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Last Updated:8/6/03
Speech by Rep. Mark Souder (R-Indiana), July 23, 2003

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

[Page: H7397]
(Mr. SOUDER asked and was given permission to revise and extend his remarks.)

Mr. SOUDER. Mr. Chairman, one of the earlier speakers said this is just a signal. If it were so, it is a wrong signal, it is a wrong time; but it is not just a signal. It would actually deprive real dollars from people who are trying to fight narcoterrorists who are funded by our drug habits.

While 40 million and 35 million, a total of 75 million, may not seem like a lot here because we spend so much money, it is a significant percentage of this budget.

The previous speaker said that this has been mission creep. It has been exactly the reverse. It is mission reduction; and in fact, this request is substantially under the last request. In fact, there are fewer dollars being spent in this budget than the previous budget. In fact, more Colombians are repairing helicopters than in the past, more Colombians are spraying than in the past, more Colombians are on the ground. We now have specially trained antinarcotics units. The military have gone through human rights training and met those standards, in addition to the Colombian National Police.

We are achieving our goals on the ground, and this amendment would help devastate those goals at the very moment of their success.

We have had this debate for each of the last 3 years since President Clinton signed Plan Colombia into law. While there still may be two points of view this year, the facts clearly show that the debate should, in fact, be over. Thanks to the strong leadership of President Uribe, there can no longer be disagreement that the program is showing clear results. Just maintaining on the House floor that it is not working does not mean that it is not working. My colleagues can say things, but they cannot be true.

I have been to Colombia twice this year and have seen firsthand the signs of remarkable success in that nation. The Uribe government has taken control of areas previously held by narcoterrorist guerrillas. There are many towns in Colombia that are still under terrorist control, but the number is declining. There are now people moving back to their hometowns. There are mayors willing to run for office again because the ELN and the paramilitaries are in somewhat of a disarray, at least in somewhat retreat; and the FARC is somewhat divided. They still control a significant percentage of the country, but it is less than it was, and we are making progress.

You cannot plant alternative crops if you believe you are going to be killed by FARC and then killed by the paramilitaries. First you have some to order. We are providing people with the chance and getting some order. If we continue at that rate, we can establish one of the oldest democracies in the Americas back to a free people.

This is not a civil war. Four percent of the people, that is almost not much more than the percentage in prisons in the United States, support the FARC or any of this. The people are overwhelmingly on the side of this government. This is the most popular government in modern history in Colombia.

The facts are so clear my colleagues do not need to take my word for it. I will instead let the editorial board of The Washington Post, hardly the most conservative group of commentators, tell my colleagues why now is not the time to lessen our support for this critical program to keep stability in our hemisphere and control the flow of hard drugs onto every American street.

On July 13, The Post editorialized as follows: ``Some members of Congress and human rights groups protested that the attempt to bolster the Colombian army with equipment and training while sponsoring the aerial spraying of coca fields would embroil the United States in a Vietnam-like quagmire. The critics were wrong. Colombian coca and poppy production has been reduced substantially: according to a United Nations study, the acreage has dropped by 38 percent in 3 years.''

The Washington Post editorial continued: ``With the traffickers and their guerrilla allies on the defensive, violence is down, too. Homicides have fallen by a quarter and kidnappings by a third this year compared with last year. Colombia's economy is growing, and its President, Alvaro Uribe, leads the strongest and most popular government the country has had in decades. Though Plan Colombia still hasn't achieved many of its goals, there can be little question that the $2.7 billion invested by the United States so far has gotten results.''

Again, those were not the gentleman from Indiana's (Mr. Souder) arguments, but the conclusion of The Washington Post editorial board. It is now beyond serious dispute that Plan Colombia is working, that it is beginning to have a serious impact, and that it is at a critical point. No program is perfect, but the choice now is a clear one. Do we continue to make progress towards finishing the job, or do we withdraw and quit? There are many hard decisions in this body, but continuing a program that is now obviously succeeding against long and hard odds should not be one of them.

We also continue to have a moral obligation to the people of Colombia to help them solve deep problems of political, legal, and social order that are caused in significant part by Americans. In Cartagena earlier this month, I visited with Colombian soldiers who had been viciously attacked by narcoterrorist guerillas. They had lost limbs and yet stayed firm and resolute; some had lost lives, despite the fact that the groups who attacked them were funded in significant part by the drug habits of Americans.

From my hometown and the hometowns of the members of this country, I also visited the Nelson Mandela Village for people who have been displaced and terrorized in these hometowns; and in talking to these people, they want to go back home. They do not want to be terrorized. We are near the point in about half of those areas of stabilizing, and they have moved and are at the point of moving back. How can we cut this program now when it is finally working? Even a small cut could be devastating to Colombia.

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