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Last Updated:10/24/01
Speech by Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wisconsin), October 24, 2001
Mr. FEINGOLD. Mr. President, I thank the chairman for his help in making it possible to get going on this amendment. I rise to offer an amendment to the foreign operations appropriations bill. I am very pleased to have as an original cosponsor the distinguished senior Senator from Minnesota, Mr. WELLSTONE, who has certainly made it his business to follow closely our policy in Latin America, in particular in Colombia.

My amendment is intended to improve the efficacy of U.S. efforts to eradicate the supply of narcotics that threatens our families and communities and to ensure that our efforts to address this issue do not inadvertently plunge the people of Latin America into a humanitarian and economic crisis.

The amendment is very simple. It requires that the administration have alternative development plans for a given region in place before engaging in aerial fumigation in that area, and it requires that alternative development plans are being implemented in areas where fumigation has already occurred.

This is hardly a radical initiative. I recently received a letter from the administration responding to some of my inquiries and concerns about our fumigation policy. In the letter, the State Department itself noted that alternative development must work in concert with eradication and with law enforcement. Unfortunately, though, over the past year fumigation has occurred in areas where there are no alternative development programs in place at all or in areas where alternative development assistance has been exceedingly slow.

According to a recent Center for International Policy meeting with experts from southern Colombia, communities that signed pacts agreeing to eradicate coca in December and January in Puerto Asis and Santa Ana, Putumayo, have not yet received aid. AID as of mid-July states that only 2 out of 29 social pacts signed have received assistance so far. These facts tell us that our policy has to be better coordinated. More important, they tell us our policy cannot possibly be working.

Of course, some people simply disagree with this policy as a whole. I have heard from a number of my constituents who are concerned about fumigation in and of itself. They are concerned about the health effects of this policy, and they are concerned about whether or not local communities and authorities have been adequately consulted and informed about their policies.

Frankly, I share those concerns. I strongly support the language the Appropriations Committee has included conditioning additional funding for fumigation on a determination to be submitted by the Secretary of State, after consultation with the Secretary of HHS and the Surgeon General, that the chemicals involved do not pose an undue risk to human health or safety; that fumigation is being carried out according to EPA, CDC, and chemical manufacturers' guidelines; and that effective mechanisms are in place to evaluate claims of harm from citizens affected by fumigation. I believe these provisions are critically important, and I share the skepticism of many with regard to United States policy in Colombia in general.

Nevertheless, like those underlying conditions in this bill, my amendment does not seek to eliminate fumigation from our policy toolbox. It does seek to ensure that when we use that tool, we use it in a rational and effective way. If we keep on fumigating without improving the conditions of coca growers, drug crops will simply shift to other locations or spring up again as soon as the fumigation stops. It makes no sense to take away a farmer's livelihood, provide him no alternative, and expect him not to plant illicit crops again.

Without this amendment, we risk failing in our counternarcotics efforts in creating a humanitarian and economic disaster for the people of Colombia, one that will doubtless also be costly for the United States in the long run.

I also want to point out that my amendment calls for consultation with affected communities and local authorities. Supporting democratic governance and a strong civil society in Colombia are important United States policy goals. Those aims reflect our clear interest in a stable and law-governed Colombia.

This is a very modest proposal. It aims to make our policy work rationally and in a coordinated fashion. It recognizes that eradication without alternative development simply makes no sense.

It acknowledges the stake of the Colombian people in our policy. So I urge my colleagues to support it.

As of October 25, 2001, this document was also available online at http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/B?r107:@FIELD(FLD003+s)+@FIELD(DDATE+20011024)

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