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Last Updated:10/05/01
Speech by Rep. Mark Steven Kirk (R-Illinois), July 24, 2001
Mr. Chairman, I rise in reluctant opposition to this amendment, but I do want to salute the gentleman from Massachusetts (Mr. MCGOVERN) for his work on behalf of Mr. Moakley's long work in support of human rights in El Salvador and in support of human rights in Colombia; but I reluctantly oppose this amendment.

Recently, I accompanied the Waukegan Police Department on a raid of a crack house. There we found the crack addicts in the basement, but then I found that this was actually a home with three little bitty babies in it and a 12-year-old smoking crack cocaine. We cannot surrender the drug war. We need to make sure that we protect those who cannot protect themselves.

But there are two purposes of the drug war. The first purpose of a U.S. drug war is to reduce the narcotics flow into the United States, and on that we have not done well. But there is a second purpose; and that second purpose, Mr. Chairman, is to prevent narcogovernments from taking power. We saw it once already in our history when the government of Panama fell and a narcogovernment took control there.

Manuel Noriega turned the Immigration Ministry in Panama into an enormous drug lab. And two things happen once a narcogovernment takes control: first, economies of scale; and, secondly, research and development. The research and development in the narcotics industry created crack cocaine, a $5 single hit, that was an enormous boost to the illegal drug industry. And we cannot let that happen in Colombia.

The United States has an important and positive role to play in supporting civil society in Colombia. Colombia, our neighbor, is in the middle of a nationwide crisis which threatens the entire region, and they have asked for our help. So the question is not should we become engaged, but how we should become engaged and to what end. Had this amendment redirected funds to support civil society in Colombia, especially judicial reform, I would have strongly supported it. However, simply pulling support from Colombia and its fight against drugs and its fight against narcoterrorism is not the solution.

I believe it is vitally important to support Colombian institutions that are working in an effective fashion to bring criminals to justice, whether these criminals wear the uniform of rebels who profit from drug trafficking or are right-wing paramilitaries who fill their war chests with cash culled from the same dirty source. I would even mention that some of these lawbreakers wear the Colombian uniform of the armed services and support illegal activities of paramilitary groups that are responsible for most human rights violations in Colombia.

But I would note that all aid under this bill passes through the Leahy amendment, vetting people to ensure respect for human rights. There are institutions in Colombia that do a truly exceptional job fighting injustices engulfing the country; and among them is the attorney general, known as the Fiscalia, and the Colombian National Police. Most of the recent high-level captures of paramilitary leaders and rebel chieftains are the result of the dedicated work of the attorney general's office, where hundreds of prosecutors are working against tremendous odds to transform the written word of Colombia's laws into real-life consequences for criminals.

For instance, it is the attorney general's office that has done the painstaking investigations that have resulted in arrest warrants for top paramilitary leaders recently. They hit at the heart of the paramilitary structure, their drug profits; and they need our help. For their part, the leadership of the Colombian National Police has literally turned an institution around over the past decade, from one stained by human rights violations into a professional force. They have done what so far the Colombian military has not, sending a clear and pointed message that rank-and-file human rights violators will not be tolerated.

Since 1994, when General Jose Serrano took over, over 11,000 officers have been dismissed for crimes that vary from corruption to extrajudicial execution. In their place are officers who know their first duty is to obey the laws themselves before they bring criminals to justice. General Gilibert continues to uphold this tradition and needs our support to continue to enforce the law, particularly in regards to human rights.

Mr. Chairman, we should not surrender Colombia to drug lords of the right or the left. Defeat in this instance of civil society would mean at least 10 percent of Colombia would attempt to move to the United States. I would hope in the future we could work together in a bipartisan fashion to craft an aid package that supports the Democrat center, civil society, prosecutors, police officers, judges to create a Democrat forum in Colombia where we could win the war against the tyranny of the right or left.

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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