Morning Edition Presents Five-Part Series on Crisis in Colombia

[Washington, DC] Beginning Monday, October 4, NPR's Morning Edition launches a five-part investigative series on the complex factors that have left Colombia in the throes of a national crisis. The crisis that has prompted the Clinton administration to consider further escalating the United States' involvement within the sSouth American nation, which. Colombia provides most of the cocaine and about half the heroin sold in the US.

The series illustrates the daunting challenges facing the Colombian government, which, while fighting a flourishing drug trade, has been on the defensive against a powerful leftist guerrilla insurgency. The ill-equipped, poorly trained Colombian army continues to struggle has been trying to improve its performance. Meanwhile, right-wing paramilitary groups -- often tolerated by, and sometimes working in concert with, the army -- are murdering thousands of civilians suspected of supporting the guerrillas. To top things off, Simultaneously, the country has plunged into its worst recession since the 1930's. The U.S. sharply increased security assistance to nearly $300 million this year, and may give even more next year.

Monday, October 4:
NPR's John Burnett reports that Colombia is on the brink of social, economic, and political disintegration under the weight of the illegal drug trade, civil war, and recession.

Tuesday, October 5:
NPR's John Burnett reports on Colombia's main rebel army, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). The most conservative estimates judge the FARC is making as much as $100 million a year by protecting drug crops and labs.

Wednesday, October 6:
NPR's John Burnett reports on Colombia's armed forces, which are starting to receive more American equipment, intelligence, and training. Though its human rights record has improved dramatically, critics claim the army still allows rightist paramilitary forces to murder civilians suspected of supporting the rebels.

Thursday, October 7:
NPR's John Burnett reports on Colombia's paramilitary forces. Established as private armies for drug traffickers and large landowners, the paramilitaries are now fully involved in the civil war -- attacking civilians they believe support the rebels.

Friday, October 8:
NPR's Tom Gjelten reports on the debate over how the U.S. should respond to the crisis in Colombia. The Clinton administration plans to sharply increase military aid. But some say it's impossible to support Colombia in its fight against the drug war without becoming involved in its civil war, because leftist rebels protect most of the cocoa and opium poppy crops.

National Public Radio, a membership organization of 608 public radio stations across America, is radio's leading provider of high-quality news, information and cultural programming. NPR is the producer and distributor of such noted programs as Morning Edition®, All Things Considered®, Jazz Profiles®, and Car Talk®.