of Luis Alberto Moreno, ambassador of Colombia to the United States, April
of Ambassador Luis Alberto Moreno, Ambassador of Colombia to the United
States, Before the Senate Committee on Armed Services
April 4, 2000
Chairman Warner, distinguished
Members of the Committee, I am pleased to appear before you today to present
my government's views on the United States pending program of assistance
to Colombia. Last week's strong House vote in favor of this package sent
a powerful message to the drug traffickers that Colombia is not alone
in the tight against illegal drugs. Failure to move this legislation forward
swiftly would provide opportunities for traffickers, insurgents. paramilitaries.
and others who seek to thwart U.S.-Colombia cooperation in the elimination
of drugs from both our countries. This morning I would like to urge your
support of this program. to hear your views, and to address certain questions
posed in your letter inviting me here. I plan to emphasize the following
key factors that merit your consideration:
* The assistance package proposed
by your Administration is urgently needed to address the problems and
responsibilities our countries share due to drug trafficking and consumption
of illegal drugs;
* The assistance supports
a well-conceived, comprehensive strategy based on the strong cooperation
of our governments;
* We are asking the United
States to help provide us with tools to do the job of fighting drugs,
not to intervene in our internal conflict;
* The U.S. assistance will
supplement a much larger commitment of resources by Colombia and other
members of the international community; and, most importantly:
* The assistance will support
a strategy that is anchored equally on commitments to reduce drug production
and trafficking. to achieve peace, to protect human rights, and to promote
the rule of law in our country.
Conditions Confronting Colombia
President Pastrana was elected
on a platform to achieve peace in Colombia. But upon entering office he
faced the challenges of restoring economic growth and confronting a booming
drug trade. President Pastrana has taken bold steps to address these inter-related
First, we have embarked on
a path toward peace. For the first time in forty years, we have a framework
and agenda for the negotiations. We hope to achieve peace by showing the
guerillas a non- violent way to enter Colombian society. At the same time,
our negotiating position will be backed by the strength of our country's
institutions, including the military.
Second, and equally important,
we have moved with determination to restore the trustworthiness of our
military leadership and the effectiveness and morale of our troops. We
have adopted bold measures in the short term to address immediate problems
in the military especially in the area of human rights protection. Since
President Pastrana entered office in late 1 998 we have taken aggressive
steps to protect human rights, including: (1) dismissing senior military
officials with poor human rights records; (2) selecting a chief of the
armed forces with a strong commitment to human rights; and (3) declaring
and enforcing a strict human rights policy that does not tolerate any
links between the military and illegal armed groups. This policy has had
results. Allegations of human rights abuses against the military have
decreased dramatically. Still, we recognize that we must continue to do
more to protect human rights. We have also initiated a long term, far-reaching
military reform program that addresses institutional weaknesses that have
hampered the effectiveness of our armed forces. I will discuss this reform
program further in a moment.
Third, we have expanded Colombia's
commitment to combating the drug trade. We have continued eradication
and interdiction efforts in close cooperation with the United States.
We have begun to extradite drug traffickers to the United States. We will
continue to do so. Important successes, however, such as the eradication
of nearly 130,000 acres in 1999 and the arrest of several major traffickers
as part of Operation Millennium do not obscure the fact that there is
no miracle cure. We need a sustained, comprehensive approach and we have
a long way to go.
President Pastrana has also
attacked the economic ills that afflict Colombia. With unemployment rising
and investment flows threatened, our government has made difficult but
necessary choices to stabilize the economy. We have reduced spending,
instituted banking sector reforms, accelerated privatization programs,
strengthened our pension programs, and adopted targeted stimulus programs
to create jobs and secure the social safety net. These measures, coupled
with a strategy to increase trade and investment, will provide needed
opportunities for the poorest Colombians and those displaced by internal
Finally, to consolidate and
preserve all of the expected results of our strategy, we must focus on
strengthening Colombia's democratic institutions. We are working to improve
the accountability and effectiveness of our courts, make local governments
more responsive to citizen's needs, and to expand educational and economic
opportunities throughout Colombian society. Recently, President Pastrana
proposed a constitutional amendment that will bring needed reforms and
improvements to the Colombian Congress.
The Need for U.S. Assistance
and International Help
In spite of the gravity of
our problems, we are very optimistic. We see the problems clearly and
have the will to find and implement necessary solutions. These solutions
are embodied in Plan Colombia, a comprehensive, integrated strategy to
address Colombia's inter-related problems. Plan Colombia seeks to advance
the peace process, improve the protection of human rights, strengthen
the economy. enhance counter-drug programs, and promote democratization
and social development.
You have asked what steps
Colombia is taking to support Plan Colombia. As you may know, Plan Colombia
calls for a total expenditure of $7.5 billion over 3 years. The larger
part of this cost will be borne by Colombia -- $4 billion directly from
Colombia's resources and an additional $900 million in loans to Colombia
from international financial institutions. The U.S. Government has proposed
$1.6 billion in assistance, and we are seeking an additional $1.0 billion
in funds from the international community. We are working hard to press
Europe and Asia to commit to this effort. The Government of Spain will
host a donor's conference for European Union members on July 7th. High
level representatives of our government have recently visited Tokyo and
we have reason to be optimistic about Japan's response. We are confident
that we will attract the level of support required.
Let me take a moment to address
a critical issue. Some commentators have stated that Colombia is asking
the United States to fight a war we are unwilling to fight ourselves.
The record plainly shows that this is utterly false. Our country has been
plagued by violence for decades now. Insurgents opposed to our democratic
government have waged a war against our people that has cost 5.000 Colombian
lives. Drug traffickers, flush with money and weapons from abroad, have
conducted terrorist acts against government and the citizenry. Thousands
of brave Colombian policemen. soldiers. judges, and public servants at
all levels have laid down their lives in the name of fighting drugs. Thousands
of other Colombians serving in such positions today continue to serve
at great personal risk because we intend to protect our democracy, end
violence, and establish the rule of law. We intend to leave our children
a country free of drug-fueled violence. We must continue on this path
whether the United States and the international community help us or not.
But the tremendous benefits of success will come sooner and more surely
if we share the burden and help each other.
The Nature of U.S. Assistance
The assistance package proposed
by the Clinton Administration is weighted heavily in favor of the kind
of assistance the United States alone can provide. In large part, the
assistance package is designed to give Colombia the tools we need to more
effectively fight drug production and trafficking. It will enable the
Colombian Government to bolster counter-drug activities in southern Colombia.
With U.S. assistance, we will establish two new counter-narcotics battalions
in the Colombian military. The assistance package contains vital equipment
and training for these battalions, including Blackhawk and Huey helicopters.
In the remote parts of Colombia that are home to drug production, mobility
is the highest priority of our strategy. These special military units,
together with an existing counter- narcotics battalion, will move into
southern Colombia to protect Colombian National Police (CNP) forces as
they undertake counter-drug missions. Members of these counter-narcotics
battalions will receive extensive human rights education and training.
The aid package provides additional funding to enhance the counter-drug
efforts of the CNP.
We are seeking aid from the
United States to bolster our counter-drug programs, not to help us combat
guerilla forces. Our success against drug production and trafficking will
weaken these guerilla forces, as they rely heavily upon the drug trade
to finance their operations. But President Pastrana has repeatedly made
clear that Colombia is not seeking and will not accept any direct U.S.
military intervention in our internal conflict. We anticipate that the
number of U.S. personnel involved in training these battalions will remain
at the current level of approximately 200.
The U.S. assistance we need
to implement Plan Colombia is broader than counter-drug assistance alone.
The aid package also provides humanitarian assistance to displaced persons,
funding for alternative economic development programs, and assistance
to help the Colombian Government improve human rights and other rule of
law programs. The Colombian Government and other members of the international
community will provide additional assistance in these areas. As a result,
the profile of proposed U.S. assistance does not accurately reflect the
overall profile of Plan Colombia or the relative budgetary emphasis given
to each function under the Plan.
How Colombia's $4.0 Billion
Share of Funding Will Be Allocated
As I mentioned, Colombia will
expend $4.9 billion to carry out Plan Colombia. This represents 65% of
the total funding of $7.5 billion. The Colombian contribution will be
allocated in the following way:
* $1.0 billion will be spent
on economic programs aimed at providing increased opportunities for Colombians
threatened by or dependent upon the drug trade. These initiatives include
agricultural export development and improvements to the social safety
* $886 million will be spent
on social development and democratization. These initiatives include alternative
development, human rights protection, and humanitarian aid.
* $6 million will be spent
on the Peace process initiated by President Pastrana.
* Finally. $3.0 billion will
be spent on counternarcotics, security, and judicial cooperation. These
activities include strengthening governmental authorities and their counternarcotics
efforts, enhanced drug interdiction, increased police counternarcotics
operations and improvements to Colombia's prison system.
Colombia's direct appropriations
for this strategy have already been budgeted and represent a significant
sacrifice for a country whose federal budget is normally around $18.0
billion. The additional $900 million derived from IFI loans to Colombia
also has been approved by the IMF and the World Bank.
President Pastrana's Military
You asked me to comment on
the potential for military reform, including repeal of the bachelleres
program. President Pastrana already has initiated a major military reform
program. Some of its elements already have been achieved, and others are
well underway. Highlights of the program include the following:
1. Military Justice: Last
year, President Pastrana succeeded in pressing our Congress to pass a
military justice reform that had been languishing in Congress for five
years. The law, which is in the final stages of implementation. provides
that most allegations of human rights abuses will be tried before civilian
courts, as determined by the independent Supreme Judicial Council. Military
courts are being reformed as well, notably by creation of a Judge Advocate
General office to assume prosecutorial responsibility previously held
by unit commanders.
2. Military Leadership: President
Pastrana passed over seven generals to select General Tapias to head the
Armed Forces. This was due to General Tapias' strong commitment to protecting
human rights, and eliminating corruption and inefficiency. The President
successfully pressed for passage of a law that will allow him and General
Tapias to expeditiously dismiss personnel suspected of human rights violations.
This law, to be implemented shortly, will afford the military the ability
to clear its ranks in the manner carried out successfully by the Colombian
3. Professionalization of
the Military and Elimination of the "Bachelleres": When President
Pastrana assumed the Presidency the Colombian military's 105,000 soldiers
included 40,000 conscripts known as "bachelleres". Under a longstanding
policy, these conscripts were exempted from combat on the basis of their
educational status. President Pastrana's sweeping military reform program
calls for the complete elimination of this program. Already, the number
of bachelleres has been reduced to 20,000. By the end of this year, there
will be only 10,000, and by the end of President Pastrana's administration,
there will be none. No new recruits or conscripts will be placed in this
classification. To make this reform permanent, we are proposing legislation
that eliminates any distinction in terms of eligibility for combat service
within the Colombian military.
The existing Colombian counternarcotics
battalion and those to be established as part of Plan Colombia will be
composed entirely of professional soldiers with at least five years' experience.
All members of the battalions are vetted and trained for human rights
protection and other attributes. For example, all of our helicopter pilots
are officers with high school degrees and at least four years of higher
education. In this way, the battalions formed with U.S. help and training
will serve as a model for modernizing and professionalizing the entire
Why the Congress Should Approve
Before I conclude. I would
like to reiterate why we believe this Committee should support the Administration's
proposal. The war on drugs is not a war in Colombia. It is a war that
is being fought and must be fought throughout the world.
It is true that much of the
cocaine and heroine consumed in the United States is produced in Colombia.
No one regrets this more than the nearly 40 million law-abiding and peace-loving
citizens of Colombia. We have a responsibility to ourselves. to our children,
and to our neighbors such as the United States to stop the scourge of
illegal drugs. It also must be said that most of the cocaine and heroine
we are talking about is purchased and consumed illegally here in the United
States. We know that this reality is no less regrettable for the United
States than it is for Colombia to be the source of the drugs. And we recognize
and appreciate the costs and sacrifices made in the United States in the
name of treatment, prevention, and law enforcement.
It does illustrate that our
countries share the terrible burdens that illegal drugs place on our people.
General McCaffrey stated recently that over 50,000 Americans die each
year due to drug abuse. At the same time, successive generations of Colombian
children are growing up in a country where profits from illegal drugs
fuel daily violence, weaken government institutions, and finance terrorist
activities that threaten human rights and the future of our democracy.
I urge you to support the
I appreciate your attention
to my views. I would be pleased to answer your questions.