Colombia's problems

September 28, 1999

Here is an excerpt of an editorial from the San Jose (Calif.) Mercury News, which was published Friday.

KEEP your eye on Colombia as it puts its hand in Washington's pocket.

President Andrs Pastrana's government is in its worst economic crisis since the Depression and mired in a civil war with drug-growing guerrillas. The currency is falling and unemployment has risen to almost 20 percent. Mr. Pastrana is desperately seeking $3.5 billion in international assistance.

Rep. Benjamin Gilman, a New York Republican and chairman of the House International Relations Committee, wants the United States to fork over helicopters, weapons and military training.

Given that the lucrative U.S. market for cocaine and heroin drives the Colombian sub-economy, it may not be a bad idea for this country to provide some economic assistance to deal with the troubles Americans help cause.

But Colombia has plenty of bad guys, and it's not clear that Mr. Pastrana's government or anyone else is in control.

Leftist guerrillas are fighting the government, right-wing paramilitary forces are chasing the guerrillas, and civilians are caught in the cross-fire. Mr. Gilman argues that 100 helicopters could make all the difference. Want to bet?

Pub Date: 9/28/99

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