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May 23, 2001

Miss Colombia Andrea Noceti Confronts Dave, Who Apologizes

Narco News 2001

Letterman Provokes

L-Word in Colombia

By Al Giordano

A spectacular insult led to an internationally televised confrontation and an apology from CBS Late Night host David Letterman to Miss Colombia and her country.

Earlier this month, joking about the recent Miss Universe Pageant, Letterman touched off a storm of controversy in Colombia that drew daily cries of outrage in the Colombian media. Letterman quipped, ``I don't know if you've seen a beauty pageant lately, but you know what's really gotten very impressive? The talent competition... Miss Colombia -- and this was hard to beat -- swallowed 50 balloons full of heroin.''

Andrea Noceti, the 23-year-old standard-bearer of Colombia in the recent Miss Universe Pageant, then traveled to New York - after the Colombian consulate complained to CBS about the crack - and confronted Letterman.

"You hurt our feelings," Nocenti told the TV host in front of 4 million nightly viewers.

"I'm terribly sorry," replied Letterman.

"We have this stigmatized image of Colombia with drugs and I think it's not fair for us," replied Noceti, in fluent English, representing the hemisphere's second-oldest democracy of more than 40 million citizens.

The controversy might have remained in the realm of spectacle. But Colombian newspaper columnist Rodrigo Pardo, of the top national daily El Tiempo, last week put it all in perspective:

"If not for the seriousness and drama that that the facts mean for the Colombian people," wrote Pardo, "the most recent revelations about the commerce of cocaine - and illicit drugs in general - could be considered elements of a comedy sketch: an absurd comedy."

Statistics, cited by Pardo - "taken from a French satellite contracted by the Colombian government in order to have a trustworthy source" - showed that the rise in coca plant production directly corresponded to the rise in aerial herbicide spraying in Colombia: 143,000 acres sprayed with herbicides provoked 145,000 acres of cocaine cultivation. To Pardo, there is a "direct relation between fumigation of cocaine and the size of the area where it is planted."

This reality, said Pardo, "has fomented an evident skepticism toward the policy that Colombia has maintained. And the specter of legalization seduces more influential sectors every day."

Former President Alfonso Lopez Michelson (1974-78), noted Pardo, proposed legalization of drugs in his recent book-length interview with author Enrique Santos Calderon. "Alternatives must be sought. Which ones?" asked Pardo. "Decriminalization? Legalization?"

And the columnist cast an eye toward the United States:

"While the statistics weaken the Colombian consensus in favor of a hard-line policy, the tendency in the United States goes exactly in the opposite direction. The Supreme Court just declared the laws of eight states that permit the use of marijuana for medical purposes to be unconstitutional. These laws were also passed by popular referenda. The vision of the maximum court toward marijuana in this ultra-conservative atmosphere that stems from the White House of George W. Bush demonstrates that for many years to come there will not be the environment to propose a different policy then that which is being pursued. It is the strategy of 'the great failure.'"

"Colombia continues to suffer the worst part of this multi-lateral flagellation. The guerrilla and the paramilitaries have grown out of control thanks to drug money. And there are reports that the consumption of drugs has become a grave problem. For example, the report in Semana magazine that ecstasy has become popular in the high classes of Bogota. It's no surprise, then, that the abusive jokes by Letterman against one of the few sources of positive image that remains for us was popular."

The second oldest democracy in our América, under attack by land, sea and airwaves, continues - unreported by the U.S. press - inching toward the will to defy U.S.-imposed drug policy.

The second shall be first.

And that's no joke.

And Read Up on Legalized Bribery in Washington...

List of U.S. Companies that

Profit from Plan Colombia

Including Colombia's Registered Foreign Lobbyists...

Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld, LLP

Now More Than Ever:

Drug War on Trial

The Second Shall Be First