HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Powell Says US Will Increase Military Aid For
Pubdate: Thu, 05 Dec 2002
Source: New York Times (NY)
Copyright: 2002 The New York Times Company
Author: Steven R. Weisman
Bookmark: (Terrorism)


BOGOTA, Colombia, Dec. 4 - Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said today 
that the United States would increase military assistance to Colombia, 
asserting that its war on leftist guerrillas and rightist paramilitary 
groups - and on their narcotics trafficking - was part of the Bush 
administration's campaign against terrorism.

The aid, more than $500 million a year, would be used for drug eradication, 
support for military and police forces and renewal of support for Colombian 
narcotics-interception flights that rely on intelligence from American spy 
planes. Such flights were suspended last year after a plane carrying 
missionaries was shot down over Peru.

The new aid will put Colombia roughly on a par with Afghanistan and 
Pakistan as a recipient of American military and antidrug assistance, 
administration officials said.

In a one-day trip to this Andean capital city, Secretary Powell met with 
Colombia's new president, Alvaro Uribe Velez, who was elected last summer 
after pledging a crackdown on violent groups that rely on drug money for 
support. Mr. Uribe is also pressing for a more aggressive campaign of 
eradicating coca fields than his predecessors.

After more than three decades of civil war, various antigovernment groups 
engaged in the drug trade control most of Colombia's vast expanse of 
mountains and farm valleys. But rights groups have accused the Colombian 
military of fighting those forces with too much reliance on rightist 
military squads organized by landlords.

"We are firmly committed to President Uribe and his new national security 
strategy," Secretary Powell said. "We are going to work with our Congress 
to provide additional funding for Colombia."

In all, the United States has spent $1.8 billion on antinarcotics measures 
and military and law enforcement aid to Colombia since 2000.

The administration is asking Congress for $537 million in the current 
fiscal year, up from $411 million last year, according to the ambassador to 
Colombia, Anne W. Patterson.

In a reflection of the American economic interests here, the requested sum 
includes nearly $100 million to help secure a 500-mile oil pipeline in 
eastern Colombia that transports 100,000 barrels a day for Occidental 
Petroleum of Los Angeles. Guerrilla groups have repeatedly attacked the 

Next year, the United States will have 60 of its own Special Operations 
forces and intelligence operatives to help train Colombian forces to guard 
the pipeline, Ambassador Patterson said.

Secretary Powell, saying he would seek even more money in the next fiscal 
year, expressed satisfaction with his visit, which included a tour of 
narcotics eradication equipment at a military airport here. He said it had 
given him "ammunition" to persuade skeptics not only in Congress but also 
within the administration's budget office. "I am very impressed by what I 
have seen," he said after his tour.

Addressing the issue of terrorism within Colombia, the secretary said it no 
longer made sense to insist on separating it from the battle against 
narcotics, because they were linked as threats to democracy. Asked if he 
worried that America's involvement in Colombia might lead to a Vietnam-like 
quagmire, the secretary, who fought in Vietnam, said there was no comparison.

"I don't see this in Vietnam terms," he said, adding that Colombia's 
antigovernment groups should not be "romanticized" as "some sort of 
charming freedom fighters." He did add, however, that the helicopters being 
supplied by the United States were "remarkably familiar."

The secretary's visit, though brief, carried symbolism for a region 
increasingly beset by instability and eager for attention from the United 
States, which is seen here as preoccupied by its efforts against terrorism 
elsewhere. Indeed, Secretary Powell was supposed to have visited Colombia 
last year, but his visit was canceled because of the Sept. 11 attacks. 
Another visit was canceled earlier this year.

Colombia's importance for the administration is underscored by its holding 
of the presidency of the United Nations Security Council, where Washington 
has sought its support for the campaign against Iraq.

Secretary Powell said, however, that he had been unable to persuade Mr. 
Uribe to exempt Americans serving in Colombia from any human rights 
prosecutions by the International Criminal Court. The Bush administration, 
which has refused to join the court, has sought such exemptions from 
countries where Americans are serving. 
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