Thursday, August 25, 2005

Colombian senator says cocaine dealers in congress


BOGOTA, Colombia - Colombian congressmen are not only using cocaine but buying it in the Congress building, a senior Colombian senator said on Wednesday.

"I know names of people who distribute cocaine here in Congress," Sen. Edgar Artunduaga told local RCN television.

"There are important officials who distribute and senators and representatives who consume," said Artunduaga, who is deputy speaker of the Senate.

Colombia is the world's largest producer of cocaine but the government has received more than $3 billion in mainly military U.S. aid since 2000 to stamp out the drug trade so Artunduaga's remarks are likely to set off a storm.

Asked whether he would name names, the senator said: "I'm thinking about doing that, with the concern that a number of members of Congress will have to testify to the authorities."

Although selling cocaine is illegal in Colombia, possession of small doses for personal use is not. But with the government's efforts to stamp out the drug, which generates the money to buy bullets for Marxist rebels and far-right paramilitaries, any politician caught using it would be engulfed in scandal.

As in many U.S. and European cities, cocaine is easy to find here and its use common. But it is much cheaper in Colombia.


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