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MIT Corporation cites Columbian president for leadership in drug crisis

By Mauricio Roman

The MIT Corporation adopted a resolution saluting Colombian President Virgilio Barco '43, for his "courageous leadership of Colombia during a time of formidable challenge." The resolution, unprecedented in its kind, was accepted and passed by acclamation, according to Corporation Chairman David S. Saxon '41.

The Corporation action was announced last week on Wednesday by Saxon and President Paul E. Gray '54. The resolution states that "[the Corporation] is proud of this MIT alumnus, who served with distinction as trustee of his alma mater for a decade." It adds that Barco's "dedication and strength as a national leader bring honor to his native land that he has served for many years with pride and devotion."

Barco, who received an SB in civil engineering from MIT, was a member of the MIT Corporation from 1970 to 1980, Saxon said. "The members of the Corporation feel very proud of him to have become president of his country, and we appreciate his efforts on behalf of MIT as a trustee," Saxon added.

Before becoming president in 1986, Barco had been senator and member of the House of Representatives in Colombia, minister of public works, minister of agriculture, and mayor of Bogota.

Barco has recently received international attention for his declared war on international drug trafficking. After the assassination of a leading presidential candidate in Colombia last August, Barco declared measures that would allow drug traffickers to be summarily extradited to the United States for trial and ordered the military to confiscate the assets of leaders of the drug trade. He held drug users partially responsible for the violence spawned by drug trafficking in Colombia.

"I applaud his stance on the issue of drugs," Saxon said. "It is clear that what he is doing requires more than political courage -- it requires physical courage."

Barco addressed the United Nations General Assembly last month on the issue of drugs. He is meeting with President George Bush and the presidents of Peru and Bolivia to discuss the issue sometime during the next 90 days, The New York Times reported.

Barco is one of the candidates under consideration for commencement speaker next June, according to Class of 1990 President Joseph Babiec Jr.