ACCESSION NUMBER:355867 FILE ID:LEF412 DATE:08/04/94 TITLE:U.S. HOPES TO WORK WITH COLOMBIA AGAINST CALI CARTEL (08/04/94) TEXT:*94080412.PFL *LEF412 08/04/94 U.S. HOPES TO WORK WITH COLOMBIA AGAINST CALI CARTEL (SP) (Gelbard, Skol at House hearing Aug. 3 - LSI408) +lf (640) By Louise Fenner USIA Staff Writer WASHINGTON -- The U.S. government wants to continue its longstanding cooperation in the war on drugs with the Colombian government and will judge President-elect Ernesto Samper by the actions he takes following his Aug. 7 inauguration, according to two top State Department officials. "What is important is what happens in the future," Michael Skol, principal deputy assistant secretary of state for inter-American affairs, told an Aug. 3 House subcommittee hearing. "We will be looking for action, for aggressiveness, for (Samper) doing something about the Cali cartel." He added that "our hope is that we can duplicate the level of counternarcotics cooperation under President Gaviria, and we will do everything we can to make that happen." Skol and Robert Gelbard, assistant secretary of state for international narcotics matters, said the United States expects Samper to keep his promise to order a thorough, independent investigation of allegations that his presidential campaign received contributions from the Cali cocaine cartel. Gelbard said he met with Samper last October to discuss the charges, months before an audio tape was made public that appeared to confirm a link between the campaign and the cartel. He said Samper "vigorously denied it" and told him that two campaign staffers had been dismissed for accepting such contributions. However, Gelbard added, "We have felt that the totality of the evidence, the reports we have received of involvement of drug traffickers in the campaign, could cause a resonable person to believe this is the case. "Samper has called for an investigation. We hope and expect that this will be an independent, serious investigation of the entire campaign." Much of the hearing focused on why a program to share radar tracking data with Peru and Colombia was suspended May 1 and has not yet been restored. Rep. Robert Torricelli (D-NJ) complained that cocaine flights to the United States have increased 20 percent since May because Peru and Colombia are unable to use U.S. radar data in their drug interdiction programs. The Defense Department suspended the intelligence-sharing program because a 1egal review found that a 1984 law forbids the U.S. government from supporting activities by foreign governments that could result in the shooting down of civilian aircraft in flight. Furthermore, U.S. officials could conceivably be prosecuted for abetting such a shootdown. "This is an absurd interpretation of the law," said Torricelli, adding that he believes the United States is "disproportionately responsible for the current problems in U.S.-Colombian relations." Gelbard said the intelligence-sharing program cannot be restored until Congress passes a Defense Department authorization bill with a provision to amend the 1984 law, which was requested by the Clinton administration. Since much of Congress's attention is focused on health care reform, it is not clear whether Congress will be able act on the Defense bill before beginning a three-week recess later in August. He said the United States was unable to finalize interim agreements with Peru and Colombia that would have reinstated the intelligence-sharing program as long as those countries agreed not to use the data to shoot down civilian aircraft. He also stressed that the radar intelligence-sharing program is only one aspect of U.S. counternarcotics programs with Latin America. Gelbard criticized Congress for slashing economic, military and other counternarcotics assistance programs, putting conditions on aid, and continuing a freeze on funding for Peru that would support an eradication program there. "We need a much greater overall attack on the narcotics problem," he told the panel. The hearing was jointly sponsored by the House subcommittees on Western Hemisphere affairs and international security. NNNN .