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Last Updated:10/05/01
Speech by Rep. Nita M. Lowey (D-New York), July 24, 2001
Mr. Chairman, I rise in support of the McGovern amendment, reducing the amount of military assistance for Colombia and increasing funding for child survival maternal health, tuberculosis and malaria. Regardless of whether you support the huge U.S. investment in arming and training the Colombian military and police, the facts are clear. The acceleration of military activity in southern Colombia as a result of Plan Colombia funding has led to less government control, more violence, and no reduction in drug cultivation processing or transshipment. As a result of these and other developments, President Pastrana is now considering signing a law which would provide the Colombian military with extraordinary power and exemptions from judicial review.

During debate on Plan Colombia last year, Members were assured that alternative economic development was as much a priority as military and police aid. We were also told that our European allies would compensate on the economic assistance side for the imbalance in our own program.

What actually happened? A massive fumigation campaign commenced last December in southern Colombia before any alternative economic development programs were in place. By last March, no alternative crop assistance had been delivered to communities which had agreed to voluntary eradication. Today, as we speak, assistance is being delivered in only two of the 29 communities that have signed pacts. In fact, only 1,800 of the 29,000 people in the affected area are actually receiving assistance today. Military assistance programs have proceeded rapidly, while economic assistance from Europe never materialized, and United States assistance has been slow in arriving. We are adept at wielding the stick of Plan Colombia, but the carrot is nowhere to be found.

The McGovern amendment would reduce military assistance to give alternative development programs more time to be implemented. We owe the poorest of Colombia's poor who have been terrorized by the ongoing conflict the opportunity to eradicate their illegal crops voluntarily. And when they agree, we must have the capacity to deliver on our promises immediately. That is not the case today.

Congress provided over $1 billion for Plan Colombia, of which only about half has been spent. The majority of the military equipment funded in that package has not even been delivered to Colombia. Spending this $100 million on infectious diseases is good policy and will not slow our progress in the war on drugs in Colombia. In fact, it will actually help, by demonstrating that our policy is balanced. It will also increase the likelihood that the alternative development pacts will be sustainable over time.

The examples of successful voluntary eradication programs in Bolivia and Peru show that manual/voluntary eradication is the most effective and sustainable method of achieving long-term change. In order to bring that about, poor farmers must receive some actual benefits and gain confidence in their government. This has not yet happened in southern Colombia. The McGovern amendment will help solidify these alternative programs by slowing the pace of military assistance. I urge my colleagues to support it.

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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