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Last Updated:8/6/03
Speech by Rep. William Delahunt (D-Massachusetts), July 23, 2003

Mr. DELAHUNT. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the requisite number of words.

Mr. Chairman, I rise in opposition to this amendment. I must admit, however, I do so with some ambivalence, for I share many of the concerns that have been articulated by the proponents. They are right about the balloon effect, because even as coca cultivation declines in Colombia, we are seeing an increase in Peru and Bolivia. I also share their concern about human rights abuses, about the relentless assault on labor leaders and human rights workers, and about military ties to the paramilitaries. It is reported in our own Department of State country reports. But it would be unfair not to acknowledge that there have been sincere efforts made by the Uribe administration to address these issues and some progress has been made.

Furthermore, I believe that the Colombian people, particularly the economic elite, as has been alluded to earlier, should be doing more. Unfortunately, the conflict is being currently fought by poor Colombians and paid for to a substantial degree by American taxpayers as indicated by the ranking member of the full committee. And while I applaud the initiative of President Uribe to levy a war tax, that was a one-time event. There has to be a permanent revenue stream of new

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money generated by the Colombian people themselves. The percentage of GDP spent on the security forces is still much lower than in other Latin American countries which do not have to confront such a vicious internal conflict. I submit that a new permanent war tax paid by Colombians ought to be a condition of continued American assistance.
But I would suggest that it is not in our interest at this point in time to reduce aid to Colombia. It is important to note that President Uribe has made a firm commitment to fight illegal armed groups, all of them, not just the FARC and the ELN, but also the paramilitaries. And it cannot be denied that the Colombian military has been much more aggressive in dealing with these right-wing paramilitary groups since the Uribe administration has come to power. Many believe that this has resulted in a cease-fire and the beginning of a peace process with the largest faction, the so-called AUC. So now at least there is the possibility of a peace accord with this particular group. If there is a chance to remove one of the armed groups from this conflict, we must take it.

To cut aid just as this process is beginning would send a very bad signal, even if an unintentional one. In fact, we should be increasing aid substantially because it is in our national security interests to do so. Remember, the entire amount we spend on all of Latin America in a year is less than the amount we are spending in a single week in Iraq. Our aid should be more balanced, should be directed to help develop democratic institutions, support human rights and encourage social and economic development in our own hemisphere, especially in Colombia. For if we are ever going to do anything that will substantially and permanently reduce the flow of cocaine and heroin into the streets of the United States, stability and healthy democratic institutions are essential. And peace is a prerequisite for that stability.

That is why I urge my colleagues to oppose the amendment of my friend from Massachusetts.

As of August 6, 2003, this document was also available online at http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/B?r108:@FIELD(FLD003+h)+@FIELD(DDATE+20030723)

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