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Last Updated:8/6/03
Speech by Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Illinois), July 23, 2003

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

I rise in strong support of the McGovern-Skelton amendment, and I thank my colleagues for their outstanding leadership on this critical issue. This amendment, let us be clear what it does, cuts a modest amount, $75 million in aid to Colombia's military, a military that our own State Department has certified is implicated in atrocities against the Colombian people. It redirects that aid to the fight against HIV/AIDS, TB, and malaria. And after that $75 million is diverted, still there is $315.8 million in military aid and a total of $574 million, over a half a billion dollars in overall aid that will still go to Colombia. So this is a very modest proposal.

To those who say we need to continue to fund Colombia's military at current levels because of the war on terror, I say you have not done your homework. A recent report prepared at the request of Colombia's President Uribe further documents the illicit ties between Colombia's military and the paramilitary forces in that country. This is a report prepared at the request of the President of Colombia. The paramilitaries and their organizations have been designated as terrorist organizations by the United States. They massacre civilians, and they ship drugs to the U.S. Instead of giving more money to a military known to collaborate with those the Bush administration calls terrorists, we should employ a different strategy, one that deprives a corrupt military and the terrorists with whom it collaborates of resources and American taxpayer dollars so that they cannot as easily continue their brutal abuse of the Colombian people. Why would any Member of this body want to make the mission of terrorists and criminals easier?

The McGovern-Skelton amendment would redirect $75 million to the child survival and health account for programs that combat HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, and other infectious diseases. These are programs that are proven to be effective in improving and saving lives. Instead of wasting American dollars on an initiative that has destroyed lives and increased the suffering of innocent civilians in Colombia, I think our dollars would be better spent funding programs we know can save lives.

Our dollars are better spent on programs that work, as opposed to Plan Colombia which has failed. After 3 years and over 3 billion U.S. taxpayer dollars, Plan Colombia has failed miserably. It has failed to strengthen Colombia's democratic institutions. Known human rights offenders continue to go unpunished and operate with impunity. It has failed to reduce drug production, use, and availability. Though it may have reduced by some the production in Colombia, as a region, the Andean region actually produces more coca. It has cost the lives of Americans, contractors, even missionaries. Plan Colombia has made a bad situation in Colombia even worse and has not provided any measurable benefit to the American people.

Our aerial fumigation program in Colombia has caused untold environmental damage, poisoning and destroying legal crops, water sources, and harming the health of children and families. Trade unionists continue to be murdered. Last year, according to the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, 85 percent of all trade union murders took place in Colombia. Aid to Colombia's military puts the blood of innocent civilians in that country on our hands. The number of people killed or disappeared per day, according to Amnesty International, increased from an average of 14 in 2000 to 20 in 2002. This is not what we should be calling progress. The number of people newly displaced by political violence increased 30 percent, from 317,340 in 2000 to 412,000 displaced people in 2002 alone, and nearly 3 million altogether since the violence has started.

I have been to Colombia. I love Colombia and the Colombian people. And I know that the way to help them is not by putting money and resources in the hands of those who are implicated in their abuse and their murder. Escalating a civil war and providing aid to a military still rife with corruption is illegal, it is immoral, and it is inexcusable. But today we are not debating an end to the U.S. military aid to Colombia. As I said, still over half a billion dollars will go there even with the McGovern-Skelton amendment. I urge support of that modest and sensible 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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