by Rep. Mark E. Souder (R-Indiana), July 24, 2001
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.
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)