Bush promises U.S. aid to drug-infested Colombia; gets heavy protection | NevadaAppeal.com

Bush promises U.S. aid to drug-infested Colombia; gets heavy protection

AssociatedPress

Colombian policemen stand guard along the beach in Cartagena Monday. AssociatedPress

CARTAGENA, Colombia – Under a security web of warplanes, battleships and 15,000 troops, President Bush praised Colombia’s battle against drugs and Marxist guerrillas Monday and pledged to keep U.S. aid flowing so “this courageous nation can win its war against narcoterrorists.”

In a country that is the world’s largest producer of cocaine and a major supplier of heroin, Bush said President Alvaro Uribe is achieving results with a massive aerial fumigation program against coca – the main ingredient in cocaine – and an aggressive military buildup against insurgents, who fund themselves through drug trafficking, kidnapping and extortion.

“The number of acres under cultivation are down significantly,” Bush said, standing with Uribe in shirt sleeves at seaside lecterns. “The number of arrests are up. The number of murders is down. In other words, this man’s plan is working.”

Uribe said Colombia is winning the fight, but has not yet won. “We have made progress but the serpent is still alive,” Uribe said.

Bush’s pledge reaffirms U.S. commitments to a $3.3 billion, five-year military aid program known as Plan Colombia. Bush said the plan launched in August 2000 enjoys widespread support in Congress and that he would work with lawmakers to keep it funded. Without mentioning a specific figure, Bush said he would seek enough funds to make the plan effective.