by Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-New Jersey), June 21, 2000
LAUTENBERG. Mr. President, I rise in reluctant opposition to the amendment
offered by the Senator from Minnesota.
While I share his conviction
that we as a country must do more to reduce the demand for illegal drugs
in our society, I do not believe we should undermine our assistance for
Plan Colombia to pay for increased domestic drug treatment and prevention
Mr. President, I recently
visited Colombia to assess what our aid could accomplish. I went to see
the scope of drug crop cultivation and processing, to look into the political
context, the human rights situation, the goals of the Pastrana Government,
and to assess the capabilities of the military and the police.
I went with an open mind,
though I was concerned about the reported abuses of human rights and with
the effects of Colombian cocaine and heroin on the streets of New Jersey
and other states.
I left Colombia convinced
that we can help Colombia and help America by cooperating in the fight
against drug production, trafficking, and use.
Mr. President, aid for Plan
Colombia is strongly in the U.S. interest. While there can be legitimate
differences of opinion about the exact content of the aid package, such
as what kind of helicopters should be provided, we must use the opportunity
to cooperate with a fellow democracy to fight the scourge of drugs which
harms both our people.
Colombia's political will
is strong. While the political situation in Colombia is uncertain, President
Pastrana and the Colombian Congress have backed away from forcing early
elections and appear to be working out their differences. But the Colombian
people and their elected representatives want an end to the violence.
They support peace negotiations with the FARC and ELN guerrillas.
And they know the violence
will not end as long as it is fueled by drug trafficking and its dirty
The U.S. and Colombia have
a symbiosis of interest in combating drug production and trafficking.
While the Colombians mainly want to end financial support for various
armed groups, they are highly motivated to cooperate with our main goal--eliminating
a major source of narcotics destined for the United States.
Mr. President, we absolutely
need to improve protection for human rights in Colombia. The Colombian
people face very real risks of murder, kidnaping, extortion, and other
heinous crimes, so they always live in fear. Hundreds of thousands of
people have fled the violence. The Colombian Government--including the
military and the police--take human rights issues very seriously.
We need to hold them to their
commitments to make further progress, as the Senate bill language Senators
Kennedy and Leahy and I authored would do.
Mr. President, was particularly
impressed that the independent Prosecutor General's Office--known as the
Fiscallia--is firmly committed to prosecuting criminals, particularly
human rights violators. But in meeting with Colombian human rights groups,
I learned that the overwhelming majority of human rights abuses are committed
by the paramilitary groups, followed by the guerrillas.
Colombia must sever any remaining
ties between its military and the paramilitary groups and treat them like
the drug-running outlays they are. On the whole, winning the war on drugs
in Colombia should do more to improve security and safeguard human rights
than anything else we or the Colombian government can do.
To return to the amendment
now before us, Mr. President, I believe we need to keep working to reduce
demand for drugs here in America, but not at the expense of cutting efforts
to eliminate a major source of drugs to our country.
We have a tremendous opportunity--if
we are willing to devote a reasonable level of funding--to drastically
curtail the production of cocaine and heroin in Colombia, while supporting
democracy and the rule of law in that country. And, since Colombia is
the source of most of the heroin and 80 percent of the cocaine sold in
the United States, this is a real opportunity to help address the drug
problem in our own country.
I agree with the Senator from
Minnesota that America must do more to reduce the demand for drugs, particularly
by helping those already addicted. But we should not take away from our
support of Colombia's efforts in the process.
I yield the floor.
As of June 25, 2000, this document
was also available online at http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?r106:S21JN0-36: