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Last Updated:3/31/00
Speech by Rep. John Joseph Moakley (D-Massachusetts), March 29, 2000
[Page: H1487]
Mr. MOAKLEY. Mr. Speaker, I thank my dear friend and colleague, the gentleman from Florida (Mr. Goss), for yielding me the customary 30 minutes, and I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Speaker, there are a lot of reasons to oppose this supplemental appropriations bill, one of the most important is the innocent people of Colombia. This bill will provide $1.3 billion to a military with one of the worst human rights' records in that hemisphere, the Colombian military, over which neither the Colombian government nor the United States Armed Forces have much control.

Mr. Speaker, we have been here before. Maybe not all of my colleagues remember El Salvador, but I do. The Colombian military has strong ties to paramilitaries which commit unspeakable atrocities. The Salvadoran military had strong ties to death squads which used intimidation, torture, and murder to do the dirty work of the Salvadoran army.

They say this is very different. They say there is a president in Colombia who is determined to stand up to the military and the drug leaders. Maybe so, Mr. Speaker, but in El Salvador we had two presidents, both of them were educated at Jesuit universities, one at Georgetown and one at Notre Dame, and they were determined to do the same. The fact remains, Mr. Speaker, that in both El Salvador and Colombia the government has very little control over the military.

Both countries were embroiled in a brutal civil war. Colombia's Civil War has already cost 30,000 lives in the last 10 years. El Salvador's civil war killed 75,000 noncombatants over a period of 10 years. Let me repeat, Mr. Speaker: The civil war in El Salvador, funded by the United States of America, killed 75,000 noncombatants.

Twenty years ago, Mr. Speaker, we were in the exact same situation that we are today. Twenty years ago we had a choice to make, Mr. Speaker, and we made the wrong choice. Today, the answer is clear. We must oppose this aid to a murderous Colombian military with a list of human rights' violations a mile long.

Now, just listen to a few of them. Just last January, Colombian paramilitaries, with ties to the Army, dragged 27 worshipers out of a church and shot them in cold blood. From January 7 to January 10 last year, paramilitaries committed 19 separate massacres, leaving 143 people dead and hundreds more displaced from their homes. And just last month, Mr. Speaker, paramilitaries linked to the Colombian army danced and drank as they tortured, as they beheaded, at least 28 villagers in northern Colombia.

Yet today, Mr. Speaker, the House is considering a $1.3 billion military aid package for military aid, training, helicopters, and arms to that very same military. I am reminded of a letter that Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero wrote to President Carter 20 years ago today begging him, in the interest of human rights, to stop the military aid to El Salvador. One month later, 20 years ago, Bishop Romero was murdered by a Salvadoran military death squad as he was saying mass.

Downstairs in my office hangs a picture of Archbishop Romero. Every day I look at it and every day I remember the grievous wrongs our country did helping to perpetuate those killings in his country. Mr. Speaker, let us not remember the 20th anniversary of Archbishop Romero by making the same mistakes in Colombia.

I have stood at the place where the Jesuits were killed, where their brains were splattered on a wall, blood all over the ground, and I just cannot stand by and watch our country do to Colombia what we did to El Salvador. The administration is wrong and my Republican colleagues are wrong. We are endangering thousands more lives in El Salvador, in Colombia. It should not be done. I would think the United States should have learned its lesson by now.

Mr. Speaker, I urge my colleagues to oppose the military aid to Colombia.

Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.

As of March 30, 2000, this document was also available online at http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?r106:H29MR0-91:

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