- The Washington Times - Monday, May 14, 2001

Colombian President Andres Pastrana has just one year left in office, and an imposing problem of his own creation is preventing him from finishing his term with pride in his legacy. Despite having ceded a demilitarized territory as large as Switzerland to the control of Colombias most brutal and powerful rebel group, known as the FARC, the president has been unable to make any noteworthy stride for peace and stability. The FARC has made a mockery of the presidents peace process, not to mention the president himself, by cultivating narcotics in the demilitarized zone, brutally repressing the Colombians that live there and using the region as a launching pad for missions of terror.
And unfortunately for Mr. Pastrana, a likely candidate for president is emerging whose track record and integrity will only highlight the sitting presidents failings. Congressional sources who have been in the field in Colombia told The Washington Times that Colombias former police chief, Jose Serrano, plans to run for president. Mr. Serrano has a well-deserved popularity rating of 75 percent among Colombians and has distinguished himself by rising from very humble beginnings and leading an effective war on drugs while demonstrating respect for human rights. In July, Mr. Serrano became the first foreigner to be awarded the Drug Enforcement Agencys special agent award.
In order to divert attention from Mr. Serranos achievements, Mr. Pastrana has prohibited the Colombian National Police from making any reference to him in the press. Furthermore, a defensive Mr. Pastrana is trying to muzzle the medias criticism. He recently used his influence to have a popular radio personality, Carlos Perdomo, fired for criticizing him.
Nevertheless, criticism of Mr. Pastranas and his ill-conceived peace plan continue to grow, even in Washington. The Heritage Foundation recently released a study by Stephen Johnson, outlining a series of problems with Mr. Pastranas Plan Colombia strategy for reinstituting peace, a project to which the United States has allocated over $1 billion in aid. Mr. Pastranas plan "failed to address the key problems of weak state and municipal governments and a highly bureaucratized, centralized system. Without public security and the delivery of government services beyond the major urban areas, most of Colombia will remain besieged," said Mr. Johnsons study.
What is needed is help for Colombia to improve its judicial process through Administration of Justice programs and to fund inexpensive civic education programs. In addition, Washington should launch a more comprehensive strategy for curbing drug use in the United States. President George W. Bush said, "My administration will continue to work with nations to eradicate drugs at their source, and enforce our borders to stop the flow of drugs into America." "However, the most effective way to reduce the supply of drugs in America is to reduce the demand for drugs in America," he added. Both must commend our attention.
Surely, Mr. Bush and Mr. Serrano could cooperate effectively on counter-narcotics initiatives to Mr. Pastranas chagrin.


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