Clinton backs more military aid for Colombia
At a conference on how the private sector can help resolve the nation's
conflict, Clinton described Colombia as a crucial "battleground in humanity's war
He made the comments in this steamy Caribbean coastal city of Cartagena
Congress considers lifting restrictions on U.S. counterdrug money to fight
insurgent groups in Colombia. Clinton pushed through $1.7 billion in drug-fighting
aid during his presidency.
The conflict sets two main rebel groups against a right-wing paramilitary
the government. The U.S. State Department has placed all three illegal groups on its
list of terrorist organizations.
Clinton said Colombia's government should be allowed to use U.S. aid "not
against drug trafficking, but in a direct confrontation against those terrorist
After the conference, President Andres Pastrana accompanied Clinton on
through the walled colonial city that the former president visited once before in
2000. Enthusiastic crowds shook Clinton's hand and posed with him for pictures.
Rep. William Delahunt, D-Massachusetts, who also attended, called on Colombians
to show they're willing to make sacrifices to end the war.
"I believe Congress will be reluctant to increase our share of the assistance
until it is
demonstrated that the private sector is willing to bear much of the sacrifice for this
very tragic conflict," Delahunt said.
Addressing the conference earlier Saturday, President-elect Alvaro Uribe
begins his term August 7 -- urged private security firms to help the government
monitor insurgents and said he would propose a war tax on private businesses.
Thousands of trained police and military personnel swarmed over Cartagena
Clinton's visit. Authorities sent helicopter gunships, airplanes and boats to patrol the
air and waters around the walled city.
Clinton also criticized rebel threats to kidnap or kill more than 100 mayors
hundreds of other government employees if they don't resign.
The threats this month have paralyzed municipal governments. Pastrana has
responded by offering the threatened city officials protection through a program
funded by the United States as part of the aid package that Clinton pushed through.
Copyright 2002 The Associated Press.