U.S. delivers anti-drug helicopters
Colombia National Police recived 6 UH-1H Huey helicopters to use in the war against drugs.
Helis, September 01, 1999 - BOGOTA, Colombia - Colombia's anti-narcotics police on Wednesday received six high-flying helicopter gunships from the United States to use in the war against illegal narcotics.
The refurbished Vietnam-era UH-1H helicopters will enable Colombian police to provide better protection for the crop-duster planes that spray illegal opium crops planted high on Andean mountainsides. Leftist rebels who protect the drug trade frequently fire on the planes.
Washington is the principal financier of Colombia's program to destroy the crops used to make cocaine and heroin. Armed helicopters like the ones donated Wednesday provide security for crop dusting planes that kill coca and poppy plants with deadly herbicides. Two U.S. congressmen, Cass Ballenger, R-N.C., and William Delahunt, D-Mass., were on hand to deliver the helicopters.
Republican lawmakers have criticized the Clinton administration as being slow to deliver to Colombia the ``Super Hueys'', rebuilt at a cost of $1.4 million each to be able to operate at higher altitudes, and more sophisticated Blackhawk helicopters Congress has already approved.
In a statement issued Wednesday, the U.S. Embassy said four Hueys were being remodeled for Colombia's needs and three Blackhawks would arrive in November.
Despite record spraying, the acreage devoted to coca has doubled in Colombia since 1996. Environmentalists complain that aerial spraying of the herbicide glyphosate is pushing peasant farmers who grow the crop further into the delicate Amazon River basin.
White house drug czar Gen. Barry McCaffrey has proposed a $1 billion increase in U.S. anti-narcotics aid to the Andes, including more advanced helicopters for Colombia - the source of 80 percent of the cocaine sold on U.S. streets and a rising share of the heroin.
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Bell 205 in Policia Nacional de Colombia