BOGOTA, COLOMBIA, JUNE 6 -- D.C. Mayor Marion Barry is innocent until proven guilty in the United States, but in Colombia he has already been convicted by public opinion, and an acquittal would be viewed by many Colombians as confirmation that Americans are not serious about the war on drugs.

In this land torn apart by cocaine, Barry symbolizes to many people the hedonistic American cocaine user, whose drug consumption Colombians believe drives the drug business.

The progress of jury selection in the mayor's drug conspiracy trial, as well as stories by major U.S. newspapers on the mayor, are played prominently in the Colombian capital's major newspapers and on TV news programs. Barry has become the focal point of a growing feeling here that, while Colombians are fighting and dying in the drug war, the consuming nations -- especially the United States -- are expending little effort to control cocaine consumption.

One of the few points that all four major candidates in last month's presidential election agreed on was that Colombia, while receiving rhetorical support from consuming nations, was receiving little real aid.

"An acquittal would be a major blow to the so-called drug war, and could lead to a deterioration of U.S.-Colombian relations," said Francisco Santos, managing editor of El Tiempo, the nation's largest newspaper. "The real effect is that people here will ask, 'Why are we busting our butts, why are we getting killed, when Americans are doing nothing to stop consumption?' "

Santos said his newspaper would continue to play the Barry trial prominently because "it is a symbol of how hypocritical U.S. society and policies are."

Few would deny that the price of the all-out war on the Medellin cocaine cartel, declared last August, has been high in Colombia: three presidential candidates murdered in the last 10 months; some 360 police officers killed since the beginning of the year; plus dozens of civilians killed, and millions of dollars in damage from car bombs.

Colombians, from office workers to housewives, are aware of the trial, and no discussion of U.S. or Colombian politics is complete without an analysis of Barry's trial. Most take it for granted that Barry will either go free or receive lenient treatment.

"Imagine, if the mayor of a large city does it, how many Americans must use drugs," said a taxi driver. "What are we supposed to do if that is the case?"

Many well-to-do and professional people, most of them white, express their distaste for Barry in racist terms, and repeat widespread stereotypes here that most black Americans are cocaine users.

Some people here express cynicism about the U.S. judicial system.

"The case of Marion Barry hurts our faith in U.S. institutions," said Luis Fernando Jaramillo, a close adviser to President-Elect Cesar Gaviria. "A Colombian automatically gets the maximum sentence, but Americans get more lenient treatment for more serious offenses. As long as Colombians see that we are {burying} the dead while the United States is enjoying the dollars, it will be difficult to maintain the war."

Gaviria's advisers say he will be much more open in his criticism of the United States than outgoing President Virgilio Barco has been.

Many Colombians are convinced that officials in the United States don't try to identify and capture drug kingpins and they ask why that is, since Colombian cocaine barons like Pablo Escobar are known worldwide and are being pursued here.

"It is very unlikely that there are no bosses. There has to be an Al Capone there, or several, involved in distribution," said Alberto Saldarriaga, director of Colprensa, the largest national news agency. "And we believe those people are North Americans, not Colombians."

"There is no balance between what Colombia does and what the United States does in the drug war," Saldarriaga said. "We do not see any concrete actions by the United States. We are in an immediate war that we must either win or lose our country. We are paying a very high price."