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Bush hails Colombia's efforts against drug trade
Says he wants 'Plan Colombia' aid package renewed
Monday, November 22, 2004 Posted: 6:03 PM EST (2303 GMT)
CARTAGENA, Colombia (CNN) -- President Bush heaped praise Monday on Colombia's government for battling drug gangs and corruption and said he will ask Congress to renew a U.S. aid package next year.
Bush equated Colombia's battle against the coc aine trade with the United States' struggle against terrorism, and said Colombian President Alvaro Uribe has made progress in fighting the kidnappings, killings and drug trafficking that have wracked Colombia for decades.
"My nation will continue to help Colombia prevail in this vital struggle," he said.
Asked whether he would seek the same level of aid currently provided under "Plan Colombia," the package President Clinton pushed through Congress in 2000, Bush said he will work with lawmakers "to achieve a level that will make the plan effective."
With a population of forty million Colombia is the western hemispheres fourth most populous country. Its land area alone can accommodate the whole of Central America four times over. Riven by decades of political violence and social unrest, Colombia has emerged as the worlds leading coc aine exporter with over 90% of all coc aine smuggled to the U.S. originating from Colombia's extensive coca plantations. With a long history of military intervention within central America Washington has recently committed itself to the single largest post-Cold War military grant to any Latin American country by giving over $1.3 billion dollars to Colombia's armed forces. Ostensibly designed to allow the Colombian military to wage a more effective war on drugs, there are a number of disturbing facts that upon examination seriously undermine the proposed objectives of Washington's "Plan Colombia".