NewsBriefs BUTTONS

Sen. Helms' Bill Aims to Shut Off Aid to Colombia


September 1995

Senator Jesse Helms (R-NC), chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has introduced a bill that would cut off all economic and military assistance to Colombia because of that country's role as the world's foremost cocaine producer ("Senator Helms Proposes Cutting Aid to Colombia," Drug Enforcement Report, May 8, 1995, p. 5).

S. 681, the "Narcotics National Emergency Sanctions Act of 1995," states that Colombia has not taken sufficient action in the "war on drugs" to warrant U.S. aid. The bill gives Colombian President Ernesto Samper until February 6, 1996 to demonstrate an effective anti-drug strategy before sanctions go into effect.

Federal law requires the U.S. to cut off aid to nations that do not satisfactorily cooperate with U.S. anti-drug objectives. However, the law allows the President to waive the sanctions if there is a greater U.S. national security interest in continuing such aid.

Earlier this year, the State Department issued its annual International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, which announced that the President granted Colombia a national interest waiver. The waiver means that Colombia continues to receive U.S. aid.

Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs Robert S. Gelbard, announcing the release of the report on March 1, said Colombia was lacking adequate sentencing laws and asset forfeiture provisions to properly punish drug traffickers and cartel officials. He said the President recognized the problems with Colombia's criminal justice system but decided the U.S. had a vital national interest in continuing aid. In 1994, Colombia had been given full certification as a cooperating nation.

Should the Helms bill pass into law, Colombia can be recertified by complying with conditions specified in the bill, including: investigating the financial influence of cartels on the political process; providing funding for alternative agricultural development and surveillance technology; reforming the penal code and passing stiffer penalties for traffickers; and stepping up investigations of cartels.

The bill is co-sponsored by Senators Connie Mack (R-FL) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT).