by Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), July 23, 2003
Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the requisite number of words.
in support of the McGovern-Skelton amendment to transfer a small amount
of money for military funding for Colombia to increase funding for bilateral
HIV/AIDS, TB, and other infectious diseases programs. This amendment
says much about what we believe the priorities of our country should
be in providing overseas assistance. Instead of providing more tax dollars
to an ineffective drug eradication program and to the Colombian military,
which is linked to human rights abuses, we should focus on alleviating
the human rights tragedies that are the result of HIV/AIDS.
Colombia has failed to end the drug flow to America, and it has failed
to protect human rights. Strong ties between the Colombian military
and the paramilitary group AUC, which has been listed by the United
States as a terrorist organization, are deeply disturbing, given the
atrocious human rights abuses committed by the AUC. Most interestingly,
The Washington Post recently published the findings of a report commissioned
by President Uribe that showed the AUC, which frequently fights alongside
the Colombian military, is a drug-trafficking organization. The report
estimated that as much as 80 percent of the AUC's funding comes from
drug trafficking. This means that the U.S. is funding a military that
is working with a terrorist drug-trafficking organization in an effort
to eradicate drugs. Does this not seem a little paradoxical?
close relationship with the Colombian military is also disturbing because
it implicates the United States in human rights abuses. How can the
U.S. fund a military which has combined forces with a terrorist group
responsible for torture, executions, and disappearances of innocent
Colombian citizens? Until the Colombian government ceases its relationship
with violent paramilitary groups that terrorize ordinary citizens, the
United States must not directly fund it.
Furthermore, the process in which the drug eradication program is conducted
through fumigation is conflict-ridden. Fumigation seems to chase coca
cultivation from one area to another. The State Department's international
narcotics control strategy reports for 2000 and 2002 show that coca
production in Colombia's neighbors, Peru and Bolivia, and other areas
of Colombia totaled 184,900 hectares in 2000 and rose to 205,400 hectares
by the end of 2002. In the end, coca production persists because it
is the most economically viable option for very poor peasant farmers
in the area. Coca control initiatives must focus on alternative development
assistance to small farmers so they are able to make the transition
to legal crops. Effective development assistance coupled with manual
eradication efforts is the only sustainable solution to the problem
of coca cultivation.
fumigation destroys the alternate development projects set up to sustain
the lives of peasants. In the Putumayo village of La Isla, both a livestock
and aquaculture project was destroyed, killing the chickens and the
fish that represented economic opportunity for residents. Despite U.S.
denials, fumigation affects health. It causes skin outbreaks and gastrointestinal
disorders and respiratory ailments, particularly among young children,
according to local physicians.
and highly questionable funding of the Colombian military should not
continue. U.S. taxpayer dollars should not be given to a military that
is conducting human rights abuses against its own citizens. Instead,
taxpayer dollars should be spent on worthy initiatives such as the HIV/AIDS
programs that would genuinely benefit millions of suffering people.
amendment makes a modest step in that direction and it deserves a ``yes''
vote. I urge my colleagues join me in voting ``yes'' in support of the
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)