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Colombian Ex-Drug Officer Resigns

May 23, 2002

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BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) _ The former head of Colombia’s counter-drug police resigned Wednesday in the middle of an investigation into the disappearance of $2 million in U.S. aid.

The corruption scandal had already led to the suspension of some U.S. aid to Colombia and the firing of at least 12 police officers. Gen. Gustavo Socha was reassigned to manage security for dignitaries two weeks ago, but said at a press conference Wednesday that he felt it was best for the National Police if he resigned.

Socha insisted that his resignation was not an admission of guilt.

``The sacrifice of my police career does not constitute in any way an acceptance of any responsibility for accusations,″ he said.

A U.S. Embassy official had previously said that about 20 police officers are believed to have taken money ``for personal ends.″

The embassy official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the money was for administrative expenses and other items including fuel for vehicles. The police department receives about $4 million in U.S. aid per year, part of Washington’s support to President Andres Pastrana’s ``Plan Colombia″ drug-fighting effort, the official said.

The Bush administration has asked Congress for more aid to Colombia and to allow the government to use the Plan Colombia money for counter-guerrilla purposes. Currently the money is restricted to the fight against drugs.

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