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Statement on Colombia to the Western Hemisphere Subcommittee of the House International Relations Committee

September 21, 2000

Thank you for this opportunity to speak. And I would like to thank the Chairman and the Ranking Member for calling this very important hearing.

Our relationship with the people of Colombia is about to fundamentally change and I hope we know that going into this massive projection of US force into that country.

I am especially appreciative of the opportunity to put my thoughts on the record because more than anything else, I care about the most fundamental aspects of human rights and how Plan Colombia will affect the human rights climate in Colombia today and the notions about the United States that Colombians affected most will have about us after implementation of Plan Colombia.

As citizens of the most powerful nation in the world, it's our duty to ensure that this power is used responsibly and that we are not confused when we use it. Bobby Kennedy once said that we used to be a force for good in the world. I would like to hope that peoples around the world still see us as a force for good. However, I fear that this is far from the thoughts of the Colombian people from whom I have heard.

Some 80% of the aid in Plan Colombia comes in the form of military weapons.

This, more properly, should be called a military aid package and this meeting must include the military component if we are to truly grasp the full meaning of the US Role in Implementing Plan Colombia.

Congress actually voted to fund a counter attack against an army of 20,000 guerrillas in the Amazon jungle. We did this act alone without the support of our European allies. The European Union does not support our involvement of this nature in Colombia. And because we've voted to give approximately one billion dollars to the Colombian military, not very many other donors want to be associated with this kind of contribution.

So, although Plan Colombia was originally intended by President Pastrana to be a multinational aid package, it has now morphed into a US military operation.

About two weeks ago, the Presidents of the twelve Latin American countries met for the first time in a historic summit in Brasilia. Although it was not the intended theme of the meeting, the leaders resolved their opposition to the US aid package. Brazil's Fernando Cardoso spoke against it, Venezuela's Hugo Chavez spoke against it. In Ecuador they believe that tens of thousands of refugees are going to spill across the border from the violence this plan is going to generate. This is what Colombia's neighbors think of the plan.

Thirty-seven Colombian NGO's, including the Center for Investigations and Popular Education and the Consortium for Human Rights and the Displaced have signed a letter saying they would reject any aid offered to them as part of Plan Colombia. They are completely unwilling to be associated with this program in any way no matter how much money they are offered.

Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the Washington Office on Latin America all denounced President Clinton's decision to waive the human rights conditions that had been placed on the aid by Congress. The human rights groups had hoped that by placing such conditions on the aid, Colombia would be forced to choose between the modern weaponry and the dirty war of assassination they are currently engaged in. I am extremely disappointed that the Clinton Administration once again has taken human rights completely off the table for discussion. Now there is no incentive whatsoever for Colombia to reform its military and abandon its paramilitary strategy.

I will also note for the record that the push into southern Colombia, which has been described today, violates the Geneva Conventions, which prohibit the forced displacement of civilian populations as a tactic of war.

In the whole world, only the Congo has more displaced people than Colombia. At a forum recently sponsored by my office, I have quite sadly learned that the vast majority of those displaced persons are Afro-Latinos. Two-thirds are minors. Only one in eight has access to education. One in three has access to health care. These poor children suffer from the neglect of the Colombian State and the ignorance of Washington policy makers.

My third and final point is that not only is this plan immoral, it's impractical. Spraying chemicals on third world farmers is not an effective way to discourage people in the United States from using cocaine.

We are not immune to the lure of quick cocaine cash ourselves. As has been made embarrassingly clear recently.

How can Colonel James Hiett, smuggling cocaine and laundering money with his wife while overseeing anti-drug operations for the US Southern Command in Bogota . . . how could this narco get off with five months in jail while today there are more African Americans in prison than in college?

So now, the US is about to implement a plan to spray chemicals on third world subsistence farmers and attack them with helicopter gunships while the Colombian government allows paramilitary groups to massacre them.

One thing is for sure in this plan, it isn't about drug abuse control and won't help my friends who are strung out on dope.

I would rather have from the CIA a truthful accounting of how crack cocaine came to flood every black neighborhood in America and affect every black family. Telling the truth about the relationships between federal agencies, US multinational banks, and elites in this country and abroad will do more to eradicate the scourge of drugs in America than this proposed Plan Colombia.

Thank you Mr. Chairman.

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