Bogota Set To Resume Anti-Drug Flights

Bogota Set To Resume Anti-Drug Flights
Posted by CN Staff on August 05, 2003 at 22:37:02 PT
By Edward Walsh, Washington Post Staff Writer
Source: Washington Post 
The United States and Colombia are close to resuming U.S.-backed drug interdiction flights by the Colombian military under a recommendation that Secretary of State Colin L. Powell has made to President Bush, U.S. officials said yesterday. The flights, part of the U.S. effort to stem the flow of illegal drugs from South America, were suspended in 2001 after the Peruvian military mistakenly shot down a small aircraft over Peru. Veronica Bowers, an American missionary, and her daughter, Charity, were killed in the incident. At the time, the Peruvian military was operating under a similar program with U.S. assistance. 
After lengthy negotiations with Colombia, Powell late Monday recommended that Bush authorize resuming the flights over Colombia under what one official called a "very specific, very clear checklist" of procedures designed to prevent a recurrence of the fatal 2001 incident. The official said a decision by Bush is expected quickly. State Department spokesman Philip T. Reeker did not confirm that Powell had made the recommendation, but he made clear that the administration strongly supported a resumption of the interdiction flights under the Air Bridge Denial program. "We hope to have the Air Bridge Denial program up and running again in the very near future," Reeker said at a State Department briefing. "We want to make sure that this is done safely, get it right." In Crawford, Tex., where Bush in vacationing on his ranch, White House spokesman Sean McCormack said the White House is "in the final stages of review and evaluation" of the air interdiction program. "The president's overriding concern is to support our allies in Colombia to address the threat to their national security posed by illegal drug trafficking while ensuring that procedures are in place to protect innocent life," McCormack said. Luis Alberto Moreno, Colombia's ambassador to the United States, said in a telephone interview that some air crews have already undergone training and that the interdiction flights should resume shortly after Bush issues a directive authorizing them. "We had a good program and we have made it much better," he said. "For Colombia, it is critical to be able to seize planes that are carrying drugs and arms." The United States is still in talks with Peru to resume drug interdiction flights over that country. The administration has said publicly that it would like to resume operations in Peru by the end of the year. But an official said those negotiations are taking longer because Peru does not have as much resources as Colombia to invest in the program and because Peruvian officials had not yet indicated that they sufficiently appreciate how "delicate" the air interdiction flights are, particularly since the deaths of Bowers and her daughter. Under the program that was suspended in 2001, the CIA supervised the flights in Peru and the U.S. Customs Service was in charge of the operation in Colombia. Under the new program, the State Department will have responsibility for the interdiction operation in Colombia. An official said that most of the aircraft and the radar installations that track suspicious flights belong to the United States. The aircraft will be flown by the Colombian military, which will have final authority to decide whether to intercept a suspicious aircraft. But U.S. personnel will be on board the flights and if an interdiction takes place without their approval and then "turns out badly," the United States could cancel the entire drug interdiction program, the official said. "We can't put anybody in jail, but that's a pretty big thing," the official said. "They've wanted this program for a long time." "There were not a great deal of checks and balances" under the old interdiction program, the official added. "The program is now very different. The rules and regulations will be so openly explained that even very casual pilots will know what to do." Note: Bush Reviewing Interdiction Program. Source: Washington Post (DC)Author: Edward Walsh, Washington Post Staff WriterPublished: Wednesday, August 6, 2003; Page A12 Copyright: 2003 Washington Post Contact: letterstoed washpost.comWebsite: Related Articles & Web Site:Colombia Drug War News Civilians Wage Drug War from Colombia's Skies Missionary Relives Plane Tragedy Ready To Shoot Down Drug Planes 
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Comment #2 posted by Dan B on August 06, 2003 at 15:31:26 PT
Death from the sky
The Bowers family was not "mistakenly" shot. They were shot deliberately and with malice aforethought. The only mistake was that the shooters did not know the true identity of the people aboard that flight before they took aim and fired.Let there be no misunderstanding: the shooting down of planes thought to be carrying drugs is, in no uncertain terms, murder in the first degree. Whether the people aboard are actualy carrying drugs, and whether they even know the true nature of their cargo, the effect is the same: people die because bureaucrats think that is the way "civilized" countries deal with drugs. There is nothing civilized about murder.Mark my words: if these "interdiction" flights continue, more people will die. Dan B
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Comment #1 posted by Robbie on August 06, 2003 at 08:12:07 PT
Oh, yeah...gotta resume those flights...
if they don't, they may have to push back the invasion of Colombia past 2010!
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