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Last Updated:6/19/02
Speech by Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-New York), May 23, 2002

Mr. HINCHEY. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the requisite number of words.

I heard the gentleman from Florida a few moments ago talk about the importance of debate and democracy, and of course, that is very true.

[Time: 19:15]
And of course that is very true. But the essence of democracy is the ability to vote, and we are being deprived of the ability to vote. That is what democracy is all about. Let us have some votes on some of these issues.

I also want to take this opportunity to express my deep respect for the gentleman from Arizona. He is a true humanitarian. I have had an opportunity to observe that firsthand. But the policy that we are arguing about in this bill is contrary to that. We are in the process of getting ourselves into a very deep mess in Colombia. We have already gone too far. But now we are being asked to go even further.

As we learned just a few moments ago from the gentleman from Massachusetts, Colombia's own contribution to its military is limited. It spends less than 2 percent of its gross domestic product on the military, and recruits with high school degrees are exempted from serving in combat. High inequality, gaping urban-rural divisions and government abandonment of poor populations underlie this decades-old conflict in Colombia. U.S. military aid, as we are being asked to provide now, is only going to make this problem worse, reinforcing the inequities that exist in Colombia between the educated and the noneducated, between the poor and the rich.

There is already evidence that the United States aid has not made a dent in the drug war. In fact, things have worsened recently. Coca production rose by 25 percent last year. Killings of civilians rose from 14 per day in 1999 to 20 per day in 2002; 300,000 civilians were forcibly displaced last year. Most recently, on May 2, 117 innocent civilians were killed in the crossfire of the FARC and the United Self-Defense Forces, the AUC. While seeking safety in a church, these people were slaughtered. The Colombian military did nothing to ensure their safety, in spite of numerous calls for help.

According to human rights groups, 85 percent of Colombia's political killings and so-called disappearances and 76 percent of all civilian massacres were committed by the illegal paramilitary groups like the United Self-Defense Forces, which has extensive links with the Colombian military. Despite this, since 1997, 80 percent of U.S. aid to Colombia has been given to the military forces. It makes absolutely no sense to send aid to a military that works with a terrorist group.

If we are really interested in helping Colombia, we should support its civil institutions and effectively implement alternative development programs to support the rural communities which are most adversely affected by the war. We must continue to provide humanitarian aid to internally displaced persons, especially the Afro- Colombian community. We must demand the Colombian military break ties with the paramilitaries.

We must also recognize that our counternarcotics efforts in Colombia have failed to curb domestic drug abuse here in the United States. Instead of aiding and abetting a civil war, we should be spending more money at home on drug treatment and prevention programs to reduce the demand for drugs here in the United States. It is by dealing with the demand side of this problem that we will reach a solution to it. We are never going to reach a solution by focusing all of our attention and energies only on the supply side. Administration after administration has failed in that regard.

Let us not allow U.S. forces to be deployed anywhere in the world under this undefined global war on terrorism. We are being asked over and over again to provide military aid and assistance, to send our troops to places far away, dispersed in the so-called war on terrorism, a war that has not been defined by the administration. We do not know who the enemy is precisely. We do not know who we are fighting. Nevertheless, we are asked to spends billions of dollars on this ill defined, unclear, vague war on terrorism and send our military people out there to do the fighting. It is a serious mistake.

I urge my colleagues to support this McGovern-Skelton amendment before we send more money to known human rights violators and become enmeshed even more deeply in a brutal civil war on the side of the oppressors and against the oppressed.

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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