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Archive for Monday, August 2, 2004

Memo ties Colombia’s president to drug trade

Alvaro Uribe a Bush administration ally

August 2, 2004

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— Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, one of the Bush administration's most steadfast allies in South America, was allegedly a "close personal friend" of slain drug lord Pablo Escobar and worked for his Medellin cartel, according to a newly released U.S. military intelligence report.

The 1991 report by the Defense Intelligence Agency describes Uribe, then a rising political star in Colombia, as being "dedicated to collaboration" with the Medellin cartel, at the time the world's richest criminal organization and the source of most cocaine imported into the United States.

The memo devotes a single paragraph to Uribe and his alleged narcotics involvement, listing him 82nd among 104 of the "more important Colombian narco-traffickers."

The potentially explosive allegations about Uribe, who was elected president in 2002, drew strong repudiation from the Colombian government, the State Department and the Pentagon.

All three groups described the memo, obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request by the National Security Archives, a nonprofit research group in Washington, as uncorroborated information contradicted by Uribe's record of strong support for efforts to wipe out cocaine in Colombia and to extradite Colombian drug suspects to the United States.

Under Uribe, Colombia's coca crop, the source of cocaine, has dropped by more than 50 percent due to intense spraying by U.S.-funded fumigation efforts, and more than 160 suspected drug traffickers have been indicted, U.S. defense officials said.

"We completely disavow these allegations against President Uribe," said Robert Zimmerman, the deputy spokesman for the State Department's Western Hemisphere Affairs Bureau, which oversees Colombia. "We have no credible information that substantiates or corroborates the allegations."

The memo promised to resuscitate rumors about Uribe's controversial past, including his alleged connections with the drug trade. It also feeds into perceptions of Colombia's image of pervasive drug corruption, which nearly felled former president Ernesto Samper in the 1990s when it was discovered that his presidential campaign had received drug money.

"This is a very hard blow," said Daniel Garcia-Pena, a former Colombian government peace negotiator and left-leaning political analyst. "Being an official report from a U.S. agency, this is going to reopen a chapter that Uribe thought he'd closed. It's grave, grave."'

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