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Last Updated:6/19/02
Speech by Rep. Jose Serrano (R-New York), May 23, 2002

Mr. SERRANO. Mr. Chairman, let me first comment on the gentleman's comments, the last speaker. We have spent close to $1.5 billion in fighting drugs, and coca production is up by over 25 percent. Even in what we are supposed to be doing, we are not succeeding the way we should.

Secondly, I would like to and I am not being sarcastic here, I would like to commend those in the administration who have decided now that every time we are going to get involved somewhere it is to fight terrorism. And so how can you argue against fighting terrorism?

Well, Colombia is not about terrorism. Terrorism is my city. I understand it was the people who attacked the Twin Towers, who attacked the Pentagon, and they wanted to attack the White House. Yes, there are terrorists groups throughout the Nation, throughout the world.

We participate wholeheartedly behind President Bush and this Congress and the Senate in fighting that war. But this is a civil war. It has been going on for over 35 years. And history should tell us that every time we get involved in a civil war, we come out in a very bad situation.

I was thinking as I was listening to the speakers prior to me that there must have been folks, historical figures in this House, who sat here and debated this right before we escalated our involvement in Vietnam. And at that time they were probably questioned too, after all, were they unpatriotic in their desire not to fight Communism at that point, the same way some of us may not be patriotic in our desire not to fight terrorism? But Colombia, I repeat, is a civil war.

With all due respect to the people in Colombia who are the victims of this war, it is very hard on any given day of the week to determine who the good guys are and who the bad guys are in Colombia. No one can stand here and tell us that Colombia's governmental history has been one of stellar behavior. No one can tell us that the FARC is an organization that is respected by anyone. No one can tell us that the right wing paramilitaries are respected by anyone. No one fighting that war at one time or another is respected by anyone because it is very hard to determine who the good guys are and who the bad guys are.

And I suggest to you that to go in as we do in the change of language in this bill, and take sides, is the most dangerous thing we can do at this point.

Let me also make another comment. For many years now the left in Latin America has been pretty dormant. My friends, the sight of American troops in uniform on Latin American soil, as we will surely have as we escalate, would

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only invite a backlash of anti-American sentiment that we do not need at this point. What we need above all is to continue to help in the peace process of Colombia.
The gentleman from Missouri (Mr. Skelton) said it best, and I know it upsets some people, this is a Gulf of Tonkin resolution that we are voting on today. Make no mistake about it. We are moving towards a dangerous situation here, and we will not know how to get out of it.

Some people have said that I exaggerate when I say that, when I say Colombia could be a Spanish-speaking Vietnam for us; and that is the difference, the language we will have to learn to be able to stay there for 5, 10, 15 years. But when you have had a situation going on for that long and you cannot get people to agree on anything, how do you determine that we know how to handle this? How do you determine that we are the ones who will solve that problem?

What we should be doing is, one, making sure that we try to force the peace process to continue to take place somehow, somewhere for the Colombian people; and, secondly, that we stay away from any involvement.

Now, I know that some people on this floor are going to try to tie this in to other issues in Latin America. It is a natural for us. Let me just say that there is no involvement here by any other government. This is a civil war. In fact, the Pastrana government has said that he has received help from many other places, including the Cuban Government, on trying to bring about the peace process. And so no one is in favor of continuing this situation in Colombia.

Now, one last thing that we need to also remember. We Americans, I, myself included, refuse every so often to understand that if we use drugs at the alarming rate that we continue to use, someone will always grow it for us, someone will always produce it. So rather than to stand here and bash the Colombian society for what is a major problem and then try to solve that problem by getting involved militarily, that is a mistake.

A couple of years ago I said that we would be back here to expand. I hope I am wrong, but we will be here again to expand. I support this amendment. We should get out right now.

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