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Speech by Sen. Trent Lott (R-Mississippi), June 21, 2000
Mr. LOTT. Mr. President, I would like to use leader time at this point to speak with regard to the Wellstone amendment, which I understand he will be offering momentarily.

I rise to speak against the Wellstone amendment that I understand will be offered. What this amendment would do would be to knock out the funds that are included in the foreign operations appropriations bill for Colombian aid. Is that correct about the intent of the amendment by the Senator from Minnesota?

Mr. WELLSTONE. Mr. President, no, it is not. This amendment leaves several hundred million dollars out of the $900 million that would go to the southern Colombia military campaign. I will talk about the military and the right-wing violence groups and go through State Department reports and human rights reports about this. But in no way, shape, or form does this amendment say that.

Mr. LOTT. You would move a significant portion of the funds in excess of $900 million into another category to be used for exactly what? Will the Senator describe that to me?

Mr. WELLSTONE. I am pleased to. We are working on this final wording because we are trying to figure whether to do this out of emergency designation or whether we can do this in a different way.

What this amendment says is that we absolutely are committed to institutional building in Colombia; we are committed to helping out in every way, shape, or form, including interdiction and police action.

There are very serious concerns that have been raised by a whole range of religious groups. I have a list of hundreds of nongovernment organizations in Colombia, but a particular portion, $225 million, would go to this one military campaign in southern Colombia. This money instead would say--and this follows up on what General McCaffrey and others have said, which is that we also need to deal not just with interdiction but also the demand side in this country.

I say to the majority leader, I am going to be presenting compelling evidence about the huge gap in the number of people who are not getting any treatment.

We have to figure out a way to cut down on the demand side in our country so we will provide money for prevention and treatment programs in this country.

Mr. LOTT. I thank the Senator for his explanation.

At this time, rather than just speaking against his amendment, I will speak for what is in the foreign operations appropriations bill for the Colombia aid package. As a matter of fact, the Senate version has over $900 million in this area. The House bill actually included around $1.7 billion because the House included not only funds for the drug war in Colombia--I believe they also provided more than what had been asked for by the administration--they also provided some aid for other countries in the area that are also having some difficulty in fighting the drug situation in that part of the world.

Let me emphasize that we have been very much involved, obviously, in being supportive of bringing about a peaceful solution in Kosovo. It has been, of course, debated what should be done there, if we should do what we have done there, and how much should be spent there. The administration has pursued the policy there and the Congress has gone along with it, for better or for worse, at a cost of billions of dollars.

I point out on this map the area we are talking about. Kosovo is in this area of the world. It is very important to Europe and to our allies in Europe. I have suggested to our allies--NATO, Germany, Britain and other countries--they should assume more of the responsibility there, not less. I have been very concerned they have not met their responsibilities. Until just very recently, they seemed to be doing a better job of providing the money and the people they committed.

My point is while this is important, it is not nearly as close and as directly involved in the U.S. national security as the situation in Colombia. This map depicts Colombia. This whole region is experiencing some transition now. Since we have turned over the Panama Canal and closed our bases there, we see evidence that already there has been an increase of drug trafficking through Panama. We are concerned about the narcotraffickers in Colombia; we are concerned about what is happening in Venezuela, and this whole region of the world. It is in our neighborhood.

For years, to our own detriment, in my opinion, we have not been as involved with Central America and South America as we should have been. Now we see democracy and economic opportunity beginning to make progress in Central America, in the Caribbean, and democracy at least blossoming in parts of South America, but we see a threat, and it is being driven by drugs.

In addition to being in our hemisphere and in close proximity, we are talking about activities by people who are undermining the Colombian Government, who are killing people, and who are killing our children. The drugs that come out of Colombia are coming right into the United States--cocaine and heroin. They are poisoning our children.

I take this not very well. I am very concerned about it. I think we ignore it to our own peril. Should we do more in our country to deal with the demand problem, education, and treatment? Sure. We ought to find ways to do that. But we shouldn't do it by taking away from the efforts that are underway in Colombia.

That is why I call this a close national security interest for our own country. There are those who are worried if we do

this, we are slipping toward being involved. Where better to be involved than to try to take action and provide support for people who are trying to move toward greater democracy and greater economic development and to control and stop the drug trafficking and the drug pushers in that part of the world? I think we should do this. I think we should have been doing more a year ago or 2 years ago. I worked in the Senate with Senators Coverdell, DeWine, and others in communication with our own drug czar in America that we were not doing enough in Colombia.

Finally, the administration has said, well, we need to do something more; we need to be involved. I commend them for that. We need to get it done. That is why we pulled this foreign operations appropriations bill up as early as possible. We think we should get this foreign operations bill done and we should get the Colombian aid package included. This is very important for us.

President Pastrana of Colombia has asked for our help--not to solve the problem for him. We are not advocating U.S. troops go in or that we have direct involvement in their efforts there but to help him without American troops. Give them the aid they need; give them the equipment they need to fight these massive narcotic drug cartels in Colombia and that part of the world.

President Clinton's plan is multifaceted: Economic, political, social, and military means to gain the upper hand in dealing with the narcoterrorists who control vast amounts of Colombian territory. That is an area where I have some concern. I think too much territory has been conceded to these narcoterrorists.

Make no mistake, the FARC and the ELN guerrillas are ruthless. They don't know anything or care anything about human rights. They only want power to turn Colombia into the first nation controlled by narcoterrorists. Think about that. That is a real possibility unless we act to get assistance there as soon as possible.

Will this aid package alone solve the problem overnight? No. I emphasize again we should have been doing more last year and the year before and over a period of years. But it will make a significant contribution by giving to the Colombian Government the wherewithal to challenge these narcoterrorists.

We know one thing for certain: Without this package, these narcoterrorists will be emboldened and they will have no incentive to come to the peace table. The freely elected pro U.S. government of President Pastrana will be dealt a very serious blow. We cannot leave them unassisted when they have asked for our help.

This is a question of standing up for our children, of standing up and fighting these narcoterrorists in our part of the world, in our neighborhood, in our region. Colombia has a chance. They are tired of the bloodshed. They are tired of kidnappings. They are tired of human rights abuses on all sides. I don't for a minute mean to push aside the complaints about some of the human rights violations on the other side, but that shouldn't be a reason not to act.

I urge my colleagues to support this legislation, support the foreign operations bill as it is, with the Colombian aid. As a matter of fact, I think it is possible the aid may actually be increased somewhat in conference. We should not let this be pecked apart. We should step up to our responsibility and fulfill our commitment to Colombia, to President Pastrana for his efforts, but particularly for the children of our country.

Do not support amendments that will take away funds in this package and move them over into other areas. It is the minimum that we should do.

I thank Senator Wellstone for allowing me to go forward at this time.

I yield the floor.

[Page: S5488]
Mr. WELLSTONE. Mr. President, I say to the majority leader, I appreciate his comments and I did not want to interrupt him while he was speaking.

I will, in as thoughtful a way as possible, respond to some of his comments. I don't think there is any question that we need to deal with narcoterrorists. I don't really believe that is the issue. I will take time to develop this.

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