The Miami Herald
April 12, 2000

 U.S. funds to fight drugs are needed now, Colombian leader says

 Associated Press

 WASHINGTON -- Colombian President Andres Pastrana, appealing for swift
 congressional approval of a two-year, $1.3 billion emergency counterdrug
 package, said Tuesday that delays will only perpetuate skyrocketing coca
 production in his country.

 In an interview with The Associated Press, Pastrana said cocaine production has
 doubled over the past four years, and he cautioned that the problem cannot be
 overcome without help from the United States and Europe.

 ``The sooner we get the aid, the sooner we are going to these [drug-producing]
 areas -- not only to fight the drug lords and narcos involved in the business but
 also to start promoting alternative development,'' he said.

 Dramatic increases in eradication efforts have been more than offset by a 50
 percent increase in coca cultivation over the past two years, according to
 congressional investigators.

 President Clinton presented the aid request as an emergency supplemental bill in
 January, and the House approved it last month by a lopsided margin. But Senate
 Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., has said he does not believe the measure
 warrants emergency consideration. Pastrana will meet Lott today.


 Lott told reporters Tuesday he supports the aid money for Colombia but is
 concerned about additions to the package unrelated to Colombia that are
 increasing the price tag.

 ``I want him [Pastrana] to get this money . . . but I have a higher obligation to the
 taxpayers of America. I have to do what I can to control the growth of spending,''
 he said.

 Predicting that the money will be approved, Lott said the wait will be not much
 longer than if it had gone through the emergency process.

 Colombia is not getting rich off the drug trade, Pastrana said in the interview,
 arguing that much of the $500 billion the business generates each year winds up
 in the United States, with very little staying in his country.

 But, he said, Colombia has made a big sacrifice in combating the drug trade,
 investing $1.3 billion annually to curb U.S.-bound flows of cocaine and heroin.

 ``We want to show the world [that] we are on the front lines in the fight on drugs.
 We have lost our best journalists, the best politicians, the best policemen, the
 best judges,'' he said.

 ``It is a big sacrifice not only for the economy but also in human life,'' he added.
 ``Instead of pointing out who is responsible, why don't we unite all our efforts in
 fighting the largest criminal organization in the world?''


 Pastrana, a frequent visitor to Washington during his 20 months in office, met with
 Secretary of State Madeleine Albright on Tuesday afternoon and plans meetings
 with other lawmakers besides Lott.

 Afterward, he plans to travel to Europe, where a meeting of donors is planned for
 July to assist his program for dealing with Colombia's many problems. He
 expressed hope that the Europeans will make pledges of $600 million to $800

 Albright, with Pastrana standing at her side at the State Department after their
 meeting, renewed the administration's call for fast action on the assistance
 proposal, a major feature of which is providing 63 helicopters to enhance the
 mobility of units involved in counternarcotics activities.