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Tuesday, 17 October, 2000, 23:47 GMT 00:47 UK
Cardoso warns against drug 'war'
Colombian special forces
US pours money into Colombia's anti-drug programme
By Stephen Cviic in Sao Paulo

President Fernando Henrique Cardoso of Brazil has opened a meeting of defence ministers from the Americas warning that the war against drugs in Colombia should be carried out through democratic means.

Mr Cardoso's comments were made in the Amazonian city of Manaus, where the US Defence Secretary William Cohen has been trying to gather Latin American support for Plan Colombia, a US-backed attempt to fight the drugs trade.

Brazilian President Henrique Cardoso
This meeting of more than 20 defence ministers from throughout the Americas is taking place in a hotel on the banks of the Negro River in Brazil's Amazon jungle.

It's an appropriate location, since Amazonia is at the heart of current security concerns.

There are fears that the drug-related conflict in Colombia could spread into other parts of this vast and under-policed region.

Voices of opposition

Plan Colombia is not officially on the agenda, but Mr Cohen will have been using his brief appearance at the meeting to try to persuade countries like Brazil and Venezuela that the increased use of military force in Colombia is not against their interests.

Cohen
Cohen is only putting in a brief appearance

Brazil at least is not convinced.

President Cardoso's opening comments about the importance of the rule of law in the war against drugs could be read as veiled criticism of the Washington-backed plan.

In recent days, his most senior military advisor has reiterated that Brazil has serious doubts about the use of US military personnel and equipment in Colombia.

This is partly because it could encourage the spread of drug production across the border and the Brazilian Government is facing renewed pressure from its own military to deal with the perceived threat.

The army commander, Gleuber Vieira, came close to being sacked recently after pushing for increased pay and better equipment.

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See also:

16 Oct 00 | Americas
Colombia's massive military purge
17 Oct 00 | Americas
Americas' summit tackles drugs
09 Sep 00 | Americas
Hijacked Colombian plane released
07 Sep 00 | Americas
Drug submarine found in Colombia
29 Aug 00 | Americas
US commits to Colombia
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