Colombian Envoy Quits

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), July 13, 2006 | Go to article overview

Colombian Envoy Quits


Byline: James Morrison, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Colombian envoy quits

Colombia's ambassador to the United States resigned this week to protest the appointment of a political rival once accused of ties to drug lords as ambassador to France.

Andres Pastrana, who served in Washington for eight months, announced his departure in Colombia's capital, Bogota, after a six-hour meeting with President Alvaro Uribe on Tuesday. Mr. Uribe upset Mr. Pastrana, a former president, by naming Ernesto Samper to serve in Paris. Mr. Samper, also a former president, later turned down the appointment "in the higher interest of the country," Mr. Uribe announced Tuesday evening.

Mr. Uribe named Foreign Minister Carolina Barco to replace Mr. Pastrana and Maria Angela Holguin, Colombia's ambassador to the United Nations, to serve in France. She turned down the Paris post yesterday, according to reports from Bogota.

Mr. Pastrana, who presented his diplomatic credentials to President Bush on Nov. 9, flew to Colombia on Monday, after learning of Mr. Uribe's decision on Friday to send Mr. Samper to France.

"This changes Colombia's policy, and it changes it radically," Mr. Pastrana said after his meeting with Mr. Uribe.

Mr. Samper, who narrowly defeated Mr. Pastrana in the 1994 presidential race, was investigated on charges of accepting more than $5 million in campaign contributions from the Cali drug cartel. The Supreme Court acquitted him, but several of his associates were jailed. Mr. Samper also narrowly survived a legislative impeachment attempt, after he said the drug money was donated without his knowledge. The U.S. government, citing suspicions of drug connections, barred him from entering the United States.

Mr. Pastrana, who won the presidency in 1998, feared Mr. Samper's appointment would threaten U.S. aid to combat drug trafficking, which helped finance two rebel groups. The South American country has received more than $4 billion since 2000, when Mr. …

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