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Last Updated:3/3/01
Statement of Rep. Mark Souder (R-Indiana), chairman, Subcommittee on Criminal Justice, Drug Policy and Human Resources, House Committee on Goverment Reform, March 2, 2001
Opening Statement of
Chairman Mark Souder
"Plan Colombia: The Road Ahead"
Subcommittee on Criminal Justice, Drug Policy and Human Resources
House Committee on Government Reform

March 2, 2001 Good morning and thank you all for coming to our first Subcommittee meeting for the 107th Congress. This is the start of an early series of concise hearings on our nation's drug policy in which we hope to examine critical issues of both supply and demand. Today we will begin (or really continue) looking at Plan Colombia, an issue that is not only a key to American and Andean drug strategy, but also a vital national interest and a cornerstone of our strengthening relationships in Latin America.

Plan Colombia is coming to the forefront of the congressional and national agenda. Vice Chairman Gilman, Congressman Mica and I have just returned from a Subcommittee delegation to Colombia and several other Latin American nations. Over the President's Day recess, our Embassy in Bogota also hosted five other congressional delegations, one of which included Congresswoman Schakowsky, who I welcome to our hearing today. Earlier this week, Colombian President Pastrana met with President Bush at the White House. With the increasing attention, we scheduled this hearing to examine the current status of implementation of Plan Colombia and review requirements for continued us support. We will consider other aspects and implications of Plan Colombia in future hearings in this series, including the views of outside groups and experts and specific issues such as human rights, support to law enforcement and alternative development.

We will move quickly to the witness testimony and questioning, but I want to emphasize a couple of points about Plan Colombia. First, it is important to understand that Plan Colombia is fundamentally, as it should be, an initiative of the Colombian Government and the Colombian people. Any lasting or meaningful solution must come from within Colombia, and the Plan is an effort to address a broad spectrum of social, economic and political issues which can not and properly should not be resolved any other way. It is equally apparent, however, that American assistance to and cooperation with the plan is critical to make it work, and that the full support and commitment of the Administration and Congress is essential to protecting our clear and vital national interests within our hemisphere. Our assistance is urgently needed and cannot come in half measures.

Second, and along the same lines, Plan Colombia is not just about Colombia, but is representative of an approach which we hope we can reinforce to spread throughout the entire Andean region, as Secretary of State Powell recently observed. In Bolivia, our delegation witnessed firsthand the remarkable success, which I think has been inadequately reported, that the government has had in virtually eradicating coca growth against tough odds. At the same time, we met with Peruvian officials and learned of the many difficulties their current interim government is facing. And earlier in the year, I met with Ecuadorian officials as well, who are concerned about traffickers moving over the border along the Putumayo. All of this highlights great potential, great challenge, and the constant need to consider the "big picture" as we proceed.

Today, we have invited witnesses from the Administration to discuss the current status of implementation of Plan Colombia and our assistance to Colombia. From the Department of State, we will hear from Assistant Secretary for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs Rand Beers, who I would also like to thank for having his Deputy, Ambassador Jim Mack, join our delegation at the Interparliamentary Drug Control Conference in Bolivia. From the Drug Enforcement Administration, we have Administrator Donnie Marshall, who took a substantial portion of his time to accompany and work with us on our delegation. From the Department of Defense, we have Robert Newberry, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict. And from the US Southern Command, we have the Commander-in-Chief, General Peter Pace. Thanks to all of you for your willingness to testify on short notice and for accommodating us in your schedules.

Along the same lines, I would like to recognize and thank our new ranking member, Congressman Cummings, who was unable to be here today due to schedule conflicts. Congresswoman Schakowsky, a member of the full Committee and formerly of this Subcommittee, will be sitting in his stead, and I again welcome her.

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