Pubdate: Thu, 21 Dec 2000
Source: Seattle Times (WA)
Copyright: 2000 The Seattle Times Company
Contact:  P.O. Box 70, Seattle, WA 98111
Fax: (206) 382-6760
Author: Ken Guggenheim, The Associated Press


WASHINGTON - Despite a $1.3 billion anti-drug aid package already approved, 
Colombia will need up to $600 million a year more in drug-fighting funds 
from the United States in the next few years, Colombia's ambassador says.

Ambassador Luis Moreno says he is confident U.S. support for Colombia will 
remain strong despite the change in administrations.

"This was a bipartisan policy," he said in a recent interview. "It began as 
a bipartisan policy and it should remain that way."

The $1.3 billion package approved last summer is intended to help Colombia, 
the world's largest producer of cocaine, cut its drug production in half 
over six years.

Much of the package was for helicopters to help the country's military 
fight leftist guerrillas who finance their insurgency in part by protecting 
coca fields and cocaine laboratories.

President-elect Bush supported the Colombian aid in an Aug. 25 speech in Miami.

Bush, like President Clinton, said he opposed using U.S. troops in battle 

The Clinton administration has stressed that military aid will be used 
strictly for fighting guerrillas linked to the drug trade and not to help 
Colombia in its civil war.

Some Republicans say it's naive to separate the drug fight from the overall 
conflict and that the Bush administration may not be as concerned about 
that distinction. Clinton administration officials have repeatedly said 
more aid would be necessary in coming years to meet the anti-drug plan's goals.

Barry McCaffrey, director of the White House Office of National Drug 
Control Policy, has predicted $400 million to $600 million will be needed 
next year for Colombia and its neighbors, but the administration has not 
said how much would have to be spent beyond that.

Moreno said Colombia will likely need $500 million to $600 million for at 
least three or four years.

"I think equipment (such as helicopters) will continue to be important," he 
said. But he added that as guerrillas are forced out of coca-growing 
regions, "money will be needed to reach agreements with peasant families to 
do manual eradication" of coca crops.

Whether Congress will agree is uncertain, as the aid plan is already under 
attack from many sides.

Two powerful Republican lawmakers, Benjamin Gilman of New York and Dan 
Burton of Indiana, have insisted that more aid should go to Colombia's 
National Police instead of the military. They and other Republicans have 
criticized U.S. efforts as slow and ineffective.

Some Democrats have been skeptical that the aid will reduce drug production 
and fear the package will draw the United States into Colombia's guerrilla 
conflict and help a military linked to human-rights atrocities.
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