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Last Updated:7/7/05
Speech by Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Massachusetts), June 28, 2005

Mr. McGOVERN. Mr. Chairman, I offer an amendment.

   The CHAIRMAN. The Clerk will designate the amendment.

   The text of the amendment is as follows:

   Amendment No. 6 offered by Mr. McGovern:

    Page 31, line 7, after the dollar amount, insert the following: ``(reduced by $100,000,000)''.

   The CHAIRMAN. Pursuant to the order of the House of today, the gentleman from Massachusetts (Mr. McGovern) and the gentleman from Arizona (Mr. Kolbe) each will control 30 minutes.

   The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Massachusetts (Mr. McGovern).

   Mr. McGOVERN. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself 5 minutes.

[Page: H5308]

   Mr. Chairman, I rise in strong support of the McGovern-McCollum-Moore amendment to cut military aid to Colombia by $100 million.

   For the past several years, we have debated Colombia policy here in the House. We are always being told that things are getting better; but they are not getting better, Mr. Chairman.

   This policy has failed as an antidrug policy. It has failed as a human rights policy, and it has failed to have any impact whatsoever in reducing the availability, price or purity of drugs in the streets of America. In fact, illegal drugs are cheaper today than they were 6 years ago and $4 billion ago. And yet we will hear again today from supporters of Plan Colombia that everything is just rosy in Colombia, that we are winning the drug war, and respect for human rights is flourishing. Not true, Mr. Chairman.

   It makes no difference whether you are looking at the United Nations numbers, the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy numbers, the Colombian National Police, or the CIA's. It all adds up to the same picture. Compared to where we were in 1999, right before the start of Plan Colombia, coca cultivation in Colombia has declined by only 7 percent and in the Andean region by only 9 percent. And the growing of coca did not decrease at all in the year 2004.

   On top of that, the U.N. and the Colombian National Police agree that opium growing in Colombia did not decrease at all in 2004.

   You have to twist yourself into a pretzel to make something good out of these numbers. You do that by deliberately ignoring where we were 6 years ago before Plan Colombia and picking and choosing bits and pieces of statistics, like starting your comparisons in 2003. Well, that only works because you ignore the huge increases in coca production in 2000, 2001, and 2002.

   But, ultimately, the most damning numbers come from our own Department of Justice, which states that cocaine remains readily available on the streets of America, with wholesale and retail prices for cocaine and heroin at an all-time low and purity at or near historic highs.

   Congress was told that we had to support Plan Colombia. We had to pour billions and billions of U.S. tax dollars into the Colombian military to stop the surge of drugs in America.

   Well, what a waste of money it has been. Six years ago, the Rand Corporation told us that every dollar we spent trying to wipe out coca in remote areas of Colombia would be 23 times more effective if we spent it right here at home on drug treatment, prevention, and education and on local law enforcement.

   But Congress chose to ignore that good advice; and here we are, 6 years and $4 billion later. Now, we may have thought our policy was tough on drugs, but it sure was not very smart.

   So how about human rights? Is Colombia's human rights situation any better today? Colombia is still the most dangerous country in the world to be a trade union leader. It is the second most dangerous place to be a religious pastor or lay leader.

   The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees calls the issue of Colombia's internally displaced a great humanitarian crisis second only to Sudan. Death threats against human rights defenders have increased significantly over the past 18 months.

   Abuses by the Colombian military are on the rise and the armed forces commit crimes with impunity, with no high-level Colombian military officer ever having been successfully prosecuted for human rights crimes.

   Even our own State Department has not been able to certify any human rights progress in Colombia since March because the situation is so untenable. But has Colombia tried to improve their human rights situation at all so that the State Department could have something, anything that will allow it to certify? Not at all.

   But so much pressure from the Pentagon and the Colombian Government and even from some members of Congress is building on the State Department to go ahead and certify anyway that I hear that the State Department is likely to certify right after this Congress breaks for the Fourth of July recess.

   But the most galling thing of all is this: while U.S. taxpayers have sent over $4 billion of their hard-earned money to Colombia over the past 6 years, the wealthy elites of Colombia have hardly contributed a dime. Out of a population of 42 million people, only 740,000 Colombians pay any income tax at all, and even that is a pitiful amount. So Colombians are not paying to fight their own war, and they are not paying to improve the conditions that keep so many of their own people in poverty.

   It is time that this House stood up and decided to stop sending a blank check to Colombia, year after year. It is time that we demand real progress on human rights as a condition to our aid. It is time that we stop being a cheap date.

   We are not walking away from Colombia. We are just sending a long overdue message that it is time to take a cold hard look at our current course and change it.

   Mr. Chairman, I reserve the balance of my time.

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