memo to committee members from Chairman Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Illinois),
Hearing of the House International Relations Committee: "Plan Colombia:
Major Successes and New Challenges," May 11, 2005
ON INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS
U.S. House of Representatives
Members of the Committee on International Relations
Chairman Henry J. Hyde
Background Memorandum for Full Committee Hearing, "Plan Colombia: Major Successes and New Challenges," Wednesday,
May 11, 2005, 2:00 p.m.
The Self-Evident Success
Plan Colombia, the United States
has led efforts against "narco-terrorism" by spending more than
$3 billion in aid since the year 2000, with the result that murder,
kidnapping, and terrorist attacks are down by more than 50 percent.
Extraditions to the United States of major drug kingpins and terrorist leaders
are at an all-time high. Illicit coca crop cultivation has
fallen by about one-third, and more than 50 percent of the opium
crop has been eliminated. The opium crop reduction is particularly
important since, unlike cocaine, it is nearly impossible to interdict
small, easily concealed, and deadly heroin kilos.
force action against illicit drugs has also increased. At
least 4,000 paramilitary (AUC) members have "demobilized" in groups,
and more than 6,000 guerrilla members of the Revolutionary Armed
Forces (FARC) have "demobilized" individually; ex-members of both
of these combatant terrorist groups have given up arms and drug
crops and licit cultivation in the rural areas in the very same
time frame have increased by nearly 40,000 hectares, and overall
the Colombian Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has nearly tripled.
Many Colombians feel a renewed sense of security and safety
and now, more than ever, freely travel about much of the country.
Colombia is a key U.S. ally and a stabilizing force in the very unsettled
Andean region, and it needs our continued support.
The broad problem and new challenges
all this noted progress, what remains wrong? The U.S. government has not been able to fully capitalize and
take maximum advantage of many of these fruits of victory, especially
concerning the large number of demobilized ex-combatants, which
numbers close to 11,000. We have not made use of these defectors
in manual crop eradication, which is denying the potential for
more eradication in areas where aerial spraying may not be
the best option (e.g. in national parks and in small, hard-to-find
plots mixed in, with or near licit crops).
must also do better in our efforts at interdiction of the finished
product, and there is a specific shortfall in this area.
There has been a lost opportunity to effectively interdict processed
drugs which are headed to the United States.
Due to more pressing and critical homeland security concerns after
9/11, U.S. military marine patrol aerial assets (MPA) have been
brought back home and their participation in our counter-drug
interdiction efforts in both the Caribbean
and Pacific have been cut by more than 70 percent. Civilian
assets, such as U.S. Customs P-3s, are still available to help,
but only on a random basis, not full time.
must be mindful that the great success in reducing Colombian opium
has caused a balloon effect of increasing opium production in
nearby Peru, as drug traffickers seek other sources of raw material
for their heroin product. We have not seen this balloon
effect on coca, as there has not been substantial replanting of
coca in Peru, Bolivia, and elsewhere.
While the progress is enormous and unprecedented on the illicit
crop eradication and drug interdiction front, and we can do even
better on both the eradication and interdiction fronts.
have seen a major gap develop in the military aerial efforts at
interdiction of processed drugs headed from Colombia to the United
States, through either the Pacific or the Caribbean.
Due to more pressing and critical homeland security concerns post
9/11, U.S. marine patrol aerial assets (MPA) have been cut by
more than 70 percent and brought back home. Civilian assets such
as the U.S. Customs P-3s are still available to help on a random
basis, but not full time.
may be undercutting our own eradication efforts and overall counter-narcotic
success in Colombia, because it is becoming easier to get the
processed drug (cocaine), which we can't eradicate at the source,
into the United States or into Europe,
and this is where 40 to 50 percent of Colombian cocaine is headed,
by some expert estimates.
cocaine interdiction seizures are still very high and there are
other effective marine interdiction programs, the Administration
to date has yet to come up with a plan to make up for the military
MPA shortfall. Despite the fact that they have cut these
assets so dramatically, they have been aware of the counter-narcotics
marine interdiction gap for some time.
House International Relations Committee staff was alerted to the
MPA problem last year by our embassy in Bogota. In response to the Ambassador's
specific concerns, proposed solutions would turn much of the MPA
mission over to the very effective, but much underfunded, Colombian
Navy. The Colombian Navy itself has the best opportunity
close to shore to work with their own excellent and effective
Colombian National Police anti-drug unit to detect and catch the
fast boats and other marine vessels carrying drugs to the United
States, before they ever get close to reaching our shores.
(The best interdiction strategy, according to experts in the Unites
States Coast Guard (USCG), is to seize illicit drugs when they
are nearest the shore.)
would like to see a start on "Colombianization" of some of our
interdiction efforts, and one day to be able to end the need for
U.S. Navy, USCG, and other U.S.
military services to handle all of the MPA anti-drug functions.
We need the Administration to provide some ideas and suggestions
about how and when are they going to permanently close the military
MPA interdiction gap for illicit drugs coming from Colombia.
are open to any suggestions or creative ideas the Administration
might have on this MPA anti-narcotics interdiction gap, but it
cannot be ignored forever. A mismatch of borrowed military
or civilian aircraft is not a solution and leaves us wide open
to major drug trafficking activity. Drug traffickers generally
know and gather intelligence on when there is, or is not, marine
air surveillance coverage. They take advantage of any such
Demobilization of Terrorists
United States has been on the
sidelines while lawyers debate our role in helping to end terrorism
and drug production. Because of the fear of the Department
of Justice potentially charging a U.S. Government official with
materially supporting a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) by
helping them in demobilization efforts with these ex-terrorists,
or by transporting on U.S. aerial assets these former FTO members
to do manual eradication, the U.S. program for Colombian demobilization
has been stuck in legal limbo for more than a year.
April of 2004, the U.S. embassy in Bogota has faced the threat of federal indictments for helping
the demobilized ex-combatants efforts in Colombia, and little or no aid money has been expended to
help the Colombians with this massive challenge of 11,000 ex-combatants.
We are missing an opportunity to accomplish even more in the manual
eradication area by using this cheap labor work force; but, more
importantly, we are failing to take these former narco-guerillas
and terrorist permanently out of the business of killing, producing,
and trafficking in illicit drugs to our nation and around the
need to establish clarity for U.S.
efforts in this vital area during the hearing. Our hearing
will examine how we can overcome this legal logjam over demobilization
and maximize our efforts in the global fight against narco-terrorism
that is consistent with U.S. overall counter-narcotic and counter-terrorism policy.
Balloon Affect Opium Eradication and Shift of Poppy Production
have made great progress in the eradication of opium in Colombia, as we have previously said. Now we are seeing
the shift of opium to nearby Peru, and U.S. policy and strategy have not yet made the shift.
Office of National Drug Policy data of March 25, 2004 indicates
that opium poppy cultivation in Colombia
fell 52 percent between 2003 and 2004. The estimated 4,400
hectares of opium for 2003 decreased steeply to 2,100 hectares
due to police eradication, both through aerial spraying, and manual
Ministry of Peru data indicates that Peru may now have 1,400 hectares
of opium, mostly in the north near the Ecuador and Colombian border,
and opium latex is now being trafficked by Colombian drug dealers
through Ecuador into Colombia for processing into heroin.
recent seizure of 440 kilos of opium in Peru (nearly a half ton
of opium) shows how serious the growth of opium is now in that
nearby nation and why Peru needs
an opium eradication plan.
and other issues will be the subject of our hearing, and we will
have all of the Administration offices represented before the
Committee to answer questions.