FILE ID:96022803.LAR

(Serrano, Zavala speak at Symposium of the Americas) strngr (700)
By Michael Malone
USIA Special Correspondent

MIAMI -- The director of the Colombian National Police and Ecuador's
customs director both told a conference Feb. 27 that only a united
front and international cooperation could combat the scourge and
penetration of the drug industry and corruption in the hemisphere and
thereby open the door to free trade.

"To effectively battle the narcotraffickers requires that all
countries recognize the problem is international and that no country
blames another for the problem, because every country -- absolutely
every one -- must shoulder some of the responsibility," said Gen.
Rosso Jose Serrano, who headed Colombia's anti-drug police from
1990-93 and has served as director general of the National Police
since 1994.

Serrano, nicknamed the "druglord hunter" in Colombia for his success
in arresting the heads of first the Medellin, then the Cali cartels,
received a standing ovation by the hundreds gathered at the two-day
Customs/Trade/Finance Symposium of the Americas organized by the U.S.
Customs Service and the private sector.

The director general called 1995 a "brilliant year" in his country's
long-standing fight against narcotics trafficking. In addition to the
efforts in Colombia, he lauded the United States, citing the Drug
Enforcement Agency (DEA) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)
specifically, for the cooperation they lent in tracking down drug

"They gave us information they had compiled in Miami, New York and
other U.S. cities," Serrano said. "We were surprised by our rapid
success, but in less than six months time, we were able to capture the
leading members of the cartels."
The director general said that high rewards offered for the capture of
drug barons proved a successful strategy in Colombia and might be used
in other countries. Colombia offered the equivalent of $5 million in
reward money for the capture of Pablo Escobar Gaviria and other drug
kingpins. After many years of eluding authorities, Escobar was
surrounded and shot to death in a shootout with Colombian police in
December 1993.

Serrano called the fight against narcotics trafficking "never-ending,"
and speculated that in Colombia and other countries future drug
operations would be smaller than the massive cartel operations of
recent years.

"Drug traffickers are most hurt when hit in their pocketbooks and
wallets," Serrano said. He added the industry that supports the drug
trade, from the users to those in the government that have accepted
their bribes, has penetrated every strata of society. The cost of
lives lost in Colombia has been horrendous, Serrano said, citing the
3,500 police officers, four presidential candidates, eight
magistrates, four judges and one attorney general targeted and killed
in Colombia by the drug traffickers in recent years.

Jorge Zavala Egas, director general of customs in Ecuador, lamented
the vicious cycle of corruption that has plagued customs in his
country over the past 60 years but said that computerization and the
involvement of the private sector in customs operations in past years
has eliminated about 92 percent of corruption.

In Ecuador like in many countries, importation tariffs generate a
substantial percentage of national revenues, Zavala said, a reality
that leaves the customs administration a target for graft and

Ecuador has eliminated about 250 government workers from the customs
department, transferring those services and jobs to the private
sector, both domestically and internationally, and cutting corruption
in the process, Zavala said.

Widespread public outcry finally forced a "full-fledged fight against
the political powers" that maintained and prospered from the
corruption, the customs director said. The customs administration in
Ecuador presently receives no monies from the national treasury.

Zavala spoke at a morning session, "People and Products: Keeping Ahead
of the Flow," on the final day of the two-day symposium. The
conference, which grew out of the Summit of the Americas held here in
December 1994, was first held last year.