Drug Policy Director Returns from Five-Day Tour

Drug Policy Director Returns from Five-Day Tour
Posted by FoM on July 30, 1999 at 17:04:22 PT
Source: Tampa Bay Online
MIAMI (AP) - Andean region countries are committed to confronting corruption and violence associated with drug-trafficking despite an explosion in cocaine and heroin production, the United States' top anti-drug official said Friday. 
Gen. Barry McCaffrey briefed reporters Friday upon returning from a five-day South American tour during which he assessed anti-drug efforts in Colombia, Venezuela, Curacao, Aruba and in Ecuador - a transit country for Colombian cocaine destined for the U.S. and Europe. As demand for drugs has increased and trafficking has expanded, increased drug production in Colombia has emerged during a maelstrom of massacres, kidnappings, civil war and economic chaos in the country of 37 million people. ``The problem of violence and corruption in Colombia comes from the (drug) money,'' McCaffrey said, speaking at a news conference at Miami International Airport. About $215 million in drug money per year finds its way into the coffers of the rebel Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, which is ensconced in a civil war with U.S.-backed President Andres Pastrana's government. ``If you can separate the money from these organizations, there will be less tragedy,'' he said. The United States can commit resources and political goodwill toward curbing the violence, easing the drug problem and helping to stabilize the country's economy, but Colombia will have to find its own solution to its civil unrest, McCaffrey said. ``There is zero possibility of U.S. intervention in the Colombian issue,'' McCaffrey said. McCaffrey's meetings with leaders and key drug-fighting officials were aimed at strengthening regional efforts to stop drug production and to call for stronger anti-drug cooperation between U.S. and Latin nations. ``There is an enormous awareness that drug abuse is a problem affecting all of us,'' McCaffrey said. He said 80 percent of all cocaine and most heroin seizures reported in the United States originate from or pass through Colombia, the No. 1 cocaine-producing nation. Colombia will received $300 million from the U.S. to step up anti-drug efforts. McCaffrey said it is not enough. ``Now we have to have a debate,'' McCaffrey said. ``We must show that we're as concerned about drug use in Bogota and Rio as we are among our own.'' McCaffrey's stop in Colombia included a tour of an army base where the U.S. military is training and equipping a 1,500-member drug-fighting battalion. He visited potential anti-drug facilities called ``forward operation locations'' in Ecuador, Curacao and Aruba from which the U.S. can lead aerial detection and monitoring missions. The U.S. Army uses planes packed with sophisticated eavesdropping equipment to gather information on drug traffickers' movements and to photograph plantations where illegal drug crops are grown. One such plane was on a counter-narcotics mission, circling above a major drug-producing area near the southern border of Ecuador when it disappeared one week ago, just as McCaffrey was embarked on his trip. McCaffrey expressed regret for the deaths of five U.S. soldiers and two Colombian air force officers who were aboard the Havilland RC-7 reconnaissance plane when it crashed into a 9,000-foot peak in the southern state of Putumayo, a stronghold of the FARC. 7/30/99 -- 6:47 PMCopyright 1999 Associated Press. All rights reserved
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