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Last Updated:6/19/02
Speech by Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama), June 6, 2002

Mr. SESSIONS. Mr. President, I will be very brief. This is a very important matter. Colombia is a longtime ally of the United States. It is the second oldest democracy in the Western Hemisphere. Its former President, President Pastrana--a wonderful person--worked exceedingly hard to try to build a peace process that would work. After everything he tried, he could not make that occur.
The new President has been elected. President Pastrana--before he left office--admitted that they had to fight to preserve their democracy. Democracies frequently have to do that.

We have a $9.5 billion trading relationship with Colombia. It is an important ally, an important democracy. It is key to South America. We must do what we can to assist them as they now wage a life-and-death struggle to preserve their democracy and their economy.

Mr. President, just 10 days ago the people of Colombia overwhelmingly expressed their desire to fight the scourges of terrorism and narcotics trafficking, that have killed tens of thousands of their countrymen over the past forty years, by electing Alvaro Uribe as their new President. President-elect Uribe has stated that he intends to double the size of the Colombian Army and the Colombian National Police and to call up thousands of reservists to fight the terrorists. This is exactly what the United States has been asking the Colombians to do for many years now.

Included as part of this Supplemental request is proposed legislation that would remove the ``counter-narcotics only'' restriction on the use of helicopters and other military equipment and assistance that the United States provides to Colombia.

The pending Amendment provides authority to the Department of Defense, as well as the Department of State, to provide assistance to the government of Colombia as they fight their war against terrorism.

The Department of State has designated the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia--FARC--the National Liberation Army of Colombia--ELN--and the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia--AUC--as foreign terrorist organizations and has specifically identified the FARC as ``the most dangerous international terrorist group based in the Western Hemisphere.'' On March 18, 2002, Attorney General John Ashcroft announced the indictment of three leaders of FARC with conspiracy to import cocaine into the United States and to manufacture and distribute cocaine in Colombia with the intent of exporting it to the United States. To all of these actions I say ``Amen''.

Transnational terrorism is a threat to freedom throughout the world. Many of these groups have been working together for years to share the lessons of terror and mayhem. They have searched for new sources of income and have become inextricably involved with transnational criminal syndicates who traffic in weapons and drugs and provide resources for extortion and money laundering.

This is a global phenomenon and must be fought on a global scale. One country that has been fighting this war against terrorism for the past few decades is Colombia. Colombia is one of our closest Allies and we must come to her aid. They need our help in terms of intelligence sharing, equipment and training.

Why should the United States help Colombia? The answer to this lies not only in the fact that it is the source for prodigious quantities of cocaine, heroin, and marijuana, but Colombia is the second oldest democracy in the Western Hemisphere, next to our great country. Colombia is a friend and ally of the United States who has been fighting for its very survival against a variety of threats, ranging from drug cartels, terrorist organizations and Marxist insurgents for over forty years. It is a nation of 40 million people and is a source of significant trade with the US. The United States is Colombia's principal trading partner with over $9.5 billion in annual trade between our two nations. When we help Colombia secure its own territory from the threat of overthrow from the Marxist narco-terrorists, we will also help stabilize the neighboring countries in the Andean region from spillover effects of the drug trade and insurgency.

There are more acts of terrorism committed in Colombia every day than in all the other countries of the world combined. And make no mistake about it, the forces that are acting to overthrow the democratically elected government of Colombia are terrorists. While their organizations did have their genesis as a ``people's revolution'' with Marxist ties they are now no more than terrorists. General Fernando Tapias, Commander of the Colombian Armed Forces, stated recently that while the Army in the 1960s and 1970s used to find the writings of Marx and Lenin in the documents captured during raids on FARC hideouts now all they find are receipts and documentation of the smuggling of drugs, pre-cursor chemicals used to process cocaine and weapons shipments.

The FARC, ELN and AUC get the vast majority of their funding from narcotics trafficking. All three of these groups also obtains large amounts of money from the terrorist tactics of kidnapping and extortion. FARC has extensive ties with international terrorist and criminal organizations. Right now there are three members of the Irish Republican Army in the custody of the government of Colombia after they were arrested for providing training to the FARC on bombmaking and other terrorist tactics.

Colombian President Andres Pastrana was elected in 1998 on a platform that called for making peace with the Marxist guerrillas that have operated in his country since the 1960s. He has engaged in negotiations with the FARC and the ELN since before he took office. In fact, President Pastrana, in an act of good faith, gave total control of a piece of central Colombia the size of Switzerland, which was supposed to remain demilitarized, to the FARC as an enticement for continuing negotiations. In the four years since President Pastrana opened negotiations the FARC has continued to engage in narcotics trafficking and terrorist activities. In fact, in the past few months they have engaged in countless terrorist attacks throughout the country that have killed hundreds of people. The FARC is responsible for the kidnapping of Colombian presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt, who they still hold hostage. They tortured and murdered Colombian Senator Martha Daniels who was attempting to negotiate the release of two kidnapping victims. And just a few months ago, they attempted to assassinate President-elect Alvaro Uribe with a car bomb that killed three civilian bystanders. In the face of these acts of terrorism, President Pastrana declared an end to peace negotiations and reclaimed the demilitarized zone that he ceded to the FARC. When the Colombian Armed Forces re-captured this territory they found that terrorists had been using the territory for all kinds of illegal activity. The Colombian Army found 27 new airstrips that were used for drug and weapons transports, numerous drug laboratories and storage areas for pre-cursor drug processing chemicals, several training bases for terrorist activities that were used by international terrorist organizations, and evidence that 14 new guerrilla units had been established and trained in this ``demilitarized'' zone. This was also the area where the FARC had landed several hijacked aircraft and drastically increased the production of coca. So it is now undoubtedly clear that the FARC is not interested in serious negotiations and does not want peace. They are only interested in maintaining and expanding their narcotics funded terrorist activities.

The United States must do the right thing and support our friends and allies in Colombia. The government of Colombia has categorically stated that they do not want US troops to come and fight their war for them. They are willing and able to destroy this threat to their country and the world. I am glad that the Administration has made the decision to request the removal of the counter-narcotics restrictions on our aid to Colombia. Colombia is looking into the abyss and this threatens the entire Andean region.

Congress needs to pass this legislation so that we can keep up the pressure on terrorists within our own hemisphere and across the globe.

I thank the Senator from Florida for his leadership. I am pleased to join with him and stress this is an exceedingly important matter for us.

I yield the floor.

As of June 19, 2002, this document was also available online at http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/R?r107:FLD001:S55163

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