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Last Updated:6/25/00
Speech by Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Delaware), June 21, 2000
Mr. BIDEN. I thank the Senator. I thank the Senator from Minnesota, knowing he was about to give me time, which is his nature. I appreciate that.

Mr. President, my mom had an expression. Occasionally, when I was a kid, I think she had a good idea and was well intentioned. She would say, `Joey, the road to Hell is paved with good intentions.'

I have no doubt about the intentions of my friend from Minnesota. I know he knows that as the author of the drug czar legislation for the past, I guess it is about 14 years, I have issued every year a drug report or an alternate drug report laying out a drug strategy for the United States, usually as a counterbalance on the Republican administration and criticism or one of agreement with the administration.

This debate reminds me a little bit of the position in which Democrats have always been put. The Democrats get put in a position where we are told there is a dollar left and it can be distributed among the hearing impaired, the sight impaired, and those children needing emergency medical care. So we have to choose. We have the blind fighting the disabled fighting the hearing impaired. Instead of saying we can choose between building a highway and taking care of all the needs of those in desperate need, or we cannot build a submarine, or an air base, whatever, we are debating about whether or not we can walk and chew gum at the same time.

There is no disagreement. I have, as well as my colleagues, pushed--pushed in the early days when I was chairman of the Judiciary Committee--for major increases in treatment. I have issued a total of seven major reports on treatment, its value, its efficacy, and why we should be doing more.

I take a backseat to no one in arguing that we do not give enough treatment here in this drug war.

I point out that the President's budget, unrelated to the Colombian aid package, has $6 billion in it for drug treatment and drug prevention. That total includes $300 million in funding increases in this area. We don't have to take away from the money that, in fact, would have a significant impact on the reduction of product here. That is the bad news.

The good news is that, as we have debated the Andean drug policy for the past 12 years, we used to have to deal with the idea that Colombia was a transiting country as well as a country that turned raw product into the materials sold, and the laboratory work and product used to be produced in Bolivia and Peru.

The good news is, because of eradication programs, because of U.N. leadership, I might add in this area, essentially there has been an elimination of the crop in those two countries.

The bad news is that it has all moved into Colombia. They now are a full-service operation. The product is there, the narcotraffickers are there, the laboratory laboratories are there, and the transiting is there. That is the bad news.

The good news is it is all in one spot for us to be able to hit it. It is all in one spot for us to have a very efficacious use of this money.

I spent days in Colombia. I spent 2 days, 24 hours a day, with the President of Colombia. I ended up actually going with him on his Easter vacation by accident to his summer residence.

This is a guy, as my friend from Illinois points out, that is the real deal.

For the first time, we have a President who understands that his democracy is at stake. He is willing to risk his life--not figuratively, literally. I went to dinner with he and his children. He has seven bodyguards around his children because of the death threats. This is a guy who is risking his life. He is willing to do it because he understands what is at stake for his country, unlike previous Presidents.

The next point is, we are making this distinction between police and military. With all due respect to my friend from Minnesota, historically the thugs in South America have been the police. Police are not like police here. There is a national police; we have no national police. The Federales in Mexico were police, not army. Often the police in South America are the biggest abusers of human rights.

What did we do? We gave the Colombian National Police aid, $750 million in aid. What did we say? Purge this police department, purge the national police, and they did. And guess what. If I stood on this floor 5 years ago and said the Colombian police are going to crack the Medellin and Cali Cartel, no one would have said that is possible. No one.

Guess what. They cracked the Medellin Cartel. They cracked the Cali Cartel. They put them in jail. They are extraditing the police. Why? Because we trained their police; they purged 4,000 of them.

Where are we on military? I met here with every major human rights group from Colombia, including the bishops who came up. When we push them to the wall and say to them: By the way, you want us out?

No, no, no, no, no, no, don't do that. Don't do that. You have to stay in. You have to be involved. We don't like the balance the way you have it here.

I say: Fine. No problem.

Tell me, bishop, you want us in or you want us out?

Stay. Stay.

Now, civil war. There is no civil war. We are so caught up in the old logic of how we deal with things. There is no civil war. Less than 5 percent of the people of Colombia support the guerrillas. Every other guerrilla movement, every other civil war, you go into the village to recruit people. They go in, as my friend Illinois said, to shoot people. There is no popular sentiment at all. This is not a civil war.

With regard to the paramilitaries, I called President Pastrana a few weeks ago. I said, a lot of the criticism of the plan is you have to be sure that you are only focusing on the FARC and the ELN and only focusing on the guerrillas. What about the paramilitaries? I said, I want a letter guaranteeing that you will, in fact, move on the paramilitary simultaneously. You must change.

He changed it. Here is the letter. I ask unanimous consent the letter be printed in the Record.

There being no objection, the letter was ordered to be printed in the Record, as follows:
Santefe de Bogota, May 8, 2000.

Senator Joseph R. Biden, Jr.,
Ranking Minority Member, Committee on Foreign Relations, U.S. Senate.


[Page: S5498]
Dear Joe: Thank you again for your visit to Colombia and your support of my country. I greatly enjoyed our discussions and valued your insights.

I would like to take this opportunity to reiterate, as I did personally during your visit here, the commitment of my government to attack drug trafficking and cultivation in all parts of the country and not only in the south, no matter what individual or organization may be promoting them.

This policy has been in effect since the beginning of my administration, generating very important results. In 1999, 51,415 hectares of coca and poppy were sprayed, 31 tons of coca and 691 kilos of heroin were seized, and 166 labs and 44 airfields were destroyed. Just this past weekend, in an extraordinarily successful operation in Norte de Santander on the border with Venezuela, we were able to destroy 44 laboratories and capture 20 persons, in an area linked to illegal auto-defense organizations, but where guerrilla groups and organized drug traffickers also operate.

Plan Colombia is an integral plan for peace designed, among other goals, to eradicate drug cultivation and to address the social problems created by the violence associated with drug trafficking in all the producing regions with an emphasis on the areas where there is the greatest cultivation and/or a marked increase in cultivation in the recent past--areas close to the Ecuadorian border in the south and to the Venezuelan border in the north. Our priorities and the sequence of eradication will depend on the resources available to us, but you are correct in stating the principle that we want to demonstrate that no trafficking organization is immune.

Indeed, as you may know the initial effort of the plan marks combined police, military, civilian operations in the Department of Putumayo in the south where not only FARC but also auto-defense organizations are present. In that regard, the coordinated effort at drug eradication alternative development, support for the internally displaced, human rights protection, democratic governance, judicial reform and promotion of the rule of law will work to diminish drug-trafficking and violence in this fragile amazon region. We enjoyed your visit and hope to have you again as our guest. Your interest and that of your government in my nation's future strengthens our commitment and gives us crucial international support.

Sincerely,

Andres Pastrana Arango,
President of Colombia.


Mr. BIDEN. When I said, do we take sides? The answer is, yes, we take sides. We are not putting anybody in the field. What are we doing? We are training three battalions. Why are we training them? For the same reason we train the police. We want to open up the eyes of the Colombian military, who in recent years have been accused of fewer human rights abuses. They have been accused of turning their heads. They hear the paramilitary coming, they lift the gate, the paramilitary comes through, the paramilitary terminates people, and they go back out.

Then they ask, what happened?

That is what they are doing.

Plan Colombia does not only involve U.S. participation. This is a $7.5 billion plan. The Colombians are coming up with $4 billion; the Europeans, about $1 billion and the international financial institutions about $1 billion. If we take out our piece, it all falls apart. We are not the only game in town. But we are the catalyst. What will happen? The whole world is going to be looking to the Colombian military, from Japan to Bonn, because they are all in the deal. They are all in the deal. If you want to clean up anybody, anything, any institution, listen to the dictates of a former Supreme Court Justice: The best disinfectant is the clear light of day.

There will be a worldwide spotlight shined upon this military. I have never personally testified on the floor that I have faith in an individual leader, but I have faith in President Pastrana. He is the real deal. What is at stake is whether or not Colombia becomes a narcostate or not. This is not in between. Keep in mind, folks, when the Supreme Courts of Colombia several years ago extradited some, they blew the Court up; they blew the building up and killed seven Justices. When a Presidential candidate took them on, they shot him dead.

This is the real stuff. It is not like a Member of this body. The worst thing that happens to us is we get a drive-by shooting politically and we lose office. There, you jump in the sucker and you lose your life. This is for real. These are courageous people who finally have said: We will take them on.

I am convinced--knowing the chairman, and my friend from Kentucky is a hard-nosed guy--he made a judgment whether these guys are real. He is not about to give $1 billion to anybody.

My colleagues, it is very basic. There is a lot at stake. We have a significant increase in funding for treatment and prevention. It should be more. But we have an obligation, in the interests of our children and the interests of the hemisphere, to keep the oldest democracy in place, to give them a fighting chance to keep from becoming a narcostate. Folks, if they lose, mark my words, we are going to reap the whirlwind in this hemisphere on matters that go far beyond drugs. It will include terrorism, it will include whole cadres of issues we have not thought about.

I thank the chairman for his time. I truly appreciate the motivation of my friend from Minnesota. At the appropriate time, unless the chairman of the committee does not want me to, I move to table. I am not trying to cut off discussion.

As of June 25, 2000, this document was also available online at http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?r106:S21JN0-36:
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