Nita M Lowey

Remarks on Center for International Policy's Columbia Program - April 3, 2003

Nita M Lowey
April 03, 2003— U.S. House of Representatives, Washington, DC
Congressional floor speech
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Mr. Chairman, I rise in support of this amendment.

The additional funding requested for Colombia has no place in this bill. More importantly, it adds funding in support of a policy that is essentially flawed. President Uribe's election gave us some initial hope that he would engage all the disparate elements of the conflict with new ideas and a real commitment to bring lasting peace.

Unfortunately, what we have seen is an escalation of activity from guerilla organizations, increasing influence and control by paramilitary organizations, no reduction in coca cultivation, and a slippage in the commitment to prosecute human rights abuses.

I have no illusion about the complexity of the problems of Colombia, but I do not think we should be adding funds to expand our commitment there at this point. Make no mistake: we are headed toward the direct involvement of U.S. troops in that conflict. I regret the fact that there are U.S. hostages in FARC camps, and I support all efforts to rescue them, but this funding goes beyond that and expands the involvement of U.S. personnel on the ground.

If the policy were balanced and we had a real commitment on the part of the Colombian government to deal with all aspects of the problem--including the rapidly expanding drug trafficking by paramilitary organizations--it might be different. Unfortunately we don't, and the influence of these organizations and their cooperation with the Colombian military increases daily. The Colombian military has succeeded in decreasing the control that rebel groups have enjoyed in certain parts of the country. But these successful military operations have been followed up by paramilitary units moving in to these same areas and taking control. This has occurred in the Buena Ventura port area on the Pacific Coast of Colombia, which is a primary drug transshipment port near the town of Cali. And we also have seen no action by the Colombians to arrest indicted members of the Paramilitaries.

Until we have a balanced policy with a real commitment by the Colombian government to deal with all aspects of the problem, our funding for eradication and military training only serves to inflame, not to stop, the conflict. I urge my colleagues to move funding away from these purposes, and instead invest it in homeland security--where it can make a positive difference in the lives of the American people.

Speech from http://www.ciponline.org/colombia/03040306.htm.