Anti-Drug Leaders Praise Cooperation

Anti-Drug Leaders Praise Cooperation
Posted by FoM on November 06, 1999 at 09:36:43 PT
By Frank Davies
Source: Miami Herald
In a day of contrasts in the war on drugs, leaders from 34 nations in the hemisphere trumpeted new cooperation and trust Friday while U.S. drug czar Barry McCaffrey bemoaned the lack of commitment in Congress to long-term aid to Latin America.
McCaffrey said it was ``extremely bad news'' that Congress and the Clinton administration had not agreed to devote significant aid to the region and, specifically, to Colombia. A foreign aid bill containing about $20 million for the region -- far below administration proposals -- passed the House Friday and may be approved in the Senate next week.And GOP leaders on Capitol Hill and administration officials are still maneuvering over an emergency aid package for Colombia of at least $1 billion for three years. But Congress may finish its session next week and not take up that proposal until at least January.``Were not going in the right direction, and this is going to hurt the national security of our country,'' said McCaffrey, who blamed ``the poisonous atmosphere'' on Capitol Hill.A NEW LIGHT McCaffrey spoke at the end of a three-day conference, cosponsored by the Organization of American States, that brought together anti-drug officials from the hemisphere, Europe and the United Nations to discuss common strategies in fighting drugs.``We have made great progress in strengthening the quality of cooperation in this effort,'' said Cesar Gaviria, OAS secretary general and a former president of Colombia, after the last session Friday.Gaviria and McCaffrey noted that leaders in the hemisphere are seeing the drug war in a new light, not just as Latin America producing narcotics for U.S. consumers. Consumption rates throughout the region are going up.``In Caracas, Rio de Janeiro and Lima its an atrocious problem, they are just overwhelmed by it,'' McCaffrey said.``There may be more drug crime in Rio than there is in Miami.''CAMPAIGN CRITICISM Earlier this week, a group of former leaders in the region criticized the ``militarization'' of the anti-drug campaign.Violeta Chamorro of Nicaragua, Oscar Arias of Costa Rica, Belisario Betancur of Colombia and several others called for more efforts to reduce consumption and improve treatment and education.Participants in the conference emphasized that they are focusing on those priorities, but also expressed discouragement that more U.S. aid has not come out of Congress.On a related issue, McCaffrey said he saw no reason to add Cuba to an official U.S. list of transit countries involved in the drug trade -- a move sought by House GOP leaders. He called the issue ``an unhelpful and sterile debate'' and said that Cuban officials appear to want to cooperate in anti-drug efforts.Two members of the Cuban Interests Section in Washington attended at least one of the sessions of the conference, but did not participate. OAS officials said that even though Cuba's membership in OAS was suspended in the 1960s, the officials had diplomatic standing to be present. Copyright 1999 Miami Herald Published Saturday, November 6, 1999Related Articles:34 Nations To Coordinate Drug War - 11/05/99 and Gaviria Conclude Western Hemisphere - 11/05/99 
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