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Last Updated:6/25/00
Speech by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-California), June 21, 2000
Mrs. FEINSTEIN. Mr. President, I rise today to voice my strong support for the long-in-coming supplemental appropriations request for Colombia included as part of this Foreign Operations bill. I believe that there are few requests more important to the security and well-being of this nation in the coming years than this one.

I believe that it is critical that we move quickly to pass the Foreign Operations bill and this emergency supplemental request for Colombia.

Some have argued that the Colombia proposal is simply too expensive. But I believe that this proposal represents the proper balance regarding what should--in fact must--be one of this nation's highest priorities: to stop the flow of illegal narcotics into the United States.

As we debate this proposal today, Colombia faces an unprecedented crisis.

Almost 40 percent of the country--an area itself the size of the entire nation of Switzerland--is under the control of the Armed Revolutionary Forces of Colombia, FARC. The FARC is an alliance of some 20,000 drug traffickers and terrorists who threaten the stability not only of Colombia, but of the entire Andean region. And, as we all know, there are right-wing paramilitary groups in Colombia who also have ties to the drug trade.

Over 80 percent of the world's supply of cocaine is grown, produced or transported through Colombia, and large swaths of Colombia, now lawless or under FARC or paramilitary control, have become prime coca and opium producing zones.

These FARC rebels earn as much as two or even three million dollars per day from drug cultivators and traffickers who rely on their protection or--perhaps even more likely--who fear their retribution.

The FARC is currently holding hostage as many as 1,500 to 2,500 people, including at least 250 military prisoners and 250 police officers.

And, as the ability of the government of Colombia to govern large areas of their own country continues to disintegrate, the FARC narco-terrorists and paramilitaries continue to expand their base of operations and attack surrounding areas.

All this, and Colombia is facing its worst economic recession in more than 70 years: Real GDP fell by over 3 percent last year. Clearly, something needs to be done. And clearly, Colombia will need help.

The situation in Colombia is not simply a problem in a far away land. The events taking place in Colombia have direct and severe repercussions for the United States and the rest of the world.

Colombia is the source country for 80 percent of the cocaine consumed in the United States each year, and up to 70 percent of the heroin.

And the situation is getting worse, not better. Coca cultivation in Colombia has doubled in the past decade alone, and shows no sign of slowing.

In addition to undermining the democratic institutions in Colombia, the violence that has become endemic has forced over 500,000 people to flee Colombia; 65,000 have sought refuge in the United States.

According to the administration, illegal drugs account for over 50,000 deaths each year in the United States, and cost over $100 billion a year in health care costs, accidents, and lost productivity. So the problem of narcotics production in Colombia is not just a problem in Colombia: To the flow of drugs from Colombia has very real, and very damaging effects, on our country.

Earlier this year, I joined many of my colleagues on the Appropriations Committee as we met with Colombia's President, Andres Pastrana. President Pastrana outlined a clear and comprehensive plan to address the drug trade, and to start solving the deeper problems within his country.

It is an ambitious plan, but one which I believe can be implemented, and can promote the peace process, strengthen democracy, and help revive Colombia's economy.

The Plan Colombia encompasses far more than the request we have before us. A combination of internal and external sources will be providing Colombia with most of the $7.5 billion over three years that President Pastrana has deemed necessary.

The United States need provide but a piece of the overall plan. Working with President Pastrana, President Clinton has asked Congress to fund $1.6 billion of that total. The two-year package will assist Colombia in combating the drug trade; help the country promote peace and prosperity; and deepen its democracy. This is a large package, but it is in our interest to provide it.

Without a major new effort, supported by the United States, the Colombian military and police simply lack the resources and ability to defeat the FARC and narco-trafficking forces.

Plan Colombia is focused on efforts to boost Colombia's interdiction and eradication capabilities, particularly in the south, including:

Funds for special counter-narcotics battalions to push into coca-growing regions of Southern Colombia;

Funds to purchase helicopters, desperately needed to provide the Colombian National Police access to the remote and undeveloped regions of the country where the narco-traffickers thrive;

Funds to upgrade Colombia's interdiction capabilities, with aircraft and airfield upgrades, radar, and improved intelligence gathering;

Funds for equipment to be used in increased eradication efforts;

Funds to provide economic alternatives to coca growers; and,

Funds for new programs to promote human rights, help the judicial system and to crack down on money laundering.

As many of my colleague are aware, there is some concern about the human rights questions raised by this assistance package. This supplemental request, after all, provides military assistance to an army and a police force which, in the past, has had a less than Steller record on human rights issues.

But it is my belief that the Leahy amendment, augmented by specific language that has been added to this legislation in committee, goes a long way towards meeting these concerns.

To begin with, any U.S. assistance to Colombian military and police forces will be provided in strict accordance with section 563 of the FY2000 Foreign Operations Act--the Leahy amendment.

In addition, this legislation contains new and specific provisions intended to guarantee the protection of human rights. Colombian military officers accused of human rights violations are to be tried in a civilian court, for example, not in the military courts which have, in the past, been far too lenient in how they treat these cases. There are also requirements that any Colombian military units trained by the United States as part of this antinarcotics effort be screened for human rights abuses.

In addition, the committee has also included language at my request relating to the proliferation of small arms and light weapons in the regions which, I believe, has greatly contributed to the culture of violence and lawlessness in Colombia.

I believe that any effective strategy to stabilize the region and reduce the influence of the criminals, drug traffickers, narco-terrorists, and paramilitaries must include the implementation of stringent controls on existing stockpiles and the destruction of surplus and seized stocks of small arms and light weapons.

The small arms and light weapons language calls for the creation of a serial number registry by the Department of State and by Colombia to track all small arms and light weapons provided to Colombia under this supplemental request, as well as the creation of a small arms and light weapons destruction initiative for the region. If any of the small arms and light weapons the United States supplies to Colombia as part of this assistance package are used in violation of human rights, this registry will allow us to track, to the unit, who was using these weapons and bring the responsible party to justice.

On the question of human rights then, I believe that although we must remain watchful, the package crafted by the Appropriations Committee does a good job in meeting the concerns that have been raised.

Let me take a minute here, however, to express my concern about one specific part of the committee recommendations that I hope is addressed in conference: The lack of Blackhawk helicopters.

The President asked for $388 million to fund 30 additional Blackhawk helicopters.

These helicopters fly faster, farther, higher and hold more people than the Huey II helicopters provided for by the committee.

In fact, I believe that the Blackhawk is critical to the terrain and mission in Colombia for several reasons:

The Blackhawk can carry three times as many men as the Huey II; at high altitudes the advantage of the Blackhawk is even more pronounced; and the Blackhawk's maximum speed is 50 percent faster than the Huey II.

I believe that the drug war is a serious one, and that we should be devoting the best possible resources to this ongoing struggle.

I am not a helicopter expert, but the experts in the administration and elsewhere are telling us that the Blackhawk is the right equipment for the job. I do not think we should be second-guessing that decision with so much at stake.

Let me also talk for a moment today about one other aspect of this assistance package for Colombia that has come under some discussions: The issue of demand reduction versus supply reduction.

Let me say that I strongly believe that even as we provide the resources necessary to implement Plan Colombia that we must also attack the demand side of the drug problem in this country with a multi-pronged, concerted effort.

I support funding for domestic prevention and demand reduction programs, and I believe we must continue to provide domestic law enforcement with the tools they need to combat the drug trade within our borders.

But much of the demand-side, domestic effort can be accomplished by state and local governments.

What state and local governments cannot do is to keep drugs from entering this country in the first place. That task can only be accomplished by the federal government, which has control over our borders and over foreign policy.

In fact, of the $18 billion in the Federal Government's counterdrug funding, 32 percent goes to domestic demand reduction, 49 percent to domestic law enforcement; 10 percent to interdiction along our borders; and only 3.2 percent to international counterdrug efforts.

Less than 4 percent for the one area that is clearly and unambiguously the one area in this fight that is the sole responsibility of the Federal Government.

Even with passage of this package of assistance to Colombia this figure will still be well under 10 percent.

So I say to my colleagues who believe more effort needs to be directed to domestic programs to address demand that they are right. More effort in this area is needed. Our states should do more. Our cities should do more. But clearly more effort supporting our friends and allies in international efforts to curtail production, refinement, and transportation are needed too. And that is the one area where only the Federal government can act.

Only with assistance from the United States will the Government of Colombia be able to eradicate and intercept the tons of illegal narcotics that leave that country each year bound for our shores.

The ongoing narco-crisis in Colombia and the overall crisis of drugs in America represent an important threat to our nation's security and stability. The war against drugs is real, and should be treated with the same seriousness of purpose and resources as any other war.

The funding provided for the Colombia supplemental request in the Foreign Operations bill, although expensive, is clearly within our national interest. We face a crisis in this nation, and that crisis demands action.

I urge my colleagues to support the Colombia package in the Foreign Operations bill, and I yield the floor.

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