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June 3, 2003

Regarding U.S. Narcotics Policy in Colombia


General James Hill
Commander in Chief
U.S. Southern Command


Mr. Chairman, Senator Biden, distinguished members of the Caucus, it is a pleasure to appear before you today to discuss the United States Southern Command's role in assisting Colombia and the region's other countries with the battle on narcoterrorism. Every day our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, Coast Guardsmen, civilians and interagency members work hard to accomplish their missions in our part of the War on Terrorism. This work is vital for regional security and, given our nation's proximity to Latin America and general ease of access to the United States, shores up our own national security.

I have traveled to Colombia twelve times since taking command last August. Our unwavering fiscal, political, and military support provide their government steady reassurance that we stand with them in their fight. Practical measures are required, however, to augment our support. The most important of these measures is the continuation of Expanded Authority through Fiscal Year 2004. Expanded Authority successfully broke the artificial barrier that previously existed between counterdrug and counterterrorist efforts and synchronized disparate funding streams to address a common threat. It boosted the effectiveness of our support in 2003 and is the most logical way to continue combating Colombia's illegal armed groups, groups that are most accurately described as drug-fueled terrorist organizations.

These narcoterrorists pose a grave threat to Colombia as well as to the entire Andean region. All of Colombia's neighbors have experienced the total disregard for sovereign borders displayed by these groups. Most countries are taking efforts to address this threat, but we must help them coordinate and bolster their efforts. The region's countries are all consolidating democracies that will take time to mature. Meanwhile, these countries face uncertainty, whether from weak institutions that have yet to undergo multiple cycles of free elections or from disappointment that liberal market reforms have not yet produced sustained improvement. It is upon these inherent vulnerabilities that narcoterrorist organizations prey. The corruption, greed and instability narcoterrorists foster undermine the best efforts of dedicated public servants and honest citizens. Corruption and instability create safe havens for not only narcoterrorists but also for other international terrorist organization such as Hizballah, Hamas, and Islamiyya al Gammat, which have support cells throughout Latin America. Battling narcoterrorism and its beneficiaries is just one part of the overall War on Terrorism, but it is an essential part which must be waged, particularly in our hemisphere.

To outline United States Southern Command's efforts in this endeavor, I will discuss the threats we face, the progress we have made, and the way ahead. Helping the region's countries gain and maintain security is an ongoing, gradual process that requires us to stay the present course. Building security inside these countries is vital to our overall regional approach, because only nations that are secure can benefit from democratic processes and economic growth. In both the short and the long term, it is in our own best interest to help the Colombians and their neighbors help themselves. Our continuous, steady support is required to forge the way ahead.


Threats in the Region

The War on Terrorism is my number one priority. While the primary front in this global war is in the Middle East, Southern Command plays a vital role in fighting branches of global and local terrorism in this hemisphere. We are increasingly identifying and assisting partner nations to engage those who seek to exploit real and perceived weaknesses of the region's democracies.

The primary threat in our region continues to come from the three largest illegal armed groups in Colombia, all named on the State Department's list of foreign terrorist organizations: the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia or FARC, the National Liberation Army or ELN, and the United Self-Defense Forces or AUC. Many familiar with Colombia's conflict and many press accounts still sentimentally describe these terrorist groups as "revolutionaries," "guerrillas," "rebels" or "militias," lending them some kind of tacit legitimacy with those words. These terms are misleading and obsolete. A group that straps explosives to an eleven year-old boy, sends him into a police station, and then remotely detonates the explosives, as the FARC did on April 17th in Arauca, Colombia, forfeits any claim to legitimacy. While these groups surely retain fragments of their founding philosophies, they appear to have jettisoned ideology in favor of terrorist methods and illicit revenues. Today, these groups consist of criminals, more precisely defined as narcoterrorists, who operate outside the rule of law in order to profit at the expense of Colombia and its people. These terrorists directly challenge the legitimate authority of the Colombian administration yet offer no viable form of government themselves. Some of them have had 40 years to win the hearts and minds of their countrymen, yet they, and the FARC in particular, can garner no more than 3% public approval.

Colombia is on the very front line of the regional war against terrorism. Their citizens suffer daily from murder, bombings, kidnappings, and lawlessness practically unimaginable to us. In this war-torn country, the conflict has been accelerated by illicit drug money and claimed thousands of lives. Colombia is also experiencing an unprecedented humanitarian crisis, with an estimated 1.5 million Colombians having been displaced from their homes. In 2001 there were more terrorist attacks in Colombia alone than in all other nations of the world combined - averaging four per day. Colombia has the highest homicide rate in the world - 77.5 per 100,000 - nearly 14 times the U.S. rate, making homicide the most likely cause of death. Moreover, about 3,000 people were kidnapped last year, making Colombia the kidnapping capital of the world. Colombia remains the world's leading producer of cocaine and accounts for 90 percent of the U.S. supply. The narcoterrorists have become dependent on drug income for much of their operational capacity. We expect them to fight to keep the drug industry productive as it comes increasingly under attack from the Government of Colombia.

One example of this trend is found in the Cocaleros movement in Bolivia, in which manipulative traffickers, in conjunction with a radical political party, seek to tap peasant frustration to undermine the elected government. There is evidence that outside forces are attempting to influence this movement. On April 10th, Bolivian authorities arrested suspected Colombian ELN member Francisco Cortes, along with Bolivian Cocaleros and two members of the Bolivian ELN. Authorities confiscated ELN literature, false identity documents, over two kilos of cocaine base, and material to fabricate explosive booby traps. Another example is becoming evident in Peru. The Shining Path is undergoing a resurgence, based on the FARC model, by protecting cocaine smugglers and collecting taxes on the coca trade. This resurgence already directly threatens U.S. interests, as evidenced by the Shining Path bombing near the U.S. Embassy prior to President Bush's visit last March. These examples of narcoterrorists operating transnationally and attempting to influence other movements set an unwelcome but likely precedent in the region.

Beyond the narcoterrorist threat concentrated in the Andean Ridge are extensions of Middle Eastern terrorism. Radical groups that support Hamas, Hizballah and Islamiyya al Gammat are all active in Latin America. These cells, extending from Trinidad and Tobago to Margarita Island off Venezuela to the tri-border area of Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil, consist of logistics and support personnel. However, terrorists who have planned or participated in attacks in the Middle East, such as recently captured Khalid Shaihk Mohammed, have spent time in the region. These groups make millions of dollars every year via illicit activities. Hizballah, for example, smuggles Latin American cocaine to Europe and the Middle East. These cells continue to reach back to the Middle East and solidify the sophisticated global support structure of international terrorism. Not surprisingly, international terrorist groups and narcoterrorists in Colombia all practice the same business methods.

A derivative threat from continued narcoterrorist violence is the instability and corruption it provokes across the region. Governments that face direct challenges to their legitimacy and which cannot effectively police their entire sovereign territory can become safe havens for illicit groups of all persuasions. As the United States roots out international terrorists across the world, we must be careful not to overlook instability generated by narcoterrorists nearer to home, which makes threatened countries attractive destinations for terrorist groups. These countries are desirable to those who seek to harm the United States for many reasons. First, they are close to us. Second, they provide launching points along already established drug, arms, and human trafficking routes. Third, terrorists with large amounts of cash can procure counterfeit official documents in the region. Fourth, Islamic radicals can easily blend into Latin America's long established Arab communities to avoid scrutiny. Finally, the money generated by narcotrafficking cannot fail but to entice terrorist groups beyond those already operating in Colombia, such as we are seeing with the Shining Path in Peru.

While the threats to our nation from international terrorism are well known, the threats spawned by narcoterrorism are lesser known yet reach deep into this country. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 19,000 Americans die annually as the direct result of drug related causes. This equates, in my mind, to a weapon of mass destruction. This staggering number does not take into account the second and third order effects on families, the lost productivity of those lives cut short, or the additional thousands of Americans we lose to indirect drug related causes. As a nation we simply cannot afford to give up on tens of thousands of our own citizens every year. Taking the fight to the narcoterrorists is one way we as a nation can effectively address one crucial part of this multi-faceted problem.


The Uribe Administration's Progress

The threats we face in our hemisphere are real, but we are not standing idly by and watching them grow. Instead we are working with the nations across the region to shore up their internal security. Colombia faces the biggest challenge; the narcoterrorist center of gravity lies within its borders. President Uribe won a landslide victory by running on a platform of aggressively hunting down the terrorists in his country. After years of failed attempts to negotiate with these groups, to include a bold experiment that gave the FARC a safe haven in the southern part of the country, the people of Colombia had finally had enough of terrorist groups, especially after seeing how the FARC had used their safe haven to plot terrorist acts instead of social progress and to cultivate coca rather than community.

President Uribe faces enormous challenges, but he is using his mandate to put deeds behind his words. He has only been in office for eight months, and turning the government from a conciliatory posture to an aggressively focused one is not an easy task. We need to be steadfast in our support of him now to set the conditions for his longer-term success. We are only two and a half years into our substantial support for Plan Colombia. President Uribe will be the critical player in ensuring the overall success of this investment by the American people. The signs of his progress are already becoming evident. Colombia developed a comprehensive national security strategy that directs all the tools at the government's disposal toward a common end of defeating the terrorists. President Uribe has levied a war tax on the country's wealthiest citizens. He is increasing military and police end-strength. The government has developed a plan to protect travelers along the major roadways. He is pushing the military and the police to regain control of areas and neighborhoods dominated by the narcoterrorists. In those areas where the government is regaining control, they are providing more robust social services to support those who previously suffered most from their absence.

Specifically, the military has had growing operational success against mid-level leadership in narcoterrorist organizations across the country. Last October, elements of the Colombian 1st Counter Narcotics Brigade dealt the FARC a significant blow when they carried out an intelligence-driven combined arms operation that resulted in the death of the 15th Front Commander, Mocho Cesar, and the capture of several key subordinates. On February 15th of this year, Colombian forces captured Aparicio Conde, the finance chief of the FARC's Joselo Lozada Mobile Column. On March 10th, they captured thirteen FARC members of the 37th Front in Barranquilla, to include Jose Olivero Ospina, the 37th Front operations officer. This notably cohesive operation was a joint and interagency undertaking, effectively coordinating the efforts of the police, the Army, and the Prosecutor General's office. On March 24th, the Colombian National Police captured Luis Armando Castillo, the finance chief of the FARC's Manuel Cepeda Vargas Front. Finally, throughout the month of April, Colombian security forces arrested senior members of the Antonio Narino Urban Front, the main unit that terrorizes Bogotá.

The Colombian military and National Police have also been more aggressive in rescuing a number of kidnap victims, to include an archbishop and the daughter of a prominent businessman. Eradication efforts showed marked improvement in 2002 as coca cultivation in Colombia decreased by 15%. These examples show the incremental progress that is being made against key actors and support systems in the narcoterrorist infrastructure. Meanwhile, the psychological benefits that all law-abiding Colombians derive from observing these successful and professional actions do much to strengthen their national morale.

A remarkable event occurred on April 25th, 2003. Rafael Rojas, a 20-year veteran of the FARC and commander of the group's 46th Front under the alias Fidel Romero, turned himself in to Colombian authorities. On April 28th, flanked by President Uribe and the administration's top military leaders at a nationally televised press conference, Rojas called on his former comrades to surrender stating, "Positive things have not resulted…On the contrary, the prolonged war has left only desolation and destruction." More importantly, Rojas said the "movement had clear origins, but its ends are no longer known." While we don't know Rojas' motivation for turning himself in, his statement implies that he grasps the reality of what is occurring today in Colombia. We hope this marks the beginning of a trend. The firm resolve of the Uribe administration, backed by aggressive military operations, has resulted in increased desertions by enemies of the state. The government's actions are paired wisely with a complementary government program under which those who leave the FARC voluntarily are put in protected housing and receive health care, education, and work training.

In conjunction with military efforts, President Uribe has sponsored political, economic, and judicial reforms. With the support of his Congress, the government is calling for political reforms. These reforms aim to reduce the government bureaucracy, cap pensions, and eliminate corruption. These measures will streamline the government and increase its ability to focus on the internal disturbance. Economically, Uribe's stance and the promised reforms have buoyed the country's confidence. Colombia has raised over one billion dollars via bonds since the new administration took office, and its stock market has increased by 50% this year. Likewise, President Uribe has sought to stamp out corruption and bolster judicial reform. He issued Presidential Directive No. 10, which was his anti-corruption strategy, designed to halt the revenue lost from corruption and political cronyism. He established a mechanism to oversee state contracting that will save an estimated two billion dollars annually, and he has established merit-based hiring practices. Though an overburdened judiciary continues to sort through an enormous pending case backlog, there are positive trends that those accused of crimes, especially those with money and influence, are being tried in due course and not being allowed to opt out of the system.

Colombia is fighting its illegal armed groups justly, in accordance with democratic values and human rights. This is instrumental in what we are collectively striving to achieve. The Colombian government is not resorting to rural concentration camps, peasant roundups, massacres, disappearances or other tactics used by their enemies. We continue to monitor closely the human rights record of the Colombian military. If one reads all of the Department of State's 2002 Colombian Human Rights Report instead of the snippets that have been circulating, one gains a deeper appreciation of the strides the government has made. The vast majority of allegations of human rights abuses, over 98%, are attributed to Colombia's illegal armed groups, primarily the three-narcoterrorist groups, and not to government forces. This report clearly demonstrates the institutionalization of human rights by the Colombian government, whose forces as recently as the mid-1990s were accused of 50-60% of human rights abuses.

The Human Rights report finds that, "the government has an extensive human rights apparatus coordinated by the office of the President's Advisor for Human Rights. That office coordinates with local human rights groups. Most notably, it established a special 'momentum' committee to advance judicial resolutions of 100 key human rights cases." Over 290,000 members of Colombia's security forces have received specialized human rights training since 1996, conducted by the International Committee of the Red Cross, the Colombian Red Cross, the Roman Catholic church, foreign governments, and other government offices and agencies. The Ministry of Defense signed an agreement with two prestigious, private civilian national universities and the Inter-American Institute of Human Rights to conduct research and training on human rights and international humanitarian law issues and to organize seminars designed to foster dialog with non-governmental organizations and academics. I am convinced the Colombian government is serious about human rights and will continue to promote them aggressively.

An area of concern is the perception of collusion between the Colombian military and the AUC. President Uribe and the senior military leadership have made it perfectly clear that they will not tolerate any collusion with the AUC or other illegal "self-defense" groups, and that they are just as criminal as the other terrorists. Collaboration with any groups that operate outside the law is illegal and punishable by the civilian justice system. Despite great progress, it would be disingenuous to say that all collusion has been stamped out. Like any tough problem, this one will take time. I'm confident that as an institution, the Colombian military and its current leadership completely understand the seriousness of this matter and are headed in the right direction. As just one demonstration of their resolve in this area, the military doubled operations against illegal self-defense groups last year and has quadrupled the number captured since 2000.

This list is just a partial highlight of the coordinated effort the Colombian government is making to solve its own problems. President Uribe has infused his government with energy, organization, and a sense of purpose. He is getting results now, and will continue to direct all his resources toward making Colombia a safe, prosperous, democratic nation. He understands that this is primarily a Colombian problem, one which Colombia must solve, yet he still needs our help to make his efforts ever more effective. President Uribe stood by us as a member of the Coalition of the Willing in Operation Iraqi Freedom, a stance unpopular with both Colombian public opinion and his regional peers. He is providing the strategic leadership that Colombia needs to move ahead. Recent polls show public confidence in him and the military increasing. Now, early in his administration, is the time he most needs us to demonstrate to him, his government, and his people our continued resolve.


U.S. Southern Command Assistance to Colombia

Southern Command's assistance to Colombia is not operational but instead is in training and assisting the Colombians to deal with their internal problems themselves. We have a vested interest in the outcome, but it must remain primarily a Colombian fight. President Uribe's actions have generated momentum against his country's criminals, and our deployed forces have seen a noticeable boost in the attitudes of those we are training. Our physical presence is rather modest, by law being no more than 400 troops and 400 civilian contractors. But you've seen what a few dedicated men working with allied forces can accomplish. We're having a similar effect in Colombia. Their military proficiency is improving. This means they can respond quicker, move faster, and fight better than ever before.

Our Special Forces have trained the staff and soldiers of Colombia's best units, giving these units an added edge of operational effectiveness that is paying dividends. The 1st Counter Narcotics Brigade has provided the Colombians a flexible, mobile, offensively oriented fighting force of three 600-man battalions that are able to conduct quick strike missions against narcoterrorists. The establishment and training of a Commando Battalion, modeled on our own Ranger battalions, has given the Colombians a unit that can strike high-value targets including enemy leadership. The Colombians plan on establishing another commando battalion in Fiscal Year 2004. We have also trained with the Colombian urban counter-terrorist unit and continue to work with them to upgrade their capabilities and equipment. Recently, U.S. Special Forces have also been training Colombian Armed Forces in Arauca to protect a portion of the 772-kilometer oil pipeline that has been a frequent target of FARC and ELN attacks. This training is just one part of a nationwide Infrastructure Security Strategy that protects critical facilities and reestablishes control in narcoterrorist influenced areas of the country.

We continue to train Colombia's helicopter pilots, providing their forces a growing ability to perform air assaults that are key in the battle against dispersed enemies. We deploy intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance assets in country that have provided timely, actionable intelligence to Colombian units. We are training their staffs with Planning Assistance Teams that increase their ability to plan and execute intelligence driven operations against illegal armed groups. We are working with Colombian Marines to establish two Mobile Training Teams that will work with the Riverine Brigade to raise proficiency for riverine interdiction. We contract logistics to help the Colombians maintain their own C-130 fleet. We are training the Colombian National Police Carabineros (Rural) with the goal of reestablishing governance throughout the country. We are providing medical training and assistance to help the Colombians improve their casualty evacuation methods as well as implementing other safety programs to help them preserve their combat power. In civil-military operations, we are helping the Colombians to build a civil-affairs capability that will be implemented in the Arauca Rehabilitation Zone to bring humanitarian aid and functioning institutions to previously terrorized areas. This program will eventually be expanded across the country. Finally, we are working with the State Department to re-establish the Air Bridge Denial Program to be run by the Colombians with U.S. ground and air safety monitors. In support of this issue, the United States Department of Justice is assisting a certification team to ensure that legal controls are applied and implemented.

The one constant running through all of our efforts is the non-negotiable emphasis on human rights. Southern Command has played a leading role in advancing the cause of human rights in Colombia and throughout the region, and our efforts have certainly supplemented the government's program and helped professionalize the Colombian military. We are the only combatant command to have a full time human rights staff directorate. Respect for human rights is embedded in everything we do, whether training forces, educating officers, or conducting exercises. This guiding principle will remain our foundation.

Although we are not taking part in direct operations, Americans are still at risk during the course of their duties. Currently, three American contractors are being held hostage by the FARC. We have been working hard to recover them. There are several factors that make this recovery difficult, but two are overriding. First, the area where the search is being conducted is in some of the thickest jungle in the country. Second, this area is the FARC's backyard, and they have a first hand knowledge of the terrain combined with a sizeable support network in the area. We are pressing forward with the search and rescue effort around the clock. There is at least one positive result so far. The Colombian Military, to include units from the 1st Counter Narcotics Brigade, has been leading the search, and in doing so are operating in parts of the country they haven't set foot in for fifteen to twenty years. They are taking the fight to the enemy on his turf, and they are doing well. Our training shows.


Regional Support Beyond Colombia

Colombia is the linchpin in the narcoterrorist battle, but we must be careful not to win the battle in Colombia and lose the war in the region. As the Colombians make progress, their success will push narcoterrorists to seek safer areas in which to operate. Already, the FARC, ELN, and AUC operate freely across the weak borders of Colombia's neighbors, and the remote nature of many of these areas makes them ever more attractive as safe havens. Those countries also lack the organization and resources to maintain territorial sovereignty in these ungoverned spaces. Consequently, across the Andean Ridge we are working with the bordering nations to increase cooperation, fortify borders and strengthen capabilities.

We are actively strengthening regional cooperation. In an ongoing multinational exercise, we are training with the Colombian Navy on littoral techniques in a combined operation with Panamanian, British, and Dutch participation. In Peru, we have built upon their riverine interdiction ability, as well as working with the interagency to support their eradication program and counternarcotics aviation. We are working to restart the Air Bridge Denial Program in Peru with additional safeguards. In Ecuador, we have supported their riverine capability and worked closely with them in completing the essential forward operating location at Manta. We are seeing a welcome acknowledgment of the Colombian border concern by their leadership, and we are studying the possibility of training their 19th Jungle Brigade along the same lines as the units we've trained in Colombia. In Bolivia, we have worked on their riverine capabilities as well and supported their eradication efforts. We will continue to monitor the Cocalero movement. I am particularly encouraged by the bilateral talks President Lula of Brazil and President Uribe conducted in March during which they acknowledged the common interest their countries shared in controlling drug traffickers in the Amazon region. We have already seen the Brazilians take up active patrolling on their own border with Colombia.

Venezuela is undoubtedly a key player in overall regional security but also the most unpredictable. We are maintaining military-to-military contacts at the colonel level and below. Venezuelan officers come to our schools and we send U.S. officers to theirs. In the domestic turmoil so far, the Venezuelan military has not harmed its own citizens, which is a positive signal that the military is attempting to maintain its professionalism. We will maintain our contacts providing the Venezuelan military continues to act in a constitutionally correct manner.


Way Ahead

As the lead agent for the Department of Defense to implement U.S. policy for the military efforts in Colombia, U.S. Southern Command will continue to maintain a priority effort against narcoterrorism. Key in most of our recent endeavors has been approval by the U.S. Congress of Expanded Authority legislation. This legislation has allowed us to use funds available for counterdrug activities to provide assistance to the Government of Colombia for a coordinated campaign against the terrorist activities of its illegal armed groups. The granting of Expanded Authority was an important recognition that no meaningful distinction can be made between the terrorists and drug traffickers in our region. All three of Colombia's terrorist groups are deep into the illicit narcotics business. Trying to decide whether a mission against a FARC unit was a counterdrug or counterterrorist one was an exercise in futility and hampered operational effectiveness on the ground. Expanded Authority has eliminated the time consuming step of first evaluating the mission based on its probable funding source and now allows us to bring to bear all our assets more rapidly. As just one example, it will allow assets controlled by Joint Interagency Task Force South (JIATF-S) to continue being used to their full potential to provide real-time, actionable intelligence that is key in conducting effective operations against the narcoterrorists. Expanded Authority for FY04 is the single most important factor for us to continue building success in Colombia.

Expanded Authority is foundational for the overall way ahead for Colombia, but it will be supplemented on many fronts across the region. JIATF-South, a model of interagency cooperation for our entire government, will broaden its focus beyond narcotics to use its assets to counter all illicit trafficking, including arms, ammunition, explosives and weapons of mass destruction. We will continue to conduct exercises and training in the region. We are working with nations in the region to build their intelligence capabilities and to protect their critical national infrastructures. We are working with them to build effective logistics and communications architectures that will support intelligence driven operations.

We will continue to bring Latin American officers, non-commissioned officers, enlisted members, and defense civilians to our professional schools in the United States. Hand-in-hand with our professionalization efforts is a continued emphasis on human rights and international humanitarian law. All of these efforts help build a coordinated regional approach and regional cooperation. While our efforts are, for good reason, Colombia-centric, we are not letting others fall behind to become the next targets for terrorist groups. The cooperative counter narcoterrorist groundwork we are laying today will further our national security for decades to come.


Conclusion

For most nations in our region, the threats come from within. It will be up to those nations to demonstrate their ability to govern, enforce the rule of law, implement judicial reform, and develop a profound respect for human rights. These fundamentals provide the stable and secure environment necessary for economic growth - growth that will improve the quality of life for ordinary citizens. Southern Command plays a crucial role in assisting the development of security forces that help provide the ability to govern throughout the region, particularly in Colombia.

We are at a critical time in Colombia's history. The elected government of President Uribe enjoys unparalleled approval ratings approaching 70 percent. Under his leadership, the military and police are helping to regain control of areas long held by narcoterrorists. Colombia's citizens are taking a more active role in their nation's defense and providing actionable intelligence to the Colombian Armed Forces. There is a renewed sense of momentum, commitment, and hope as the Colombian people struggle to save their country, but there is also a finite window of opportunity beyond which public opinion and support will wane without significant progress.

I am cautiously optimistic about Colombia, though there remains an enormous amount of work to be done. I am proud to say we do a great deal to further our nation's interests in this hemisphere with very few resources and a modest presence. We are at a critical point where the progress in eliminating conflict, reducing tension, and establishing democracy throughout the region could be at risk if we are not steadfast in our efforts. While our attention is drawn to another region of the world, we must keep in mind that we live in this hemisphere, and its continued progress as a region of democracy and prosperity is paramount to our national security.

I would like to thank the Chairman and the Members of the Caucus for this opportunity and for the tremendous support you have provided this command. I can assure you that the men and women of the United States Southern Command are working to their utmost to accomplish their missions for our great country.