Colombia Aid Program Criticized

Colombia Aid Program Criticized
Posted by FoM on March 29, 2000 at 07:11:14 PT
By The Associated Press
Source: Las Vegas SUN
Sylvester Salcedo is normally not the kind to challenge the establishment. A retired Navy lieutenant commander, Salcedo received a Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal last year for "superior performance" in fighting narcotraffickers.
But in January, appalled at President Clinton's decision to ask Congress for $1.6 billion over two years in counterdrug assistance to Colombia, Salcedo decided he must register a protest: He mailed his medal to the White House.Salcedo believes efforts to interdict drug flows from South America are futile. The money, he says, would be better spent on treating drug addicts at home.The House was due to take up the Clinton proposal today, and Salcedo, who lives in New York City, was planning to be on hand, hoping to influence undecided lawmakers.A key component of the aid package is 63 helicopters, designed to provide mobility for Colombia's counterdrug effort."Its chances for success are ridiculous," Salcedo said in a recent telephone interview. "It's impractical. ...There are just too many variables beyond our control."Accompanying the medal he received was a certificate that cited his "professional achievement in the superior performance of his duties" and his "exceptional diplomatic aplomb."He has seen the drug problem from both ends of the pipeline - from the supply side in Latin America and the demand side in Boston, where he worked for a time as a Spanish teacher in a low income area.He received the medal after serving about 2 1/2 years with Joint Task Force Six, a Pentagon unit that provides military specialists to law enforcement agencies. His assignment, among other goals, was to penetrate drug gangs.Salcedo said he mailed the medal to the White House public liaison office. He has tried through e-mail and phone calls to communicate with that office, but without success.His view has some support in the House, but probably not enough to block the aid proposal, which is part of a $9 billion aid package that also includes money for Kosovo and other programs.Among Salcedo's allies is Rep. Janice Schakowsky, D-Ill., who said recently, "Treatment is 10 times more effective than drug interdiction schemes."And a GAO study last year showed that cocaine availability in the United States was unaffected by record cocaine seizures in Colombia in 1998.Another ally of Salcedo's is Robert White, a former ambassador to El Salvador and now president of the Center for International Policy. The Clinton administration, says White, has yet to explain "what is at stake in Colombia or how massive military assistance can do anything but make matters worse."But critics of the proposal face an uphill battle. Most lawmakers, especially Republicans, agree with Clinton that with the nation awash in drugs, decisive action is called for.The United States, Clinton said recently, is a lot better off trying to help Colombia "fight narcotics there and keep more drugs out of this country, than if we walk away from it.Washington (AP) Published: March 29, 2000  1996 - 2000 Las Vegas Sun, Inc.Related Articles:The Other Drug War - Newsweek Money - Arianna Huffington - Salon Magazine
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Comment #1 posted by Ethan Russo on March 30, 2000 at 05:55:49 PT:
Sylvester Salcedo
I recently had the pleasure of meeting Sylvester at the recent drug policy conference in NYC. He is a very impressive voice against the drug war, and one whose message should be heeded by all.Ethan Russo, MD
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