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Colombia Ad Campaign Says US Fighting “War of Words” With PM-Congress-Drugs Bjt

June 9, 1988

WASHINGTON (AP) _ It could be the lead-in to a prime time crime show. With the rat-a-tat of a machine gun and a wailing siren in the background, a deep-voiced announcer delivers his lines. Pictures of assassination victims flash on the screen.

In fact, it’s an ad for the government of Colombia.

For the past week or so, stations in New York and Washington have been showing 15-second spots purchased by Colombia to dramatize its position on the front lines of the global drug war and dispel the notion Colombians aren’t fighting the drug lords.

″All we ask, when you think of Colombia, don’t just think of the drug dealers; remember the Colombian heroes who are dying every day,″ the announcer says.

Half-page ads displaying the names of ″fallen heroes in the war against drugs″ - policemen, judges, government ministers, journalists and prosecutors killed in Colombia - have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and The Washington Post.

Rodrigo Pardo, counselor to Colombian President Virgilio Barco, said Wednesday that the $350,000 campaign is an effort to counter an impression Americans might have that Colombia is complacent about its reputation as a drug barony.

″We want to show it isn’t true, that we are engaged in a struggle,″ he said. The ads are ″a step toward an accurate understanding of the situation.″

President Barco, as it turned out, had to cancel a U.S. visit to promote the campaign because of what might be another battle in the drug war: the kidnapping of Alvara Gomez Hurtado, a leading Colombian political figure. Barco stayed home to monitor the crisis caused by Hurtado’s abduction.

For years, South and Central American countries listed as major sources of narcotics for the U.S. market have been asserting that the Reagan administration should stop picking on producing countries and do more to stop demand on the streets of America.

Standing in for Barco at a news conference at the Colombian embassy, Foreign Minister Julio Londono stated the view bluntly. Asked if he thought President Reagan was doing enough to stop drugs, Londono declared, ″all the information I have received shows the consumption of drugs has increased the past few years.″

″I’m surprised that when you walk down 42nd Street in New York people are selling phony watches, cocaine and crack and that’s right under the noses of the police,″ Londono said. ″I would hope there is sure punishment on a daily basis to those selling in the streets.″

As for the use of U.S. military forces to stop drugs in Colombia, Londono said, ″It would be akin to the Colombian police going to New York City to help the New York police stop drug consumption.″

The print ads prepared by the Sawyer Miller Group, a New York agency handling the campaign, suggest that Colombia is fighting drugs, but the United States’ campaign is all talk.

Below a news photo of a funeral cortege, presumably for a government victim of the drug cartel, the ad says, ″In Colombia, Our Drug War Is Not A War of Words.″

Another ad says: ″In America, we ask you to remember that our war is your war. We are fighting for our children ... and for yours. We must fight for the future of all of us. And to win this war we must fight together.″

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