by Sen. Paul Wellstone (D-Minnesota), June 21, 2000
WELLSTONE. Mr. President, I remind my colleagues that the amendment I have
introduced with Senator Boxer takes nothing away from interdiction. It does
not take away from this package. We are focused on the support for the military
in the southern part of Colombia. That is what this is about. This is an
amendment that would transfer $225 million from aid to the Colombian military
for the push into southern Colombia into domestic drug treatment programs.
It is that simple. It is not about not providing assistance to Colombia.
It is not about not focusing on interdiction.
A number of different questions
have been raised. To respond to some of what has been said, I will respond
to the comments of my friend from Delaware.
It is important to note that
right now in our country, according to ONDCP--General McCaffrey and others
have talked about this quite a bit--there are about 5 million people in
need of treatment and only about 2 million receive it, private or public.
That means about 3 million people, more than half of the people who need
treatment, don't get any at all. Why aren't we dealing with the demand
We have a bill out here, almost
a billion dollars, and the majority leader comes to the floor and says
this is all about the war on drugs. I am saying, how about a little bit
that focuses on the demand side in our country. Let us have some funding
for drug treatment programs for people in the United States. Yes, we have
some money in the budget, but it is vastly underfunded.
The 2000 budget for SAMHSA
altogether is $1.6 billion. This is the block grant money that goes to
drug treatment. The States, which are down in the trenches using a different
methodology, report that close to 19 million people in our country are
going without any treatment. The ONDCP estimates, moreover, that 80 percent
of the adolescents in our country who are struggling with this problem
are getting no treatment at all. For women who are struggling with substance
abuse problems, 60 percent of them get no treatment at all. In some regions
of the country, the waiting list for treatment is 6 months long or longer.
The overall cost to our country for elicit drug use is about $110 billion
a year, according to the ONDCP. Right now we are spending $1.6 billion
on a block grant program that gets money down to the communities for treatment.
If anybody thinks this is
just an inner-city problem, consider a COSA report entitled `No Place
to Hide,' which showed that drug use, drinking and smoking among young
teens, is higher in rural America than our Nation's urban centers. According
to this report, eighth graders, 13-year-old children in rural America,
are 50 percent more likely to use cocaine than those in urban areas--I
remember when I heard Joe Califano say this; I was stunned--and 104 percent
more likely to use amphetamines, including methenamine. Drug treatment
is needed to treat addiction and to end the demand for drugs. This is
not just an urban problem.
We are talking about taking
$225 million out of this almost-billion-dollar package for Colombia. We
are saying, cannot any of this be put into treatment, if this is going
to be called the war on drugs legislation, as the majority leader identified
it. I think we have had a different debate on the floor. What I am saying
as a Senator from Minnesota is, can't we take some portion of that and
deal with the demand side? Can't we put some money into the war on drugs
in our own country? If 80 percent of the adolescents aren't receiving
any treatment and need some help, can't we get some help to them?
This amendment is supported
by Legal Action Center, National Association of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse
Counselors, National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Partnership
for Recovery, and State Association of Addiction Services.
Again, I say to my colleagues,
this amendment, when all is said and done, is basically saying to Senators
that we can provide assistance to Colombia, and we should.
We should provide extensive
assistance, including interdiction, but at the same time we ought to avoid
entanglement in a decades-old civil conflict and we ought to avoid partnership
with an army implicated in severe human rights abuses. Moreover, I am
saying we can take at least a small portion of the resources and put it
where it will do the most good, and that is in providing funding for drug
treatment programs at home.
I just want to echo the words
of my colleague from California. It is quite incredible to me that we
can find the money for the war on drugs--close to a billion dollars--for
Colombia, but we can't take $225 million and put it into community-based
treatment programs in the war on drugs in our own country.
Moreover, we have in this
legislation--and I think in particular this may interest the Chair--a
shift via a 7-to-1 ratio from money for police to military. This is particularly
worrisome because, right now, one human rights organization after another--and
we have our own State Department report on violations of human rights
abuses by paramilitary groups. It points out that we have a country where
civilians make up 70 percent of the casualties in that horrible war, and
paramilitary groups linked to the army commit over 75 percent of the abuses.
I say to my colleagues, again,
President Pastrana has made the political decision that he wants to conduct
a military campaign in the southern part of the state. All of a sudden,
this debate has shifted because Senators have come out here and have said:
Yes, Senator Wellstone, we are taking sides and we should take sides.
If President Pastrana says he needs money from us to support his military
in this counterinsurgency effort in the southern part of Colombia with
U.S. supporters on the ground with them, and if we don't stop this in
Colombia, then, God forbid, for the whole future of South or Central America--I
have heard this before--at least let's have this debate out in the open.
I know this is a debate about
a war on drugs, in which case I would say, yes, yes, yes. I would say,
we have in this package support for the Colombian Government, but if we
are going to have a war on drugs, do it in our country and deal with the
demand side and put more into community treatment programs. I think we
win that argument. I am sure the vast majority of people in Minnesota
agree. If you are going to spend money on the war on drugs, put some money
into our own country. We have a package out here that basically says,
for the first time, we are going to be directly aligned with the military
campaign in Colombia, in the southern part of Colombia.
I have some very real doubts
that militarizing this conflict is going to somehow be a successful war
against drugs. Moreover, as I have said earlier, I have some very real
doubts, which are expressed by human rights organizations and religious
organizations and a whole lot of people in our country and in Colombia,
that we should be taking sides and we should be supporting a military
which, as recently as this year, has been unwilling to change its practice
and stands accused by all of the reputable human rights organizations
of human rights violations.
Do we want to align ourselves
with this military, with these paramilitary groups that have committed
such terrorism against civilians and are responsible for most of the violence
in that country? I have not a shred of sympathy or support for
the guerrillas, the left-wing,
the right-wing, any of them.
The question is, If it is
a war against drugs, don't we want to put some money into the war against
drugs here? Other than that, do we want to take sides in this military
conflict? That is what my colleagues have been talking about today, and
they say we have to. They say that if we do, we will be able to--we have
language in this legislation that will safeguard against human rights
violations by the military, that we will be able to invest this money
in the military operation in southern Colombia and make sure everything
will be above board. Frankly, I think that is problematic at best.
I am not sure people in Colombia
or in the United States have the faintest idea what we are about to do.
We haven't been able to stop any of these human rights abuses over the
years. But now, all of a sudden, we are going to be right in the middle
of this and take sides, and we are going to be aligned with this military
campaign in southern Colombia, and we say we are going to vet it and make
sure there aren't any human rights violations.
Never mind that all the human
rights organizations on the ground say that will not work and the religious
community says it is a profound mistake; that all sorts of government
organizations in Colombia with a tremendous amount of credibility say,
don't do this; don't align yourselves with this military campaign in southern
Colombia. We are being told, no problem; we can vet this now.
I also want to say to my colleagues
I don't think we have taken these human rights abuses, either directly
by the military or the military assigned with these paramilitary groups,
very seriously. Again, that is a declaration from social and human rights
nongovernment organizations in Colombia; there must be 45, 50 organizations,
or more. We just disregard them. They are saying, yes, interdiction, give
us the package. But they are saying don't align yourselves with this military,
with such a horrendous, horrific record of violence, murder, violation
of human rights--alignment with the worst of the atrocities that have
been committed Colombia--just as we don't want to side with the left-wing
Why are we now taking sides?
Again, some of my colleagues
come out here and say this amendment is basically taking away assistance
to Colombia. It is not. Senator Boxer did a great job on that point. We
can take a couple hundred million dollars and put it into the war on drugs
in our own country. We deal with the demand side. It is so naive to believe
that all of what we see in our inner cities and our rural areas and suburbs,
all of the addiction, all of the substance abuse which destroys people's
lives--it is so naive to believe that if we now put money into a military
campaign in southern Colombia, this is the way to fight a successful war
on drugs. We have been down this road forever and ever and ever and ever.
When are we going to get serious about dealing with the demand for drugs
in our own country and the treatment programs? I don't know.
My colleagues just sort of
give the human rights question the back of the hand in this debate. I
have here the annual Human Rights Watch Report World 2000--I will read
it again--talking about the paramilitary killers and how stark they are
in their savagery, and all the ways in which the military has turned a
blind eye to it, and sometimes it is connected to these groups. And now
we want to put several hundred million dollars into supporting this military
directly in a campaign in southern Colombia with some of our people on
the ground with them?
I have to be concerned about the path we are taking. I am not going to
bore my colleagues with the statistics.
Let me ask the Chair how much
time I have.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The
Senator has approximately 15 minutes remaining.
Mr. WELLSTONE. Mr. President, this amendment is a sensible approach which
permits extensive assistance to Colombia while safeguarding U.S. interests
and avoiding entanglement in a decades-old civil conflict and partnership
with an army implicated in serious human rights abuses. Moreover, it moves
resources to where they will do the most good; that is, providing funding
for drug treatment programs at home.
In my State of Minnesota,
according to the Department of Human Services, there are 21,277 people
who have requested treatment for substance abuse and have not been able
to receive it. An additional 4,000 received some treatment but then were
denied further treatment because resources weren't available. Most cited
lack of funds to pay for the treatment, or they were put on a long waiting
list when they needed the treatment the most. Others said treatment services
were not appropriate for their needs--women with children, people with
transportation problems, people who were trying to find jobs and needed
treatment. This amendment calls for some balance.
When we started this debate
several hours ago, the majority leader came out on the floor and in a
very heartfelt way said this is about the war on drugs; this is about
what is going on in Colombia and the ways in which that country is exporting
their drugs to this country; they are killing our children.
If it is about the war on
drugs, then let's make it balanced. Let's support efforts to have a war
on drugs in Colombia. But let's also support the war on drugs in our own
country. Some of this money ought to be put in treatment programs.
It is absolutely naive to
believe we are going to be able to deal with the substance abuse problem
in our country without dealing with the demand side. It is shameful that
we have so little for the prevention and the treatment programs. This
amendment takes just a little over $200 million and puts it into community-based
I doubt whether there is a
Senator, Democrat or Republican, who either does not know a friend or
even a family member who struggles with alcoholism or drug abuse. We ought
to be doing a much better job of getting the treatment to people. This
war on drugs is focused on interdiction. It is focused on a military solution
in Colombia. I argue that it is one-sided. I would argue it is naive.
Second, I have today read
from about five different human rights organizations' studies, human rights
organizations that I believe command tremendous respect, I hope, from
all of us. I read excerpts from the State Department report of this past
year. I read a letter signed by 70 nongovernment organization, human rights
organizations, and people who were down in the trenches in Colombia. They
all said it would be a tragic mistake for our Government to now move away
from supporting police, supporting interdiction, supporting a lot of efforts
in Colombia, and shift a considerable amount of money to a direct military
campaign in southern Colombia--a military aligned with paramilitary groups
and organizations that have committed most of the violence in the country,
a military with a deplorable human rights record. It would be a tragic
for us now to become directly
involved in this civil war. It would be a tragic mistake for our Government
to support this military with Americans on the ground with them in southern
Colombia. What are we getting into?
I conclude this way: I do
not agree with some of my colleagues who have said that if we don't do
this, it is the end for Colombia, and watch out for all of South America
and Central America. I have heard that kind of argument before. It is
eerie to me. It has an eerie sound to me.
I do not agree that we should
take sides in this military conflict. Instead, I think we should be providing
all of the support we can to President Pastrana in his good-faith effort
to deal with drugs in this country, to build democratic institutions,
and to have economic development. I do not believe we should turn a blind
eye away from the blatant human rights violations of the military. I think
it is extremely one-sided to `fight a war on drugs' which won't work,
which will militarize our foreign assistance to Colombia, which will have
our country directly involved in this military conflict, away from at
least providing a small amount of money for community-based treatment
I urge my colleagues to support
I reserve the remainder of
As of June 25, 2000, this document
was also available online at http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?r106:S21JN0-36: