by Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minnesota), July 23, 2003
Mr. McGOVERN. Mr. Chairman, I thank the gentlewoman for yielding.
Let me just go over a few facts here.
Fact: If the McGovern-Skelton amendment passes, we still have $195.3
million in hard military aid for the Colombian military in this bill.
Fact: That $195.3 million joins the $120.5 million in the military
aid under the Defense appropriations bill that passed this House on
So fact: If the McGovern-Skelton amendment is approved, this House
will still provide a minimum of $315.8 million in military aid to the
I want to say to my colleagues the important fact is not how much
acreage is sprayed, it is how much coca is grown. And the fact is despite
this policy coca production in the Andean region has increased since
Plan Colombia was enacted in 2000. Those are not my statistics. Those
are the statistics by the United States State Department.
Fact: While coca cultivation in Colombia dropped 15 percent last year,
coca levels in Colombia are still higher than they were in 2000.
Fact: The modest drop in coca production in Colombia is completely
offset by shifting coca cultivation back to Bolivia and Peru. Is that
progress? Is that success? All of us want to protect our constituents
from these illegal drugs, but the bottom line is this is not doing it.
Fact: U.S. counterdrug efforts in Colombia and the Andes have had
absolutely no apparent impact on the availability or use of cocaine
here in the United States. This is according to the January, 2003 National
Drug Threat Assessment.
Fact: If we want to stop drug production abroad, then invest in drug
treatment and prevention right here at home.
The gentleman from Missouri (Mr. Skelton), the cosponsor of this amendment,
raised, I think, a very important issue about the fact that more is
being expected of our military personnel in Colombia than of the Colombian
military personnel themselves. President Uribe has said that he has
introduced a law to change the recruitment criteria so that people who
have high school degrees or are from wealthy families in Colombia are
not automatically exempt from serving in the military, but such a law
has been introduced every year since the 1990s. President Uribe has
not made it a priority. His priorities are part of a national referendum
this fall, and changing the recruitment law is not one of them. I mean
we need to see a little action, not just talk.
The gentleman from Massachusetts (Mr. Delahunt) talked about how important
it is that the government of Colombia is making progress in trying to
work out a truce with the paramilitaries, but the fact of the matter
is almost every human rights group in the world is concerned about what
is happening because the Colombian government Peace Commissioner Luis
Carlos Restrepo confirmed the fears of human rights advocates that paramilitaries
involved in horrific crimes will get a free pass. I quote him: ``For
those who have committed crimes against humanity, we are looking for
punishment that is not jail ..... ''
Another concern with the paramilitaries is that the demobilized paramilitaries
could go straight into the peasant soldier program, thus in effect legalizing
paramilitaries without screening out the worst offenders or even significant
retraining. There is no clear end in sight, no exit strategy as we get
more and more involved in Colombia.
In November of 2001, there were 220 U.S. private contractors in Colombia
carrying out military and counterdrug operations. Today there are 308.
In November, 2001, we had 117 U.S. military presence in Colombia; today
we have 358. The $75 million that we seek to transfer, this modest amount,
to the HIV/AIDS tuberculosis and malaria accounts I hope will be used
in Colombia. I hope much of it will be used to help the people of Colombia
who have suffered so much. Speakers on the other side have talked about
all the important development initiatives that are going on there. I
support those. I wish that more of our aid to Colombia was in the form
of development assistance and not so much of it in the form of military
Let me finally close by saying we talk a lot about human rights in
this Chamber, and we talk about human rights in Iraq, we talk about
human rights in Iran, we talk about human rights in China, every other
place in the world. We need to talk about human rights in Colombia.
And anybody who has been to Colombia who has been outside the U.S. embassy,
who has been outside President Uribe's palace, who has been outside
the U.S. military headquarters there will see firsthand that that country
is experiencing a very difficult time right now, and it is not just
because of the FARC guerillas which have one of the most brutal records,
but it is also because of the impunity that continues to exist in that
country and the fact that the Colombian military still has yet to sever
its ties with the paramilitaries. Vote for 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)