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Top Cop: Drugs Corrupt Guerrillas

April 30, 1999

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Colombia’s powerful guerrilla movement is no longer motivated by leftist ideology after having been corrupted by involvement in narcotics activities yielding an estimated $500 million a year, Colombia’s top police officer said today.

National Police director Gen. Rosso Jose Serrano, here for meetings with administration and congressional leaders, said the links of the guerrillas to narcotraffickers has cost them support both at home and internationally.

``The guerrillas have lost their ideology,″ Serrano said through a translator. ``Narcotrafficking is corrupting. It has even corrupted the guerrillas.″

Serrano, who is highly regarded here as an effective and honest counternarcotics warrior, spoke to a small group of senators and reporters.

He said the guerrillas help the drug cartels and earn large sums by protecting airstrips and drug laboratories and by shooting down military and police aircraft. For some units, kidnaping is the major source of revenue, he said, estimating that guerrillas were responsible for 80 percent of the 2,200 kidnappings recorded in Colombia last year.

Serrano expressed concern about growing links between the Russian and Colombian mafias and also about the lack of international enforcement for trafficking in the chemical precursors needed to refine cocaine and heroin.

``Many countries which produce precursors don’t control their destinations,″ he said. The prime sources for precursors, he said, are Latin America, the United States and Europe.

Serrano said that two weeks ago, a shipment of potassium earmarked for cocaine traffickers was seized in the port city of Cartagena. He said there was enough potassium to help produce 60 tons of cocaine.

He said the arrival of U.S. Black Hawk helicopters should enable Colombia to eradicate opium poppy production in three years. But, he said, there is little cause for optimism that the drug scourge on the international level can be eased.

``The situation looks bleak as we start the millennium,″ Serrano said, predicting major advances in synthetic drugs as opposed to those derived from narcotics plants.

He said such drugs are cheaper than cocaine or heroin, can be produced in smaller laboratories and cause irreversible damage to addicts.

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