of Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont)
Senator Patrick Leahy
(Feb. 24) STATEMENT OF SENATOR
PATRICK LEAHY, FOREIGN OPERATIONS SUBCOMMITTEE HEARING, SUPPLEMENTAL AID
February 24, 2000
Every six or eight years,
the administration that occupies the White House at the time proposes
to dramatically increase military aid to fight drugs in South America.
Each time, the Congress is
presented with wildly optimistic predictions, but few facts with which
to make informed decisions. Each time, we respond by appropriating billions
of dollars, but the flow of illegal drugs into the United States is unchanged.
I recognize the great challenges
facing Colombia today. There is no dispute that a 40 year civil war and
the violence and corruption associated with the drug trade have inflicted
a terrible toll on that country.
I agree with the Administration,
and many in Congress, that the United States should try to help.
But I have serious doubts
about the Administration's approach. Today's prediction is that by building
up the Colombian Army and eradicating more coca, the guerrillas' source
of income will dry up, and they will negotiate peace.
It is just as likely that
it will lead to a wider war, more innocent people killed, more refugees
uprooted from their homes, and no appreciable change in the flow of cocaine
into the United States.
The Administration has requested
$1.6 billion over two years, 79 percent of which is for the Colombian
Armed Forces, an institution that has a sordid record of human rights
violations, corruption, and involvement in drug trafficking.
Today, while the Army's direct
involvement in human rights violations has fallen sharply, there is abundant
evidence that Army personnel regularly conspire with paramilitary death
squads, who like the guerrillas are also involved in drug trafficking.
I cannot support this military
aid without strict conditions to ensure that military personnel who violate
human rights or who aid or abet the paramilitaries are prosecuted in the
civilian courts. The Colombian military courts have shown time and again
that they are unwilling to punish their own.
The Administration's proposal
is for two years, yet it will be that long before most of the equipment
even gets to Colombia and their people are trained to use it.
The Colombian Government cannot
possibly afford to maintain this equipment, most of which is sophisticated
aircraft, so this is a down-payment on a far longer, far more costly commitment.
Like every previous administration,
this proposal contains only the vaguest justification.
Nothing in the materials I
have seen describes the Administration's goals with any specificity, what
they expect to achieve in what period of time, at what cost, and what
the risks are to civilians caught in the middle when the war intensifies,
or to our own military advisors.
Maybe General Wilhelm and
Ambassador Pickering, two men I admire greatly, can give us the details.
As of March 13, 2000, this
document is also available at http://www.senate.gov/~leahy/releases/0002/0224_0633.html