Veterans for More Effective Drug Strategies

The Office of National Drug Control Policy Response

Executive Office of the President
Office of National Drug Control Policy
Washington, D. C. 20503

May 23, 2000

Lieutenant Commander (ret.) Sylvester Salcedo, USNR
142 Montague Street, 4R
Brooklyn, NY 11201

Dear Lieutenant Commander Salcedo, et al.,

This is in response to your April 2000 letter expressing concern with the administration's proposed assistance package for Colombia. Appreciate your interest in Colombia, but it appears your views are the result of incomplete information. The problems facing Colombia are multi-faceted and do pose a challenge to United States interests. Ninety percent of the cocaine in the US originates or transits through Colombia; two-thirds of the heroin seized in the US comes from Colombia. The current and previous administrations have declared the drug trade a threat to US national interests. Illicit drugs cost our society 52,000 dead and nearly $110 billion dollars each year due to health costs, accidents, and lost productivity. In Colombia, narcotrafficking weakens democracy by funding illegal armed groups that kidnap, murder, and attack and extort companies - including US citizens and companies. For those reasons, supporting Colombia in our common fight against the drug trade is in the US national interest.

The National Drug Control Strategy has five main goals that include breaking foreign and domestic sources of supply. To be effective, all components must be pursued vigorously, as easy access to inexpensive, potent drugs on our streets severely undermines demand reduction efforts. Goal five of the Strategy (breaking foreign and domestic drug sources) has shown success. Since 1995, overall cocaine production in the hemisphere is down 15 percent. In the past five years coca cultivation in Peru and Bolivia, once the largest producers, plummeted by 66 percent and 55 percent, respectively. As a result, most coca cultivation and cocaine production has moved into southern Colombia providing a unique opportunity now to strike at the center of cocaine production. In order to control the "balloon effect," the assistance package earmarks funds to consolidate the success in Peru and Bolivia, prevent the expansion of the drug trade into neighboring countries, and enhance regional interdiction capabilities with a forward location in Manta, Ecuador.

Military Analysis has been an integral component of our Colombia policy-making process, and the Department of Defense and US Southern Command were members of the working group that designed the Administration's proposed Colombia package - a counternarcotics, not counterinsurgency plan. The package will support our domestic ally with equipment, training, and technical assistance in the common fight against the illicit drug trade. The number of US military personnel is not expected to exceed historical precedence. Moreover, Department of Defense policy prohibits US military personnel from accompanying host country personnel on actual operations or from participating in any act where hostilities are imminent. In accordance with US law, all assistance to Colombia is contingent on human rights screening. Again, the Administration's package seeks to capitalize on the unique opportunity of striking the center of the hemisphere's drug production. Two-thirds of Colombia's coca growth is grown in the south. For this reason our strategy focuses on southern Colombia, regardless of the illegal armed groups located in the region.

The Colombia Peace Plan Process has been consistently supported by the Administration. Although the guerrillas's commitment to a peace accord is questionable as they have often unilaterally postponed the peace talks and continue to terrorize civil society, the Administration believes Colombia's long-running internal conflict would be best resolved through negotiation. The proposed package demonstrates our support for the Government of Colombia and the peace process. The package targets the drug trade, which will have the effect of cutting off a main source of revenue for the illegal armed groups and will limit their ability to wield military power and violence. Aside from counternarcotics support, the package provides assistance to strengthen the rule of law, promote respect for human rights and implement alternative economic development programs in the south.

Hope this information clarifies your misperceptions on the administration's Colombia assistance package. Enclosed please find the 2000 Annual Report on the National Drug Control Strategy as well as some material on our Colombia initiative - this information is sure to answer many of your other questions. Also, the ONDCP website is an excellent resource,


Robert E. Brown, Jr.
Acting Deputy Director for Supply Reduction