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Last Updated:10/05/01
Speech by Rep. Mark E. Souder (R-Indiana), July 24, 2001
Mr. Chairman, first I would like to thank the distinguished gentleman from Michigan (Mr. CONYERS) for his willingness to work together.

This is a tough issue. Nobody wants to have children or families damaged by any type of chemical eradication or any other sort of method of destroying drugs. It is important that we understand that this is not Agent Orange. This herbicide, the only one that is used in aerial eradication, actually our government uses less than 10 percent of what is used in Colombia. The remaining 90 percent is predominantly used to spray coffee and also for other agricultural products such as soybeans. It is used for weed control in plantations of fruit trees and bananas. It is also used in areas for sugar cane.

We do not not drink Colombian coffee, not use the fruit nor the soybeans nor the sugar cane from Colombia because it has been sprayed with these items, nor do the people in Colombia. Furthermore, the narco-people themselves use the same chemical to get rid of the weeds inside the poppy and the coca.

We need to look at the best way possible to use this, but it is not that the herbicide is dangerous. Yes, lawsuits can back off companies from offering it, and say that there are potential problems in any chemical. But 90 percent of this is used in Colombia for food products and it is also used by the heroine coca growers themselves.

There were also some comments made about alternative developments not being in many parts of Colombia. Alternative development is a very difficult issue. For example, in Bolivia where they do the hand eradication. Mr. Chairman, I have been down in Colombia at least five or six times and down in Peru multiple times and in Bolivia about four or five times. What we see in alternative development and in their eradication, they were able to do the hand eradication which is very expensive, but they were not getting shot at like in Colombia.

If you had agricultural extension agents in America who had to carry an Uzi, we probably would not have as many people willing to be an agricultural extension agent. We have to get some semblance of law and order.

It would be better if we can do hand eradication. It would be more expensive for us, more expensive for the Colombians, but first we have to have some sense of order on the ground or the people trying to do that manual eradication will be killed. They will be massacred.

We have to look for ways to do this.

Furthermore, I have met with different people representing all the regions of Colombia and in Peru and have seen projects, particularly in Bolivia and Peru, where alternative development is starting to work. This year's bill has $482 million for social, legal and alternative development projects. We have some in Plan Colombia.

The funny thing about last year's bill is it takes a while to build a helicopter. The helicopters are just getting there. The aid is just getting there to Colombia. If we can get the order, hopefully the alternative development and the social development can continue, and then we can look at other ways to deal with eradication if we can get a little bit of order.

One last story that I want to share, because it was a very unusual moment for me and several other Members. While we were waiting for Speaker HASTERT to come together with the rest of our delegation, we met a young man who had been with the FARC, and he had been collecting the dues from the agricultural growers. We asked him, just offhand, if he had ever killed anybody.

He said, ``Yes.''

We said, ``Why?''

He said, ``Because the man was late in his payment.''

We said, ``How did you kill him?''

He said, ``I warned him twice. The man was late on his bill.''

We said, ``But how would you do something like that?''

He said, ``Well, I tried to collect it twice. Then he and his son were eating in town, and I went up behind him with a gun and shot him in the back of the head. But he deserved to die. He hadn't paid his money to us.''

That is the type of battle that we are in in Colombia because of our drug habits in America. We need to work on drug treatment, prevention, but we also need to help these people whose country is being overrun. We need to do it in a way that is safe for children and families. Hopefully, we can work together to do that.

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