- The Washington Times - Monday, March 4, 2002

The connection between narco-trafficking and terrorism is coming into sharper focus in wake of September 11 and quickly becoming a national-security priority. To a large degree, the Bush administration is giving that connection its due attention, but according to congressional sources, it is on the verge of making a serious misstep. Instead of supporting former Colombian police chief Jose Serrano who trounced the most vicious drug cartels in the world and has a stellar human-rights record as executive director of the U.N. Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention, the State Department is backing a lackluster Italian nominee.
The State Department has its reasons for backing Italy's choice. The Italians, like the Americans, have been a top contributor to the U.N. drug program and would like to see their financial backing translate into greater influence there. The United States has made similar arguments in the past drawing criticism from the Europeans and is understandably sympathetic to this position. Also, the State Department is keen to stay in the good graces of European allies, since their support of America's counter-terrorist policies has become increasingly tenuous.
But Italy's candidate, Giuseppe Lumina, has no counternarcotics experience and the last U.N. drug czar, Italian Pino Arlacchi, was widely accused of fraud and mismanagement. Also, the State Department should keep close in mind that the next czar will be given a lead role in creating an anti-narcotics police force in Afghanistan. This task is critical, since the opium and heroin trade in that country was a key source of revenue for the Taliban and al Qaeda.
Mr. Serrano, who headed Colombia's anti-narcotics division before becoming police chief, had not a single human-rights violation complaint filed against the counternarcotics division during his last few years as police chief even though he had stepped up activities. As police chief, Mr. Serrano cleaned up the force, dismissing 11,000 policemen and making it the most favored public institution in Colombia
Washington has longed recognized Mr. Serrano's remarkable achievements. In July 2000, he became the first non-DEA agent to be honored with the DEA's special-agent award. While he was head of police, the International Association of Chiefs of Police named Mr. Serrano the "Best Policeman in the World." Former DEA chiefs Thomas A. Constantine and Donnie R. Marshall have written letters backing Mr. Serrano for the U.N. post, as have House Speaker Dennis Hastert and several other members of Congress, including Dan Burton, Benjamin Gilman, Asa Hutchinson, Henry Hyde, Cass Ballenger, Bob Barr, Jesse Helms, Mark Souder. They support Mr. Serrano because he is the best candidate for the U.N. drug-czar post. If the administration fails to do so, it will be difficult to imagine why.

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