Colombian National Police launched a widespread attack against low-scale drug traffickers throughout the Country. Officials confiscated 2.3 metric tons (5,070 pounds) of drugs and detained 987 suspected drug traffickers.
The late November operation is an example of the hardcore approach Colombia has taken in its war against drug traffickers. Colombia, the main supplier of cocaine to the United States, has fought this war for decades. The cost in lives and resources is dramatic. That's one of the reasons Colombia is now looking at alternatives.
Drug prevention is the main goal of a new partnership between the Mentor Foundation, an international non-profit, and residents of Usme, a marginalized neighborhood on the southern end of Bogota.
A park was remodeled thanks to a $50,000 grant the U.S. government awarded the foundation. Murals are replacing graffiti and residents now hear festive music instead of gunshots.
Jorge McDouall, director of Mentor Foundation Colombia, says the community took the initiative in remodeling the park -- called Parque Gran Yomasa II -- and his organization provided the funding and guidance. "Communities that are organized are less vulnerable to drug trafficking and drug use," McDouall says. "The recovery of this park means that it will be used by children and youth instead of addicts and drug dealers."
Ingrid Castaneda, an 18-year-old, stay-at-home mother who lives across the street from the park, is elated. She says she hopes her 7-month-old will be able to grow up in a much safer environment than she did. The park, she says, used to be dangerous. "They'd have a drink and start to do wild things. There'd be shootings, broken glass and bottles thrown everywhere," she says.
U.S. Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske visited the park Tuesday as part of a three-day trip to Colombia. He shook hands with local residents and signed a wall where children are painting colorful murals.
Kerlikowske said the U.S. government gave Colombia almost $450 million in aid last year. More than half of it ($243.9 million) was used for programs"to strengthen criminal justice systems, counter the flow of illegal narcotics and address transnational crime." The rest ($201.9 million) was used for "programs supporting alternative development, human rights and the rule of law, social and economic development, and democracy and government,"
Kerlikowske also spoke of a partnership with Colombia. "Our demand for illegal drugs fuels the violent and destructive drug trade here. And we understand that we must work collaboratively with our international partners, including those in this hemisphere and in Europe, to reduce the global drug trade that has caused so much suffering and misery in Colombia, Kerlikowske said.
The financial help is badly needed in marginalized areas like the neighborhood of Usme, located on the southern end of Bogota. Because of its proximity to Bogota's rural surroundings, over the years it has become the capital's point of entry for displaced people as well as former paramilitaries and drug traffickers.