Lott Assures Colombian President on $1.6 Billion 

Lott Assures Colombian President on $1.6 Billion 
Posted by FoM on April 13, 2000 at 10:42:14 PT
By Elizabeth Becker
Source: New York Times
President Andrés Pastrana of Colombia won assurances today from the Senate majority leader that Congress would approve $1.6 billion in aid to help train and equip Colombian security forces to fight the drug war, but not until late spring or early summer. 
The majority leader, Trent Lott, Republican of Mississippi, declined to support a separate emergency spending measure to finance the aid immediately, saying costly amendments had turned it into a magnet for pork barrel spending. Speaking after meeting Mr. Pastrana, Mr. Lott said he strongly supported the aid and expected passage next month or in June. "Here's the main point," Mr. Lott said. "We are committed to the Colombian aid package. We are going to find the earliest opportunity to get this funding approved." On a two-day visit here, Mr. Pastrana said Bogotá needed the money urgently to stem the drug trafficking that is subsidizing the Colombian rebel guerrillas. To illustrate his government's effectiveness in fighting drugs, Mr. Pastrana announced that his counternarcotics police had arrested 46 suspected members of a heroin cartel. In an address to the American Society of Newspaper Editors, Mr. Pastrana said the arrests showed that "drug traffickers would not be tolerated in Colombia, and we are determined to destroy them and their empires." He also attacked what he called the commonly held view that Colombia might be asking for aid and advisers now, but that it would end up asking for American combat troops to fight in a guerrilla war that would become "a Vietnam-like quagmire." "Neither your government nor ours has considered this in even the most extreme circumstances," Mr. Pastrana said. "It is simply not on the table, and as long as I am president this will not happen." But Senator Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, is one of several Congressional critics who have warned that fighting a drug war was inevitably leading to fighting the rebels. "What we are seeing is a dramatic ratcheting up of a counterinsurgency policy in the name of counterdrug policy," Mr. Leahy said. Mr. Pastrana said he was asking for the aid to provide the military with equipment and training for the forces who were fighting the narcotics trade and to begin uprooting the traffickers who had moved deeply into southern areas. The aid would also be used to help farmers grow alternative crops to coca leaf and heroin poppies and to bolster government programs to improve human rights. Despite those goals, Colombian crops of coca leaves and heroin poppies have doubled in four years. In a meeting with Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright on Tuesday, Mr. Pastrana promised that with help from the United States and other countries Colombia could eradicate half the crops in five years. Mr. Pastrana also met Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, Republican of Illinois, to thank him for making the Colombian anti-drug program a top legislative priority, and he attended a working coffee with members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Another meeting was with the Senate minority leader, Tom Daschle of South Dakota. In his speech to the editors, Mr. Pastrana argued that the Colombian crisis was also the responsibility of other countries whose citizens seemed to have an "insatiable appetite" for narcotics. Washington, April 12thPublished: April 13, 2000Copyright 2000 The New York Times Company Related Article:Lott Denies Pastrana on Aid Plan
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