BOGOTA, Colombia -- Years of guerrilla warfare, the terrorism of the drug trade and a string of political assassinations have made Colombia one of the world's most violent countries. Through it all, business thrived.
Now, as investigations into allegations that drug money helped finance the president's election campaign in 1994 are threatening to topple the government, the crisis is unsettling the economy.
Many in the private sector say the criminal investigations facing President Ernesto Samper and his closest aides in connection with the 1994 campaign are to blame for much of the turmoil. And as the political crisis draws on, business figures are becoming a focal point of opposition to the government.
"The political crisis has affected the economy," said Javier Fernandez, president of the National Association of Financial Institutions, a private group.
"We fear that the government's lack of legitimacy may affect economic decisions. But we are mainly dissatisfied with the president for moral reasons."
Discontent among business leaders became evident in late January, when Fernando Botero, Samper's former campaign manager, accused him of receiving millions of dollars in campaign contributions from members of the Cali drug cartel.
As the country grappled with these charges and entered its worst period of political instability in decades, the National Business Council, an association of powerful business groups, asked the president to consider resignation.
In March, economic prospects were further dimmed when, in a punitive measure aimed at countries that are considered to be making insufficient progress in the fight against drugs, the United States withdrew some assistance to Colombia and five other countries.
Analysts warn that the economic consequences of the crisis will deepen if Samper remains in power indefinitely.
In a recent poll conducted by Dinero, a monthly magazine, 87 percent of business people questioned favored a change in the country's leadership.
Pub Date: 5/05/96