Home

About Caucus

Hearings

Documents

Reports

Speeches

Links

 

February 22, 2000

U.S. Assistance Options for the Andes

The Honorable Thomas Pickering
Under Secretary for Political Affairs
Department of State

Mr. Chairman, members of the Committee, I appreciate the opportunity today to discuss U.S. assistance to the Andean region. I have just returned from a visit to Colombia, Venezuela, and Ecuador, and I look forward to sharing some first-hand impressions. I know that we are all very concerned about the impact of the situation in the Andean region on the United States. The importance of fighting the scourge of illegal drugs is an issue on which we can all agree. Narcotics have deleterious effects not only on the health of the person who consumes them, but have a corrosive effect on the democratic institutions and the economies of the region. We look forward to working with Congress in order to take decisive action to address these issues.

I will speak in depth about Colombia and our proposed assistance package in support of Plan Colombia. I then touch briefly on the other Andean countries and what the USG is doing to assist them. I will then conclude with the Andean Trade Preference Act (ATPA).

COLOMBIA

Colombia, in particular, is a matter of vital importance to the United States. We are fortunate to be working with President Pastrana and his Administration. After strained relations with the tainted Samper Administration, President Pastrana's tenure offers the United States and the rest of the international community a golden opportunity to work with Colombia in confronting these threats. President Pastrana's commitment to achieve peace is indisputable. He has also demonstrated his willingness to root out narcotics trafficking while remaining firmly committed to democratic values and principles.

Colombia is currently enduring critical societal, national security, and economic problems that stem in large part from the drug trade and the internal conflict that it finances. This situation has limited the Government of Colombia's sovereignty in large parts of the country. These areas have become the prime coca and opium poppy producing zones. This problem directly affects the United States as drug trafficking and abuse cause enormous social, health, and financial damage in our communities. Over 80 percent of the world's supply of cocaine is grown, processed, or transported through Colombia. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency estimates that up to 75 percent of the heroin consumed on the East Coast of the United States comes from Colombia – although Colombia produces less than 3 percent of the world's heroin.

Colombia's national sovereignty is increasingly threatened by well-armed and ruthless guerrillas, paramilitaries and the narcotrafficking interests that are inextricably linked. Although the Government is not directly at risk, these threats are slowly eroding the authority of the central government and depriving it of the ability to govern in outlying areas. Colombia must reestablish its authority over these narcotics producing "sanctuaries." Bogota cannot successfully resolve its many socio-economic problems, establish respect for human rights or achieve peace while these "sanctuaries" flourish and while the illegal armed groups in them earn hundreds of millions of dollars from the drug trade.

We estimate that the FARC now has 7,000–11,000 active members, the ELN between 3,000–6,000 and that there are an estimated 5,000-7,000 paramilitary members. They all participate in this narcotics connection. Estimates of guerrilla income from narcotics trafficking and other illicit activities, such as kidnapping and extortion, are unreliable, but clearly exceed $100 million a year, and could be far greater. Of this, we estimate some 30-40% comes directly from the drug trade. Paramilitary groups also have clear ties to important narcotics traffickers, and paramilitary leaders have even publicly admitted their participation in the drug trade.

This situation is worsened by the fact that the Colombian economy is undergoing its first recession in 25 years, and its deepest recession of the last 70 years. Real gross domestic product is estimated to have fallen by 3.5 percent last year, the result of external shocks, fiscal imbalances, and a further weakening of confidences related to stepped up activity by insurgent groups. Unemployment has rocketed from under 9 percent in 1995 to about 20 percent in 1999, adding to the pool of unemployed workers who can be drawn into the narcotics trade or into insurgent or paramilitary groups. This recession has also sapped the Colombian government of resources to address societal and political pressures, fight the narcotics trade, or respond to its thirty-five year internal conflict.

Plan Colombia

The Government of Colombia has taken the initiative to confront the challenges it faces with the development of a strategic approach to address its national challenges. The "Plan Colombia – Plan for Peace, Prosperity, and Strengthening of the State" is an ambitious, but realistic, package of mutually reinforcing policies to revive Colombia's battered economy, to strengthen the democratic pillars of the society, to promote the peace process and to eliminate "sanctuaries" for narcotics producers and traffickers. The strategy combines existing Colombian policies with new initiatives to forge an integrated approach to resolving Colombia's most pressing national challenges.

The USG consulted closely on the key elements that make up the Plan with Colombian leaders and senior officials. It ties together many individual approaches and strategies already being pursued in Colombia and elsewhere in the region. The Plan itself was formulated, drafted and approved in Colombia by President Pastrana and his team. Without its Colombian stamp, the Plan would not have the support and commitment of Colombia behind it. Colombian ownership and vigorous GOC implementation are essential to the future success of the Plan.

The USG shares the assessment that an integrated, comprehensive approach to Colombia's interlocking challenges holds the best promise of success. For example, counternarcotics efforts will be most effective when combined with rigorous GOC law enforcement and military cooperation, complementary alternative development programs and measures to ensure human rights accountability. Similarly, promoting respect for the rule of law is just as essential for attracting foreign investors as it is for securing a durable peace agreement.

I met with President Pastrana and his Plan Colombia team on February 13-14 to discuss the Plan's implementation. We reviewed with the Colombians a wide array of coordination and implementation issues. I believe we have launched a process of continuous bilateral discussions that will refine and make more effective our implementation policies.

Before I describe for you our proposal to assist Plan Colombia, let me remind you that the Plan cannot be understood simply in terms of a U.S. contribution. Plan Colombia is a $7.5 billion plan of which President Pastrana has said Colombia will provide $4 billion of its scarce resources. He called on the international community to provide the remaining $3.5 billion. In response to this request, the Administration is proposing a $1.6 billion assistance package to Colombia of new monies and current funding. Our request for new monies includes a $954 million FY 2000 emergency supplemental and $318 million in FY 2001 funding. A significant share of our package will go to reduce the supply of drugs to the United States by assisting the Government of Colombia in its efforts to limit the production, refinement, and transportation of cocaine and heroin. Building on current funding of over $330 million in FY 2000 and FY 2001, the Administration's proposal includes an additional $818 million funded through international affairs programs (function 150) and $137 million through defense programs (function 050) in FY 2000, and $256 million funded through function 150 and $62 million through function 050 in FY 2001. We are looking to the European Union and the International Financial Institutions to provide additional funding.

The Departments of State, Defense, Justice, and Treasury, as well as the Agency for International Development, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the Office of National Drug Control Policy all played major roles in proposing and crafting the Plan Colombia two year support package. They will all play essential roles in the interagency implementation effort.

The Administration's proposal for support for Plan Colombia addresses the breadth of Colombia's challenges, and will help Colombia in its efforts to fight the drug trade, foster peace, increase the rule of law, improve human rights, expand economic development, and institute justice reform. Much of the assistance for social assistance programs will come from the International Financial Institutions (IFI), future potential bilateral donors and Colombia's own funds.

There has been an explosive growth in the coca crop in Putumayo, in southern Colombia and, to a lesser extent, in Norte de Santander, in the northeast. Putumayo is an area that remains beyond the reach of the government's coca eradication operations. Strong guerrilla presence and weak state authority have contributed to the lawless situation in the Putumayo. As our success in Peru and Bolivia demonstrates, it is possible to combat narcotics production in the Andean region. This package will aid the Government of Colombia in their plans to launch a comprehensive step-by-step effort in Putumayo and Caqueta to counter the coca explosion, including eradication, interdiction, and alternative development over the next several years.

The push into drug producing southern Colombia will give greater sovereignty over that region to the GOC, allowing the CNP to eradicate drug cultivation and destroy cocaine laboratories. Increased interdiction will make the entire drug business more dangerous for traffickers and less profitable. Meanwhile, our support for Plan Colombia will also assist internally displaced people with emergency relief in the short term and fund alternative economic development to provide licit sources of income in the long term. USAID and DOJ will fund programs to improve human rights conditions and justice institutions giving the Colombian people greater access to the benefits of democratic institutions.

Our counternarcotics package for Colombia was designed with the benefit of knowing what has worked in Bolivia and Peru. With USG assistance, both countries have been able to reduce dramatically coca production. This was achieved through successful efforts to re-establish government control and bring government services to former drug producing safe havens. Both Bolivia and Peru combined vigorous eradication and interdiction efforts and with incentives for small farmers to switch to legal crops. We aim to help Colombia accomplish a similar record of success.

In doing this, we cannot, and will not, abandon our allies in Bolivia and Peru. Their successes are real and inspired. But they are also tenuous against the seductive dangers of the narcotics trade. This is why our Plan Colombia support package includes $46 million for regional interdiction efforts and another $30 million for alternative development in Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador. These countries deserve our continued support to solidify the gains they have striven so hard to obtain. We are not content to allow the cultivation and production of narcotics to be simply displaced from one Andean country to another.

Components of U.S. Assistance Package

The proposed U.S. assistance has five components:

1. Boosting Governing Capacity and Respect for Human Rights:

The Administration proposes funding $93 million over the next two years to fund programs administered by the Agency for International Development (AID) and the Departments of State and Justice to strengthen human rights and administration of justice institutions. Specific initiatives include increasing protection of human rights NGOs, supporting human rights NGOs' information and education programs, creating and training special units of prosecutors and judicial police to investigate human rights cases involving GOC officials, and training public defenders and judges. We propose to allocate $15 million dollars to support GOC and NGO entities specifically focused on protecting human rights. Boosting governing capacity also includes training and support for GOC anti-corruption, anti-money laundering and anti-kidnapping personnel.

2. Expansion of Counternarcotics Operations into Southern Colombia:

The world's greatest expansion in narcotics cultivation is occurring in insurgent-dominated southern Colombia. With this package, the Administration proposes to fund $600 million over the next two years to help train and equip two additional special counternarcotics battalions (CNBN), provide 30 Blackhawk helicopters and 33 Huey helicopters to make the CNBNs air mobile and to provide them with intelligence. These troops will accompany and backup police eradication and interdiction efforts. They will also provide secure conditions for the implementation of aid programs, including alternative development and relocation assistance, to those impacted by the ending of illegal narcotics cultivation.

3. Alternative Economic Development:

The Administration includes new funding of $145 million over the next two years to provide economic alternatives for small farmers who now grow coca and poppy, and to increase local governments' ability to respond to the needs of their people. As interdiction and eradication make narcotics farming less profitable, these programs will assist communities in the transition to licit economic activity.

4. More Aggressive Interdiction:

Enhancing Colombia's ability to interdict air, water-borne, and road trafficking is essential to decreasing the price paid to farmers for coca leaf and to decreasing the northward flow of drugs. The program includes funding over the next two years for radar upgrades to give Colombia a greater ability to intercept traffickers, and also to provide intelligence to allow the Colombian police and military to respond quickly to narcotics activity. It will support the United States forward operating location in Manta, Ecuador, which will be used for narcotics related missions. Additionally, these funds will provide assistance to enhance interdiction efforts in Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador to prevent narcotics traffickers and growers from moving into neighboring countries.

5. Assistance for the Colombian National Police (CNP):

The Administration proposes additional funding of $96 million over the next two years to enhance the CNP's ability to eradicate coca and poppy fields. This request builds upon our FY-99 counternarcotics assistance of $158 million to the CNP. Our additional assistance will upgrade existing aircraft, purchase additional spray aircraft, and provide secure bases for increased operations in the coca-growing centers. It will also provide more intelligence on the narcotics traffickers.

All U.S. counternarcotics assistance to Colombia will continue to be in the form of goods and services. The counternarcotics components of Plan Colombia will be implemented by the Colombian police and military, and there are no plans to commit any U.S. forces to implement militarily any aspect of this Plan. On the ground, our military assistance will be limited to training vetted counternarcotics units through the temporary assignment of carefully picked U.S. military trainers.

Human Rights Dimension

We have also strongly supported the efforts of the Pastrana Administration to advance the protection of human rights and to prosecute those who abuse them. Complicity by elements of Colombia's security forces with the right wing militia or paramilitary groups has been a serious problem, although the GOC has taken important steps in holding senior military and police officials accountable for participation in human rights violations. Since assuming office in August of 1998, President Pastrana has demonstrated his Government's commitment to protecting human rights by the dismissal of four generals and numerous mid-level officers and NCO's for collaboration with paramilitaries or failure to confront them aggressively. There have also been repeated government declarations that collaboration between members of security forces and paramilitaries will not be tolerated. More must be done, however.

U.S. assistance to Colombian military and police forces is provided strictly in accordance with Section 563 of the FY 2000 Foreign Operations Appropriations Act--the so-called Leahy Amendment. No assistance is provided to any unit of the security forces for which we have credible evidence of commission of gross violations of human rights, unless the Secretary is able to certify that the Government of Colombia has taken effective measures to bring those responsible to justice. We are firmly committed to the Leahy Amendment, and have a rigorous process in place to screen those units being considered for assistance.

The Government of Colombia also acknowledges the urgent need to improve physical security and protection for human rights workers and the NGOs to which they belong. Currently, the GOC has dedicated $5.6 million to provide physical protection to approximately 80 human rights activists and their offices. The Plan outlines measures to strengthen the Human Rights Ombudsman's office, as well as to establish a Permanent National Commission on Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law.

Peace Process

President Pastrana has made bringing an end to Colombia's civil strife through a peace agreement with the various insurgent groups a central goal of his Administration. President Pastrana believes, and the United States Government agrees, that ending the civil conflict and eliminating all it's harmful side effects is central to solving Colombia's multi-faceted problems.

A peace agreement would stabilize the nation, help Colombia's economy to recover and allow for further improvement in the protection of human rights. A successful peace process would also restore Colombian government authority and control in the coca-growing region. We hope the peace negotiations going on now between the GOC and the FARC and the GOC's informal discussion with the ELN prove successful. We applaud the Colombian Government's determination to press the guerrillas to cease their practices of narcotics trafficking, kidnapping, forced recruitment of children, and attacks against the civilian population.

BOLIVIA

In Bolivia, President Hugo Banzer's administration has embarked on an ambitious five-year plan, called the Dignity Plan, to eliminate all illicit coca and permanently remove the country from the international narcotics circuit. A goal that seemed utopian when it was announced in early 1998 is now actually within reach. More than 73 percent of the country's illicit coca has been eradicated, in less than 50 percent of the allotted time. It is vital that the Bolivians consolidate these gains by providing alternative development options to the farmers who are abandoning the coca trade, while maintaining the focus on eradication and interdiction. U.S. assistance has been and will continue to be essential to their success.

VENEZUELA

For the past year, Venezuela has been engaged in a dramatic, controversial exercise of democracy, with the goal of reforming the nation's government in order to make it work more fairly and more consistently in the interest of the people. A new Constitution, adopted with overwhelming support, has set the stage for elections for most elected positions, including President, on May 28. Restructuring of the government has been accompanied by dramatic changes in the political landscape. New political parties and coalitions can be expected to emerge and the final shape cannot be anticipated at this time. At this important crossroads, it is important to continue to emphasize the importance of staying within democratic bounds and establishing precedents for transparent, effective and responsive government. We will continue to engage in bilateral cooperation in a wide variety of areas, including flood relief and reconstruction, counternarcotics, anti-corruption and judicial reform, and creation of an attractive investment and business climate. On my recent trip to Venezuela, I had a full range of discussions with Venezuelan officials on various issues including counternarcotics.

PERU

We enjoy a strong bilateral relationship with Peru that spans many issues, from counternarcotics to commercial ties. Our assistance seeks to strengthen democratic institutions in Peru, enhance the Government of Peru's ability to interdict and disrupt narcotics production and distribution, and to reduce poverty and promote economic and social development. Our democracy assistance promotes civic and voter education, journalism training and support for press freedom organizations, election monitoring, judicial training, increased political participation of women and increased citizen participation in local government. U.S. programs also help to strengthen and expand the Office of the Human Rights Ombudsman and to support the work of credible human rights NGOs.

Peru is a source country for cocaine, and the U.S. has enjoyed excellent cooperation from the GOP in counternarcotics activities, resulting in a 66% decline in coca cultivation from 1995 to 1999. Our counterdrug assistance provides training and assistance for aerial, maritime, riverine and ground interdiction of drug shipments, enhanced law enforcement, alternative development assistance, and drug education and demand reduction. With U.S. assistance, GOP interdiction and "shootdown" operations effectively shut down drug traffickers' northern "air bridge" to Colombia. To reinforce and maintain the success of the interdiction programs and help sustain reductions in coca production, the U.S.-Peru alternative development program provides alternative income opportunities for coca growers. Assistance for more than 25,000 hectares of licit crops focuses on promoting the production of legal crops such as coffee and cacao. To date, the alternative development program has financed 850 km of road rehabilitation, constructed 21 bridges, and built two irrigation systems. INC funds also provide training to Peruvian police units to dismantle international criminal organizations.

ECUADOR

Both political instability and an economic crisis currently endanger democracy in Ecuador. In January an uprising by an indigenous political movement, supported by elements of the army, provided unconstitutional pressure on President Mahuad that forced him from office. The military clearly failed in its duty to protect the country's democratically elected leaders and played an unacceptable role in the political crisis. We have strongly expressed our condemnation of the military's role in the January crisis to its leadership. Key Ecuadorian officials publicly acknowledged that our pressure was a key factor in the restoration of civilian rule. Within hours Mahuad's constitutional successor, former Vice President Gustavo Noboa, assumed office. Nevertheless, we have stressed to the Ecuadorian military leadership that it has a constitutional duty to protect the nation's democratically elected leadership and that it cannot contribute, either actively or inactively, to an unconstitutional change in government.

While we reject the means by which President Mahuad was removed from office, we are committed to working with the Noboa government on the full range of issues of mutual interest, including our joint counternarcotics operations from the Manta forward operating location. Ex-president Mahuad has since called on all Ecuadorians to support President Noboa. Noboa's principal challenge will be to rapidly address the economic crisis in Ecuador and restore public confidence. We have urged Ecuador to work closely with the IMF and take the macroeconomic steps necessary to put Ecuador on the path to recovery. The Noboa government has put forward a package of necessary reforms, and I strongly urged all parties in the Ecuadorian Congress to pass them.

Andean Trade Preference Act

The Andean Trade Preference (ATPA) provides tariff benefits comparable to those now granted in CBI to four beneficiary countries (Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru). Venezuela is not currently an ATPA beneficiary. The program expires on December 4, 2001. It appears to be a successful and beneficial program for all our countries. Ambassador Fisher will address this trade benefit and the Administration's trade policy in support of the Andean region's anti-narcotics efforts.

Mr. Chairman, distinguished members, the Administration has been pleased by the bipartisan support from both houses that share our concern for Colombia and the Andean region's future. Concerted action now could help over time to stem the illicit narcotics flow to the United States. I look forward to working with Congress