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Last Updated:3/22/00
Speech by Rep. Jim Ramstad (R-Minnesota), March 21, 2000
JUST SAY NO TO FUNDS FOR COLOMBIA (House of Representatives - March 21, 2000)

[Page: H1141]

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

Mr. RAMSTAD. Mr. Speaker, we are about to spend almost $2 billion to escalate the war on drugs in Colombia, while here in the United States 26 million American addicts and alcoholics go untreated.

We have already spent over $600 million to eradicate drugs at their source in Colombia. And what has happened? Both cocaine and heroin production in Colombia have more than doubled.

Colombia is now the source of 80 percent of the cocaine and 75 percent of the heroin in the United States. Let us face it, our supply-side efforts have been a colossal failure.

Congress and the President need to wake up and face reality. Over the last 10 years, Mr. Speaker, the Federal Government has spent $150 billion to combat the supply of illegal drugs. Yet the cocaine market is glutted, as always, and heroin is readily available at record high purities. The number of hard-core addicts continues to increase every day.

Our drug eradication and interdiction efforts have also been a costly failure. As a former United States Navy Commander who led such efforts in Colombia for 3 years said recently, quote, `The $1.7 billion being proposed on drug-fighting efforts in Colombia is good money thrown after bad.'

Retired Navy Lieutenant Commander Sylvester Salcedo also said, and I am quoting again, `We cannot make any progress on this drug issue by escalating our presence in Colombia. Instead, we should confront the issue of demand in the United States by providing treatment services to our addicted population.'

Mr. Speaker, we need to listen to this veteran of the war on drugs who added, `Washington should spend its money not on helicopters and trainers but on treatment for addicts.'

The $400 million cost of helicopters alone for Colombia would provide treatment for 200,000 Americans addicted to drugs.

Mr. Speaker, this is crazy. This is wrong. We are about to spend $2 billion on Colombia for drug eradication and interdiction while most of the 26 million addicts and alcoholics in the United States are unable to access treatment. We are about to spend $2 billion on Colombia even though treatment has been proven to be 23 times more cost effective than eradication of crops and 11 times more cost effective than interdiction.

When will Congress and the President wake up to the basic fact that our Nation's supply-side strategy does not attack the underlying problem of addiction? It is the addiction that causes people to crave and demand drugs.

When President Richard Nixon declared war on drugs in 1971, he directed 60 percent of the funding to treatment. Now we are down to 18 percent of the funding for treatment. That is a big reason, Mr. Speaker, that fully one half of the treatment beds are gone that were available here in America 10 years ago. The other reason is that we allow insurance companies to discriminate against the disease of addiction by limiting access to treatment.

Mr. Speaker, this is a defining moment in the 30-year effort to curb illegal drug use in the United States. We can keep pumping money into that supply-side cesspool or we can shift our focus to the drug addiction problem here at home. We will never stop the drug epidemic unless we cut off the insatiable demand for drugs in our Nation.

It is time to reject the $2 billion for the failed policy in Colombia. It is time to redirect those resources to providing access to drug treatment here at home.

Mr. Speaker, the American people literally, literally, cannot afford to wait any longer for Congress to get real about addiction in America, the number one public health and public safety problem in our Nation.

I hope and pray my fellow colleagues will just say no to funds for Colombia.

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