Albright Views Anti-Drug Efforts In Colombia

Albright Views Anti-Drug Efforts In Colombia
Posted by FoM on January 16, 2000 at 14:53:33 PT
The Associated Press
Source: Salt Lake Tribune
Secretary of State Madeleine Albright got a firsthand look Saturday at Colombian efforts to intercept cocaine shipments at this steamy Caribbean port. She came away impressed with government sleuths' high-tech tools -- and the methods drug lords use to circumvent them.   "That's fantastic," Albright said when shown an Internet hookup that allows Colombia to connect with 286 ports in 80 countries as part of an integrated counterdrug campaign. 
She also was shown manifests purporting to document legal exports that were an attempt by drug traders to conceal cocaine or heroin shipments.  President Andres Pastrana, appearing with Albright at a news conference, cited the near-dismantling of cartels in Medellin and Cali as an indication of Colombia's progress in the drug war.   "We can and will do more," he said. He said European donors will meet in June or July to make pledges to assist Colombia in fighting the drug trade.   Albright said the two countries are sharing a "very important moment" and are "fully in harmony" on high priority ob- jectives.  Albright's visit was further evidence of the growing alliance between Washington and Colombia, the source of 80 percent of all the cocaine used in the United States. Colombian drug lords also have emerged in the past decade as a major force in heroin trafficking. Despite gains in interdiction, narcotics traders have been able to outpace the government's eradication efforts.   Later Saturday, Albright planned to travel to Panama to meet President Mireya Moscoso and visit the Panama Canal to view the results of the canal's transfer to local control two weeks ago.   Albright had been scheduled to go to Panama on Dec. 14 for a lavish ceremony marking the transfer but postponed because of the impending start of peace talks in Washington between Israeli and Syrian leaders. The absence of both President Clinton and Albright from the ceremony was criticized in Panama and elsewhere.   She was to spend Saturday night in Oaxaca in southern Mexico before meetings Sunday with government officials.   Last week, the White House announced a two-year, $1.6 billion program largely devoted to the anti-narcotics struggle in Colombia. Albright said Friday night that Peru and Bolivia have reduced coca leaf production and Colombia can do the same with hard work.   Albright was escorted around the port by Colombian National Police Chief Gen. Jose Serrano, a hero to many on Capitol Hill because of his reputation as an incorruptible combatant in the drug war.   Albright praised Serrano for the "world class" counterdrug system he has built and expressed the "greatest gratitude" for his efforts.   Bolstering the high-tech anti-drug weapons were German shepherds trained at a special school in Bogota to sniff out illicit drugs.   Albright held the paw of one amiable canine. "Good dog, really good show," she said.   One of the biggest cocaine seizures in Cartagena involved the capture of about 70 "industrial spools" -- cylinders normally used for housing material for producing textiles.   Also on display was a container seized 13 months ago that held part of a 7.3-ton cocaine seizure -- one of the largest ever in Colombia.   Republican lawmakers in the United States, citing evidence on the manifest and other information, believe the shipment was bound for the United States by way of Cuba. But the Clinton administration, along with Colombia and Cuba, maintain the cargo was destined for Spain. Cartagena, Colombia   January 16, 2000   Copyright 2000, The Salt Lake Tribune Related Articles: Colombian Troops Pursue Rebels - 1/16/2000 in Colombia Leaves 50 Dead - 1/15/2000 Will Complement Fight Against Drugs - 1/15/2000 
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