of Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Illinois), Hearing of House Government Reform
Committee, December 12, 2002
of the Honorable Jan Schakowsky
Government Reform Hearing on
Americas Heroin Crisis, Colombian Heroin, and How We Can Improve
December 12, 2002
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I appreciate your making time in the last month
of your tenure as head of this Committee to focus attention on the growing
Heroin crisis in America, as well as our countrys severely flawed
policy in Colombia. The Heroin crisis in America does need urgent attention.
This problem is unlike other substance abuse cases. Heroin is more addictive,
more lethal in small doses, and at times easier to obtain by teenagers
than any other form of intoxicant. I welcome our law enforcement witnesses
and look forward to hearing their views on how we can best address this
However, as will
be clearly evident during todays hearing, there is not agreement
among members on how the Heroin problem in America can be best addressed.
I strongly oppose much of the policies put into place by Plan Colombia
and the Andean Region Initiative because they have been too heavily weighted
toward a supply-side reduction, a strategy that has not decreased substance
abuse in the United States. The policy so far has largely disregarded
concerns about several important issues including: human rights abuses
committed by corrupt forces within the Colombian military; the plight
of Colombias internally displaced population; alternative development;
human and environmental health concerns related to the campaign of aerial
fumigation of cocaa campaign that has failed to achieve its goals;
corruption within Colombia; mismanagement of U.S. taxpayer dollars; and
failure by our embassy and State Department officials to enforce U.S.
law, and a failure of the Colombian Governmentits Attorney General
in particularto pursue cases against known human rights offenders.
New concerns have
been raised by many human rights advocates and members of Congress about
the changing nature of our mission in Colombia. Congress this year authorized
funds previously appropriated for counter-narcotics operations in Colombia
to be used for counter-insurgency. The Administration has a plan to provide
to Colombia and to Occidental petroleum, for starters, over $100 million
from U.S. taxpayers to protect a portion of the Cano-Limon oil pipeline.
I oppose our mission shift in Colombia and I oppose the Administrations
pipeline protection program. This mission shift will put U.S. personnel
directly into Colombias decades-old civil war. The pipeline program
is a giveaway from the U.S. government to an incredibly wealthy corporation
and we have no guarantee of a return on our investment, not even a deal
for a discount on Occidental oil.
I want to move on
and discuss what I believe to be the best way we can improve our Colombia
policy, and that is to uphold U.S. principles and laws. And I want to
use an example to underscore the failure of our officials posted in Colombia
to demonstrate leadership on this subject.
On December 13, 1998,
in the Colombian village called Santo Domingo seventeen civilians, including
six children, were killed when Colombian military helicopters, provided
to Colombia by the U.S., dropped, what the FBI later certified was U.S.-made
bombs on the community. This appeared to many of us, including Senator
Leahy, to be a clear violation of the Leahy law, which requires that U.S.
aid be cut off to Colombian military units credibly alleged to have
committed gross violations of human rights, until perpetrators are
brought to justice.
While some actions
were taken, investigations were opened and closed and reopened, the United
States failed to show a commitment to the law over the course of this
case. Meanwhile, troubling information came out in the testimony of witnesses
and in the press. Colombian personnel directly involved in the operation
over Santo Domingo have testified that they were given the coordinates
to drop the bombs on Santo Domingo by a U.S. contractor called Air Scan.
Air Scan was under contract to provide security to Occidental oil.
Over two years after
the bombing and almost two years ago, I met with U.S. Ambassador to Colombia
Anne Patterson. I raised the case of Santo Domingo. Ambassador Patterson
urged me to be patient. She acknowledged that she was on thin ice
on this one and that very soon she hoped there would be major progress
on the case. That was in February of 2001. Ambassador Patterson waited
1 year and 9 months from then and almost four years from the time of the
attack on Santo Domingo to recommend to the State Department that the
Leahy law be invoked and aid to the Colombian Air Force unit implicated
in the case be suspended. We still do not know the response of the recommendation.
Granted, even if she wanted to do so sooner, she may have been prevented
from taking action because of the Bush Administrations disinterest
in this case.
I challenge any member
and any representative of the State Department to say that this is an
example of leadership and a commitment to human rights and upholding U.S.
laws. We are rewarding an oil company that hired a contractor to work
with a corrupt military by providing that same company with over $100
million in security aid. And, according to the Secretary of State, we
are rewarding the military involved in this case, and countless other
massacres of innocent civilians, with additional U.S. aid.
This case is an embarrassing
and shameful blemish on the United States. To me it symbolizes all that
is wrong with our policy and our priorities in Colombia. It is too bad
that Ambassador Patterson, for whom I have a great deal of respect, is
not here to answer questions on this important case.
Mr. Chairman, these
are just some of the important issues todays hearing should be considering.
I intend to use my time for questions on these issues. I welcome our witnesses
and I look forward to their testimony.
As of January 8,
2003, this document was also available online at http://www.house.gov/apps/list/press/il09_schakowsky/pr12_12_2002colombia.html