The Miami Herald
May. 30, 2002

U.S. prods Uribe on drug war

Colombian told to double funds to get increased aid


  Colombian President-elect Alvaro Uribe must at least double his nation's investment in its war on drugs and insurgents before the United States would consider increasing its contribution to Plan Colombia, the director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy said Wednesday.

  ''We are pleased at the election of Mr. Uribe. We're eager to begin to work with him,'' said John P. Walters, the Bush administration's drug czar. Uribe, he said,
  ``understands that Colombia has to do some things to get on top of its own security.''

  Foremost would be a huge increase in Bogotá's share of the Gross National Product on ''military and security spending,'' he added. ``It is not spending at a level
  commensurate with a country in a state of war.''

  Colombia spends about 3.5 percent of its GNP on military and security related expenses, key components in the joint U.S.-Colombian commitment to wage a war on drugs, notably cocaine processing and trafficking.


  But a wartime economy requires a minimum 7 percent investment, he said, citing figures that the United States at war has spent up to 12 percent of its GNP on military expenses.

  So in the case of Bogotá, ``we're talking about them doubling it -- at least.''

  Then, he said, ''Yes, we'll be happy to talk about adjusting levels of American assistance'' to the country that ranks at the third-largest recipient of U.S. aid in the world.


  America already invests more than $1 billion in Plan Colombia -- a multifaceted program created by departing President Andrés Pastrana to restore security to the nation in part by attacking the drug producers.

  ''We're not going to fight Colombia's war for it; we're not going to have our soldiers do what the Colombians need to do for themselves; it's not appropriate,'' Walters said. ``But that means that Colombia is going to have to spend some more of its own resources.''

  President Bush chose Walters, a former deputy to an earlier drug czar, William Bennett, to head his national drug prevention strategy in December.

  In Miami on Wednesday, Walters visited the port and made several media appearances, including a meeting with reporters and editors at The Herald, in what he called a campaign to rid U.S. opinion of the cynicism that he sees as pervading anti-drug abuse efforts.

  Walters also reported one sign of success in the effort to suppress the drug trade: Drug Enforcement Administration Director Asa Hutchinson will soon report that cocaine arriving in the United States is 9 percent less pure than last year.

  In a curious finding, he added, the DEA analysis shows that Colombian processors have been spiking their cocaine with caffeine to cover up the drop in potency.

  In other findings, he said:

  A lack of civil society in Haiti still remains an obstacle to joint counternarcotic efforts because U.S. anti-drug officials can rarely find reliable partners. ''I have not heard a solution to that problem,'' he said, adding that ''it is extremely difficult to get a foothold'' among the nation's law enforcement institutions set up after the 1994 U.S. invasion to restore democracy. Asked whether he believed President Jean-Bertrand Aristide had the political will to engage in the war on drugs, he replied: ``I don't know. I have some doubts.''

  Drug traffickers still sometimes use Cuban airspace and territorial waters to elude U.S. tracking radar, and that reports of Cuban-U.S. cooperation in the war on drugs have been overblown, in his opinion. ''My personal view is that Cuba is being presented as doing much more than it is,'' he said, because it is led by a ''tyrant'' and ''brutal relic of the Cold War'' who is the ``biggest single human rights violator in the Hemisphere.''