Colombia years for good news Citizens know too well the effects of drug trade

August 02, 1998|By Veronica Flores

For many in the nation's capital, the drug war has become little more than tough-sounding rhetoric.

The latest hot air comes from two Republican lawmakers, who have unveiled a plan to reduce the flow of cocaine and heroin into the United States by 80 percent in the next three years through more interdiction.

Anti-drug efforts, they argue, are out of whack. Sen. Mike DeWine of Ohio and Rep. Bill McCollum of Florida are at odds with the White House over federal funds for interdiction, which the lawmakers claim dropped from 33 percent to 12 percent between 1987 and 1995.

The lawmakers shouldn't point fingers. Neglect of interdiction, or stopping the flow of drugs at the source, began long before President Clinton.

Just ask Flor Murcia. She and her husband, Saul, know how drug trafficking has affected their beloved Colombia. America's insatiable hunger for illegal narcotics long ago pierced Colombia's heart.

I met the Murcias while they were visiting the United States. The elderly couple live on a mountainside about two hours south of Bogota.

The Murcias make good use of their plot, growing such things as yuca and coffee beans. But their principal money maker is sugar cane.

Flor thanks God for their well-being.

She is thankful that their farm and the nearby villages remain untouched by the narcoterrorism that has scarred their nation.

Evidence is mounting that coca growers and guerrilla outfits are working together. A recent New York Times report describes the web that is threatening to entangle Colombia's rickety democracy.

But the Times doesn't have to tell Flor that the two are in cahoots. While narcoguerrillas have not defaced the souls of nearby villages, they have affected trade, Flor says, thus threatening their livelihood.

She doesn't have much confidence that Colombia will see less violence, even with the June 21 election of Andres Pastrana as the nation's new president.

Then again, at least he isn't former President Ernesto Samper, Flor muses. Samper was accused of having links to drug traffickers.

Flor and Saul are in Canada, where they will visit other family members before returning to Colombia. They pray they can return soon for another visit to the United States.

I, too, look forward to their speedy return. I only hope Flor has better news.

Veronica Flores is a columnist for the San Antonio Express-News.

Pub Date: 8/02/98

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