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Last Updated:3/31/00
Speech by House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Illinois), March 29, 2000
Mr. YOUNG of Florida. Mr. Chairman, I yield the remaining 4 minutes of our time to the distinguished gentleman from Illinois (Mr. Hastert), the Speaker of the House.

Mr. HASTERT. Mr. Chairman, I rise today in respectful opposition to the amendment of the gentleman from Wisconsin. I want to speak in favor of U.S. assistance to the government of Colombia to fight the war on drugs.

I do not take this well in a frivolous way. First of all, the supplemental that we are considering today is about our children and whether we want our children to grow up in a society free from the scourge of drugs. Now, does that mean that we can do this just by doing something in Colombia? No, and I want to pursue that.

The gentleman from Missouri (Mr. Skelton), my good friend, talked about Peru. I have been to Peru several times, more times than I want to count. But when President Fujimori came in there on the Shining Path and controlled the drug trade in the Upper Huallaga Valley, and they did bring the shoot-down policies because they were moving drugs from Peru to Colombia, he was successful. He was successful because he was able to address the problem of the narcoguerillas in Peru and the transportation of drugs from where it was grown to where it was being remanufactured in Colombia.

Then the new president of Bolivia came in, and I have been to Bolivia more times than I want to count, and he was able to do the drug suppression there where drugs were going into Brazil and Argentina by crop substitution, but also by being able to stop the drug trade from moving from Bolivia to Colombia. I say to my colleagues, the problem is, all of the drugs that we stopped from Peru and Bolivia are now grown in Colombia. How do we address that?


[TIME: 1530]

The Colombian police officers have been fairly successful. They have a great human rights record. They have been able to do a credible job. But the police force in Colombia does not have the manpower, it does not have the ability to get into southern Colombia, an area the size of Switzerland, to be able to stop drug trade and drug growing and drug transportation and drug manufacturing.

The Colombians need help. But I want to focus for a few minutes about why. Colombia is the source of 90 percent of the cocaine that comes into this country. Colombia is the source of 65 percent of the heroin that reaches our neighborhoods, our schools, and our children.

Over 52,000 Americans die every year, every year from illegal drug use, and others from gang- and drug-related violence, thousands, and tens of thousands of lives are ruined. I could tell Members stories from my own experience. Thousands of families are destroyed because of what Colombian drugs and others, but mainly Colombian drugs, are doing in this country.

They are our real casualties of a quiet, deadly battle that is waged on the streets of our cities, our towns, our rural areas, our neighborhoods, and our schools.

Some of my colleagues have said that this package is not the answer. They are correct, stopping drugs in Colombia is not the only answer. We have a responsibility to stop drugs in Colombia, to stop them in transit, to stop them at our border, to stop them in our streets and in our schools.

We also have a responsibility to teach our children to say no, and to educate them as to the dangers of drugs, and keep them from trying drugs in the first place.

Finally, we have the responsibility to provide meaningful and effective treatment to those who are addicted to drugs. I know the gentleman before me talked about that. This year alone we will spend close to $6 billion, or one-third of our drug control budget, on treatment and prevention.

I am personally committed to working with this Congress, the gentleman from Wisconsin, the President of the United States, to implement an effective and balanced strategy to win the war on drugs.

My friend, the gentleman from Wisconsin, asked, he said, have we ever had this debate? Since I have been in this Congress, especially the last 6 years, we have debated this every year. We have had hearings. We know what the problems in Colombia are. We know of the ineffectiveness of the previous administration in Colombia fighting drugs.

We were somewhat askance when the President opened up the territory in southern Colombia, but now our administration and the administration of Colombia are in concert. Our administration has listened to what this Congress has said for 5 or 6 years: that we need to do something about it, that we cannot put our head in the sand; that we cannot say, well, we cannot do anything about it, so we ignore it.

Mr. Chairman, I say to my colleagues, and I speak to Members today as my colleagues, we cannot ignore this issue. We cannot ignore it in this Congress, we cannot ignore it on our street corners, and we cannot ignore it from the place that this stuff comes from.

I ask Members today, and again, respectfully, because I have a great deal of respect for the gentleman from Wisconsin, and I understand that we do not want to get in a prolonged war. But we helped Peru and we did not get in a prolonged war because we did not have our troops down there. We are not going to do this here. We helped Colombia, and they were able to stop it. We did things, and if we are constant and vigilant in this Congress, we can do a great deal. We can do a great deal together.

I ask the gentleman from Wisconsin, I am willing to reach out my hand and work with the gentleman. I do not want to see us escalate. A lot of this is for the beginning helicopters, so they can get into the territories, they can get into the places where they grow the drugs; that they can stop the transit, the riverine problems that they have.

But Mr. Chairman, we have to solve this problem. We cannot solve the problem by ignoring it.

I ask Members again respectfully to reject this amendment. Let us get on with this job, and let us do it right.

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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