The Clinton administration announced January 11 a proposed $1.3 billion aid package to Colombia, including delivery to trained counternarcotics battalions of 30 UH-60L Blackhawk helicopters and 33 UH-1N Huey utility helicopters worth $600 million. The helicopters are for use in an operation to push into coca-growing regions of southern Colombia, which the White House claims are "dominated by insurgent guerrillas."
Another $340 million of the aid package will be devoted to enhancing Colombian interdiction capabilities, such as upgrading airstrips and purchasing radar and aircraft. If approved by Congress, total U.S. aid to Bogota will equal $1.6 billion during the next two years.
Arturo Valenzuela, special assistant to the president for inter-American affairs, told the press in a January 11 briefing that Washington has no intention of getting involved in a counterinsurgency operation, but that the U.S. "concern and interest is to cut back on the capacity of narcotraffickers to produce [and] to ship in Colombia." The U.S. government estimates 80 percent of the cocaine entering the United States originates in or passes through Colombia.
Last fall, the Pentagon informed Congress that Colombia had requested 14 Blackhawks through the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program. Congress opted not to block the sale within the mandated 30-day review period despite existing congressional criticism of Colombia's poor human rights record. It is unclear whether Colombia will still pursue the FMS buy after the announcement of the aid package.