January 21, 1997 in Nation/World

Colombian Leader Defends Appointee

Compiled From Wire Services

President Ernesto Samper defended his selection for defense minister Monday amid U.S. concerns that the appointee may have links to drug traffickers.

U.S. Ambassador Myles Frechette questioned the naming of Guillermo Alberto Gonzalez in a published interview Sunday, saying that if Gonzalez is tainted by drug connections, the selection will damage U.S.-Colombian relations.

But Samper said there is no evidence linking Gonzalez, the current ambassador to Venezuela, to drug rings. “The selection will stand,” he said.

Gonzalez is alleged to have links to fugitive drug trafficker Pastor Perafan. Gonzalez has acknowledged knowing Perafan, who is from his hometown of Popayan, but he said he did not know Perafan was a drug trafficker.

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