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Last Updated:6/19/02
Speech by Rep. Cass Ballenger (R-North Carolina), May 23, 2002

Mr. BALLENGER. I thank the gentleman.

First of all, Mr. Chairman, I would like to say that I have been to Colombia many times. I would also like to say that no additional troops to the 400 that we have there at the present time, and it is capped at 400, have been asked for or will be asked for by the Colombian government.

But I rise in opposition to the amendment being offered by the gentleman from Massachusetts which removes the freedom of the Colombian government to use our aid and makes them fight with 2 hands tied behind them. Colombia today is a nation under siege by 3 terrorist organizations. Two of these terrorist organizations, the FARC and ELN, have kidnapped over 50 Americans and murdered at least 10. The third, the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, is a vicious, violent terrorist organization that indiscriminately murders Colombians.

All three of these terrorist groups have been designated by the Secretary of State as foreign terrorist organizations because it has been determined that they are a threat to our Nation's security. Terrorism in Colombia is financed by illegal trafficking in narcotics that kills up to 40,000 of our young people in the United States each year.

The largest terrorist organization in Colombia, the FARC, has in essence declared war on the Colombian people. This group is attacking Colombia's democratic institutions. The FARC is holding a presidential candidate, Colombia legislators, and local elected officials as hostages. They also attack police stations and kill innocent people.

The Colombian government is continuing its efforts to negotiate a peace agreement with ELN, and we should support those efforts. No one has done more than President Andres Pastrana, however, to hold that door open to a negotiated political agreement with the FARC. His perseverance and forbearance have made one thing clear: It is the FARC's willful disregard of the rule of law and human rights that led President Pastrana to make the decision to end the FARC's safe haven and send in Colombia's security forces to reestablish legitimate government.

On March 6, this body passed a bipartisan resolution expressing the sense of the House that ``The President, without undue delay, should transmit to Congress for its consideration proposed legislation, consistent with United States law regarding protection of human rights, to assist the government of Colombia to protect its democracy from United States-designated foreign terrorist organizations and the scourge of illicit narcotics.''

The Bush administration responded to this invitation and included such a proposition, so it is in this bill. The Committee on International Relations and the Committee on Appropriations have both held hearings in which the administration discussed its proposal.

The language that the gentleman from Massachusetts is seeking to strike is itself the product of a bipartisan compromise. We must help the people of Colombia in their darkest hour. Colombia is a democracy and an ally of the United States. It is under attack by terrorist organizations funded by illegal drugs.

Colombia is not asking us to send troops. The democratically-elected government of Colombia is asking that we make it possible for us to help them defend their democracy from these terrorists. The restrictions on the use of aid should be removed.

I urge my colleagues to join me in opposing the amendments being offered by the gentleman from Massachusetts.

As of June 19, 2002, this document was also available online at http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/B?r107:@FIELD(FLD003+h)+@FIELD(DDATE+20020523)

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