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Last Updated:4/12/02
Statement of Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Illinois), hearing of the House Western Hemisphere Subcommittee, April 11, 2002
Chairman Henry Hyde

Prepared Statement

Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere

Hearing on U.S. Policy Towards Colombia

April 11, 2002

Chairman Ballenger:

I commend you and the Ranking Democratic Member of the Subcommittee, Mr. Menendez, for holding this important hearing.

We extend a warm welcome to the witnesses from the Bush Administration: our friend Assistant Secretary of State Otto Reich; Assistant Secretary of Defense Peter Rodman; and the acting Commander-in-Chief of the United States Southern Command, Major General Gary Speer. We also welcome and thank the panel of private witnesses for their testimony.

There is a conflagration burning at the footbridge that joins the Andes to the North American Continent. The peril to the American national interest is imminent and clear.

In Afghanistan, we are uprooting the infrastructure that supports the Al Q’aeda terrorist network. Our President has also dispatched our military to Georgia in the Caucasus and to the Philippines in the Pacific to help friendly governments crush elements of the Al Q’aeda network.

Al Q’aeda and its Taliban confederates financed their acts of terror with opium, sowing an additional harvest of death and misery in the civilized world.

The September 11th attack on the United States of America demonstrated that we must look for threats where we least expect them. The foul nexus of the drug underworld and terrorism is a fundamental threat to our security. There are few places in the world where this threat is more patent than in Colombia.

In the midst of chaos, criminal and terrorist networks mix freely, unfettered by morality or the rule of law. Cocaine and heroin are the illegal tender of this criminal and terrorist underworld. Narcotics procure the weapons, explosives, and expertise that terrorists employ in their campaign to attack and destroy civilization.

We must not be blinded by false ideological labels. There is no Left and no Right in Colombia, only competing bands of narco-terrorist criminals. Three hours by plane from Miami, we face a potential breeding ground for international terror that could one day rival Afghanistan. Hizballah and other international terrorists have put down deep roots in the Western Hemisphere. It is folly to think that they would not be attracted to a nation beset by violence, drug trafficking and corruption.

It is, ultimately, the responsibility of Colombians to fight for their country. Colombia’s legitimate security institutions must extend effective sovereignty over their national territory and protect their citizens from narco-terrorists and other criminals. Permitting any group of narco-terrorists, including so-called "paramilitary groups," to fill this vacuum only assures victory for criminality and chaos.

The toll of drug corruption on Colombian society and institutions has been great. Reversing this corruption is possible, but it takes courage. The Colombian National Police undertook reforms that substantially rooted out drug corruption. All legitimate institutions in Colombian society—especially those institutions that provide for the common defense and administer justice—must deepen their commitment to do the same. By the same token, there is no doubt that cutting off our aid to Colombia will only serve to strengthen the grip of the narco-terrorists.

Recently, this Committee passed a bi-partisan resolution recognizing the dire situation in Colombia and calling on the President to send legislative proposals to Congress for an American response.

I intend to move legislation that includes the President’s requests for expanded authority to protect American interests in Colombia. The purpose of this legislation will be to free the Administration to bring the resources at its disposal to bear in support of a democratically-elected government that is an ally of the United States.

Before the illegal drug trade spread throughout the country, Colombia was an imperfect but decent place for its citizens to live. We have a waning opportunity to help Colombia’s beleaguered good citizens recover the country they love and, in doing so, deny a haven to terrorists who seek our destruction.

As of April 12, 2002, this document was also available online at http://www.house.gov/international_relations/hyde0411.htm
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