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Last Updated:10/05/01
Speech by Rep. John W. Olver (D-Mass.), July 24, 2001
Mr. Chairman, much is in dispute about this whole issue of what to do in Colombia, but I do not think anyone can dispute that there is no visible evidence that the human rights situation in Colombia has improved since Congress approved last year's mostly military aid package, and I think that should indicate to us that we ought to think about what we are doing.

With the indulgence of the chairman of the subcommittee, the gentleman from Arizona (Mr. KOLBE), I had an opportunity to visit Colombia about 4 months ago with a number of Members of this body, and we had an opportunity to talk with a number of different people in the government in Bogota, but then also visited as much as we could in the short period of time on the front lines of the areas in the Colombian civil war, particularly in Putumayo Province, and a couple of other provinces in the south of the country.

Now, I believe that President Pastrana and the defense minister are genuinely looking for an acceptable way to end this long conflict. Some elements of the military certainly are in collaboration with the right-wing paramilitaries, and I suspect doing so in defiance of President Pastrana. I really do not believe that he is in any way encouraging them. In fact, the tensions are clearly obvious within the military in Colombia, from what I could see of the visit. The Department of Defense has discharged whole units where there is evidence of collaboration; and that, of course, is part of the tension.

But I think that our heavy use of military aid to the suspect Colombian military drives the United States' policy into the pattern of the El Salvador example from a decade and more ago, a period of time when year after year we were spending on an average of $400 million or more year to the Salvadoran military, which was directly involved in the worst civil and human rights abuses in El Salvador, including the infamous killing of Catholic nuns, who, of course, were in sympathy with the plight of the Salvadoran people.

Now, in my view, the Salvadoran example provides some example for the sides in Colombia to use. Ten years ago, the two sides in the civil war in El Salvador realized that they were simply killing the very best young people from both sides and that it was disastrous for everyone there, and so they sat down together to create a new future for El Salvador. And a version of that, it seems to me, is the way that this craziness in Colombia has got to end.

I think the amendment that has been offered by the gentleman from Massachusetts (Mr. MCGOVERN) and the gentleman from Michigan (Mr. HOEKSTRA) provides a message. It would send a message that the purely military solution, in this case in Colombia, is a dead-end solution for Colombia and that it is really time to try something else.

The gentleman from Arizona (Mr. KOLBE), the chairman of the subcommittee, suggested, or pointed out, that this message is a blunt message; and it is, because it cuts $100 from the $676 million assigned for the Andean Counterdrug Initiative. But the administration can take that money from the military side, from the military side in Colombia, not from the civil police, not from economic aid there or in the other nations of Ecuador and Peru and Brazil, if that is where it is otherwise intended to go.

There must be a better way to do this. It is time to try something else than the failing effort to impose a purely military solution on the long-standing, nearly 30-year civil war that is going on in Colombia. Therefore, with a slight bit of ambivalence, I started here ambivalently, therefore I am supporting and commending the gentlemen from Massachusetts and Michigan for their leadership on this issue.

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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