Colombia Works Hard On Its Anti-Drug Image

Colombian officials are on a mission.

They scold U.S. news media about alleged errors in drug stories. They dole out reports on their war against drugs to U.S. lawmakers. They open - with fanfare - a foreign press center at the presidential palace.

Behind the public relations blitz, questions remain: Is Colombia sincere about fighting drug cartels? And is Washington listening?

A crucial test comes Wednesday, when President Clinton reports to Congress on Colombia’s antinarcotics efforts.

A negative rating could influence lawmakers to curtail aid to Colombia and deny support for loans from international institutions.

Colombia, which fought a bloody war against one cocaine cartel but is accused of being lax in pursuing another one, could become a pariah in the international anti-drug war.

By sending reports to U.S. lawmakers, the Colombian Embassy in Washington was working hard Tuesday to head off a negative appraisal.

“Our efforts in the war against drugs should be recognized,” declared an embassy spokesman.

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