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#1907: U.S. pledges to cooperate with Haiti in drug war (fwd)


U.S. pledges to cooperate with Haiti in drug war 
 09:34 p.m Jan 19, 2000 Eastern By Chris Chapman 

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Jan 19 (Reuters) - U.S. Army Secretary Louis Caldera, on
a tour of countries used as transit points for illegal drugs, promised
Haiti on Wednesday that the United States would help it improve
intelligence gathering against the  drug traffic.  He also urged the
country to strengthen its judicial institutions to fight drug-related
crime. `When drugs pass through transshipment countries, they cause
enormous problems, including crime, money laundering and the corruption
of political institutions, including elected officials,'' Caldera told a
news conference after meeting President Rene Preval. ``President Preval
and I agreed that drug trafficking poses a  tremendous challenge to
Haiti,'' he said. Caldera was visiting with Thomas Umberg, a deputy
director in the White House Office for National Drug-Control Policy, run
 by Gen. Barry McCaffrey. Caldera and Umberg have been to the Dominican
Republic, which shares the Caribbean island of Hispaniola with Haiti,
and are leaving on Wednesday night for Colombia. Drugs are considered to
be one of the greatest threats facing Haiti's young police force, which
was set up in 1995 as part of a wider restoration of democratic rule in
the politically unstable country. In 1998, 54 police officers were
dismissed from the force for involvement in drug trafficking, up from
just two officers in 1997,according to police figures. Caldera stressed
the importance of having an effective criminal justice system so
traffickers could be brought to justice and congratulated Haiti on
efforts made to intercept smugglers at sea  and create an effective
coast guard. He said the United States had offered Haiti assistance in
terms  of radio communications, cars and training for the police and  
was exploring ways of having radar systems detect planes entering
Haitian airspace.  ``But the most important aspect is cooperative aid
with Haiti  when it is known that a drug shipment is leaving Colombia
for Haiti,'' Caldera said. Umberg estimated that 300 tonnes of cocaine
reached the United States from Colombia each year, of which around 12
percent passed through Haiti and the Dominican Republic.Flights by drug
traffickers to Haiti are probably increasing, he said. In Colombia,
Caldera and Umberg will meet with President Andres Pastrana to discuss
U.S. aid against the drug trade.