23 July 2003
U.S. Officials Outline Progress of Counter-Narcotics Efforts in Colombia
Powell and Hastert praise President Uribe's leadership
By Scott Miller
Washington File Staff Writer
Washington -- U.S.-supported counter-narcotics initiatives in Colombia are yielding progress, according to Secretary of State Colin Powell and Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Dennis Hastert (Republican of Illinois).
In July 22 remarks following a meeting of the Task Force for a Drug-Free America, the two officials outlined the damaging impact of narcotics on the United States and Colombia and its neighbors. They also noted progress made in combating drug-crop cultivation and drug trafficking in Colombia.
Hastert indicated that drugs or drug-related violence claim the lives of 16,000 young people each year in the United States -- far surpassing the number of lives lost to terrorism or in the armed services. In addition to destroying young people in United States, Powell said that drugs are also "destroying most of the Colombian people, who are [citizens of] a stable democracy, and other Andean nations [that] are threatened by narco-trafficking."
To combat the damaging effects of illicit narcotics on the United States and Colombia, the United States has provided over $1.7 billion in economic, humanitarian and security assistance to Colombia since the year 2000, with another $600 million appropriated for Fiscal Year 2003. Under the auspices of the Andean Counterdrug Initiative, which superseded Plan Colombia, additional assistance is also being provided to Colombia's neighbors.
The U.S. investment in these counter-narcotics initiatives is beginning to yield results, Powell and Hastert concluded.
"Plan Colombia, [which] is now the Andean Counterdrug Initiative, has grown over the years and is now showing substantial progress," Powell said.
Hastert agreed, and outlined Colombia's achievements to date.
"It is clear that since Congress started offering financial support for Plan Colombia and the Andean Counterdrug Initiative, they are beginning to gain traction," Hastert said in a formal statement. "Our efforts have proven to be very effective. Over the years, there has been a significant drop in the cultivation of coca and poppy." Coca is the crop from which cocaine is processed, while poppy is the crop from which heroin is produced.
Furthermore, "we have seen many positive results from increased efforts in the eradication of these two deadly crops and increased drug seizures on land and at sea," he added. The congressman also noted that the extradition of drug traffickers is at an all-time high and that "there have been significant improvements in the professionalism, performance and human-rights record of Colombia's Armed Forces."
Colombian President Alvaro Uribe's leadership is another factor contributing to this progress, Hastert observed.
"Colombia today is in a much better position to win the fight against narco-terrorism that three years ago," Hastert said, "not only because of U.S. support, but also because of Colombia's leader, President Uribe." The House Speaker added that Uribe's commitment to achieving democratic security in Colombia "has brought new hope to his country."
Powell, in turn, applauded the Colombian president's efforts and indicated that the United States will continue to support him and the Colombian people in their fight against the illegal drug trade.
"President Uribe has come forward in the past year and he has made it clear to the Colombian people and to us and to the world that he intends to fight this menace -- [a] menace to his people, [a] menace to democracy," Powell said. "We are going to help them" tackle the problem.
(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)
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