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Last Updated:10/05/01
Speech by Rep. Mark E. Souder (R-Indiana), July 24, 2001
Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the requisite number of words.

Mr. Chairman, I rise in opposition to this amendment. The Andean regional initiative in the bill is already $55 million below the President's request. At the same time, this bill has already provided $1.39 billion for child survival and disease programs, which has significantly increased.

Let us talk about health programs in particular. I want to talk about the public health effects of illegal drugs in the United States. The cocaine and heroin which comes to the United States from the Andean region, and almost all of our cocaine and heroin comes from the Andean region, seriously impact our hospital emergency departments. Heroin visits are rising and cocaine visits are holding steady. In 1999, more than half a million drug-related emergency room visits were reported, over 196,000 related to Andean cocaine and over 84,000 in American hospitals related to Andean heroin. Every year, our Nation spends $12.9 billion to cover the health costs of illegal drugs, which have predominantly come in from the Andean region.

I support the bill's generous funding level for international health programs. I believe it is extremely ill-advised to further increase this spending at the expense of a significant portion of our international narcotics control program, which is fundamentally designed to protect the health of American citizens by keeping illegal drugs out of the United States. These programs account for just 5 percent of our overall drug budget. In fact, the $100 million at stake in this amendment is 11 percent of the entire U.S. budget for international narcotics control. We cannot and should not trade the health of American citizens simply to make a political statement.

Now, I would like to respond to a number of false allegations that have occurred regarding what is going on in Colombia. Colombia is not Vietnam. It is a longtime democracy. It is one of the oldest democracies in this hemisphere. Vietnam was not.

The Colombians themselves are fighting and dying. They are not fighting and dying because of their political problems, they are fighting and dying because of our narcotics addictions in the United States. This is not a civil war, this is a war funded, whether they be the ultra-rightist groups or whether they be the FARC, whether they be the ELN, through narco-protection and narco-dollars. We have caused their conflict. We have moral obligations to help them address their conflicts. They have had the equivalent of 30,000 American police officers killed in the line of combat trying to eradicate drugs that are being grown for our neighborhoods and our streets. It is not like Vietnam. It is a country that was a democracy where now, people have fled because they are kidnapped, because they are terrorized, because of our addictions. We are not engaged in a war in Colombia. We are trying to assist them fight a war that was driven by us.

Furthermore, we heard about the peace process in Colombia. President Pastrana, whether we agreed with it or not, and I had some reservations, he gave a demilitarized zone. He bent over backwards to work with the FARC. What he got was slapped in the face. He turned his other cheek. They continued to grow drugs and they expanded their operations, and what he got when he turned his cheek was they slapped him in the face. The failure of the peace process is not with the Colombian government. They have turned their cheek and turned their cheek and turned their cheek.

We have also heard that many crops were eradicated that were food crops. That is simply a false allegation on fumigation, and I am sure we are going to debate that further today.

Furthermore, there have been smears on the Colombian military. We have worked to improve the human rights division. A number of us on the Republican side have been criticized in the past for being too oriented towards the Colombian National Police which had a great human rights record. With the last administration and with the support of the House, we expanded our aid to the military in return for commitments on human rights. It is not an easy process, as we have tried to educate other countries where we provide military aid around the world in addition to our military when they are overseas and our police forces, so occasionally there are human rights violations.

It has not been proven that they have gotten worse, nor is it proven that they have ties to the ultra-rightists in that country and where there are, we ought to rout them out. That is why some of us have been more oriented towards giving the money to the Colombian national police rather than the military. Their elected government in Colombia asked us for help for their military, rather than just the Colombian national police. We responded to an elected government unlike Vietnam, and then we get criticized because some of the funds went to the military.

Furthermore, some of the blame in Colombia being placed on the government or on our anti-narcotics efforts is like blaming police officers for the fact that crime has increased. It is like blaming judges and the citizens for the fact that terrorism has increased. What they have is a rampant problem in their country that is indeed threatening democracy, and what we seem to want to do at times is stick our head in the sand and say, well, this does not have anything to do with us. In 1992 to 1994 this House, along with the newly elected President, cut the interdiction budget. What we saw was a supply coming into America soar. We saw the prices on the street drop. We saw the purities come up. To get back to where we were in 1992, we would have to have a 50 percent reduction in drug abuse in America.

Mr. Chairman, it is critical, not because of what is happening in Colombia, but because 67 to 80 percent of all the crime in every Member's district is drug-related. We should not cut back our efforts when we know where the coca is being grown; we know where the heroin poppy is being grown. When it spreads into the oceans and then crosses our borders, from the Canadian border, the Mexican border, the East and West Coast and starts to moving into our streets, it becomes more expensive to find it, it becomes more expensive to treat it, it becomes more expensive to lock people up, than if we can help the Colombians and the Peruvians and the Equadorians and the Bolivians fight the battle in their homelands.

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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