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U.S., Colombia Sign Pacts to Aid in Drug Enforcement, Boost Trade

From Reuters

Colombia and the United States signed four agreements Monday to boost trade and improve anti-drug cooperation. The pacts came on the first day of a visit by President Cesar Gaviria.

They include an agreement to share judicial evidence to expedite the judging of drug lords in Colombia.

They also include a $41-million grant to help the drug fight and a joint effort to control production of chemicals used in cocaine processing.

Gaviria’s Cabinet ministers signed the agreements at Blair House, the official visitors residence across the street from the White House.

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The pacts follow a controversial decision by Gaviria’s government to offer traffickers who turn themselves in immunity from extradition to the United States.

At an evening press conference, the visiting leader defended his widely criticized olive branch to drug lords, who produce 80% of the cocaine entering the U.S. market.

“We recognize some may be skeptical, some may have doubts. But it is in the interest of the two countries that our policy be successful,” Gaviria said.

“We hope that the judicial system of Colombia in cooperation with the U.S. judiciary can guarantee harsh sentences.”

White House officials say in private that ending extradition is a mistake. Publicly, they say they are ready to accept a decision by a sovereign and friendly nation.

A two-hour meeting with President Bush is scheduled for Gaviria today.


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