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Last Updated:3/31/00
Speech by Rep. Jose Serrano (D-New York), March 29, 2000
[Page: H1509]
Mr. OBEY. Mr. Chairman, I yield 3 minutes to the distinguished gentleman from New York (Mr. Serrano).

(Mr. SERRANO asked and was given permission to revise and extend his remarks.)

Mr. SERRANO. I thank the gentleman from Wisconsin for yielding me this time.

Mr. Chairman, I am really troubled about what we are doing here today, and I cannot believe we are doing it without much more debate. This looks to me very much like something from my younger years when we got involved in Vietnam.

Let us understand this Colombia situation is a civil war. It is a civil war that has been going on for a long time. We have decided all of a sudden that it is a war on drugs. That is our excuse or it is some folks in our administration's excuse for getting involved in a civil war.

And then the mistake we are making here which I brought out in committee and in subcommittee and other places is the fact that we are referring to the insurgent group in Colombia as narcoterrorists. The minute in this country you call somebody a terrorist, you close the door, and rightfully so, on ever negotiating with them. So by saying that we are going into Colombia to help the military, number one, which is wrong, fight the narcoterrorists, we just said that we are never going to negotiate with one side in a civil war.

Now, I suspect that people in Washington are beginning to look at Latin America and beginning to get this feeling which was a bad feeling and a wrong feeling in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. They see a progressive President in Venezuela, Chavez; they see a new so-called socialist President in Chile and they say, `Oh, my God, we've got to do something,' so where do we set our anchor? In Colombia.

And then to suggest that in Colombia only one side may be involved with drug money is to suggest we are reinventing that country. There is a major problem with drugs in Colombia, and it plays a role in everything that is done in that country. I wish that today we had the courage to look at this issue for what it is. We are getting involved in a civil war which we are going to pay for a price, a big price in the future.

Secondly, we are closing off any opportunity to speak to one side. How do you bring peace to a country if that is what you want to do by shutting the door on one side?

And, thirdly, we are thinking about Colombia as we thought about South America in the 1960s. We are looking at it in the year 2000 in the same way. We made mistakes then; we are going to make them again, and for what? So that some helicopter company somewhere can sell a few helicopters? It is not worth it. I wish we would reconsider this and vote as I will against this bill.

As of March 30, 2000, this document was also available online at http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?r106:H29MR0-173:

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