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Last Updated:10/05/01
Speech by Rep. John F. Tierney (D-Mass.), July 24, 2001
Mr. Chairman, I want to thank the gentleman from Massachusetts (Mr. MCGOVERN), as well as the gentleman from Michigan (Mr. HOEKSTRA), the gentlewoman from California (Ms. PELOSI), and the gentlewoman from Maryland (Mrs. MORELLA) for their leadership and hard work on this issue. Would that we could legislate on this, because certainly we would move in the direction that the gentleman from Massachusetts (Mr. MCGOVERN) has set forth.

I am pleased to support this important amendment. It is important to the millions of people who die from tuberculosis each year; it is important to the mothers in developing countries who have maternal mortality rates 18 times that of people in developed countries; and, Mr. Chairman, it is important to the people of Colombia who live in fear because our past efforts have failed them.

Last year, the Congress agreed to a $1.3 billion supplemental appropriation for a 2-year package for Colombia and surrounding countries. Now, between this appropriation and the defense appropriation, we are being asked for another $1 billion.

Last year we were told that our taxpayer dollars would be used to increase protection for human rights, expand the rule of law, and promote the peace process in Colombia. We were told it would be used to eradicate coca crops across Colombia. We were told it would be used to promote alternative crops and jobs in Colombia. That is what we were told.

After close examination of the evidence, we simply have to ask, where did the money go? The human rights situation in Colombia has gotten worse, the peace process is no closer than it was, and many of the crops eradicated were actually food crops. And now we are being asked to buy the same set of broken promises as last year, and this is not progress.

We all know that the Colombian military has close ties with the paramilitary organizations responsible for large scale massacres of civilians. Our own State Department has documented that the Colombian Armed Forces aid paramilitaries by providing them with intelligence, supplies, ammunition, and that they often fail to protect civilians from attacks.

The military funding we give in the hopes of helping the Colombian people is, to some degree, having the opposite effect. In the first 18 days of this year, 170 people were killed in 26 massacres. Data shows that as of April, deaths due to political violence roughly doubled those from previous years. These are innocent people trying to make Colombia a safer and more prosperous place, like Cristobol Uribe Beltran of the Association of Workers and Employees in Hospitals, Clinics and Organizations, who was kidnapped on June 27th and assassinated the very next day, innocent lives brought to an end for no legitimate reason. This is not progress.

We have seen the human rights abuses in Colombia continue to escalate since last year's aid package. More than 300,000 people were forcibly displaced from their home by political violence. There continues to be hostage-taking, torture, killing of civilians. Our aid is being used against people who have been mislabeled as guerrillas and are often students, professors and priests. They are taken captive by the paramilitaries and oftentimes never heard from or seen again. Our aid has been used to destroy food crops and put harmful herbicides in the rivers and ponds in Colombian villages. It has displaced people from their land and homes and forced them to relocate, and this is not progress.

We need to take a hard look at the situation we are dealing with in Colombia and make the sound judgment that our military aid efforts are simply not working. The aid we are providing is being misplaced, and I believe there is a role for the United States to play in this situation that is entirely different.

We can provide resources to build infrastructure, so crops can get to markets profitably; we can provide assistance to help build a court system to the point where it is effective, fair and respected; or we can build schools and roads and community support; or we can build a competent, efficient, respected police force and a military force that does not favor the paramilitaries or ignore paramilitary atrocities.

With all of these options at our disposal, we are being asked to choose the one we know will not work because it has not worked in the past.

This amendment recognizes that act and, instead, diverts some of this money from this wasteful program to one that saves lives. That is the intent of this legislation.

Mr. Chairman, we ask that this money be used for tuberculosis aid and not for military purposes.

As of October 3, 2001, this document was also available online at http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/B?r107:@FIELD(FLD003+h)+@FIELD(DDATE+20010724)
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