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DATE=12/15/1999 TYPE=YEAREND REPORT TITLE=YEARENDER: COLOMBIA-U-S NUMBER=5-45002 BYLINE=BILL RODGERS DATELINE=RIO DE JANEIRO CONTENT= VOICED AT= CONTENT: INTRO: This was a year in which the United States became much more actively involved in supporting Colombia's efforts to combat drugs and the its guerrilla insurgency. South American Correspondent Bill Rodgers takes a look at the growing cooperation between Washington and Bogota. TEXT: The year opened on an optimistic note as the Colombian government and rebels of the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, FARC, appeared closer toward ending their decades-long conflict. The government of President Andres Pastrana had demilitarized a huge area in southern Colombia and allowed FARC forces to move into the zone as part of an agreement to open peace talks. But preliminary negotiations for holding talks soon bogged down over various procedural issues - and little progress was made for much of the year. Instead, FARC appeared to use the demilitarized zone to regroup and resupply its force of 15-thousand fighters - and then launch attacks against the government. An especially fierce and widespread offensive in July spurred Washington to consider boosting U-S assistance to Colombia. U-S aid, about 290-million dollars in 1999, has been used primarily to help Colombia in its anti-narcotics efforts. But drug production and smuggling - especially cocaine - has been rising in large part because the FARC and other armed groups in Colombia offer protection to the drug cartels in return for a share in drug-trade profits. This combination of drugs, guerrilla insurgencies, and violence worries not only Bogota, but Washington. U-S drug policy director Barry McCaffrey, who visited Colombia in July following the guerrilla offensive, voiced the Clinton Administration's concerns. /// MCCAFFREY ACT /// This is a very dangerous situation for Colombian democracy; the spillover effect is having an enormous impact on Ecuador, Panama, Venezuela, Brazil, Peru. It is clearly a source of enormous violence and corruption directed at Colombian democratic authorities. Eighty-percent of the drugs that come into the United States originate in Colombia or transit through this nation. /// END ACT /// To help Colombia, the Clinton Administration is seeking a two-billion-dollar package during the next three- years. But this substantial aid increase has raised alarms among some in Latin America over what they see as the danger of growing U-S involvement in the Colombian war. Colombian analyst Alfonso Rangel Suarez believes the danger is real. /// RANGEL SPANISH ACT /// He says history shows in these matters one always knows where one begins, but not where one might end up - and this might be the case in Colombia. Mr. Rangel points to the lack of progress in the peace process and the desire by many Colombians for more U-S support as factors that could draw the United States deeper into Colombia. But Colombian leaders - both civilian and military - vow this will never happen. U-S officials, like drug czar McCaffrey, also insist U-S support will not lead to military involvement. /// MCCAFFREY ACT /// I do not believe the United States will play any role, now or in the future, in this internal struggle - except to provide training, equipment, intelligence, support, good will, and alternative economic development. /// END ACT /// For now, this remains the U-S policy. There are an estimated 200 U-S military trainers in Colombia, but their role is sharply limited - and there appears to be no desire by the U-S Congress to send more American advisors. In the meantime, President Pastrana's government continues efforts to bring the FARC to the negotiating table. // OPT // But even a government proposal for a Christmas ceasefire has gone unanswered by the guerrillas, with the exception of a new round of attacks in mid-December that left dozens of government soldiers and rebels dead. (SIGNED) NEB/WFR/RAE 15-Dec-1999 13:10 PM EDT (15-Dec-1999 1810 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .





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