Bush, Pastrana Discuss Drugs, Rebels And Trade

Macdonald Stainsby mstainsby at SPAMtao.ca
Tue Feb 27 16:56:42 MST 2001


Bush, Pastrana Discuss Drugs, Rebels And Trade

New York Times,
February 27, 2001

By REUTERS
Filed at 6:10 p.m. ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President George W. Bush assured Colombian President Andres
Pastrana Tuesday that the United States would work to fight drug trafficking, but
refused his request to join peace talks with Marxist guerrillas who are financed by
the drug trade.

After a 45-minute meeting in the Oval Office, Bush praised Pastrana for his efforts
in the war on drugs and his steps to improve the economy and bring peace to Colombia.

``President Pastrana is a courageous leader who's dealing with very difficult
problems,'' Bush told reporters.

``I explained to the president that we're fully aware of the narcotics that are
manufactured in his country, but I also told him that many of them wouldn't be
manufactured if our nation didn't use them. And we've got to work together to not
only help Colombia, but help our own country,'' he said.

In Bogota Tuesday, police said that Colombian and U.S. anti-narcotics agents smashed
a drug ring that smuggled up to a ton of heroin every year into the United States.
Police arrested 30 people in the two countries.

But Bush rejected a request by Pastrana, the second Latin American leader he has met
in two weeks, to reconsider the American policy of not talking with the rebels in
order to help advance Colombia's struggling peace process.

Bush met Mexican President Vicente Fox earlier this month in Mexico and has said he
wants to improve relations in the hemisphere.

Pastrana revived peace talks this month with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of
Colombia (FARC) in an effort to end a 37-year conflict that has claimed 35,000 lives
in the past decade alone. Last week, the FARC and Pastrana's government invited the
United States and Cuba to join a group of ``friendly nations'' in another round of
peace talks in March.

But Bush said the United States would not participate.

``This is an issue that the Colombian people and the Colombian president can deal
with,'' he said. ``We'll be glad to help Colombia in any way to make the peace. We'll
be glad to help the Colombian economy through trade. But I won't be present for the
discussions.''

The U.S. government, which held tentative talks with the FARC in 1998, has refused to
renew ties with the guerrillas until they account for the 1999 murder of three
Americans.

Under former President Clinton, the United States committed almost $1.3 billion in
mostly military aid for Pastrana's ``Plan Colombia'' -- a $7.5 billion plan to
destroy hundreds of thousands of acres (hectares) of coca fields that have fueled the
war in the world's largest cocaine producer.

Pastrana's plan aims to destroy the drug market while pouring money into social
resources to boost the economy.

Critics of the U.S. aid, which includes the delivery of 14 Black Hawk helicopters to
deploy Colombian drug battalions, say it could end up dragging the United States into
a war.

Bush said last week he was wary of committing U.S. troops to any engagement in
Colombia. The U.S. military has between 100 and 300 personnel in Colombia training
the military in counter-narcotics methods.

BUSH FAVORS EXTENDING ANDEAN TRADE AGREEMENT

In an effort to help improve trade with Colombia, Bush said he would support the
renewal of a regional trade agreement that gives goods from Colombia, Ecuador, Peru
and Bolivia lower tariff barriers to the U.S. market.

``I'll be pushing it. I'm a free-trader,'' he said, adding that he would bring the
matter up with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick.

The 1991 Andean Trade Preferences Act (ATPA), agreed to during the presidency of
Bush's father, former President George Bush, expires on Dec. 4.

Pastrana said after the meeting that he and Bush would search for ways to expand the
trade deal to other items.

Pastrana has said the ATPA has created 140,000 jobs in Colombia in the past decade.
Colombia sees the pact as a way to help move people from the drug trade.


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Macdonald Stainsby
Rad-Green List: Radical anti-capitalist environmental discussion.
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                                     --Bertholt Brecht







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