Big Money Involved in Colombian Conflict!

Big Money Involved in Colombian Conflict!
Posted by FoM on February 22, 1999 at 19:32:43 PT

SANTAFE DE BOGOTA, A U.S. report again has branded Colombia as the world's biggest producer of coca -- the source of cocaine -- and linked Colombia's armed conflict with drug trafficking. 
The head of the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy, Barry McCaffrey, in his latest study of the situation of illegal drug cultivation in the Andean area, said that in Colombia, the increase in 1998 was "tremendous and substantial." McCaffrey asserted that, although successes have been achieved in the eradication of those crops, in the zones under the control of the guerrillas and paramilitary groups, plantations of coca and poppies grew by 28 percent. The report, released earlier this month, found the growth rate "tremendously worrisome," and added that it was important for the United States to help the Colombian government regain control of the whole country. Data from satellite images taken by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA, complemented by statistical analysis and direct observation, indicated that, in 1998, coca was growing in 108,000 hectares of Colombia compared to about 70,000 in 1997. The CIA declared that 53 percent of the world's coca plants were under cultivation in Colombia, followed by Peru, where the percentage fell from 45 to 27 percent between 1997 and 1998, and Bolivia -- which also recorded a decease of three percent down to 20 percent. The U.S. agencies expressed their concern at the "tremendous profits" earned by guerrilla groups from activities related to narco-trafficking. The U.S. figures contradicted those contained in a report by Accion Andina -- a coalition of institutions and investigators from Bolivia, Colombia, Peru and Venezuela dealing with socio-economic, political and environmental problems caused by the production and trafficking of drugs. The study revealed 83.51 percent of the herbicidal fumigation undertaken during the study period by the U.S. agencies covered zones under guerrilla control in the departments of Caqueta and Guaviare, in the southeast of the country. It also noted that the municipalities of Cartagena del Chaira, Caqueta, Miraflores and Guaviare were the sites of 43 percent of the total herbicides used in the Amazon region in 1998, when the plan covered 19 municipalities. "In this way, one can observe the enormous degree of concentration of crop fumigation" in an area considered fundamental "for the guerrillas, as much financially as militarily," Ricardo Vargas, a Colombian investigator with Accion Andina, told IPS. To Vargas, contrary to the assertions of McCaffrey, "what has actually occurred is that the coca crops have been quickly moved" from the departments of Caqueta and Guaviare "to many other locations, which has contributed to the expansion of the areas under coca cultivation." The objective of McCaffrey, in declaring that the increase of coca crops has been concentrated in the zones under guerrilla influence, was "to conceal the categorical failure of the U.S. strategy against drugs and to clean up its reputation and that of the Colombian police," Vargas declared. Political observers opined that the report by the U.S. anti- drug agency sought to pressure the insurgents to comply with the policies of eradicating illegal crops to enable peace talks to begin. There also was the possibility that the U.S. assistance in the fight against drug trafficking in Colombia, anticipated this year to be more than $200 million, would be diverted to finance military actions against the guerrilla groups, accused of being linked to drug trafficking, observers said.. Colombian President Andres Pastrana had made several concessions to the guerrillas in the hope they would come to the negotiating table, the observers noted. Washington accepted with reservations the Pastrana decision to pull back the army from five municipalities in the southeast of the country, appealing to the insurgent Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) to initiate a peace process, which is suspended until April 20. The United States considers the zone controlled by the biggest rebel organization of the country to be strategic for drug trafficking. Another point that has grabbed the attention of the analysts is that McCaffrey released his report at a time when the activity of the Colombian guerrillas has been marked as a threat to the security of the border with Ecuador and Peru. Those two countries reinforced military controls in the zone last week. 
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