The crisis brewing in Colombia is spilling over into U.S. borders as hundreds of thousands of Colombians flee the narco-violence and economic ruination caused by the armed criminal sector. Yet Robert White [Outlook, Sept. 12] seems to be unaware of the main cause, and instead attacks leading members of President Clinton's administration who favor increased military aid to help the government fight the narco-terrorist armies known as the FARC and ELN.
The United States does not need to send U.S. troops to Colombia. Rather, Colombia needs increased military and economic aid, including sophisticated satellite intelligence.
Also noted by White is Colombian President Andres Pastrana's good-faith efforts to get a peace process going by temporarily ceding to the FARC a large portion of southern Colombia while the (currently stalled) peace talks ensue.
We disagree with Pastrana's "pacification" strategy -- because it has failed to elicit any positive response from the narco-guerrillas. As a result we are witnessing a headlong fall.
In White's rush to over-simplify, he failed to point out that Secretary of State Albright said that the government of Colombia must "decide what carrots and sticks are needed." Pastrana has little in the way of "sticks," lacking sufficient numbers of advanced helicopters, training (both technical and tactical, including human rights training) and massive intelligence.
Perhaps because of a lack of credible military response, Pastrana is reduced to negotiating with these terrorists. He apparently cannot call these criminals by their true names and simultaneously conduct negotiations.
As a result, according to recent polls, more than 80 percent of the Colombian people have now lost faith in the Pastrana administration and favor instead massive U.S. military aid.
-- Alberto Gomez
The writer is president of the Colombian Americans Committee on Public Affairs.