by Rep. Maurice D. Hinchey (D-New York), July 24, 2001
Chairman, I would like to use this time, if I may, or some of it at least,
to talk about the amendment that has been offered to us by the gentleman
from Massachusetts (Mr. MCGOVERN).
This amendment would
shift $100 million dollars of U.S. aid from the Colombian military to
maternal health and child survival programs, as well as a fund to fight
tuberculosis. Over the past year, we must be aware that the situation
in Colombia has deteriorated. Since August of 2000, when our government
began delivering the new aid package, up to this moment, there has been
a severe escalation of human rights violations in Colombia.
The number of massacres
by paramilitary and guerilla forces in the first 4 months of this year
is nearly double the number in the first 4 months of the year 2000. Despite
an increase in U.S. aid, the military rarely acted to protect innocent
civilians, and there are numerous instances of collaboration between the
Colombia military and right-wing paramilitary groups.
A disturbing example
of this took place in the City of Barrancabermeja. On July 6 of this year,
a group of heavily armed paramilitary reportedly tried to assassinate
trade union leader Hernando Hernandez. Mr. Hernandez, however, narrowly
escaped after being warned by friends. The case in this particular city,
the case of Mr. Hernandez, is one of the lucky ones. In the first 45 days
of this year, 145 people have been killed in this small city, Barrancabermeja.
These killings take
place in spite of the fact that this is one of the most militarized cities
in all of Colombia. The Colombian Army's Fifth Brigade maintains a military
presence, and that includes the U.S.-funded 61st Advanced Riverine Battalion.
These units have made absolutely no serious efforts to restrain the paramilitaries
from committing these atrocities.
Mr. Chairman, U.S.
funding of the Colombian military has led to more human rights abuses,
an increased number of political killings while, at the same time, not
at all reducing drug use or violence in our own country. This amendment
offered by the gentleman from Massachusetts (Mr. MCGOVERN) takes money
away from a failing program and shifts it to important and grossly underfunded
global health initiatives.
Mr. Chairman, I urge
the adoption of the amendment.
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)