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Last Updated:6/25/00
Speech by Sen. James Jeffords (R-Vermont), June 22, 2000
Mr. JEFFORDS. Mr. President, as Americans, we have two vital tasks in our relations with Colombia. We are obligated to help a neighbor that is struggling to build democracy and civil society, and it is in our best interest to assist them in halting the flow of lethal narcotics from the Andean mountains of Colombia to American communities. These are the two underlying grounds for the Clinton Administration's `Plan Colombia,' a request for $1.07 billion in emergency supplemental funds over the next two years to aid Colombia.

After a painful decade of violence, the Colombian people have boldly elected an unassailable ally of democracy and reconciliation, President Andres Pastrana, and they are demanding an end to human rights abuses and impunity by both the paramilitaries and the FARC guerillas. At the same time, the lawlessness and violence of southern Colombia have permitted the narcotics dealers to widen their cultivation and consolidate their delivery routes into the U.S. With the remarkable success of U.S. Government anti-narcotics programs in Peru and Bolivia, eighty percent of the heroin consumed in the U.S. is now cultivated in Colombia. We have no choice now but to focus our anti-drug efforts in Colombia.

While I realize that we must bring pressure to bear on the drug cartels, my experience with Central America in the 1980s leads me to be very skeptical about the utility of the military response to social and political problems. I therefore have been wary of the Administration's Plan Colombia. My chief concerns with it have been the Colombian military campaign against narcotics cultivation, and the abysmal human rights record of paramilitary groups that have frequently been linked to the military forces. I am also concerned that we not get dragged into a major, long-term counter-insurgency effort which is not our fight.

In the end, though, I decided to go along with the Administration's proposal as significantly improved by the Senate Foreign Operations Subcommittee. The Subcommittee downsized the scale of the Colombian military effort, and shifted the funding from Blackhawk to Huey helicopters. Smaller and more agile, the Hueys are more suited to fighting narcotics cultivation, while the Blackhawks are more suited to counter-insurgency combat. The Subcommittee also increased the bill's sizable human rights component, including new programs to bolster the rule of law and fight corruption. The Subcommittee also shares my concern for U.S. Government responsibility for this expensive anti-narcotics effort by increased funding for end-use monitoring. Given the well-documented human rights problems in Colombia, heightened monitoring is an extremely important component of this program. Although we will be funding a military effort, I note that U.S. military personnel are barred from any military operation, and that the Leahy Amendment puts strict safeguards on the activities of any U.S. funded partner, so that the human rights behavior of the Colombian military will now be under a microscope.

An integral component of the final legislation is sizable funding to encourage judicial reform, strengthen the rule of law, and improve the quality of life for all Colombians. Without greater social and income equality and greater respect for human rights, all our efforts will fail. The military aid can only provide an opening for those who are trying to build the foundation for civil society. By electing President Pastrana, the Colombian people have indicated their desire for a future free of drugs and violence. We must ensure that U.S. assistance is instrumental in helping them achieve that goal.

Let's make no mistake. If this bill becomes law, the U.S. will have made a major commitment to helping Colombia eradicate the narco-business that plagues both it and us. We are pledging to stand beside President Pastrana, an enlightened and popular leader with a broad mandate to pursue this campaign, while he also resolutely holds negotiations with entrenched but highly unpopular insurgents. I think that, for his sake and ours, we must give him the tools and the confidence to see this through.

As of June 25, 2000, this document was also available online at http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?r106:S22JN0-125:
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