Colombia, a South American country where the international drug trade has fueled a bloody civil war for decades, is hoping the recent election of a new president will bring positive changes.
Independent candidate Alvaro Uribe won a large majority in the election on Sunday and promises to double the size of the military and create a civilian guard organization.
Many of the election candidates had different proposals to end the flow of drugs and the country's 38-year-old civil war.
The U.S. ambassador said the U.S. is ready to work with the new administration when Uribe takes office in August.
Colombia is the source of 90 percent of the cocaine and much of the heroin used in the U.S.
Before Colombia became our leading drug supplier, farms in other South American countries grew acres and acres of coca plants, the raw material from which cocaine is made.
The U.S. worked
with the governments of Peru and Bolivia to reduce the drug supply,
spraying plant-killing chemicals on acres of drug plantations and paying
farmers to grow other crops instead. Coca production was cut in half.
The U.S. government is spending $1.3 billion on "Plan Columbia," a detailed long-term anti-drug plan that helps the Colombian government get rid of its coca farms.
Congress is now considering a request for hundreds of million dollars more to help fund U.S. anti-drug efforts in Colombia.
Ending the Civil War
Colombia's cocaine traffic has helped fund the largest Colombian rebel army, called the FARC. For 38 years, the FARC has been fighting government forces. About 3,500 people are killed every year.
The war has made the country unsafe. Colombia has the highest kidnapping rate in the world. Rebels kidnap tourists, including Americans, and hold them for ransom. The State Department considers most of the country unsafe for Americans.
The current president, Andrés Pastrana, who is barred under the Constitution from seeking re-election, has tried to initiate peace talks with the rebels.
The new president has a personal grudge against the rebels; they killed his father in 1983.
Uribe has pledged to crack down on the FARC and bring law and order to the war-torn country.
However some human rights groups are worried that Uribe's policies may come at a steep price for Colombia's fragile democracy.
Read all about Colombia's election and the country's struggle with the drug trade...
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