Published on Friday, September 7, 2001 by the Associated Press
Colombian President: War On Drugs is Not Working
by Andrew Selsky
BOGOTA, Colombia - President Andres Pastrana, one of
Washington's closest allies in the global war on drugs, called
Thursday for a review of that struggle, saying it has produced few
``The conclusions are not good,'' Pastrana said in a rare talk with foreign journalists ahead of next week's visit by Secretary of State Colin Powell. ``The conclusions are that drugs are still the first- or second-biggest business of mankind.''
``Clearly, we must also make an evaluation - and not only of the policies of fumigation and interdiction,'' Pastrana said.
He described a global narcotics industry worth $500 billion and said drug lords are seeking out new markets in Europe and the former Soviet Union.
Drug use is on the rise in the United States, Pastrana said. However, the White House says the overall number of drug users has dropped, but that heroin use is rising and more Americans aged 18-25 are using drugs.
Washington suspended helping Colombia and Peru track down drug-smuggling flights - using U.S. radar and surveillance planes - after the accidental shootdown of a U.S. missionary plane over the Peruvian Amazon in April.
Pastrana said the suspension ``has allowed a lot of drugs to pass over our territory because there is no control of our air space.''
He urged a resumption, saying: ``I think we can truly hit the heart of the business through interdiction, and not simply through fumigation.''
The fumigation of drug plants by U.S.-provided crop-dusters is the linchpin of Washington's $1.3 billion counternarcotics policy in Colombia. The spraying has been criticized amid allegations it endangers health and the environment, and that it hurts peasant farmers who grow coca to eke out a living.
The president gave no indication that he would backtrack on the spraying during his last year in office, but said he wanted to focus on large-scale coca plantations.
The rebel Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, and their enemies, the right-wing paramilitary United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, earn huge profits by guarding and taxing the coca and poppy plantations that provide much of the world's cocaine, and most of the heroin used in the United States.
The millions of dollars in drug revenue has allowed the FARC and the paramilitaries to expand their forces and better arm themselves.
Pastrana said the U.S. and Europe should stem the laundering of drug money and control the export of chemicals used in Colombia to process cocaine.
Despite the glacially slow pace of peace talks begun with the FARC three years ago, Pastrana said he would leave office satisfied.
``I tell you, Andres Pastrana was elected for one purpose: to try, by all legal and constitutional means, to consolidate a peace process,'' he told reporters. ``And for the first time, we today are sitting at the table even with all the difficulties.''
Pastrana said he has not decided yet whether to renew rebel control over a huge southern safe haven he granted the FARC three years ago. The safe zone, which the FARC allegedly is using to stash kidnap victims and stage military attacks, expires next month.
``The government has given everything. We hope the FARC reciprocates,'' Pastrana said.
Pastrana said he plans to discuss trade issues with Powell during his visit to Bogota on Tuesday and Wednesday. Colombia wants a renewal and broadening of the U.S. Andean Trade Preference Act, which expires in December, Pastrana said.
The ATPA aims to develop legal alternatives to drug production in Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru by giving duty-free status to the Andean region's exports, such as flowers, minerals, coffee and bananas.
Colombia wants to add textiles, food oils and other products.
``We've said to the Americans: don't give us dollars. We don't want money,'' Pastrana said. ``Give us trade. Give us the chance to compete.''
Copyright © 2001 The Associated Press