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Speech by Rep. Mark Souder (R-Indiana), March 15, 2000
COLOMBIA IS NOT VIETNAM (House of Representatives - March 15, 2000)

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The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under a previous order of the House, the gentleman from Indiana (Mr. Souder) is recognized for 5 minutes.

Mr. SOUDER. Mr. Speaker, we are about to consider a supplemental appropriations bill here in Congress. One of the things I keep hearing is, is the antinarcotics effort in Colombia going to lead us into another Vietnam. The ridiculous thing is that it shows what happens when we have a President without a clear foreign policy and no clear definition of compelling national interests.

We are certainly embroiled in another potential Vietnam. It is Kosovo. If one looks at the front page of the Washington Post today, it says `Kosovo Attacks Stir U.S. Concern. Official Says NATO May Have to Fight Ethnic Albanians.'

When we were on the ground just before we voted the funds here in the House and Senate to support this effort, visited the camps of the Kosovars in Macedonia and other places, they said, no, we are not going to go back under the Serbs. Of course we are going to fight to take over this. We are going to be independent. There was not a single person who did not believe that they were going to continue their internal civil war.

What defines a clear compelling national interest is how it relates to the United States. In this bill, we are putting money back into the military that the President stripped out for Kosovo, but I do not hear complaints about that.

But in Colombia, we do have a clear compelling national interest, and it is most certainly not like Vietnam. In Vietnam, we were across the other side of the continent. Here, Colombia is a 2-hour flight from Miami, Florida, and produces 80 percent of the cocaine that comes into the United States, the drugs that are on the streets of Fort Wayne of northeast Indiana and all over this country.

Colombia has 40 million people. It is the second largest country in our hemisphere known historically as the area of the Monroe Doctrine, the fifth largest economy, and the oldest democracy in Latin America. This is not a propped up government like we were dealing with at multiple times in Vietnam. This is a democratically-elected government. In fact, the narco-guerillas do not have any popular support unlike the Viet Cong, which we could argue about how much they had.

But here is the latest approval ratings in Colombian polls: 73 percent for the Catholic Church, 71 percent for the Colombian National Police, 69 percent for the Colombian military, 9 percent for the terrorist paramilitary, and only 4 percent for the FARC and ELN. They know they do not even have the popular will in any village in their country. They control rural areas by force, but they do not control the major metro areas. The only way they can control the rural areas is by force.

Furthermore, in addition to the narcotics that are coming into this country being a compelling national interest. Obviously, Panama used to be part of Colombia. Panama is now vulnerable. It is right up against the areas, and the narco-terrorists have moved into that, threatening trade routes.

It is our eighth largest producer of oil in the United States. The government oil pipeline there has been attacked 700 times in the last number of years. They are predicting that they are going to be a net importer in 3 years if we can control the narco-terrorism.

Basically, they would not have this drug problem if we and Europe were not consuming the cocaine. This is not a domestic Colombian problem, this is a domestic Colombian democracy problem caused by our consumption and consumption in Europe.

They have a national police that is willing to fight. They have a military that is willing to fight. We are not proposing to put American armies on the ground like we have in Kosovo.

How in the world can this be compared to Vietnam? Vietnam is over in Europe. But we do not hear people yelling about that.

This is a clear compelling national interest on energy prices, on narco-trafficking going into this country, and our kids and families on the streets who are being destroyed by this, and because of trade related to Panama, and because it is the second oldest democracy in South America fighting for its life because of our problems here. We have the obligation to at least assist them with some additional fire power with which to fight the druggies who have been using our dollars to buy weapons to fight the people there who are trying to preserve their democracy.

Mr. Speaker, I include the following fact sheet for the Record, as follows:

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Fact Sheet: The Growing Emergency in Colombia
The Crisis: Narco-guerillas, funded by the illicit drug trade, now threaten the oldest democracy in Latin America. The Colombian government has the political will, but not the resources to combat this threat. Failing to provide U.S. `Supplemental' aid now will further weaken Colombia's democratic institutions, jeopardize its fragile economy and undermine its ability to negotiate a peace.

Colombian cocaine production has skyrocketed from 230 metric tons in 1995 to 520 metric tons in 1999 and now accounts for 80% of the world's cocaine supply and 90% of the U.S. cocaine supply.

Colombia has replaced Southeast Asia as the number one supplier of U.S. heroin (producing approximately 70% of the heroin seized in the U.S.).

Colombian narco-guerillas earn an estimated $600 million from the illegal drug trade each year. The 17,000 member FARC and 6,000 member ELN insurgency groups were declared terrorist organizations by the U.S. State Department in 1997 and now control 40% of the Colombian countryside.

Since 1990, 35,000 Colombians have been killed by the guerilla insurgency including a presidential candidate, Supreme Court justices and 5,000 policy.

At 27,000 homicides per year, Colombia's murder rate is the world's highest (10 times that of the U.S.). Fifteen American citizens are known to have died in Colombia as a result of the drug war and the internal conflict.

35% of all terrorist acts in the world are committed in Colombia (2,663 kidnappings last year alone). In fact, the longest held U.S. hostages are three missionaries from Florida, held by the FARC in Colombia since 1993.

Since 1990, the violence from the insurgency has displaced 1.7 million Colombians from their homes (more than in Bosnia, Kosovo or East Timor).

Colombia is facing its worst economic recession in 70 years with 21% unemployment, a black market economy that undermines its tax base, and a lack of consumer and investor confidence.

Oil companies in Colombia are facing overwhelming security threats. One government-owned oil pipeline has been attacked 700 times by narco-guerillas (79 times in 1999 alone). These attacks have caused $100 millions in economic losses, and more than 1.7 million gallons of oil have been spilled.

Fact Sheet: Why Colombia Matters to the U.S.

The U.S. Drug Czar says that illegal drugs account for 52,000 American deaths every year (compared to 58,000 during the entire Vietnam War).

One in every two American school kids will try illegal drugs before they graduate from the 12th grade.

The cost of illegal drugs to U.S. society is a staggering $110 billion a year.

U.S. prison population for drug-related crimes is approaching 2 million and 80% of all U.S. inmates are drug abusers.

Colombia is the 5th largest economy in Latin America and the 5th largest U.S. trading partner in the region.

Two-way trade with Colombia totals nearly $11 billion per year and accounts for 80% of the cut flowers and 21% of all coffee imports to the U.S.

20% of daily U.S. oil imports come from Colombia, Ecuador, and Venezuela (which has surpassed Saudi Arabia as the #1 supplier of crude oil to the U.S.). Colombia produces 820,000 barrels of oil daily and provides 330,000 barrels of crude oil per day to U.S. refineries in Texas and Louisiana.

Colombia is the 8th largest supplier of foreign crude oil to the U.S. reducing the U.S. dependence on oil from the OPEC nations of the Middle East.

Narco-guerilla incursions into neighboring countries (e.g., Venezuela, Ecuador, Panama and Peru) now threaten the stability of the entire region.

The strategically important Panama Canal is only 150 miles north of the Colombian border and is vulnerable to guerilla attacks since the pull-out of all U.S. military troops in accordance with the 1977 U.S./Panama Canal Treaty.

800,000 Colombians have fled their country in the last 4 years--seeking entry into the U.S. at an alarming rate (366,423 visa requests last year compared with only 150,514 in 1997).

Colombian political asylum requests have more than quadrupled (396 requests in the last quarter of 1999 compared with 334 in the previous 12 months).

Fact Sheet: the Administration's Colombia Aid Proposal
$954 million in FY-00 . . . The `Supplemental' Request.

$150 million already passed in FY-00 Appropriations last fall.

$150 million in regular FY-01 budget submission.

$318 million `plus-up' to FY-01 budget request ($1.6 billion total over two years).

In millions of dollars















The proposal includes 85% for Colombia, 6% for other countries and 9% for U.S. agencies.

30 new Blackhawks and 15 (State Dept) UN-1N Huey helicopters (in addition to 18 now in country) for Colombian troop air transport ($439M in FY-00/$13M in FY-01).

Two more Colombia counterdrug battalions ($30M in FY-00/$12M in FY-01).

Enhanced Colombian Army bases and air facilities ($18M in FY-00/$23M in FY-01).

Upgrade OV-10 interceptors, FLIR for AC-47 aircraft ($16M in FY-00/$5M in FY-01).

Relocate Ground Based Radars/build command center ($25M in FY-00/$12M in FY-01).

Upgrade airplanes, helos & bases for CNP eradication ($68M in FY-00/$28M in FY-01).

Peru Interdiction ($10M in FY-00/$12M in FY-01) eco. development, ($15M in FY-00).

Bolivia Interdiction ($2M in FY-00/$4M in FY-01) eco. development, ($12M in FY-00).

Ecuador Interdiction ($2M in FY-00/$4M in FY-01) eco. development, ($3M in FY-00) in addition, Manta FOL ($38.2M in FY-01) included under DOD funding.

State Department ($61M in FY-00/$61M in FY-01) for support of Colombian military air mobility and police eradication operations.

Defense Department ($106M in FY-00/$41M in FY-01) for Manta FOL and training of Colombian counterdrug battalions.

Treasury Department ($2M in FY-00/$2M in FY-01) for `Kingpin Act' (Foreign Assistance Control).

US Customs ($68M in FY-00) for upgrade of four P-3 AEW aircraft.

DEA ($7M in FY-00/$3M in FY-01) for support of in country operations.

21% for Human Rights/Rule of Law/Economic Development and 79% for Interdiction & Eradication.

Fact Sheet: What about Human Rights Abuses in Colombia?

The Administration's proposal has allotted 21% for combined Human Rights training and monitoring, the Rule of law including judicial reform, and Economic Development--(compared to only 10% last year).

Plan Colombia addresses systemic changes to get the cause of many human rights violations, including: the illicit drug trade, the peace process, the lack of government institutions in rural Colombia and a weak judicial system.

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The Leahy Amendment requires that all foreign units receiving U.S. economic assistance must be `vetted' for past or current human rights violations.

Leahy still applies--no U.S. aid will be provided to any Colombian military unit where there is `'credible evidence' of serious human rights violations.

Supplemental funding supports Colombian military human rights training and ombudsmen, as well as security protection for human rights monitors. Personnel vetting includes the use of lie detector tests and NGO monitoring.

President Pastrana and his government are committed to reducing human rights violations whether conducted by the paramilitaries, narco-querillas, or Colombia security forces. He fired four military generals with ties to the paramilitaries and involvement in human rights violations.

Defense Minister Tapias has taken dramatic steps to deal with the human rights allegations. The Colombian military is undergoing a transformation into a more professional organization. The annual human rights report has documented a steady decline in human rights violations by the Colombian military.

President Pastrana has publicly acknowledged the importance of deploying properly vetted units as a condition of U.S. aid.

The current Administration's proposal is heavily weighed toward assistance to the Colombian military. However, it does include $96 million for the CNP (the 1999 drug supplemental was heavily weighted toward the CNP).

As of March 16, 2000, this document is also available at

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