Skip to comments.U.S. to Widen Colombian Involvement
Posted on 02/05/2002 7:21:58 PM PST by Bronco Buster
BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) - A top-level Bush administration delegation unveiled plans Tuesday to widen United States involvement in Colombia's civil war, including providing training, weapons and aircraft to Colombian troops to protect a pipeline carrying U.S. oil.
Until now, U.S. military aid to Colombia has been limited mostly to attempts to wipe out cocaine- and heroin-producing crops which finance leftist rebels and their right-wing paramilitary foes.
But with Colombia's 38-year-old conflict killing about 3,500 people every year and stunting the potential of this resource-rich, strategically located country, the officials say Washington needs to do more.
"We are committed to help Colombians create a Colombia that is a peaceful, prosperous, drug-free and terror-free democracy," Undersecretary of State Marc Grossman told a news conference.
The U.S. officials drove through the streets of this Andean capital in bulletproofed vans to meetings with President Andres Pastrana and other top officials.
In a city that has been the scene of recent bomb attacks, the Americans were escorted by a truckload of Colombian troops in full combat gear.
The projected U.S. military involvement in Colombia falls short of the American role in Central America's wars during the 1980s - when the United States trained and equipped Salvadoran counterinsurgency troops and aided Contra rebels who battled Nicaragua's Sandinista government.
But critics of the new U.S. proposal see mission creep in the evolving American aid program here.
Colombian Defense Minister Gustavo Bell applauded the proposals by the delegation, which also included Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Otto Reich and the chief of U.S. military operations in Latin America, Maj. Gen. Gary Speer. (AP) Undersecretary of State Marc Grossman speaks to reporters during a news conference at the...
The plan faces potential opposition in Congress, where some members fear U.S. troops could become involved in combat and reject tighter links to a military with a poor human rights record.
But one of the visiting U.S. officials, in a briefing with foreign correspondents, said the Sept. 11 terror attacks on New York and Washington might spur U.S. lawmakers to approve President Bush's request.
The plan calls for $98 million to train and equip a Colombian army brigade to protect the Cano-Limon oil pipeline. It carries oil belonging to Los Angeles-based Occidental Petroleum and other companies from the country's second-biggest oil field, in Colombia's humid eastern plains, to the Caribbean coast.
Rebel bomb attacks on the 480-mile-long pipeline put it out of commission for 266 days last year, crippling crude oil production.
Much of the $98 million would go for aircraft for the troops, the U.S. officials said, although specific plans have not been drawn up yet.
The Bush administration will also argue that the United States needs to assure a reliable flow of oil from Colombia, closer to U.S. shores than the volatile Middle East, U.S. officials said.
Washington is also seeking funding for training more Colombian counternarcotics troops, in addition to the roughly 3,000 who have been undercutting rebel and paramilitary financing by wiping out their cocaine-and-heroin-producing crops.
In Washington on Tuesday, three respected human rights groups charged that Pastrana's government has failed to meet human rights conditions for continued U.S. military aid.
Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the Washington Office on Latin America accused Colombian government forces of extensive collaboration with an illegal right-wing paramilitary group that has been killing suspected rebel collaborators.
One of the visiting U.S. officials said some of the reports' findings appeared to be outdated, but studied nevertheless. In addition to pipeline protection, the United States is preparing to assist Colombia in combatting kidnapping, Grossman said. Most of the 3,000 abductions each year in Colombia are carried out by rebels for ransom.
Washington also plans to rebuild some of the police stations that have been leveled by rebel attacks, leaving 192 municipalities in Colombia without a permanent police presence, a U.S. official said. Funding for the rebuilding is already available and doesn't need Congress' approval, the official explained.
Copyright © 2001-2002 The Excite Network, Inc. All rights reserved.
If I was a little younger and unmarried I'd go in a heartbeat.
Just exactly what crop would you suggest an illiterate farmer plant that will be worth a few $1000 per kilo? The answer to your question is NO!
That being said, the solution to the problem is to make the crop worth a lot less than it is right now. Legalize, decriminalize, whatever name you want to give it drugs. The price will drop, cutting the current crop of sleazebags off at the knees.
Drug enforcement agents can be immediately re-deployed to fight terrorists.
With the drug dealers' enormous profits gone they will promptly become just commonplace ordinary criminals unable to bribe anyone.
Why are we still guarding Al Gore's baby?
I think it's more like a game of "Go" ... we're getting sucked bodily into Empty Spaces along with our billions.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.