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February 28, 2001

Plan Colombia: An Initial Assessment

The Honorable Senator Charles Grassley
Chairman
Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control

Good morning and welcome. I want to thank everyone for coming today for this important update hearing on Plan Colombia, and for accommodating the schedule change earlier this week.

Plan Colombia is one of our most significant and largest Western Hemisphere foreign policy initiatives in recent years. It is a major U.S., regional, and European counterdrug push in Colombia, and comes about as the result of a major expansion in cocaine and heroin production there, that is principally targeted for the United States. Democratic institutions, regional stability, economic development and trade, displaced persons and basic human rights are all at risk. Let me be clear. I believe that it is important to support Colombia. I just want to do it in the best way we know how.

I am committed to sending the Government of Colombia the helicopters and equipment they need to be successful against the narcotics organizations, but am concerned about their long-term ability to fully afford and employ all the aviation assets we are sending to their country

I am very interested in the topics of regional spillover and what countries are you all are most concerned with, and what should be done to assist these countries? Venezuela, Ecuador, Panama and Brazil all neighbor Colombia. Give its immense Amazon regions, Brazil has been mentioned as a future concern, for both the production and transportation of narcotics.

I am also interested in the proper balance of our programs — the balance between supply and demand reduction in the United States, between spraying and eradication with alternate development in Colombia, and with our national strategy between the emphasis in the source and transit zones.

I would like us to all be realistic. Is Plan Colombia’s initial goal of a 50 percent reduction in 5-6 years still valid? Is it achievable? What if we are successful? What if we are not? What are the realistic out year costs? Is there any present or future link between the narcotics entities in our hemisphere and future terrorism concerns for the United States?

Finally, I want to be sure that our priorities, our actions, the respective roles of the U.S. and Colombia, a clear understanding of the costs and risks, the incorporation of regional and European partners, and the time line and goals have all been well thought out, are understand here in Washington, and actually contribute to solving this most vexing problem of narcotics and long-term stability for Colombia.