CIA: Colombia Cocaine Production Up

CIA: Colombia Cocaine Production Up
Posted by FoM on February 15, 2000 at 13:24:57 PT
By George Gedda, Associated Press Writer
A new CIA estimate released today showed a sharp increase in Colombian cocaine production but the administration's efforts to deal with the problem drew fire from both Republicans and Democrats at a congressional hearing.Cocaine production reached 520 metric tons last year, up from 435 tons in 1998 and 230 tons in 1995, according to CIA figures released by White House drug control chief Barry McCaffrey at a hearing of the House Government Reform subcommittee on Criminal Justice, Drug Policy and Human Resources.
In his prepared testimony, McCaffrey said that overall production trends in the Andes are positive, citing significant drops in Peru and Bolivia.He said that the new data nonetheless illustrates ``the urgency for congressional action in support of the administration's $1.6 billion aid package to Colombia. Without additional U.S. assistance, Colombia is unlikely to experience the dramatic progress in the drug fight experienced by its Andean neighbors.''Subcommittee chairman John L. Mica, R-Fla., said the administration is responsible for the deteriorating situation in Colombia.``Despite years of congressional pleas for counterdrug assistance to Colombia, countless hearings and intense congressional efforts, resources approved by Congress have failed to be provided to Colombia,'' he said.``Someone must be held accountable for this disaster at our doorstep,'' Mica said.But Rep. Janice Shakowski, D-Ill., expressed concern about the 63 helicopters the administration wants to send to Colombia as a key component of the drug war. She suggested the administration abandon the ``militaristic approach'' to the issue and concentrate instead on drug treatment programs. She said these programs are ``times more effective than drug interdiction schemes.''Undersecretary of State Thomas Pickering, in Bogota to discuss the anti-narcotics package, said Monday in Bogota said the aid program won't draw the United States into a ``terrible quagmire,'' as some critics believe.Washington's role will be limited to providing equipment and training for Colombia's army, he said.``The United States has no intention of sending troops to Colombia to fight,'' the envoy heading a high-level delegation said after meeting with President Andres Pastrana.Pickering is a former ambassador to El Salvador, where a limited U.S. presence ballooned into a major involvement in the country's brutal civil war during the 1980s.Seeing parallels to that era and even to Vietnam, U.S. human rights organizations and some Democratic lawmakers oppose the Colombia aid plan. They say it will inflame a nearly 36-year conflict and could draw the United States into the fighting.About three-fourths of the aid package would pay for the 63 attack helicopters and training for two new army counter-drug battalions. The units will be assigned to retake rebel-held southern jungles where cocaine production is rapidly expanding.While dismissing the ``terrible quagmire issue,'' Pickering recognized that leftist rebel units involved in the drug trade would be legitimate ``objectives'' of Colombian troops receiving U.S. assistance.``If the guerrillas would get out of the drug trade, they would have nothing to fear from the United States,'' the envoy added.U.S.-trained army battalions will provide ground and air protection while crop-dusting planes spray deadly herbicides on the crops.Armed resistance is expected from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia -- the 15,000-strong rebel group that dominates the region.Colombia's defense minister says he also expects violent protests from tens of thousands of peasants who depend on coca production for their livelihood.Pastrana has said his government expects thousands of those peasants to be displaced once the cocaine fields are eradicated.The proposed U.S. aid package includes $176 million for resettling uprooted peasants and helping them find a legal way to make a living.Washington (AP)Published: February 15, 2000Copyright  Associated Press.Related Articles on Cocaine & The School Of The Americas:Protesters To Target U.S. Army School A School That Should Be Closed
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