by Sen. Jesse Helms (R-North Carolina), June 21, 2000
HELMS. Mr. President, I thank the Senator from Minnesota.
Mr. President, more than 80
percent of the cocaine, and most of the heroin flooding America's streets
comes from Colombia. That is just one of many reasons why helping honest
Colombians is an urgent and absolute necessity.
Today, Colombia's democratically
elected government is besieged by blood-thirsty communist guerrillas who
have gone into business with narcotraffickers, and, Mr. President, without
U.S. help, Colombia may very well lose its fight with these narcoterrorists--and
that is why the United States must move swiftly to help President Andres
Pastrana save the second oldest democracy in the Americas.
I support doing whatever it
takes to save Colombia--not only because of the enormous cost of drugs
to our country but because the United States of America should stand with
a decent, democratic government in our own hemisphere that is threatened
by Marxist terrorist groups.
I am grateful to the distinguished
Senator from Alaska, Mr. Stevens, and the able Senator from Kentucky,
Mr. McConnell, for including in the foreign operations bill the emergency
anti-drug assistance for Colombia and surrounding countries.
This bill deserves our support
even though I expect that the House-Senate conference will choose to make
For example, we must resist
unrealistic conditions that will block the delivery of badly needed support.
Also, I am persuaded that we must supply the Colombian Army with Blackhawk
helicopters so they have the mobility to respond to the hit-and-run tactics
of the guerrillas who are part of the drug trade.
The stakes are enormously
high. Colombia is one of the most important U.S. trading partners in the
Americas, with $4.5 billion in direct U.S. investment in sectors--not
counting the key petroleum sector. Also, the guerrillas have expressly
targeted American businesses and citizens in Colombia for bombings, kidnapings,
Further, the threat to regional
stability is acute: Venezuela, Peru, and Ecuador all have massed troops
on their borders with Colombia. Panama, which has no army, is helpless
to secure its frontier from smugglers of drugs and weapons.
President Pastrana doesn't
ask us to do his fighting for him. In fact, no man alive has taken more
risks for peace. If anything, he might be criticized for making too many
concessions to bring the guerrillas to the peace table.
The guerrillas have responded
by launching murderous attacks on civilian targets. While President Pastrana
is going the extra mile for peace, the guerrillas have launched a recruitment
drive--bent on tearing Colombia apart.
These guerrillas are criminals
and terrorists who thrive on drug trafficking, kidnaping, and extortion.
They are playing an ever-increasing role in the drug trade, which earns
them a blank check from the narcotraffickers who realize that chaos is
good for their dirty enterprise.
These 20,000 guerrillas move
about the country virtually unchallenged while most of Colombia's army
is pinned down protecting bridges, oil pipelines, and power stations from
terrorist attacks. That leaves only 40,000 soldiers, with a mere 30 helicopters,
to take on the guerrillas in a rugged, mountainous country almost twice
the size of Texas.
What can the United States
do to help?
We can approve emergency anti-drug
aid to Colombia and to her neighbors, thereby giving them a fighting chance
to stem the tide of lawlessness and cocaine that threatens the entire
U.S. support will bolster
the Colombian army's counter-drug battalions, providing continued U.S.
military training, better intelligence and communications, and increased
mobility in he form of transport helicopters. We will also provide support
to eradicate illegal crops and create alternative employment for displaced
Current U.S. law requires
that any military units receiving U.S. aid must be `scrubbed' for human
rights violations. That is as it should be. But we should not hold U.S.
support hostage to unrealistic preconditions.
If America fails to act, Colombia
will continue to hurdle toward chaos. If the war drags on--or if desperate
Colombians lose their struggle or are forced to appease the narco-guerrillas--the
United States and the rest of the hemisphere will pay a very dear price.
The longer we delay, the higher
that price will be.
I urge Senators to support
emergency anti-drug support for Colombia--and to do so without delay.
As of June 25, 2000, this document
was also available online at http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?r106:S21JN0-36: