of Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Delaware)
Biden's Remarks on Clinton Aid Proposal for Andean Region
(Underlines the need for "transparency")
Following is the text of Senator Joseph Biden's (D-Delaware) February 22
remarks at a Senate hearing on the Clinton Administration's assistance proposal
for Andean countries:
Statement of Senator Joseph
R. Biden, Jr.
Hearing on "U.S. Assistance options for the Andes"
February 22, 2000
A decade ago, the Bush Administration
and Congress joined in supporting the "Andean Initiative," a
multi-year effort to combat drug trafficking in Bolivia, Colombia, Peru
and Ecuador. Over the past ten years, the United States has provided considerable
assistance, as well as special market access to certain Andean products
under the Andean Trade Preference Act.
As we start a new decade,
we can look back with satisfaction that our joint efforts with the nations
of the region yielded some success. In Bolivia and Peru, coca cultivation
is much reduced since 1995. In Colombia, the large cartels that once dominated
the trade have been largely dismantled. Colombia has resumed extraditing
criminals to the United States. Countries that a decade ago appeared to
lack the political will to combat drugs are now our partners in this effort.
That's the good news. The
bad news is that the scope of the problem is still much the same. Cocaine
continues to flow out of the region at extremely high levels. Moreover,
the face of the battle in Colombia has changed. There, the cocaine trade
has become "decentralized" -- large cartels have been replaced
by numerous, smaller organizations.
Colombian traffickers have
also moved into a new sector -- the cultivation of opium and the trafficking
of heroin -- and are now major players in the Eastern United States. Finally,
Colombia is now a major center for coca cultivation -- replacing Peru
and Bolivia as the leading suppliers of cocaine base.
In sum, we face a different
set of challenges in the region today than we did a decade ago. To address
the growing crisis in Colombia, President Clinton has put forward an ambitious
proposal designed to support the "Plan Colombia" formulated
by the Colombian government.
I agree that we must significantly
increase our assistance to Colombia -- and do so quickly. I hope Congress
will act promptly on the President's request for an extra one billion
dollars in Fiscal 2000. As Congress considers this proposal, we should
go in with our eyes open -- everyone should understand that we are entering
a new phase in the drug war in the Andes.
The proposal to train and
equip counter-narcotics battalions in the Colombian Army is not without
risk. Because the drug trade and Colombia's civil war are intertwined
in southern Colombia, it seems almost inevitable that these battalions
will occasionally become engaged in counter-insurgency operations. We
should recognize that reality.
But we should guard against
being pulled into Colombia's guerrilla war. I am confident that the U.S.
military does not want to become enmeshed in Colombia's civil war; but
I am not so sure that the Colombian military wouldn't like the United
States to come to its rescue.
We must make clear to the
Colombian government, in our words and our deeds, that although their
fight against narcotics trafficking is our fight, their war against the
guerrillas is their fight to win.
In approving the Administration's
proposal, we should seek transparency -- transparency about the numbers
of U.S. forces present in the country, transparency about the use of our
equipment, and transparency about the activities of the U.S.-funded battalions.
Second, we should remain vigilant
and seek continued improvement of the human rights record of the Colombian
military. In past years, elements of the Colombian Army have been guilty
of serious human rights violations. President Pastrana has made serious
efforts to address this problem, and he appears to be making progress.
But we should demand that institutional tolerance within the military
for atrocities by right-wing paramilitaries must cease.
Third, we should consider
additional measures to help Colombia's neighbors. History tells us that
pressure in one area will cause the traffickers to relocate their operations
-- the so-called "balloon effect." Not only do Bolivia, Ecuador
and Peru deserve our continued assistance, but it is essential if we are
to maintain progress in the drug war.
Fourth, we must be sure that
the economic aspects of this proposal receive sufficient emphasis and
support. If enforcement pressure succeeds, we must be ready with alternatives
for the displaced.
Finally, and perhaps most
important, we should all understand that although the plan before us is
a two year budget, this will be a long-term effort. We should recognize
that it will take more than two years to make significant progress in
turning things around in Colombia.
In closing, I commend the
Administration for stepping forward with this plan. The President and
his people have done a good job in assembling a comprehensive proposal.
I look forward to working with my colleagues and the people before us
today to obtain its approval.
(Distributed by the Office
of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site:
As of March 13, 2000, this
document is also available at http://www.usia.gov/regional/ar/colombia/biden22.htm