of Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Illinois), hearing of the House Western Hemisphere
Subcommittee, April 11, 2002
Subcommittee on the
Hearing on U.S. Policy
April 11, 2002
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 Qaeda 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 Qaeda network.
Al Qaeda 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
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. Colombias
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 societyespecially those
institutions that provide for the common defense and administer justicemust
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 Presidents 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 Colombias 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