Aug. 31 -- President Clinton on Wednesday announced $1.3 billion in aid to Colombia, declaring U.S. support for the South American nation’s fight against drugs and insurgents but pledging the United States would not be dragged into another Vietnam.
Clinton returned to Washington in the predawn hours this morning.
Clinton’s brief visit was designed to boost President Andres Pastrana’s Plan Colombia — a strategy of combating drugs, recession and rebels at the same time.
To support that plan, the United States will be providing military helicopters and several hundred American militaryadvisers to train two new battalions of Colombian anti-drug troops.
Critics have warned U.S. forces could be dragged into a drug war in South America, and they have compared the Colombian situation to U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War.
Clinton: No Shooting War
Clinton on Wednesday insisted the United States would not be caught up in Colombian strife.
“A condition of this aid is that we are not going to get into ashooting war,” Clinton said. “This is not Vietnam, neither is itYankee imperialism.”
The president said neither the administration nor the Colombian government wanted the U.S. military situation to be pulled into the situation.
“There won’t be American involvement in a shooting war becausethey don’t want it and because we don’t want it,” Clinton said.
“I reject the idea that we must choose between supporting peaceand fighting drugs,” he added.
Pastrana, appearing with Clinton, said the aid “leads us toknow that we are no longer isolated in our struggle.”
Clinton was accompanied on this trip by a delegation including 11 members of Congress,Attorney General Janet Reno, Secretary of State Madeleine Albrightand Barry McCaffrey, the president’s chief drug policy adviser.
House Speaker Dennis Hastert, a Republican instrumental ingetting the aid through Congress, also spoke at the news conference Wednesday. “For the sake of our children and our grandchildren, we can’tafford to let this fail,” he said.