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Last Updated:4/26/01
Excerpts from testimony of Secretary of State Colin Powell to the Commerce, Justice, State and Judiciary Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee, April 26, 2001

...

REP. SERRANO: Mr. Secretary, I want to save most of my questions for our next round, but I just have one final question, and it joins two issues here. One question is El Salvador. We've been helpful, but El Salvador needs much more help. What do you think the administration -- or what will you be recommending we should do to help the victims of the earthquake in El Salvador?

And secondly, the Colombia situation. As you know, in the Spanish press throughout the hemisphere there is great concern that Colombia is both a blessing and a major problem. The blessing, the fact that we're going to be involved and trying to help. The major problem, the fear that we could end up militarily involved. I know that I'm supposed to stay -- I should stay here on budget questions, but I have the fear that our budget resources would be used in some sort of a military involvement in Colombia.

Joining them both together as a region that needs a lot of help, what could you tell me about those issues?

SEC. POWELL: With respect to El Salvador, we have tried to be as helpful and forthcoming as we can be in this time of crisis for them. And I'd like to give you an answer for the record as to how many -- you know, what else we can do beyond what we have already done. And there's a pretty good piece of change in the '02 submission for them, but maybe there's more we can do, and I'd like to look at that and give you an answer for the record.

With respect to what has been called Plan Colombia, that was last year. What we're calling it now is the Andean Regional Initiative. And there's reason for that name, in that it's beyond Colombia; it's the whole region, all the countries surrounding Colombia. We don't want to just push the problem in Colombia and have it pop out somewhere else. And it is more than just destroying coca fields and eradication; it has to be investment in democracy, it has to be investment in the rule of law, it has to be investment in alternate sources of income so that when somebody who's been growing coca leaves for a drug trafficker is not going to do that anymore, what can that person do to earn a living to put food on the table.

And so the Andean Regional Initiative, which we're asking $882 million for, will see only about -- less than half of that going to Colombia, and the rest of it going to the other nations in the region, and only half of it really being directed toward narcotrafficking, and the other half being directed toward human rights, democracy-building activities, law enforcement activities, building up the judiciary, building up the police forces in those nations, so that we're seeing this as a full-court press.

It also has to be the case, and it is the case that the real problem in the region is not caused by the region, it is caused by what happens on the streets of New York, the streets of all of our other major cities. And it is not just a poor kid's problem, a poor kid taking pot on the street corner, it's corporate lawyers, it's actors who over and over and over again continue to use drugs in an unlawful way. That's what's causing the problem in Colombia and in the other nations of the Andean region. And so we have to not only go after supply and interdiction, we also have to make sure we're dealing with the demand and the treatment side of this terrible problem.

REP. DAVID OBEY (D-WI): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Mr. Secretary, you talked earlier about wanting to encourage people to work for your department, and indicated you wanted to send a message about the value of public service in that realm. I would suggest that one way that we can send a better message than we're sending now is if we do more than we do when State Department personnel who are serving their country are wiped out in terrorist attacks.

I recall, for instance, Julian Barkley (sp) and several others who were killed in Kenya. Julian Barkley (sp), when he served as DCM in Kenya was -- he provided crucial service in saving the life of one of my constituents. And I have been most distressed to see that we don't really have a policy that I think compensates the survivors of victims. I'm not quite sure what that policy ought to be, frankly, but I would hope that you would look at that question and see whether or not we should be providing a policy which is more forthcoming with respect to their survivors.

And I'm just going to give you four or five points that I have in mind in order to save time, and then you can bounce back whatever you'd like.

Secondly, I appreciated the chairman showing us the film about the Sudan. I, frankly, don't know what we ought to do about a situation like that. And I think one of the great problems in public life is that there are often a lot of problems that you see are excruciatingly serious, and the problem is often we don't know what to do about them. But sometimes we do know what we can do and we are still, as one former president said, "frozen in the ice of our own indifference."

And what comes to mind to me in that category is what is happening to Africa with AIDS. I really do believe that the Western world has far greater capacity to meet that crisis. That really is a crisis of our souls, in my view, and I think we have a much greater capacity to deal with that issue than we are in fact bringing to bear on the situation. It is certainly not our primary responsibility, but it is our human responsibility.

And I would hope that between the State Department, CDC, World Health Organization, and all the other various agencies, that this is moved significantly higher on our -- not just our government's, but on the Western world's priority list than it is. We're about to lose half a generation in some of these countries. It's an incredible human tragedy.

Thirdly, I would like to make -- and this is not a criticism of you; it is a criticism of my own institution, this House. I did not support fast-tracking the original plan to provide aid to Colombia. It isn't that I'm against doing something there, but I think there is a reason for this institution to have the normal authorization and appropriation process so that we do, in fact, provide adequate oversight of any administration's foreign policy initiatives.

This Congress, in my view, had woefully inadequate oversight of the previous administration's proposal with respect to Colombia. And as a result, I am concerned that we are going to be faced with mission creep in that operation.

And I guess I raise it simply to bring to the attention of my own colleagues the fact that there is a reason why we ask committees to carefully look at issues before we move ahead, rather than asking House or Senate leadership to simply devise what they think is a hot idea and then ramming it through with no real opportunity to refine it, so that it, in fact, will accomplish its stated purpose.

I don't think there's a lesson in there for you. I hope that there's a lesson in there for us.

SEC. POWELL:

With respect to Colombia, I hope that the committee will provide oversight. I believe oversight of such programs is important, and now that it is being expanded to the Andean Regional Initiative, we welcome that oversight and look forward to working with the committee and other committees of Congress in making sure that the nation understands what the Andean Regional Initiative is all about.

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