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Last Updated:5/3/02
Relevant excerpts, questioning of Secretary of State Colin Powell, Senate Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee hearing, April 24, 2002
SEC. POWELL: Mr. Chairman, we are requesting $731 million in 2003 for the multi-year counter-drug initiative in Colombia and other Andean countries that are the source of the cocaine sold on America's streets. This assistance to Andean governments will support drug eradication, interdiction, economic development, and development of government institutions. In addition, the Colombians will be able to stand up a second counter-drug brigade. Assisting efforts to destroy local coca crops and processing labs there increases the effectiveness of U.S. law enforcement here.
In addition to this counter-drug effort, Mr. Chairman, we are requesting $98 million in FMF to help the Colombian government protect the vital CLC oil pipeline from the same foreign terrorist organizations that are involved in illicit drugs, the FARC and the ELN. Their attacks on that pipeline shut it down 240 days in 2001, costing Colombia revenue and disrupting its economy and causing serious environmental damage. This money will help train and equip the Colombian armed forces to protect the pipeline.

These funds begin to apply the president's decision to shift from a strictly counter-drug effort to a more broadly based effort targeted at helping Colombia fight the terrorists in its midst as well as the drugs.

SEN. REED: Thank you, Mr. Secretary.

Mr. Secretary, turning to Colombia, we recognize there the situation is deteriorating. This peace march over the last weekend was organized by a professor at the University of Rhode Island, Bernard Lafayette (sp), who was temporarily detained, there's a governor of the province that's detained, there's a presidential candidate detained. All of this is asking us and forcing us to reconsider restrictions that we've placed on the use of American equipment and the number of American personnel. But I think we would be ill-advised to open it up carte blanche. Are you going to propose changes and new conditions that might be employed to accompany our military equipment?

SEC. POWELL: I'm not -- no, sir, and I don't know that we have any need for new conditions or anything that would restrict our ability to conduct our programs the way we have been conducting them. Senator Leahy made a point in his opening statement with respect to human rights and other issues, and we will continue to apply those requirements of the law that the senator and you, sir, are so familiar with on human rights abuses and everything that's been directed in previous bills and legislation, we will continue to comply with them; we're not trying to get out of them.

SEN. REED: As I understand, the American equipment can be used only for the counter-narcotics battalions, is that correct?

SEC. POWELL: American equipment was provided to the counter- narcotics battalion because of the end of the safe havens program. We are looking for flexibility with respect to how that equipment and how these units can be used and how our support can be used since the merger between narcotrafficking and insurgency activity is becoming blurred. But we are not looking for any means by which or any opportunity to send U.S. troops into active combat in any way.

SEN. REED: I understand that. But the template that we've used to define the use of this equipment and the use of American trainers has been restricted to the counter-narcotics battalion. You have indicated that you're exploring a different --

SEC. POWELL: We are -- we are requesting in the supplemental, I think is the vehicle we're now using, to open up, to remove some of the barriers that exist between what we can do for narcotrafficking and what we think we now need to be able to do to fight the insurgency.

SEN. SPECTER: Okay. On the subject of $731 million for the Andean counter-drug initiative, this is something that we've all been working on for a long, long time. And from what I've seen, when there are change of crops in Colombia, they move to Bolivia, or they move to Peru. And we brought out the military, and we have never had any real success in cutting back on the importation of drugs. And my thought has been that we ought to be upping the proportion -- now it's about two-thirds on so-called supply, one-third on so-called demand; it's about 63-37 percent -- that we could do more with those dollars on education and rehabilitation.

And that comes in the context of an effort to utilize Cuba's willingness to have us cooperate with them on their air lanes and their sea lanes. I've introduced a couple of amendments, which have come through this subcommittee, and they have been either eliminated or watered down very much in the House because of the very strong anti-Castro political sentiment. And without doing -- getting involved in that imbroglio, it seems to me that when he makes an offer -- and he did it directly to a group that I was with -- that we can use their sea lanes and their air lanes to interdict drugs, that we ought to be taking him up on it.

SEC. POWELL: Well, Senator Specter, on the demand side, I couldn't agree with you more that that's the ultimate solution to the problem -- educating youngsters in America and not-so-youngsters in America to stop using drugs and to recognize the destructive nature of this habit both for their own lives and for our society, and the destructive effect it has on other societies, Colombian society and others.

The Andean initiative was designed to be a comprehensive solution, not just in Colombia but in the other nations as well, so that we didn't just push the problem from one jungle to another jungle.

With respect to the Cuban offer, I, frankly, haven't examined it, and I -- but I haven't studied your amendment, I regret to say, and I'll be glad to take a look at it. But as you know, there are very -- you know, Castro seldom just hands you something that you want to pick up at first glance.

SEN. LEAHY: Mr. Secretary, we were talking about Colombia earlier. I happen to agree -- from my own conversations on occasions with Fidel Castro and our own debate where I've been very critical of some actions of his, approving of others -- that we should be working with him on drug interdiction questions. Some of our people that we support the most have not been anywhere near as helpful.

But let's talk about Colombia. I'm not quite sure I understand the goals. I know we've spent about $2 billion in a tiny country so far, and I want to know what our objectives are. Is it to defeat the FARC? And certainly they've been -- I spoke about the terrorism of car bombings and everything else before, never against civilians, never justifiable. Certainly they'd fit in that same category.

Or is it to defeat the paramilitaries, who have been involved in some egregious human rights violations and rarely called to task for it? Or is it to stop cocaine coming to the U.S.? I mean, what's our final objective? And how do we measure success, especially as the Colombians have not kicked in the amount of money they've agreed to?

SEC. POWELL: I think our objective is to support Colombian democracy by helping Colombia deal with the threats to that democracy. That threat comes in several forms, one the FARC and the ELN, terrorist organizations that we have so designated; secondly, the growing of drug crops that contaminate the society, leads to a criminal culture and class, thereby threatening their democracy, and hurts America by providing drugs to drug users in our country. And so I think that we have an obligation to help Colombia preserve its democracy by going after narcotraffickers and increasingly going after those -- helping Colombia go after those insurgent organizations that threaten the viability of Colombian democracy, and --

SEN. LEAHY: But --

SEC. POWELL: -- supporting Colombian government, especially since President Pastrana decided that he could not continue with this effort at negotiating with these terrorist organizations.

SEN. LEAHY: I have enormous respect for President Pastrana, and he is very well-represented here in Washington with his very able ambassador. But I also agree with our very able secretary of State, who says in his prepared statement here this morning, "No amount of additional assistance will be sufficient to turn the tide unless Colombia dedicates more of its own resources to this task and commits decisively to a policy of establishing state authority and effective security for its people."

Well, they haven't met their financial commitments under Plan Colombia. There's about to be a presidential election. We don't know who's going to be president, although we may have an idea. We don't know what they are going to commit. Why should we be pouring more money down there if we have goals that tend to be highlighted depending upon what the latest thing was that's happened there, and without knowing if they're ever going to pick up their part? We have -- we've talked about the need for money for AIDS, for infectious diseases, there will be a request, I understand, for additional money for Israel by some amendment, and yet we have more money for Colombia. I mean, would this be better to wait until after the elections in Colombia?

SEC. POWELL: No, I think we should not wait till after the election. I can assure you, though, that after the election, we will be pressing the new leadership to make a more serious commitment of financial resources of the Colombian people and government to this effort. And I can't predict who the new president will be, but just watching the campaigns develop, it seems to me that we're probably going to have a more aggressive leadership in power in Colombia that might be more receptive to the view you expressed and the view we'll be expressing.

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