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Last Updated:8/6/03
Speech by Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), July 23, 2003

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

I rise 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.

Aid to 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?

The AUC's 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.

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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.

Further, 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.

Ineffective 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.

The McGovern-Skelton 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 McGovern-Skelton amendment.

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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