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Last Updated:10/05/01
Speech by Rep. James P. McGovern (D-Mass.), July 24, 2001
Mr. Chairman, let me begin by first thanking the gentleman from Arizona (Mr. KOLBE) and the gentlewoman from New York (Mrs. LOWEY) for their incredible work on this bill.

Today, I rise to urge my colleagues to support this amendment that I and the gentleman from Michigan (Mr. HOEKSTRA), the gentlewoman from California (Ms. PELOSI), the gentlewoman from Maryland (Mrs. MORELLA) and the gentlewoman from Texas (Ms. JACKSON-LEE) are offering together.

Mr. Chairman, this is a relatively simple amendment. First, it will add $50 million to the infectious diseases account specifically for international tuberculosis programs. We need to invest more in programs that combat the spread of TB. Funding for international TB control was virtually nonexistent in 1997. While funding has modestly improved in recent years, we still have a long way to go to make up for the long-running neglect.

Current funding levels are not sufficient to address the scope of the disease and to protect the health of Americans. TB kills 2 million people each year, and more than one-third of the world's population is infected with TB. It is the leading killer of women and creates more orphan children than any other infectious disease. As the New York Times editorialized last week, a little money now can control this neglected killer before we face a global epidemic.

The amendment will also add $50 million for the Child Survival and Maternal Health account. Eleven million children die every year from preventable causes. Child survival programs are critical to saving the lives of children and have been one of the most effective U.S. investments for the last decade and a half. The polio eradication programs in particular have been highly successful; and since 1998, polio has been reduced worldwide by 90 percent.

According to the World Health Organization, maternal health is the largest disparity between the developed and developing countries. Maternal mortality is on average 18 times higher in developing countries, and children are much more likely to die within 2 years of a maternal death.

The increase funding provided by this amendment for these global health programs will literally make the difference between life and death for billions of people. This is a modest investment that will yield critical returns.

The offset for these programs will reduce the $676 million Andean Counter-Drug Initiative by $100 million in military aid for the Colombian Armed Forces. Here, too, the choice is simple. This House has a chance to send a straightforward message to the Colombian military: sever all ties with the paramilitary groups and sever them now. As my colleagues know, over 70 percent of the human rights crimes committed against the civilian population in Colombia, massacres, torture and the destruction of communities and the displacements of the population, are perpetrated by the paramilitaries, and the Colombian military works in collusion with those groups. In fact, just recently Amnesty International issued a report on the persistence of ties between the Colombian military and their paramilitary cohorts.

The last Congress, the previous administration, and, to date, the current administration, have failed, in my opinion, to act seriously about human rights in Colombia. We have attached human rights conditions to our aid package that are essentially meaningless. If the Colombian military behaves badly, and it has, we have been content to waive our conditions and to keep writing checks. What kind of message did this send?

Today, we have an opportunity to send a different message, to show that we do care about human rights, that we are serious when we demand that the Colombian military stop collaborating with paramilitary forces. Congress should not be an apologist for bad behavior. We should not look the other way or rationalize what continues to be a disturbing alliance that threatens the future of civilian institutions in Colombia.

Now, let me point out to my colleagues that nearly $300 million remains in this bill to help Colombia and the Pastrana government with development, moving the peace process forward, strengthening civil and judicial institutions and supporting the police. In the defense appropriations bill, which we will debate later this year, there will be at least $80 million for the Colombian Armed Forces. In addition, approximately $158 million in military aid remains in the pipeline from last year's package.

This amendment is not about walking away from Colombia; rather, it is about saying very clearly that human rights do matter and that the way to promote stability in the region is for the Colombian military to end its collaboration with paramilitaries.

Now, even if some of my colleagues are ambivalent about the Colombian offset, I hope you will not be ambivalent about supporting increased funding for these critical women's, children and health programs. The Andean Counter-Drug Initiative is $226 million more than the amount in this bill for our worldwide programs to combat infectious diseases and for child survival and maternal health; $226 million more.

This amendment is truly about choices, about priorities, about saving lives. I urge my colleagues to support the McGovern-Hoekstra-Pelosi-Morella-Jackson-Lee amendment.

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