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Last Updated:3/30/00
Press release by House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Illinois), March 30, 2000
Speaker's Statement on Colombian Drug War
March 30, 2000

WASHINGTON, DC--House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-IL) today made the following statement on the House floor in support of U.S. aid to Colombia to reduce the amount of drugs coming into the United States:

"I rise today in opposition to the Obey amendment and to speak in favor of U.S. assistance to the Government of Colombia to fight the war on drugs.

"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.

"Colombia is the source of 90 percent of the Cocaine and 65 percent of the heroin that reaches our neighborhoods, our schools, and our children. Over 52,000 Americans die every year from illegal drug use. These are the real casualties of a quiet, deadly battle that is waged on the streets of our cities, our towns, 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, and to stop them on our streets and in our schools.

"We also have a responsibility to teach our children to "just say no" and to educate them as to the dangers of drugs so as to keep them from trying drugs.

"And finally, we have the responsibility to provide meaningful and effective treatment to those who are addicted to drugs. This year alone we will spend close to $6 billion dollars, or one-third of our drug control budget, on treatment and prevention.

"I am personally committed to working with the President to implement effective and balanced strategies to win the war on drugs. I welcome the President's supplemental request and his interest in joining the fight to keep drugs off of our street. I have spoken to the President on a number of occasions, and I know that he shares my commitment to protecting our nation and our nation's children from drugs.

"I am also confident that the President now understands, as I do, that we cannot turn a blind eye to Colombia.

"I would like to thank members such as Bill Delahunt, Sam Farr, Tom Lantos, Cass Ballanger and John Mica. They have worked with Chairman Callahan and Chairman Goss to craft a meaningful package that addresses what I believe to be the most important national security issue facing the American people today.

"There are some who believe that we should not act in Colombia. There are some who believe that we should stand by and hope that this crisis will go away. And there are some who say that this aid should be denied. I disagree with all of them. It is time for us to reach out a helping hand to Colombia. It is time that we get serious about creating a drug free America.

"I would like to close by sharing with my friend and colleague from Wisconsin an important personal observation and commitment. When I became Speaker, you may recall that I asked you to be the senior Democratic member on my first trip overseas. I did this because of my deep respect for you and your knowledge of foreign policy. I did not regret that decision. I know that your concerns are genuine. I know you are worried about the steps we are now preparing to take to aid Colombia. But I want you to know that I will commit personally to work with you on this issue, in a bipartisan way, to monitor this program carefully.

"I have made that commitment to the President and to many of your Democratic colleagues. I am making this commitment to you as well.

"We must act now. We cannot wait. I urge my colleagues to fully support this package."

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