Drug reports fray U.S. ties to Colombia

June 26, 1994|By Boston Globe

WASHINGTON -- Allegations of links between drug traffickers and Colombia's president-elect threaten U.S.-Colombian cooperation in the war against cocaine -- at a time when relations are reeling from disagreements over anti-drug policies.

U.S. officials have expressed grave concern over the accusations against Ernesto Samper, whose losing competitor for the presidency last week asserted his campaign had accepted millions of dollars from the Cali cocaine cartel, and produced a videotape appearing to show such a deal being made.

"There is no smoking gun, but there is a consistent pattern of accusations over time, and we take them very seriously," a State Department official said Friday. "We are tremendously concerned about this, because it involves the president-elect of our most important ally in the fight against narcotics," the official said.

"The allegations, if true, raise the fundamental question of whether the Cali cartel has corrupted the highest levels of the government," Sen. John F. Kerry, D-Mass., said.

Mr. Samper has acknowledged his campaign was offered money from the Cali group but has denied accepting it, and he has offered to open his campaign books to public inspection. However, U.S. officials said they had received reports for months linking his candidacy to the traffickers.

At the same time, there were ominous signs that a rival drug organization, the Medellin cartel, may be staging a comeback nearly a year after police gunned down its leader, Pablo Escobar. In the past week, Medellin-linked threats have been made against the lives of numerous officials, including Mr. Samper and the national police chief.

Relations between the Clinton administration and the outgoing Colombian government of President Cesar Gaviria have already been badly strained over several drug-related policies.

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