HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html 5 US Soldiers Accused Of Smuggling Cocaine From Colombia
Pubdate: Thu, 31 Mar 2005
Source: Bradenton Herald (FL)
Copyright: 2005 Bradenton Herald
Author:  Kim Housego, Associated Press
Bookmark: (Cocaine)


BOGOTA, Colombia - Five U.S Army soldiers are under investigation for
allegedly trying to smuggle some 32 pounds of cocaine from Colombia
aboard a U.S. military aircraft, U.S. and Colombian officials said

The soldiers were detained Tuesday as a result of the investigation,
said Lt. Col. Eduardo Villavicencio, a spokesman for the Miami-based
U.S. Southern Command.

He would not disclose where the five are being held, other than "in
the United States."

"This is an ongoing criminal investigation," Villavicencio said,
declining to release any other details.

"The Department of Defense is working closely with Colombian
authorities and U.S. law enforcement to conduct a thorough
investigation," William Wood, the U.S. ambassador to Colombia, said in
a statement. "I congratulate our law enforcement agencies for their
excellent cooperation in uncovering this drug smuggling scheme."

A U.S. Embassy spokesman also declined to provide additional
information. Colombia's Defense Ministry confirmed an investigation
was under way, but wouldn't discuss the case further.

The United States has provided more than $3 billion in aid over the
past four years to help Colombia battle Marxist rebels and drug
trafficking that fuels the 40-year-old insurgency.

Up to 800 U.S. troops are permitted in Colombia, according to U.S.
law, to train Colombian armed forces and to provide logistical
support. Up to 600 Americans are also permitted in the country as U.S.
government contractors.

It was the second major scandal to hit the U.S. military in Colombia.

In 1999, the wife of the former commander of U.S. anti-drug operations
in Colombia, Laurie Hiett, pleaded guilty to shipping $700,000 in
cocaine and heroin to New York City in diplomatic parcels. She was
sentenced to five years in prison.

Her husband, Col. James C. Hiett, later pleaded guilty to helping his
wife launder US$25,000 in illicit profits and was given a five-month
prison term and a dishonorable discharge.

The case embarrassed the Pentagon at a time when former U.S. President
Bill Clinton was pitching the billion-dollar plan to back Colombian

Colombia is the world's largest producer of cocaine and a major
supplier of heroin to the United States.
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