by Sen. Bob Graham (D-Florida), June 21, 2000
GRAHAM. Mr. President, I have spoken earlier this afternoon on the issue
of Colombia in the context of the amendment offered by the Senator from
Minnesota. But now that we have another amendment relative to this provision
within the foreign operations appropriations bill, I am pleased to have
been afforded this opportunity to speak a second time.
I believe that the fundamental
thrust of the amendment offered by the Senator from Washington, which
would cut all but $200 million of the recommended appropriations for the
United States share of the financing plan in Colombia, would essentially
eviscerate not only the U.S. participation but would probably eliminate
the prospects of other nations, that see themselves looking to the United
States for leadership in terms of dealing with the crisis in Colombia,
and would probably have a very destabilizing effect on Colombia's stated
intention to provide more than half of the $7.5 billion cost of the comprehensive
plan in Colombia.
Essentially, what we would
be saying, by adopting this amendment, is that we are prepared to see
Colombia continue in the almost death spiral of downward direction in
which it has been in for the past many months.
I would like to first point
out what are some of the national interests of the United States that
would be sacrificed if we were to allow that to occur. Of course, the
most fundamental sacrifice would be the loss of an effective democratic
partner in the efforts to build stability within the Western Hemisphere.
Colombia is the longest continuous democracy on the continent of South
America. It is a country that other countries, which are relatively new
democracies, look to for leadership and example.
What a horrendous consequence
it would be if, by our lack of responding to the call for help at this
critical time, we were to be the principal agent of converting this nation
of over half a century of democracy into a failed state.
There are also consequences
to the region, particularly the Andean region. That is a region that is
already in trouble, as I know the Presiding Officer is well aware.
There is a new and untested
government in Venezuela. We have, in Ecuador, the first successful military
coup in Latin America in almost two decades. Peru is in the midst of a
contentious election aftermath
which in many quarters has been called incredible in the sense of not
being a credible election.
Even Bolivia, which has been
a source of stability, had to impose essentially a period of martial law.
And on the north side, we have Panama, which has recently been given full
control of the Panama Canal, and where there are great concerns about
the stability of that country, and particularly its vulnerability to drug
So here Colombia sits, in
the middle of this very vulnerable, fractious part of our hemisphere.
If it goes down, it will have enormous spillover effects, and the consequences
will be dire for U.S. interests.
What we most think about when
we hear the word `Colombia' is drugs. Colombia has become an even greater
source of drugs due, in part, to the success of our efforts in Peru and
Bolivia in reducing coca production, but also, unfortunately, due, in
large part, to the fact that we now have a marriage between the narcotraffickers,
the guerrillas, and the paramilitaries who are all working together in
various places in Colombia, particularly in the southern most regions,
to have contributed to a doubling, maybe soon a tripling, of drug production
in that nation over the last decade.
Colombia is also an important
economic partner of the United States. It has one of the larger economies
in Latin America, and it has been a significant trading partner for the
Colombia has had a long period
not only of democracy but also of sustained economic growth. It was not
until 3 or 4 years ago that the record of every year being better than
the last was broken in terms of the economy of Colombia. It was able to
avoid a series of economic crises in South America and be a solid bastion
of economic stability. That pattern is now broken, with 20 percent unemployment,
a 3- to 5-percent drop in gross domestic product, and an outflow of investment.
Finally, we have a national
interest in terms of the people of Colombia believing that their future
and their hope is in Colombia, and that they do not have to flee and become
another diaspora in the United States.
There has been substantial
out-migration, oftentimes of the people with the very skills that are
going to be necessary to restore the democracy and economy in Colombia.
When I was in Bogota, in December
of last year, I was told that if you wanted to apply for a visa to leave
Colombia, even as a tourist or for one of the standard visas, it took
10 months to get an appointment to meet with the U.S. consulate official
to apply to get a visa.
That is how backlogged they
are because of the number of people who are trying to legally leave the
country. One can imagine if these conditions of violence and economic
turmoil continue how many people will be leaving illegally from Colombia
with the United States as their primary destination.
We have a lot at stake. This
is not a trivial issue with which we are dealing. I hope just as we, by
a very strong vote, rejected previous propositions that would have diluted
our capacity to be a good neighbor on this critical issue, that we will
do so again in defeating the amendment offered by the Senator from Washington.
Once we have acted, we still
will have some work to do, in particular work to do in terms of internationalizing
the friends of Colombia to be a strong support group to continue this
effort, remembering that 30 percent of Plan Colombia is going to be paid
by other than the United States or Colombia--the Colombians have yet to
identify who will pick up that 30 percent of the cost--and that we must
put greater emphasis on the economic recovery of Colombia, which I hope
will include items such as bringing parity to the Andean pact nations
vis-a-vis the recently adopted increase in trade preferences for the Caribbean
Basin and extending the Andean trade preference to the year 2008 in order
to give investors greater confidence.
There is important work to
do today, important work to do tomorrow. The goal is to be a good neighbor
and contribute to the salvation of a very good friend of the United States,
Colombia, at a time of dire need.
As of June 25, 2000, this document
was also available online at http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?r106:S21JN0-228: