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Colombian Guerrillas Attack Drug-Eradicating Helicopters


April 1995

Drug traffickers and rural guerilla groups have teamed up in Colombia to thwart coca and opium crop eradication efforts, according to anti-narcotics officials in that country (James Brooke, "US Copters are a Target in Colombia," New York Times, Mar. 27, 1995, p. A7).

According to radio messages intercepted by Colombian soldiers, drug traffickers are offering guerrillas $200,000 for every eradication plane that is shot down.

The crop eradication effort started in February when President Ernesto Samper promised to rub out the opium and coca crop within two years. Although the US has not been happy with Colombia's actions in the fight against drugs in recent years, the country is receiving US aid for the eradication effort. According to officials, at current rates, Colombia will have wiped out half of all drug crops by the end of this year.

Drug traffickers and guerrillas have been targeting US aircraft that spray the herbicide glyphosate. There have been reports of automatic rifle fire aimed at crop-dusting helicopters and planes.

Anti-narcotics officials have also been the target of drug traffickers. The director of Colombia's anti-narcotics police, Leonardo Gallego, was held in the town of Miraflores for two days. A police lieutenant was killed in a mission to rescue Gallego.