The Miami Herald from Miami, Florida on February 27, 1998 · 206
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The Miami Herald from Miami, Florida · 206

Miami, Florida
Issue Date:
Friday, February 27, 1998
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-22A THE HERALD FRIDAY FEBRUARY 27 1998 BRO Samper hails US action on Colombia Waiver recognizes anti-drug efforts By CHRISTOPHER MARQUIS And TIM JOHNSON Herald Staff Writers BOGOTA Colombia — Voicing satisfaction that Colombia is finally out of the US doghouse President Ernesto Samper said “justice has been done” with the US decision Thursday to upgrade his nation as a worthy ally in the drug war “Never has any country in the world done so much in so little time in the all-out war against the dark forces of the drug trade” Samper said In an annual rating of counter-narcotics THE AMERICAS efforts by other countries the White House gave conditional endorsement of Colombia for its anti-drug efforts after two years of threatening economic sanctions and declaring that Samper was virtually in the pocket of drug traffickers “Justice has been done to the lonely and not always well understood fight that we Colombians have been waging” Samper said Business leaders politicians and law enforcement officers voiced relief that Washington had certified Colombia for its anti-drug efforts through a national interest waiver “This removes a cloud over Colombia” said Miguel Gomez head of the Colombian Flower Growers Association “It gives us reason to keep on fighting against drug trafficking because the job isn’t done” “The country should feel content” said National Police Chief Rosso Jose Serrano who noted that 45 police officers were killed and 78 wounded last year by drug traffickers Not a change of heart In a Washington news conference Secretary of State Madeleine Albright stressed that the move to grant Colombia a national interest waiver is intended to recognize the efforts of Colombian police and to pave the way for better relations with Colombia’s next administration Presidential elections are slated for May 31 and Samper leaves office in early August Officials said it did not indicate a change of heart toward Samper whom the United States accuses of receiving $6 million in campaign funds in 1994 from narcotics traffickers “The current government has not demonstrated full political support for counternarcotics efforts” Albright said “Coming on the eve of that country’s congressional and presidential elections the waiver decision is intended to lay the groundwork for increased future cooperation and to support those in Colombia who are striving to strengthen the rule of law and buttress their embattled democracy” Except for Paraguay every other nation of the region received the president’s full endorsement Grandfather Clock TRUCKLOAD SALE Fri-Sat-Sun Feb 27-28 & Mar 1 from 10-8pm HOWARD JOHNSON £ NW 36 Street at the Palmetto Expressway Miami t Phone (305) 592-5440 40 TO 60 OFF For Example: Reg $1000 Nut Shown PARK PLACE ONLY 495 I I Free delivery-Free Set Up “ Solid wood handmade Grandfather clocks from Canada Uy Heirloom since 1690 fine German Ctocfcwoftt The Colonial Armoire is Handcrafted Of Solid Pine With Antiqued Iron Hardware We Have The Largest Selection Of Mexican Colonial Furniture At The Lowest Prices! DESIGN CLASSIC IMPORTED FURNITURE CORAL GABLES SUNILAND SHOPPING CENTER 480 BILTMORE WAY 1 1 333 S DIXIE HWY 1 445-1421 235-8022 ( The State Department made public on Thursday its evaluations of 30 countries’ anti-narcotics cooperation with the United States: Certified as fully cooperating: Aruba Bahamas Belize Bolivia Brazil China Dominican Republic Ecuador Guatemala Haiti Hong Kong India Jamaica Laos Malaysia Mexico Panama Peru Taiwan Thailand Venezuela and Vietnam Decertified but not subject to sanctions: Cambodia Colombia Pakistan and Paraguay Decertified and subject to sanctions: Afghanistan Burma Iran and Nigeria Associated Press that it was cooperating in good faith with the United States Paraguay which had been certified last year received a national interest waiver amid US complaints it failed to take action against traffickers or make significant seizures particularly in the area bordering Argentina and Brazil Satisfied with waiver Congressional Republicans voiced satisfaction with the waiver for Colombia saying it will bolster their efforts to ensure that US weapons and ammunition flow to Colombian security forces without facing onerous restrictions mandated by a decertification verdict Rep Benjamin Gilman chairman of the House International Relations Committee said the administration’s insistence on decertifying Colombia for the past two years has undercut anti-narcotics efforts there and jeopardized US interests “The net effect on the ground has been to starve those Colombians dedicated to fighting the drug trade and preserving their democracy from these drug dealers and narco-guerrillas of vital supplies and equipment” Gilman said “The result has been an unmitigated disaster for the forces trying to combat narcotics trafficking” A study released Thursday by the General Accounting Office Congress’ investigative arm indicated that the decertification of Colombia was accompanied by a rise in illicit production and trafficking there and impeded the release of US counternarcotics aid to the Colombian police and military House Speaker Newt Gingrich voiced criticism of the certification process which has drawn fire throughout the region as an affront in which Washington escapes scrutiny while sitting in judgment of others “We ought to establish a certification process for the United States” Gingrich said “It’s not fair for us to pick on Mexico and Colombia I mean where do the drugs get used? There’s no Colombian who’d ship drugs up here for free” Even as criticism of the certification process poured in new evidence of narcotics corruption in high political circles rocked Colombia Comptroller General David Turbay and two former congressmen were arrested for taking Cali Cartel cash Turbay a powerful member of the ruling Liberal Party is the most senior politician arrested in more than a year Upon turning himself in he said he would inform authorities of other political figures who also took cartel payoffs F ' t ’(sa w-"-- Reg $699 For grieving mom brutal imagery Biker’s deathbed statement describes her daughter’s death BILLIG FROM 1A questioned him in a trailer where he lived near Charlottesville Va They came home without the answers they wanted most but pretty sure that Amy was a captive of bikers including Branch on the last day of her life The woman with whom Branch lived apparently knew nothing about the Billig case “Did you tell that detective the truth?” she asked him “Not everything” he answered The police had known about Branch for years suspecting he knew what happened knew him as a close-up witness if not as an active participant Branch never admitted it detective Jack Calvar said but as he lay dying he told the woman that a group of Pagans stopped for Amy that afternoon in Coconut Grove on a Main Highway comer where she was trying to hitch a ride “I lied to the cops I know what happened to that girl” Branch told the woman Susan Billig believes she truthfully repeated the story So do the police “He said this girl went to a party with a girl named Nancy in the Pagans’ club house” the detective said “While she was at the party she took drugs and got real messed up She got sassy with one of the bikers and it p— - him off They decided to pull a train” Pulling a train is slang for a gang rape Finally overdosed “She fought back so they kept injecting her with drugs and she finally overdosed and died They took her body to the swamps” The first detective to lead the investigation of Amy Billig’s disappearance suspected something like that had happened to her The mmmm V fit f - " ‘ - V I ERICSSON DF-388 t I i h ' f ‘V Kit I IT I j btitfiwn J U Requited IWNOtKX' ‘Offer opplxn to now BellSouth Mobility digital customers only Cuniei requites minimum I -yew octivnfion for which servire charges will appear on monthly bilk Without earlier service or on nnnquulilyiiig service plans odd '300 to the price of phone Credit approval and possible cinciet credit deposit will be required ol time of purchase Offer excludes analog and PCS phonos tailor ID not ye! ovnlnUe in nil mf'els Coetuin otfior testrichcins may opply See store foe details ©1998 Best Buy Co't T ts -’-f : 1 : : x r ’ if-'i:- "Hr Herald File 1996 ! WRESTLING WITH UNKNOWN: i Susan Billig Amy’s mother 6 latest detective Calvar thought so too Paul Branch’s involvement dates from 1975 when he made a phone call to Susan Billig whose urgent search for her daughter was widely publicized “I saw a picture of your daughter in the paper” Branch said “That girl lived with me She was my girlfriend I bought her from a biker in Orlando” i Branch told Billig that he was arrested later and left the girl and his motorcycle with his roommate When he got out of jail they were gone And another biker who saw a picture of Amy identified her as Branch’s girlfriend There was no other proof and the police now think it was a lie but the story seemed plausible at the time Motorcycle gangs were notorious for that kind of behavior Something else gave Branch ’ x 5 r i S Digital (di - j3 - background noise while advanced features such DII-318 Free Activation! With purchase of these digital phones at Best Buy Authorized Agent ol ® BELLSOUTH Mobility Count On It g-l f credibility: “He described her to a T including an appendicitis scar that nobody knew about at the time” Calvar said When he and co-detective Carlos Avila visited Branch in 1996 he told them essentially the same story he originally gave Susan Billig They don’t believe that Branch lived with Amy but they believe he took a close intimate look that day in 1975 Long recollection “It’s not like you’re going to remember the same story from 20 years ago Carlos and I thought he was telling the truth” Calvar said What about the deathbed story he told after the detectives went away? The detectives are not convinced but they are inclined to think it was true “When somebody pretty much knows he’s going to die he pretty much comes clean He won’t make up something when he could have just let it lie” Calvar said If dying liars tell the truth why did Branch say one thing to Calvar and another to the woman? “Because I’m the cops” the detective said “But what reason would he have to lie to her?” Believing the story is one thing It’s another to confirm it with something more believable than the statements of people who are hard to believe With nothing but that it will be hard to justify arresting anyone Harder still to win a conviction if it comes to that Calvar and Avila are looking for better evidence They don’t know if any exists They got another lead from Branch’s deathbed talk as reported by the woman after the detectives left Charlottesville: “Why the hell do they keep bothering me?” Branch griped “Why don’t they talk to another t9l) adj Digital cellular improves clarity by minimizing offering enhanced security and longer battery life Optional as paging voicemail and caller ID available gang member in New Jersey?” Interviewed convict The man he meant is in a Virginia prison and a jailbird continuously since May 1974 — two months after Amy Billig disappeared The city detectives went to see the convict this week They came back Wednesday night without the corroboration they needed but not empty-handed Detective Calvar said the man whose name he won’t tell claimed he had been in South Florida but left in 1973 and was in Virginia when Amy Billig was abducted in Miami Calvar said his story if true should be easy to verify “He promised to help me” Calvar said “He gave me some names of people down here that I was not aware of” Making an arrest and winning a conviction are secondary he said The detectives’ primary goal is to help Susan Billig come to terms with the crime after 24 years of probably false hope that Amy is somehow somewhere still alive No investigator who ever touched this case has failed to feel the mother’s pain She is ready to let go of her dreams but can’t A part of her requires confirmation of Paul Branch’s deathbed story of Amy’s awful death “I don’t want closure” she said “Closure means I’m never going to see her again All these years I thought she was alive and I’d see her again People said I’m obsessed Yes I’m obsessed Maybe I was making myself feel all those leads were good because I wanted to believe Amy was alive “It’s a very difficult thing for me to believe right now I haven’t been able to cry I haven’t been able to sleep” I I

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