Pubdate: Tue, 19 Mar 2002
Source: Detroit Free Press (MI)
Copyright: 2001 Detroit Free Press
Author: Kevin Murphy And Tim Johnson
Bookmark: (Colombia)
Bookmark: (Cocaine)
Note: Reuters contributed to this report.


U.S. Links Trafficking Of Drugs To Terrorism 

WASHINGTON -- Top U.S. officials announced the indictment Monday of three
Colombian rebel leaders for trafficking cocaine to the United States, a move
likely to bolster the Bush administration as it asks Congress this week to
broaden U.S. involvement in Colombia's civil war. 

Attorney General John Ashcroft said the indictments of the three rebels of
the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known as FARC, and four other
men reveal a key link between groups the government has labeled foreign
terrorist organizations and international drug trafficking. 

"Today's indictment is a reminder that lawlessness that breeds terrorism is
also fertile ground for the drug trafficking that supports terrorism,"
Ashcroft said. The United States will attempt to extradite all seven, he

The indictment accuses three FARC rural guerrilla chiefs of conspiring to
fly planeloads of cocaine from Colombia's sparsely populated eastern jungles
into the United States since 1994. 

Among those indicted was Thomas Molina Caracas, chief of FARC's 16th Front
that controls an area of eastern Colombia near the border with Venezuela,
and two other members of the rebel unit. Three of the four other men
indicted are Brazilians, including Luis Fernando Da Costa, who is in

Ashcroft described the indictments as part of the global war on terrorism,
linking drug trafficking to terrorist attacks. 

"The indictment marks the convergence of two of the top priorities of the
Department of Justice -- the prevention of terrorism and the reduction of
illegal drug use," he said. 

The indictment comes as the Bush administration is preparing an appeal to
Congress to lift legal restraints that prevent U.S. aid to Colombia from
being used to fight guerrillas. The U.S. government has provided nearly $2
billion to Colombia in recent years for fighting narcotics, but U.S.
legislators, fearful of becoming trapped in a military quagmire, have barred
the money from being used to fight insurgents. 

Colombia is the primary source of most of the world's cocaine and most of
the heroin that enters the United States. Ashcroft said Americans spent
$62.9 billion on illegal drugs in 2000; more than half of that was used to
buy cocaine. 

The indictment marked the first time U.S. officials have filed
drug-trafficking charges against members of a group deemed by the State
Department to be a terrorist organization. 

The State Department has labeled FARC "the most dangerous international
terrorist group based in the Western Hemisphere," accounting for the
slayings of 13 Americans and the kidnapping of at least 100 more since 1980,
Ashcroft said.
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