Colombia Aid Package in Trouble

Colombia Aid Package in Trouble
Posted by FoM on February 29, 2000 at 23:30:27 PT
By Robert D. Lamb, USA Today
Source: USA Today
Citing both military and human rights concerns, a House Appropriations panel Tuesday blasted the Clinton administration's request for emergency drug-fighting aid to Colombia. The panel said the proposal fails to address a range of concerns, including insufficient funding for non-military programs, the need for expensive Black Hawk helicopters and the human rights record of the Colombian armed forces.
Gen. Barry McCaffrey, Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, told the Foreign Operations Subcommittee Tuesday that the recent surge in drug production and violence in Colombia is a "rapidly evolving emergency" that threatens U.S. national security and requires immediate action.McCaffrey was testifying in support of the administration's request for $1.6 billion to beef up equipment and training for the South American nation's security forces and other programs.Citing newly released Central Intelligence Agency estimates, he said that coca cultivation in Colombia increased 20% in 1999 while declining 4% throughout the Andean region. "Without additional U.S. assistance, Colombia is unlikely to experience the dramatic progress in the drug fight experienced by its Andean neighbors," he said in a prepared statement.Plan Colombia:Colombian President Andres Pastrana last fall unveiled a three-year, $7.5 billion strategy called Plan Colombia aimed at strengthening the economy and stemming the violence carried out by drug traffickers and armed groups. Pastrana pledged $4 billion to the plan and asked the United States and other countries to fund the rest.The Clinton administration's $1.6 billion aid proposal in support of Pastrana's plan includes $954 million in emergency funds for fiscal year 2000, plus $330 million already appropriated for 2000 and $318 million for fiscal year 2001. The package would provide equipment, training and intelligence to the Colombian police and army, and support judicial reform, economic development and human rights programs.Human rights groups have criticized the plan for not going far enough in making sure the Colombian army doesn't use U.S.-supplied equipment and training to support right-wing paramilitaries, which the State Department says commit as much as 70% of the political killings in Colombia.Other critics fear increased U.S. involvement in Colombia's internal affairs could turn into another Vietnam. Colombia has been fighting a civil war for more than three decades, and Marxist guerrillas have full control over vast areas of the country - giving drug producers a sanctuary from law enforcement.But Chairman Sonny Callahan and other members of the subcommittee mostly expressed skepticism Tuesday over the plan's prospects for success.Callahan said he agreed with the general approach of the Plan Colombia but was disturbed by its lack of detail, calling it "nebulous." "If you have a total eradication plan, submit it" to the subcommittee, he told McCaffrey.The chairman also wondered aloud where Colombia, in the midst of one of its worst recessions ever, was going to find $4 billion to pay for it. "Are they going to be able to come up with another $4 billion (after three years)? And consequently, are we going to be requested to put up another billion?"Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., charged the administration with not focusing enough on drug treatment programs, citing a Rand Corp. study that found such programs to be far more effective in reducing drug abuse than programs that concentrate on diminishing the supply of drugs.Appropriations Committee Chairman Bill Young and several members of the subcommittee said they were concerned that Europe may not be taking the narcotics threat seriously enough. Young asked McCaffrey if Colombia had received any pledges of aid from the European Union.McCaffrey said the EU is considering a $900 million package, but that the United States still needs to convince them the drug trade is a threat their security.Callahan also challenged the administration's request for 30 new UH-60 Black Hawk and 33 UH-1N Huey helicopters, by far the largest expenditure in the proposal. Black Hawks have superior speed and range but are more expensive and difficult to maintain than Hueys - and delivery of the Black Hawks wouldn't begin until next year at the earliest."This program is in trouble today unless the administration provides this Congress with a lot of answers," Callahan said.Washington: Published: March 1, 2000Copyright 2000 Associated Press.  Copyright 2000 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.  Related Articles:US: Colombia Drug War To Take 5 Yrs Led Fumigation Fails To Stop Cultivation Anti-Drug Plan Draws Hill Fire
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