December 4, 1998

Police seize six tons of cocaine in Caribbean port

                  CARTAGENA, Colombia (AP) -- In one of the largest cocaine busts in
                  Colombia, police said Friday they've seized more than 7 tons of cocaine in a
                  maritime warehouse in the Caribbean port city of Cartagena.

                  It was the second recent major seizure in Cartagena and brought the amount
                  of cocaine impounded so far this year across Colombia to 50 tons, officials

                  "This is one of the most important blows ever to drug trafficking in the
                  country," National Police director Gen. Rosso Jose Serrano said at a news
                  conference in Cartagena. "It's a message that we'll continue to fight drug
                  trafficking without restriction."

                  Police first reported they had found 3 tons of cocaine. That figure was
                  increased twice on Friday after further searching.

                  The cocaine, stored in metal drums marked as containing polyester resins, was
                  discovered in the false walls of six containers that were to be loaded onto a
                  cargo ship destined for Cuba, police said.

                  President Andres Pastrana Colombian authorities were aided by a recent
                  cooperation agreement with the United States aimed at strengthening
                  narcotics detection in Cartagena.

                  "We exchanged information, but this was a purely national operation,"
                  Pastrana said.

                  Police arrested a man whose name appeared on documents as the cargo's
                  owner. They were tipped off by an informant.

                  In July, authorities seized seven tons of cocaine disguised as a shipment of
                  nylon. The cocaine was headed for the United States by way of Mexico.
                  Police said that bust was the biggest seizure of pure cocaine ever in Colombia,
                  which produces an estimated 700 tons annually.

                  The country produces more than 80 percent of the cocaine sold in the United
                  States and a growing share of the heroin.

                  Cartagena was the site this week of a conference of the hemisphere's defense
                  ministers, at which military leaders from around the Americas pledged greater
                  cooperation in the fight against illegal narcotics.

                   Copyright 1998 The Associated Press.