Bogota Justice Chief Vows Not to Quit, Asks More Aid : $19 Million for Judges' Security

From Associated Press

Colombia's Justice Minister Monica de Greiff today vowed to continue to fight her country's drug lords despite death threats, and she appealed for more U.S. aid to protect judges.

"The law is under siege in Colombia and we must protect it every way we can," she told a news conference at the Colombian Embassy. She disputed reports that she had considered resigning in the face of death threats against her, her husband and the couple's 3-year-old son.

"I never considered resigning," she said. "The threats are out there, but I am satisfied with my protection right now."

De Greiff said she will remain in Washington through Sept. 6 to continue discussions with Bush Administration officials about her requests for additional aid to protect Colombian judges from assassination.

The 32-year-old justice minister said she was requesting $19 million to purchase armored cars, bulletproof vests, metal detectors for courthouses and other security devices to protect the jurists.

Above Earlier Package

The aid package being sought is in addition to the $5 million that the Administration has approved over a two-year period to improve security for judges.

The President also has approved $65 million in U.S. military aid to help the Colombian government fight the drug cartels.

At his vacation home in Kennebunkport, Me., where he met with top aides on the anti-drug battle plan he will unveil on Sept. 5, Bush was noncommittal when asked about the requested $19 million in aid to protect judges.

He first declined comment, then said, "It's being worked out now, the details." And he said the United States "will cooperate with Colombia to the best of our ability."

De Greiff said she is anxious to continue her efforts to preserve the Colombian legal system. She said her government faces a fight with a foe that has "no respect for the law or even the minimal standards of decency."

But she expressed confidence that Colombia "will survive this crisis."

She said she is "very pleased" with the response of the Administration, saying she still hopes for more assistance.

Blasts Rock Colombia

In Colombia, seven bombs apparently set by drug traffickers exploded early today, and the father of three reputed drug lords called for negotiations with the government to end drug-related violence.

There were no injuries in the bombings of six state liquor stores in Medellin and a travel agency in Bogota, police said, but $100,000 damage was caused. The bomb in Bogota was about 300 feet from a military base.

Police blamed drug traffickers for the bombs, which went off between 4 a.m. and 5 a.m.

Fabio Ochoa Restrepo, father of the reputed Medellin cartel leaders Jorge Luis, Juan David and Fabio Ochoa Vasquez, asked President Virgilio Barco Vargas to "end the bloodletting in our dear Colombia" by negotiating with drug traffickers to end the violence.

Barco, who began the unprecedented war on traffickers after the assassination of a leading presidential contender on Aug. 18, has refused all calls for negotiations with traffickers.

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