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Last Updated:10/14/00
Statement of Rep. Benjamin Gilman (R-New York), October 12, 2000
Remarks of Benjamin A. Gilman
Before the Committee on Government Reform
Subcommittee on Criminal Justice, Drug Policy and Human Resources
Hearing on Colombia
Thursday, October 12, 2000


The Clinton Administration has been given $1 billion in U.S. taxpayer dollars to help Colombia in our common struggle against illicit drugs.

Yet there is a lack of clarity and direction coming from the Administration about U.S. policy at this critical point of implementation of the military aid of Plan Colombia.

Uncertainty, can spell serious trouble down the road for our vital national interests in Colombia.

What we need from U.S. policymakers is clarity and leadership. A clear, definable, and achievable objective must be articulated regarding U.S. policy in Colombia. A policy must be articulated, which the American people can easily understand -- and, in turn, support.

Colombia's democratic survival from the onslaught of narco-terrorism, and the destruction of its massive cocaine and heroin production network are important goals in our vital national interest.

We owe our young people and the democratic Colombia government help in this common, two-prong fight, which we cannot afford to lose. Once the American people understand these goals, we must convince them that we can - and will - achieve success in Colombia.

We have already done so in part by helping the Colombian National Police (CNP) elite anti-drug unit do the drug fighting job themselves, without expending American lives in a not so far off land. Bogota is only three hours by air from Miami. What happens there, affects us here.

Colombia does not want -- and has never asked for - American blood to be shed on the battlefields of that beleaguered nation facing potential "narco state" status.

If we, along with the rest of the world, especially Europe, help them with the appropriate aid, they can win. Let us be perfectly clear and not be fooled by that old another Vietnam canard some are trying to sell to the American people. On the military front, the Colombians have only asked for training, and also gotten some of the mechanical means (helicopters - not U.S. troops) to help them reach parts of their rugged countryside, which are controlled by the narco-guerrillas and used in producing illicit drugs intended for use by Americans and Europeans.

Today, more than 80% of the cocaine that enters our nation, along with 70% of the heroin sold or seized on our streets and destroying our kids, comes from these remote inaccessible areas of Colombia. We must help them destroy those drugs that in turn are financing the "self sufficient insurgency" threatening their very own democracy.

For years, we have worked side-by-side with the elite anti-drug unit of the Colombian National Police (CNP) to destroy the powerful Cali and Medillin drug cartels.

Just recently, newer organizations controlling 80% of the cocaine business from Colombia were taken out by the CNP, working with our own excellent DEA. Just like in our nation, drug fighting is a primary law enforcement function in Colombia, a military one.

With a few new, well armed, high performance utility helicopters we recently provided these courageous drug-fighting police, the CNP has destroyed record shattering acres of coca for cocaine, along with opium, essential for heroin production.

As a result of these relatively inexpensive police efforts versus the billions in annual societal costs here from these illicit drugs coming from Colombia, we see record high prices for cocaine with very low purity on our streets. We will soon see the same disruption with Colombian heroin. This in turn will mean fewer American kids will be able to buy and become addicted or overdose on these drugs.

The Colombian drug traffickers are screaming loudly about the anti-drug police onslaught with their new drug fighting equipment used against their illicit crops, which they pay the narco guerilla insurgency so handsomely to protect. We are making major progress!

The Peruvian government confirms this progress in Colombian opium reduction. It reports that the Colombian traffickers are rapidly expanding opium production in several departments in that neighboring nation, where it was unknown before. We need a Peruvian plan of attack as well from this Administration, and a better regional game plan, or we are headed for failure.

We need to continue this wise path of supporting the Colombian police in the fight against drugs. Those efforts will in turn help drain the swamp of the vast profits from illicit drugs which in turn finance the civil insurgency, threatening Colombian democracy.

Our continued drug fighting effort will level the playing field and also give the military in Colombia a chance to get its act together. Maybe one day it will enable the military to fight the insurgency on an equal footing, consistent with respect for human rights, as does the CNP anti- drug unit.

We were informed last week that instead of two new Black Hawks for the CNP designated in the emergency supplemental passed earlier this June, that the Administration will only fund one. They tell us they will go back and properly re-configure the six operational Black Hawk police choppers down there already, as they should have been originally, with the $96 million we provided in late 1998.

I will 112! support any reprogramming request to cut the CNP's Black Hawk allotment, it runs counter to the emergency supplemental conference report explicit language, and good common sense. The police who are performing the job, need more Black Hawks, not less.

The Clinton Administration, after years of neglect and in its near panic about a narco state emerging in Colombia as yet another looming foreign policy disaster, has finally moved to get support for Plan Colombia.

We need to learn from the mistakes made in providing aid to our CNP allies, and get it right this time. I look forward to hearing from the Administration on that enormous challenge today. Thank you.

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