Robert Novak

That did not satisfy Hyde. On June 10, he wrote Walters complaining that only 1,658 hectares of opium production have been eradicated -- less than 20 percent of the 10,000 hectares promised by the State Department. Hyde noted that New York Times reporters, in a June 8 dispatch, experienced no difficulty in finding opium fields (and photographing them in color). "I urge your support for a full scale DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency)-led program to pay Colombian farmers and villagers for information on the location of opium fields," Hyde urged Walters.

On July 8, the Colombian embassy in Washington relayed to Hyde's staff the Colombian National Police's up-to-the-minute tabulation on opium eradication. It was still 1,658 hectares. It still is, as far as anybody knows. That is the reason for Hyde's public statement of Aug. 8. Just why U.S. and Colombian authorities are nonchalant about the opium-heroin epidemic defies rational explanation. Drug czar Walters, in response to Hyde's statement, told me, "There was a 25 percent reduction in opium last year. We are not reducing coca production at the expense of opium production."

In the seven years I have been writing about Colombia's narco-guerrillas, U.S. policy has seemed circular. When I was in Bogota in 1996, U.S. officials disavowed any interest in anti-guerrilla activity unless connected to narcotics suppression. The visit to Colombia Aug. 12 by Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, symbolized the change of emphasis from anti-drug to anti-guerrilla. The bottom line is that despite stalwart leadership from President Uribe and some military success, more and more heroin is pouring out of Colombia into America's streets.

Robert Novak

Robert Novak (1931-2009) was a syndicated columnist and editor of the Evans-Novak Political Report.

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