Clinton defends drugs war
By BBC News – Thursday, 31 August, 2000
Copyright: BBC News
Speaking during a brief visit to the Colombian city of Cartagena, Mr Clinton said the US was not going to get into a “shooting war” and that the people of Colombia had suffered enough.
Washington has pledged to provide $1.3bn, mainly in military aid, to help fight the drug barons.
Security around Mr Clinton’s entourage is tight, and three people were arrested in Cartagena in possession of bomb-making equipment.
Elsewhere, one policeman was killed during clashes between the security forces and students opposed to the visit.
Mr Clinton said the drive against illegal drugs could not be separated from the quest to end almost four decades of civil conflict in Colombia.
“I reject the idea that we must choose between supporting peace and fighting drugs… for the sake of our children and our grandchildren, we can’t afford to let this fail,” he said.
Mr Clinton also rejected suggestions that US military aid could draw the US into another Vietnam.
“There won’t be American involvement in a shooting war, because they don’t want it and because we don’t want it,” he said.
Colombian President Andres Pastrana said the presence of Mr Clinton on Colombian soil was a sign of solidarity and that Colombia was “no longer isolated in our struggle”.
Thousands of workers and students marched on the US embassy in Bogota where they threw rocks at police and burned effigies of Mr Clinton and Mr Pastrana.
“Clinton’s visit is to give money so that Colombians will keep killing each other in the name of the Americans, and we believe Colombians should not accept this,” said union leader Wilson Borja.
In a protest at Bogota’s National University on Wednesday, students clashed with security forces in violence that killed an 18-year-old policeman and left three injured.
Left-wing rebels have carried out a series of attacks in protest at his visit – the first by a US president in a decade.
Some 5,000 police and hundreds of US agents sealed off Cartagena to ensure Mr Clinton’s safety in one of the world’s most dangerous countries.
Colombia is the source of some 80% of the world’s supply of cocaine.
The rebels and other left-wing groups see the US money as part of a plan for increased US military assistance against guerrillas threatening the Colombian Government.
On Tuesday night, the biggest rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc) launched a series of attacks across the country, which left two police officers and three civilians dead.
Another group – the ELN – said it would attack oil installations in protest at the president’s visit.
Correspondents say the guerrillas are becoming increasingly involved with the lucrative drugs trade.