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NYTimes.com Article: Administration Shifts Focus on Colombia Aid
by threehegemons
06 February 2002 19:03 UTC
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This article from NYTimes.com 
has been sent to you by threehegemons@aol.com.

Just this once, I'll concede that access to oil might possibly have something 
to do with American foreign policy ;).

Steven Sherman


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Administration Shifts Focus on Colombia Aid

February 6, 2002 



BOGOTÁ, Colombia, Feb. 5 - The Bush administration is
proposing to expand military aid to this war- racked nation
by training the Colombian Army to protect a 500-mile-long
oil pipeline from leftist rebels, senior American officials
visiting Colombia said today. Such a program would be a
sharp departure from a policy that until now has focused on
eradicating drugs. 

The administration is seeking Congressional approval of a
$98 million request that would pay for helicopters,
communications equipment and training for Colombian troops
to guard the Caño Limón pipeline, which transports crude
oil pumped by Occidental Petroleum of Los Angeles from the
country's eastern oil fields to a Caribbean port. 

"We are not saying this is counterdrug - this is
different," said a member of an American delegation here in
a meeting with reporters in a Bogotá hotel. "The
proposition we are making to the government of Colombia and
to our Congress is that we ought to take an additional

The administration is also asking Congress to provide
financing for American training of a counternarcotics
brigade that would operate in northern Colombia, a region
under the influence of right-wing paramilitary groups, the
officials said. The money for that would come from the $731
million the administration is requesting in anti-narcotics
programs for the Andean region for 2003. 

Pipeline protection is crucial, American officials said,
because oil is Colombia's largest money-making export and
provides much-needed income for a country hobbled by a
brutal 38-year-old rebel conflict. 

The pipeline has been the target of rebels who see
Occidental as an exploiter of Colombian resources. It was
bombed 170 times last year, costing Colombia and the
company more than $500 million, Colombia's state-owned oil
company, Ecopetrol, said today. Since 1986, when the first
attack was recorded, more than 2.6 million barrels of oil
have been spilled. 

Until now, American policy has focused on aerial spraying
of coca and opium poppy fields, as well as programs aimed
at encouraging farmers to shift to other crops. The money
for those programs came through a $1.3 billion aid package
allocated in 2000 for the Andean region, most for training
and equipping a Colombian Army brigade of 3,000 men that
now takes part in counterdrug operations in the south. 

"Everything else up until now has been justified in terms
of fighting drugs," said Michael Shifter, a senior fellow
who follows Colombia for the Inter-American Dialogue, a
policy analysis organization in Washington. "This is a
different purpose. I think that is a departure." 

The administration's request is sure to be vigorously
opposed by some members of Congress who are concerned that
the United States could be drawn deeper into a murky
conflict involving two rebel groups and a paramilitary
group responsible for widespread mass killings. 

"For the first time, the administration is proposing to
cross the line from counternarcotics to counterinsurgency,"
said Senator Patrick J. Leahy, a Vermont Democrat who is
chairman of the foreign operations subcommittee. "This is
no longer about stopping drugs, it's about fighting the

Human rights groups in the United States also harshly
criticized the plan, releasing an extensive report today
highlighting ties between army units and the
paramilitaries. American law requires that Colombia show it
has severed ties between security officials and
paramilitary gunmen before receiving aid, a condition that
groups like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch
said had not been met by Colombia's government. 

The proposal, however, was warmly received by President
Andrés Pastrana and senior Colombian officials, who have
been pleading for more American aid. Today, they met with
the American delegation, here to review American policy
toward Colombia and to meet with Colombian officials. The
delegation is headed by Marc Grossman, under secretary of
state for political affairs. 


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