The Clinton Administration has declared that the drug problem in Colombia requires emergency measures and Tuesday pledged $1.6 billion to the fight, CBS News Chief White House Correspondent John Roberts reports.
"Colombia is in a crisis," said Barry McCaffrey, the head of the White House office on drug policy. "The production of drugs is skyrocketing."
Despite hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. aid in the past 10 years, drug production there has tripled. Still, the administration was willing to back a new plan from Colombia's new president Andre Pastrana, who told CBS News Anchor Dan Rather cooperation is essential.
"This is a partnership," Pastrana said. "The Americans, Colombians, the whole world -- we need to unite it to fight drugs."
The bulk of the money would go to Colombia's military -- to take back territory from anti-government rebels who control the southern third of the country and much of the drug trade.
McCaffrey said this won't be just a counterinsurgency program. "It is clearly an operation designed to reduce the massive suffering and violence of cocaine and heroin production in Colombia," he said.
But some people worry that the U.S., which already trains Colombia's anti-narcotics units, stands on the slippery slope of being drawn deeper into the country's civil war.
"There is a real potential here for a Vietnam-style quagmire," according to Sanho Tree of the Institute for Policy Development.
Tree, who studies drug trafficking, also worries that there isn't enough money in the program to turn Colombia's shattered economy away from the narcotics trade.
"What the region down there needs is a mini Marshall Plan," Tree said. "And what we're sending them is Desert Storm."
At the very least, the president shouldn't see much of a fight from Congress on his proposal. Republicans, who introduced their own measure last fall, welcomed Mr. Clinton's initiative on Tuesday.
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