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Homeland Security

11 August 2004

DOD Official Rejects Drug Allegations Against Colombia's Uribe

Mary Beth Long defends Colombian leader's anti-drug record

By Eric Green
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington -- A counter-drug official with the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) has joined the U.S. State Department in rejecting allegations that Colombian President Alvaro Uribe was possibly linked to Colombia's Medellin drug cartel and its late leader, Pablo Escobar.

In a letter to the New York Times, published August 10, the DOD's Mary Beth Long said the "unsubstantiated" allegations against Uribe were raised during his 2002 campaign for the presidency of Colombia. At that time, Long said the Colombian people "evaluated the accusations and elected him as their president, confident in his dedication to an agenda intended to rid Colombia of its narcotics and terrorist problems."

Long, DOD's deputy assistant secretary for counternarcotics, said Uribe was under attack based on a decade-old intelligence report, which she said was "never substantiated as credible."

Long said Uribe's record of anti-drug efforts "speaks for itself." She noted that Colombian coca cultivation has decreased by almost 33 percent from 2001 to 2003. Also, during Uribe's tenure, more than 160 drug traffickers have been extradited to the United States and Colombia's military has been transformed into an "aggressive and successful force dedicated to winning the war against narco-terrorism."

The DOD official was responding to an August 2 article in the Times entitled "'91 Report Calls Colombian Leader Ally of Drug Lords."

State Department deputy spokesman Adam Ereli disavowed the allegations against Uribe on August 2, saying there was no credible information that would substantiate or corroborate the charges made in the 1991 report.

The Times article cited a recently declassified U.S. intelligence report that charged Uribe was "dedicated to collaboration with the Medellin cartel at high government levels." The report described Uribe as a "close personal friend" of the cartel's leader Escobar, who was killed in 1993, and said he took part in the drug lord's successful efforts to secure a seat as an auxiliary (back-up) congressman.

The report also linked Uribe to an unidentified U.S. business involved in narcotics, suggested that as a senator from the Colombian department of Antioquia he opposed extraditing traffickers to the United States, and claimed that his father, Alberto Uribe, was killed because of his drug ties.

In response to the article, a spokesman for President Uribe released a statement saying that in 1991 Uribe was studying at Harvard University in the U.S. state of Massachusetts and that he had never had business dealings in the United States. The statement also said Uribe's father was killed resisting Marxist rebels in Colombia who were trying to kidnap him.

(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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