[A-List] US imperialism: Colombia
michael.keaney at mbs.fi
Fri Mar 26 06:14:19 MST 2004
Colombia asks US to boost drugs war manpower
By Andy Webb-Vidal in Caracas
Financial Times: March 26 2004
The US appears set to boost the level of its aid to Colombia to help combat
its illegal drugs industry and the rebel groups financed by the narcotics
trade. The development follows a four-day visit by Alvaro Uribe, Colombian
president, to Washington, which ended on Thursday.
Mr Uribe asked President George W. Bush to intensify his administration's
support for Plan Colombia, the US-sponsored counter-narcotics and military
aid programme in the Americas.
If the proposal is approved, the current cap on US personnel operating in
Colombia would be doubled to 800 military operatives, and the limit on the
number of civilian contractors increased 50 per cent to 600.
However, a ban on US personnel engaging in combat would be maintained.
Plan Colombia, which to date has delivered about $2.8bn in military training
and financial aid, is scheduled to end in 2005.
Mr Uribe's request has the full support of the Bush administration and, it
seems, a majority of Congress.
Mr Uribe said on Thursday he had received support for an escalation of Plan
Colombia from Tom Daschle, Democrat minority leader in the Senate, and Bill
Frist, leader of the Republican majority.
"The US understands that we cannot leave this job half done," Mr Uribe said.
A broadening of Plan Colombia would be likely to quicken the pace at which
Mr Uribe is waging war against leftwing insurgents, who have been fighting
for 40 years to overthrow the state.
The leftwing Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia and National Liberation
Army are classed as "terrorists" by the US, as are the rightwing United
Self-Defence Forces of Colombia.
Mr Uribe's tough policies and no-nonsense style of government appear to be
making progress in winding up the illegal drugs industry.
US government figures released this week show the area of land under
cultivation in Colombia with coca crops, the raw material for cocaine,
dropped 21 per cent in 2003 to 113,850 hectares.
Analysts said there was a good chance that the US Congress would approve an
expanded Plan Colombia.
"Uribe practically walks on water in Washington, and he does benefit from
bi-partisan support," said Miguel Diaz, director of the South America
project at Washington's Center for Strategic and International Studies.
But reservations remain over Mr Uribe's plans for an amnesty-type law to
accompany the demobilisation of paramilitary combatants from the AUC, whose
leaders are accused of responsibility for well-documented atrocities.
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