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Last Updated:7/7/05
Speech by Rep. Jerry Weller (R-Illinois), June 28, 2005

   Mr. KOLBE. Mr. Chairman, I yield 3 minutes to the gentleman from Illinois (Mr. Weller), a member of the Committee on Ways and Means and also an individual who has spent a great deal of time in Central America and Latin America studying this issue.

   Mr. WELLER. Mr. Chairman, I rise in strong opposition to this amendment offered by the gentleman from Massachusetts (Mr. McGovern) and who I have great respect for, but disagree on some things, particularly this amendment. This amendment, I believe, would cut the rug out from under our democratically elected ally in Colombia.

   Let us look at the facts. The facts are that Colombia is a democracy. The facts are that Colombia is our hemisphere's second oldest continuous democracy. The facts are that 90 percent of the cocaine and 50 percent of the heroin that comes into my home State of Illinois comes from the Andean region, particularly Colombia. The facts tell us that Colombian drugs in 2001 killed more Americans than the attack on the World Trade Center. The facts tell us that the criminal sale of narcotrafficking of drugs supports almost 30,000 terrorists, terrorists who are affiliated with two leftist terrorist groups, FARC and the ELN, and one right wing terrorist group, AUC.

   I would note that these are terrorist groups that enslave child soldiers, sending children into battle against the democratically elected government of Colombia.

   Today, 65 elected officials, judges, and a presidential candidate are held hostage. They are political prisoners, held by the FARC. These 65 political prisoners are the only political prisoners held in our hemisphere outside of Cuba, that brutal dictatorship.

   We have a partner in President Uribe, and Colombia is making progress under Plan Colombia. Homicides are down, kidnappings are down, terror attacks are down, and 250 narcoterrorists and drug kingpins have been extradited to the United States for trial. Again, Plan Colombia is working.

   When it comes to intercepting drugs this past year, 475 tons of drugs were eradicated or seized in 2004. I would note just this past week the Colombian Government was successful. In one drug bust, they seized 15 tons of street-quality cocaine, worth $400 million in Boston or Chicago. Again, progress is being made. Clearly, by voting ``yes'' for this amendment, Members pull the rug out from under the democratically elected government of Colombia.

   I have worked with many friends on both sides of the aisle. We have talked about finding alternative crops to help the farmers in Colombia make money and have a profitable alternative to becoming cocaleros, and I am proud that through USAID our investments are paying off. Today, thousands of former cocaleros are now cafeteros, growing coffee for a more profitable market as coffee prices have increased in the past year. As part of that commitment, the United States joined the International Coffee Organization. Since then, prices have gone up $1 a pound.

   Mr. Chairman, vote ``no'' on the McGovern amendment.

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