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Plan Colombia: Big gains, but cocaine still flows

The US cites record coca-crop destruction, and major arrests in Colombia. But cocaine flows north unabated.

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Margarita Consuela Gomez Ricardo and Carlos Murillo met during a police raid on a warehouse of pirated DVDs seven years ago. Later that evening, after they swooped in and made the arrests, he asked her out for coffee. And six months later they were married.

Now, at age 31 and with two small children, Ms. Gomez is a widow. The last time she spoke to Murillo was on Friday, May 19. He said he was coming home that weekend. Their 2-year-old son was watching Power Rangers on TV at full volume and she could barely hear her husband's goodbye.

She went out to get her hair done, and dressed up the kids nicely, but Murillo never showed. She was disappointed, but that wasn't unusual.

On Monday night, as she channel-surfed in their Cali apartment, she caught a newsflash: An elite police unit had been shot in Jamundí. She called the station, but she knew.

Murillo, along with 10 others, most of them US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) trained counternarcotics specialists, had been killed by a military unit. Colombia's attorney general says the soldiers were on the narcotraffickers payroll.

In the weeks and months ahead there would come the questions, suspicions, accusations, and fears. But right then, with the TV remote in hand, all that Gomez felt was despair.

"What is wrong with this country?" she thought. "Nothing ever changes."

* * *

Sitting in his Washington office a block from the White House, John P. Walters, President Bush's 'drug czar,' sees a different picture. "There is absolutely no question we are winning," he states flatly.

The "winning," in this case, is against narcotraffickers. And the "we" is the US and Colombian governments, inexorably bound together in a multibillion dollar war against the drug trade.


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