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Opponents target Plan Colombia funding, question effectiveness of anti-drug effort.

WASHINGTON - One year after Congress agreed to contribute $1.3 billion to Plan Colombia, Democrats and Republicans are bickering about the effectiveness of the ambitious program launched by Colombian President Andres Pastrana. Opponents question whether the program can succeed in reaching it goal of slashing drug production and trafficking in half by 2005.

This week, the powerful House Appropriations Committee voted to approve spending $676 million for the "Andean Counter Drug Initiative," part of the continuing US commitment to Plan Colombia. But the amount approved is less than the $731 million the Bush administration wanted.

Some Democrats on the powerful House Appropriations Committee wanted to kill the program entirely and shift the money elsewhere.

Rep. David Obey (D-WI) called for an end to the program. He introduced a measure to use the money to fund US drug treatment programs and domestic anti-drug initiatives. "The drug problem begins here at home and will be solved here at home," he said.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) argued that too much money was going to pay for military equipment. She offered an amendment to cut an additional $100 million from the Bush proposal and stick the savings into a separate program.

However, both efforts failed as there remains bipartisan support for Plan Colombia.

The money for the Andean Regional Initiative is part of the $15.2 billion Foreign Operations appropriations bill, which funds the State Department and foreign aid.

The spending bill now goes to the Senate, where Democrats hold a majority. Congressional observers predict Democrats will cut Bush's funding request even further or reduce the percentage of funds devoted to military aid.

At a related hearing before the Senate Appropriations subcommittee, a top State Department official in charge of overseeing Plan Colombia told lawmakers that the anti-drug trafficking effort was "showing good early results" in stemming the flow of illicit drugs into the United States.

Jose Miguel Vivanco, executive director of Human Rights Watch for the Americas, told the committee that any US military aid to Colombia must require human rights protections. He said the human rights situation has "deteriorated" in the last year.
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Publication:America's Insider
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:3COLO
Date:Jul 12, 2001
Words:351
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