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Tuesday, July 21, 1998 Published at 06:58 GMT 07:58 UK

World: Americas

Samper admits drug money used for polls

Colombian cocaine pickers: Drugs money allegations affected the election campaign

The outgoing President of Colombia, Ernesto Samper, has acknowledged directly for the first time that his political party accepted money from drug-traffickers to finance his election campaign.

But in his final address to Congress before leaving office, he again insisted that he had not known the source of the funds.

"We have seen how drug money has financed violence and corrupted our institutions," President Samper said.

[ image: President Samper]
President Samper

"As is known, I was victim of the invasion [of drug money] in the campaign that won me the presidency, as has been confirmed by the confessions of those who administered the campaign."

Mr Samper's presidency marked a low point in relations with the United States. Washington withdrew his US visa and restricted economic aid, saying the Colombian government was not doing enough to combat the illegal drugs trade.

The BBC South America Correspondent says this is President Samper's first public acknowledgement about the nature of the illicit funds that helped him win the presidency four years ago.

He says the drug money scandal has dominated his term in office, but the president has always denied any personal involvement.

Term dominated by scandal

Shortly after Mr Samper was elected his credibility was damaged when his opponents published evidence showing his party had received six million dollars from the Cali drug cartel.

After an investigation the President's campaign chief and treasurer were sent to jail, but Mr Samper denied the charges and was cleared of all involvement by the Colombian parliament.

President Samper is due to leave office next month, after his chosen Liberal Party candidate was defeated by Andres Pastrana in recent presidential elections.

The Liberals were harmed in the poll by the drugs money allegations.

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