About Caucus







June 3, 2003

Regarding U.S. Narcotics Policy in Colombia

The Honorable Charles E. Grassley
Caucus on International Narcotics Control

Good morning, and welcome to everyone on this Tuesday morning, particularly those who have traveled long distances to be with us. I know that some of you have airplanes to catch later today, so we will try and keep things moving along.

Today we will examine the current status of events in Colombia. The United States has a particular interest in the stability and future of Colombia because it is both one of the oldest democracies in the Hemisphere as well as the home to three terrorist groups, each of whom get a significant amount of their operational funds from drugs smuggled into the United States.

With illegal drugs grown and shipped from Colombia killing Americans every day, and the sale of these drugs funding terrorists who are killing Colombians every day, it is in the interests of both Colombia and the United States to work together to eliminate drug production and trafficking in Colombia.

This past year has seen a significant increase in the tempo of activities in Colombia, which has resulted in some of the successes we will hear about today. But we still have a way to go. This fight is by no means over, and I hope that we won't let these first signs of success distract us from the long road ahead. Today's hearing will highlight several aspects of the situation in Colombia and the nature and objectives of assistance that we are providing.

The last year has been a tumultuous one in Colombia. Rapidly evolving events make maintaining a clear course of action even more difficult. The most recent developments stem from former Colombian President Pastrana's decision to give up on four years of attempted negotiations with the FARC and end the Despehe territory, which had been created in an attempt to bring the FARC to the negotiating table. Negotiating a peace with the FARC had been a cornerstone of the Pastrana Presidency, but his efforts were ultimately frustrated by the FARC's reluctance to negotiate seriously.

The failure to find a peaceful solution meant a new approach to the problem had to be found. The people of Colombia demonstrated their resolve to taking a new approach in confronting terrorist groups through the overwhelming election of President Uribe and of our first witness this morning, Vice President Santos. Elected in the first round by a significant margin over their nearest competitor, President Uribe and Vice President Santos face significant pressure to quickly fulfill their campaign promises, a pressure we all understand and about which I am sure our first witness is well aware.

For the United States, eliminating coca production in Colombia is a long-standing goal in our National Drug Control Strategy. Opium poppy cultivation is a more recent development, but its elimination is also part of our strategy. Working in close cooperation with the Government of Colombia, we have finally been able to get ahead of production this past year. According to the most recent cultivation surveys, coca production in Colombia was down 15% from 2001, and opium poppy production was down close to 25%. United Nations estimates show an even bigger reduction of the coca crop, so it seems we are making progress.

President Uribe has made it a goal of his Administration to eliminate all coca production within Colombia by August 2006, which will be the end of his term. This is a laudable goal that the United States should support. Eliminating coca and poppy production is important not only because of the tremendous damage that these poisons do to users, but because of the important role they play as a funding source for the terrorist organizations operating in Colombia. I hope today's testimony by our second panel of witnesses will shed additional light on what steps will be necessary to reach this goal.