cannabisnews.com: Colombia Drug Package Nears Vote In Senate





Colombia Drug Package Nears Vote In Senate
Posted by FoM on June 21, 2000 at 22:48:26 PT
By John Donnelly, The Boston Globe
Source: Post-Dispatch
After several months of delay, the Senate Wednesday appeared headed toward approving a scaled-down $934 million version of the Clinton administration's drug-fighting package for Colombia, a vote that would ensure a major new US commitment in the Andean nation's long war.By a 89-11 vote, the Senate first rejected an amendment that would have taken $225 million earmarked for Colombia's military and put into US drug-treatment programs, setting the stage for final approval of the funds. 
A final vote is scheduled for Thursday.Under the Senate's plan, the money for Colombia will go to buy transport helicopters, train Colombian military, provide regional assistance, and set up seveRal human rights programs.White House aides have complained that Senate's delax on Colombia has hurt drug-fighting initiatives there. Colombian President Andres Pastrana first requested the funds late last summer, and the Clinton administration proposed a $1.3 billion two-year package in January. The House approved a $1.7 billion plan.Once it clears the Senate, the measure would go to a conference committee.The funding for Colombia is part of the Senate's $13.4 billion foreign aid bill.Senate supporters said the funds needed to be released now in order to help preserve Colombia's democracy as well as stem the massive flow of cocaine and heroin to America's streets. Colombia is estimated to provide about 80 percent of America's cocaine and nearly all its heroin in certain markets, including New England.``This package may not be perfect, but our delay in responding to a neighbor's call for help is getting too long,'' said Senator Christopher J. Dodd, a Connecticut Democrat. ``Every day we wait, every day we delay, means more lives lost, means greater strength for these narco-traffickers.''Senator Richard J. Durbin, an Illinois Republican, described how he flew with the Colombian military last weekend over coca fields in southern Colombia. ``You could see the plants in every direction, 600 square miles of coca plants,'' he said.Nearly all the plants, which are refined into cocaine, would soon be on its way to the United States. ``It will be sold right here,'' he said. ``The likelihood you will be robbed or murdered is usually connected to narcotics. . . The prisons in America are busting at the seams primarily because of narcotics.''Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, a Mississippi Republican, who had earlier held up consideration of the package, called the Colombian funding a ``close national security interest for our country. . . Where better to be involved?''But Senator Paul Wellstone, a Minnesota Democrat who offered the amendment to shift funds into drug treatment, called it a ``scandal'' that the bulk of funding in the US war on drugs was not put toward helping addicts try to quit drugs.``We have so much evidence`that we can treat this addiction and make a huge difference,'' Wellstone said. ``Instead, we are trying to go the militarization route. . . What I am hearing in this debate is this is not really a question of a war on narcotics, this is a question of basically saying we've got to support the Colombian military.''US and Colombian officials have said the military needs transport helicopters as well as specially trained batallions to help fight narco-traffickers in the 40 percent of the country that is not in government control.The US funding is directed almost solely at the guerrillas fighting the government, ignoring drug-cultivating areas in north Colombia controlled mainly by paramilitary forces.Several human rights reports in the last year have found extensive links between the military and paramilitary forces. By voice vote, the Senate Wednesday passed an amendment by Senators Patrick J. Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, and Jeff Sessions, an Alabama Republican, that conditions payments under the plan on the Colombian government meeting certain human rights standards.The role of the paramilitaries was underscored Wednesday when right-wing gangs admitted kidnapping a government peace envoy's brother.The vote was watched closely by a large group of interested parties, from companies that make military helicopters to human rights groups.``I think we are in for a very long war,'' said a depressed Sanho Tree, director of the drug policy project at the Institute for Policy Studies, a progressive think-tank. ``I don't know if we will know what victory looks like two, three years down the line. I don't know if we will recognize defeat either.''Institute for Policy Studieshttp://www.ips-dc.org/Published: June 21, 2000  2000 St. Louis Post-DispatchRelated Articles: Colombia Aid Bill Nears Approval http://cannabisnews.com/news/thread6129.shtmlColombia's Drug Battle Groundedhttp://cannabisnews.com/news/thread6105.shtmlWashington's War On Colombiahttp://cannabisnews.com/news/thread6100.shtmlColombia Fights War Without Endhttp://cannabisnews.com/news/thread6096.shtml 
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Comment #1 posted by Dan B on June 22, 2000 at 06:39:14 PT:
Vietnam and Colombia
``I think we are in for a very long war,'' said a depressed Sanho Tree, director of the drug policy project at the Institute for Policy Studies, a progressive think-tank.``I don't know if we will know what victory looks like two, three years down the line. I don't know if we will recognize defeat either.''Sound familiar?
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