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DATE=10/19/1999 TYPE=U-S OPINION ROUNDUP TITLE=COLOMBIA'S PROBLEMS NUMBER=6-11521 BYLINE=ANDREW GUTHRIE DATELINE=WASHINGTON EDITOR=ASSIGNMENTS TELEPHONE=619-3335 CONTENT= INTRO: The editorial pages of U-S newspapers have been taking a close look at two long-standing, related problems in Colombia - guerrilla warfare and drug trafficking. We get a sampling of recent editorial comments about Colombia's problems, and the efforts of Andres Pastrana, the relatively new president in Bogota, to solve them from ______________ in today's U-S Opinion roundup. TEXT: The situation in Colombia has not changed much during the past few months, although 31 suspected cocaine traffickers were arrested last week by Colombian police, aided by U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency officers. An ongoing insurgency by leftist guerrilla groups, violence by rightist paramilitary forces, debilitating poverty for many of the people, and the relentless production and export of cocaine and heroin continue to plague Colombia. President Pastrana was in Houston this week, talking to the Inter American Press Association convention about his efforts to deal with these problems. He was accompanied by a delegation of Colombian petroleum executives seeking help from Texas oil producers for the nation's petroleum industry. The Chicago Tribune says like it or not, the White House must get more involved in the deteroriating situation in Colombia. VOICE: How does one solve a conflict that's nearly 40 years old and involves two guerrilla armies, several murderous paramilitary units, an official army accused of human rights atrocities and, lately, a sputtering economy in which the only growth sector seems to be narcotrafficking? Yet Colombia is far too important for the United States to ignore. Indeed, by virtue of the sizes of its land mass, its population and economy alone it demands attention. But its proximity to the U-S and its role as the largest supplier of cocaine and heroin to American users makes that demand even more insistent. Add to that the possibility that the Colombian strife might spill over into neighboring Venezuela and Panama, and ignoring Colombia becomes a luxury this nation cannot afford. TEXT: An editorial from The Chicago Tribune. The Colorado Springs Gazette is also watching events in Colombia with apprehension. It is especially concerned with the growing involvement of U-S military advisers, which the paper sees as somewhat akin to the beginning of American involvement in Vietnam. VOICE: Though a lot of Americans likely aren't following the current political crisis in Colombia, it might interest them to know the extent to which the U-S war on drugs has strengthened the most violent and ruthless elements in that troubled land - - and given combatants every reason to continue their warlike ways. Unless some way is found to mitigate(or even eliminate) the disruptive effects of the way the war on drugs has been carried out in Colombia, sending more U-S money and aid is likely only to increase the killing and the suffering.... The United States pressured the Colombian government ... to intensify the military aspects of the war on drugs ... which has given growers and distributors an incentive to turn both to left-wing guerrilla forces and right-wing paramilitary opponents of the guerrillas for protection. That has given both the guerrillas and the paramilitaries more money, better weapons and more support, escalating violence and reducing any incentive to seek peace. TEXT: The view of the Colorado Springs Gazette. The Washington Post points out that not all the news from Colombia is bad, and it cheers last week's arrest of 31 cocaine traffickers. VOICE: Their capture is certainly a triumph of collaboration between Colombian and American law enforcement officials. Colombia's police chief has pledged that the suspects will be extradited to America, a fate that the country's traffickers have successfully avoided since 1991. [However] ... three decades of hunting down drug traffickers has done little to curb drug abuse in America, and there is little reason to suspect that the latest "success" will prove different. Drugs reach consumers by too many routes, courtesy of too many shifting alliances of criminals, for even spectacular police successes to disrupt supply much. TEXT: Focusing on this week's visit of President Andres Pastrana to Houston, The Houston Chronicle comments on what it calls "the chaotic situation in Colombia:" VOICE: ... for all the immediacy and seriousness of the situation, Americans in general pay too little attention to it and the option we have to be part of the solution....[Mr.] Pastrana has made economic reforms and assistance a cornerstone of the economic solution his administration sees as a critical step in combating all of Colombia's problems. ... Policy-makers wrestle at this very moment with the complicated questions. Does the United States simply stand by as the situation with drug cartels and left-wing guerrillas, etc., descends into deeper chaos? Do we risk being drawn into another Vietnam-style conflict that aligns us with right-wing elements that have too little regard for human rights and basic liberties, such as freedom of the press? Or do we find a middle way to help Colombia reform itself? And all at what price?. TEXT: On that somewhat apprehensive note from The Houston Chronicle, we conclude this sampling of editorial comment on the situation in Colombia. NEB/ANG/gm 19-Oct-1999 17:18 PM EDT (19-Oct-1999 2118 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .

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