by Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), June 21, 2000
WARNER. Mr. President, I thank the managers for their efforts on this very
important piece of legislation. They will have my support.
Mr. President, I have been
associated with this very important piece of legislation providing aid
to Colombia since it was first recommended to the Congress of the United
I commend the administration
and, in particular, General McCaffrey. I have had an opportunity, as chairman
of the Committee on Armed Services and, indeed, for some 22 years to work
with General McCaffrey, particularly during the period of the Gulf War
in 1991 when he showed extraordinary leadership as a troop commander in
that decisive battle to turn back Saddam Hussein's threats.
Now he has volunteered, once
again, as an American patriot, to take on this somewhat thankless task
of dealing with the almost insoluble problems of the importing into this
country of drugs. This is one effort by the general--indeed, the administration,
and others--to try to curtail this illegal importation of drugs.
I heard a colleague earlier
today concerned about: Well, we are not spending enough money here at
home. My quick research and consultation with other colleagues indicates
that I think some $500 million in taxpayers' money has been added by this
Congress to the Administration's budget requests for domestic programs
over the past 3 years. This money has been expended in an effort to educate
and to, in every other way, help Americans, first, avoid the use of drugs
and then, if misfortune does strike an individual and their families,
to try to deal with the tragic consequences.
So I rise to speak in support
of the U.S. counternarcotics activities in the Andean ridge and neighboring
countries, as provided for in this bill, and to address the impact of
drug trafficking on the stability of the region.
The importance of this region
to the United States cannot be overestimated. I will give you one example.
The region provides the United States with almost 20 percent of the supply
of foreign oil. The number is likely to increase with the recent discovery,
in Colombia's eastern plains, of reserves estimated at 2 million barrels.
The ongoing controversy over the price of gas by the American motorists
at this very moment is reason to help Colombia fight this problem.
When I say help this nation,
I have been privileged to meet with their President in the course of his
visits here, and also meet with the Foreign Minister, the Ambassador--the
very courageous Ambassador from Colombia to the United States--and many
others from that nation. And, indeed, I have met with private citizens
here in America who have had their origin and background in Colombia.
So I have talked to a wide range of individuals.
This legislation is the right
thing. I commend all those, certainly here in the Senate, and particularly
those in the current Government of Colombia, as well as the citizens who
have worked to foster this legislation.
Mr. President, to reiterate
I rise to speak in support of United States counter-narcotics activities
in the Andean Ridge and neighboring countries as provided for in this
bill, and the impact of drug trafficking on the stability of the region.
The importance of this region to the United States cannot be overstated.
This region provides the United
States with almost 20 percent of its supply of foreign oil--a number that
is likely to increase with the recent discovery in Colombia's eastern
plains of reserves that are estimated at two billion barrels. The ongoing
controversy over the price of gasoline that the American motorist is paying
only serves to reinforce the importance of this commodity in our everyday
life and economy.
In sharp and tragic contrast
is the threat from this same region posed by illegal drugs to American
citizens on the streets of our cities and in the playgrounds of our schools.
An estimated 80 percent of the cocaine and 90 percent of the heroin smuggled
out of Colombia is destined for the United States. Sadly these drugs have
caused, directly and indirectly the death of 50,000 Americans each year
and the loss of billions of dollars from America's economy.
I am also very concerned about
the impact that narco-trafficking in Colombia is having on the democratically
elected governments in the region. Many of these countries have only recently
transitioned from military dictatorships to democracies--and as recent
events have demonstrated--these democracies are fragile. The `spill over'
effect from the narco-trafficking in Colombia could prove enormously destabilizing
to the surrounding nations.
Additionally, this region
is home to the Panama Canal, a waterway of significant importance to America.
With the United States no longer maintaining a permanent military presence
in Panama, it is crucial that we be vigilant against any threat as a consequence
of drug trafficking our friends in the Panamanian Government and the Canal
The President's recent request
for a $1.6 billion supplemental aid package to assist Colombia and its
neighbors in their counter-narcotics efforts, and the funding which will
be appropriated through this and other acts for that purpose, represents
an increased U.S. role in the region's difficulties. The rampant violent
criminal activities of the various terrorist organizations and paramilitary
groups involved in narco-trafficking, including kidnaping and murder,
continue to undermine the stability of the democratically elected governments
of the region. This is particularly true in Colombia.
The proposed aid package,
much of which will be provided to Colombia in order to fund portions of
the $7.5 billion Plan Colombia, represents one of the most aggressive
foreign policy actions of the United States in Latin America in recent
history. However, the funding contained in this package is only a small
part of our overall commitment to this problem. We already spend hundreds
of millions of dollars and deploy hundreds of military personnel to the
region every year. In addition to the proposed increase in funding, our
support for Plan Colombia will require us to deploy many more military
personnel in order to train Colombia law enforcement and military personnel.
This is a matter of grave concern for the Senate Armed Services Committee,
which has as its primary focus the safety and well-being of the men and
women who proudly serve in the Armed Forces.
The decision by the Congress
to support Plan Colombia and an increased American involvement in the
region was not to be an easy one to make. Some have compared the situation
in Colombia to Vietnam, and warn against such a U.S. military involvement
in an internal matter. Others believe that such involvement is in our
vital interest and warn of the consequences if we refuse to engage.
On April 4th of this year,
the Senate Armed Services Committee held a hearing on this issue in order
to explore the problem and determine what, if any, assistance was appropriate.
Our witnesses at that hearing included Brian Sheridan, Assistant Secretary
of Defense for Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict; Rand Beers,
Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement
Affairs; General Charles Wilhelm, Commander-in-Chief, United States Southern
Command; and Mr. Peter Romero, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for
Western Hemisphere Affairs.
Mr. President, at that hearing
I asked our witnesses five questions I believe to be essential in making
a decision regarding what role the United States should play in this effort:
(1) Is it in our vital national
security interest to become involved?
(2) Will the American people
support this involvement?
(3) Can we make a difference
if we become involved?
(4) Will American involvement
create a reaction amongst the people of the region that is counter to
our interest? and
(5) Are those we propose to
help committed to achieving the same goals we support?
These are not easy questions
but the testimony of the witnesses left me to conclude that it is in our
interest, that we can make a difference, and that we will have the support
of the people of the United States and the people of the region if we
take appropriate and effective action to help the democratically elected
governments of this region regain control of their sovereign territory.
Mr. President, this bill represents
that appropriate action and I believe that our Armed Forces will ensure
that it is effective.
I urge my colleagues to support
Mr. President, I yield the
floor and suggest the absence of a quorum.
As of June 25, 2000, this document
was also available online at http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?r106:S21JN0-228: