Bush Administration Asks Congress to Lift All Restrictions on Aid to Colombia 3/22/02

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Three weeks ago, DRCNet reported that the Bush administration had rejected an internal proposal to expand US war aims in Colombia from counter-narcotics to an outright effort to defeat the leftist rebels of the FARC and the smaller ELN (http://www.drcnet.org/wol/226.html#warincolombia). That was only a temporary respite. Almost immediately after announcing that it had rejected the option, the White House and congressional allies began gearing up for a renewed push to erase the line between the drug war and explicit involvement in Colombia's long-festering civil war. Now the Bush administration has offered a bill in Congress that would remove all restrictions on US military assistance to Colombia, including the ban on non-narcotics-related assistance, human rights conditions and limits to the number of US military personnel on the ground in Colombia. The bill also asks for $29 million to combat "terrorist kidnappings." That comes on top of the $1.3 billion already committed to fighting the cocaine trade in Colombia.

The proposal is part of a $27 billion supplemental appropriations bill for counter-terrorism activities, and the administration and its allies are couching their argument in terms of the "war on terror." On March 6, Secretary of State Colin Powell told Congress that the "new situation" in Colombia meant the US would shift gears and now help the government in Bogota defeat "terrorists and drug traffickers."

The administration has found an increasingly receptive audience in Congress in the last few weeks, with generally high levels of support for any "anti-terrorist" measures since September 11. This has dovetailed with the collapse of the Colombian peace process, after a frustrated President Pastrana shut down peace talks with the FARC last month. All this has seemingly eroded the longstanding congressionally-erected barriers between counter-narcotics and counter-insurgency. The FARC did not help itself when it kidnapped marginal presidential candidate but well-connected darling of the elite Ingrid Betancourt, nor with the counteroffensive it has unleashed against the country's infrastructure in the last few weeks.

And in a move that could not have been more nicely choreographed if it had been a ballet, the Justice Department announced this week that a federal grand jury had indicted three FARC members on cocaine trafficking charges. In announcing the indictments, Attorney General John Ashcroft spoke of an "evil interdependence" between drug trafficking and terrorism. The indictment alleges that the FARC members, including 16th Front Commandant Tomas Molina Caracas, conspired with Brazilian drug traffickers to import "plane loads" of cocaine into the US since 1994.

The administration proposal faces opposition in Congress, with Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) circulating a letter for congressmen to sign saying they do not want to increase military assistance to Colombia, and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) insisting human rights conditions continue to be respected. But in the current atmosphere, heightened even further by the deadly Thursday bombing near the US Embassy in Lima, Peru, attributed to the Shining Path guerrillas, opponents of a greatly broadened US war effort in Colombia will have to mobilize quickly.

If the bill passes, the primary target will be the FARC. Although all three insurgent formations in Colombia are officially designated "terrorist organizations" by the State Department, the 5,000-strong ELN is seeking negotiations with the government and the rightist paramilitaries are de facto allies of the Colombian military and thus unlikely to be attacked. That leaves the Colombian and US governments headed for a direct and bloody military confrontation with the FARC that could last for years.

Meanwhile, Narco News is reporting links between the campaign of hard-line presidential candidate Alvaro Uribe, viewed as a savior by the Colombian elite and their American allies, and the trade in precursor chemicals necessary to produce cocaine. According to Narco News, the DEA has linked three seizures of potassium permanganate destined for Colombia to a company called GMP Productos Quimicos (Chemical Products). The precursor chemical could have made a half-million kilos of cocaine hydrocloride, worth about $15 billion on the US market. The owner of GMP, according to a DEA report, is one Pedro Juan Moreno Villa, Uribe's presidential campaign manager, former chief of staff and longtime poltical fixer (http://www.narconews.com/narcocandidate1.html).

Gabriel Garcia Marquez couldn't write this stuff.

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Issue #229, 3/22/02 Editorial: Congress's Bad Joke | DRCNet Launching John W. Perry Scholarship Fund for Students Losing Aid Because of Drug Convictions at NYC Event on March 26 | Alert: Tell Congress to Repeal the HEA Drug Provision in Full | Supreme Court Hears Arguments in High School Drug Testing Case -- Comments by Justices Ominous | 3th Anniversary of Shafer Commission Report -- New Nixon Tapes Reveal Twisted Thinking at Root of Modern Marijuana War | Bush Administration Asks Congress to Lift All Restrictions on Aid to Colombia | Colorado State University Opens Nation's First College Drug Court | Canadian Firm That Sued US Over Hemp Foods Ban Set to Meet With Array of Feds -- NAFTA Rules Force US to Talk to Kenex | Medical Marijuana Bills Still Moving in Maryland, Vermont | Sentencing Project Study Finds 135,000 Children Affected by Welfare Ban for Drug Offenders | Alerts: HEA, Bolivia, DEA Hemp Ban, SuperBowl Ad, Ecstasy Legislation, Mandatory Minimums, Medical Marijuana, Virginia | The Reformer's Calendar

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