Colombia fears US strike on drug barons
Thursday 04 July 1996
In the novel, the Americans use a laser-guided air-to-ground missile and clandestine ground forces in an attempt to wipe out the cocaine barons. In the rumour, they use laser-guided weapons and troops on the ground, but do not try to kill the drug lords. Instead, they snatch the leaders of the Cali cartel from Colombian jails and whisk them back to the US for trial.
So strong was the rumour, partly fuelled by a new US anti-narcotics operation in the region - dubbed Operation Laser Strike - that security was stepped up at various prisons .
It began last week when the US Attorney-General, Janet Reno, requested the extradition of the three top Cali drug lords currently in jail, ignoring the fact that Colombia's 1991 constitution bars extradition. Colombian President Ernesto Samper's reply? "No way."
This week, the rift developed into a war of words after a memo from the US ambassador in Bogota, Myles Frechette, was leaked to the Washington Post. In it, Mr Frechette suggested keeping Mr Samper "as invisible as possible" and revoking his US visa because of alleged past links with the Cali cartel. The visa of Colombia's ambassador to Mexico, Gustavo de Greiff, a former prosecutor-general, had already been revoked at the weekend as a result of similar suspicions.
Washington pointedly refrained from denying the veracity of the Frechette memo.
Mr Frechette had previously angered his hosts by saying he had been "tailed" by Colombian secret service agents and that embassy phones were bugged.
The Colombian foreign ministry responded angrily to Mr Frechette's memo on Tuesday, faxing a statement to news organisations around the world saying it was "profoundly concerned by the mutual crisis of confidence" with the US, which could "threaten Colombia's democratic stability".
Mr Samper was cleared last month by Congress, the only body which could try him for allegedly accepting millions of dollars of cocaine proceeds for his 1994 election campaign. But Congress is controlled by his ruling Liberal Party and a large number of its members are themselves under investigation for allegedly taking cocaine proceeds. Polls show most Colombians believe Mr Samper should have been impeached.
Colombia's influential Roman Catholic church weighed in this week, questioning his innocence and describing the country as "morally sick".
Pedro Rubiano, Archbishop of Bogota, became a focal point for criticism of Mr Samper earlier this year. He said the president's claim not to have known that millions of dollars were entering his campaign from the Cali cartel was "like saying an elephant walked through your living room and you never noticed."
- 1 Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Weather bomb in pictures: Storms cuts power for tens of thousands – and snow is on the way
Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
Russell Brand was rendered speechless on Question Time by this man
Fury at Airbus after it hints the super-jumbo may be mothballed
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Nigel Farage defends Kerry Smith 'ch***y' comment: 'If you are going for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?'
Nigel Farage's approval rating hits 'record low' as popularity suffers in wake of Ukip sex scandal
Pakistan school attack live: Taliban kill at least 132 children in 'horrifying' massacre
Sony hack: Angelina Jolie branded 'seriously out of her mind' in further embarrassing leaked email saga
Panic Saturday: 13 million Britons spend £1.2bn – while 13 million others across the country live in poverty unable to afford food
£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join...
£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We have an excellent role for a...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An IT Support Analyst is required to join the ...
Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: SURREY - An outstanding high level opportunity...