About Caucus







June 3, 2003

Regarding U.S. Narcotics Policy in Colombia

The Honorable Francisco Santos Calderón
Republic of Colombia

Good morning Chairman Grassley, Senator Biden and distinguished members of the Caucus.

It is an honor to be here today and have a chance to report on the progress that has been possible thanks to the support and cooperation of both this Congress and the Government of the United States. Thanks to U.S.- Colombia collaborative efforts we have made significant progress in building democratic security in Colombia and begun to show increasing results in successfully combating narcoterrorism.


Through Plan Colombia the U.S. became more immersed and committed to the fight against drugs. Less than three years into its implementation, this strategy has demonstrated greater results than any other strategy previously attempted.

President Alvaro Uribe's commitment is clear: zero tolerance for drug-trafficking. One of Colombia's main goals is the total eradication coca and opium poppy cultivation and trafficking by the year 2006.

Since year 2000, U.S. Congress has provided us over $1.7 billion dollars in economic, humanitarian and security aid. The alliance between our governments enables us to address common objectives such as combating drug trafficking and terrorism. The narco-terrorist threat affects both our countries and our joint efforts to combat it will improve the security of the U.S. and Colombia and provide stability to the entire Andean region.

Together, we have made considerable progress.

· Aerial spraying: In 2002, we sprayed 130,363 hectares of coca. According to the United Nations, this represents a 30% reduction of total coca cultivation. It is the largest number of hectares sprayed and the steepest decline of coca cultivation. So far this year we have sprayed over 65,000 hectares. By the end 2003 we expect to eradicate 50% of all illicit coca cultivation.

· Interdiction: We have also made significant progress in seizing illegal drugs. From January 1, 2002 to the present we interdicted over 110 tons of pure cocaine, most of this in cooperation with the United States. In the same time period, we confiscated more than 850 kilos of heroin. We destroyed more than 225 cocaine production laboratories.

· Coca production: Since every hectare of coca is equivalent to 3.9 to 4.3 kilos of cocaine, our spraying strategy succeeded in removing more than 150 tons of pure cocaine off the market last year. This result, together with interdiction successes, represents 260 tons of cocaine that did not reach the U.S. or the world market.

· Heroin production: As for heroine, a serious and growing threat to the United States, we achieved a net reduction of 25% in opium poppy cultivation in 2002 alone. Our spray teams, trained and assisted by the United States, sprayed over 3,300 hectares last year and, we have already sprayed 1,658 hectares this year. This is another area of considerable progress, taking into account that, according to CNC estimates, Colombia currently has approximately 4,900 hectares of poppy plantations. As a positive consequence of the these efforts, from 2001 to 2002, the purity of heroin in the United States fell by an average of 6%, according to DEA estimates.

When the Colombian Army Counter Drug (CD) Brigade began its operations in 2001, it focused on the southern region of Colombia, especially in the Department of Putumayo. This state was at that time the heart of the Colombia coca cultivation. Trained and supported by the United States, the Brigade achieved impressive results. They located and destroyed dozens of cocaine production laboratories and other drug trafficking infrastructure, including oil refineries used by the FARC to produce cocaine base. As a consequence, the narco-trafficking organizations have transferred their activities to other regions of the country, mainly the Pacific coast Department of Nariño.

In late 2002, the Uribe administration restructured the CD Brigade. It was transferred from the Joint Task Force South and placed under Colombian Army command with the mission to attack high-value narco-terrorist targets throughout the country. It also received advanced training from United States Army Special Forces. These changes gave new strength to the fight against narco- trafficking organizations. In May, the Government deployed a battalion of the Brigade to attack the drug industry in Nariño: in only two weeks a CD Brigade-led joint operation with the Colombian Navy and National Police destroyed 16 cocaine-producing laboratories and confiscation a ton of pure cocaine alkaloid.

In light of the results of our successful alliance, it is easy to understand what the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), John P. Walters, said recently: "President Uribe has achieved major successes against the illicit drug trade. Reductions in drug production in Colombia will mean fewer drugs on American streets. We intend to remain a solid partner with Colombia as they fight against a drug industry that inflicts damage on both of our nations."

You know as well as we do there were many skeptics that Plan Colombia would succeed in reducing drug trafficking. These accomplishments, which are just a few from a long list of successful missions undertaken in cooperation with the U.S., speak for themselves. We have proven non-believers wrong and the Uribe administration assures you we will eradicate drugs from Colombia. To successfully accomplish this mission our partnership with the United States is vital.


Terrorism continues in Colombia. Here are just three of the 361 acts of terrorism suffered by Colombia during the first four months of 2003:

· On Friday, February 14, 2003, a patrol of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) - one of the State Department's designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTO) - fired upon a downed U.S. reconnaissance aircraft while it flew a counter-narcotics mission in Southern Colombia. They FARC brutally murdered U.S. citizen Jennis Thomas and Colombian Sergeant Luis Alcides Cruz, and kidnapped three other American citizens who are still being held.

· Last May 5, in a jungle camp of the guerrillas in Urrao, Department of Antioquia, another FARC group, perpetrated a massacre by killing the Governor of that Department, Guillermo Gaviria, his Peace Adviser, and former Minister of Defense, Gilberto Echeverri, who had been kidnapped the previous year, and eight soldiers whom they had held in captivity for several years. The hostages were kept in inhumane conditions.

· On February 7, a car-bomb exploded, killing 32 people and injuring close to 150 including many children, at the El Nogal social club in Bogotá.

Colombia is a long standing democracy with a president elected last year with broad popular support. Our democracy is besieged by a violent minority that lacks any popular support and whose main sources of financing are drug trafficking, kidnapping and extortion.

These illegal armed groups repeatedly and systematically engage in summary executions, torture and kidnapping. They attempt to restrict our freedom of movement and opinion. They threaten and assassinate local elected officials. They destroy the country's infrastructure. In general, our common heritage is under siege. The truth is undeniable: Colombians are the victims of terrorism.

It is violence that affects everyone: rich and poor, urban and rural, powerful and ordinary citizens. President Alvaro Uribe's father was assassinated by the FARC in the 1980s. Last year this group murdered the wife of the Attorney General Edgardo Maya, former Minister Consuelo Araujo. My own family has been a victim of narco-terrorism: My brother-in-law, Andres Escabi, died in a commercial airliner that was blown up by Pablo Escobar, the former leader of the infamous Medellin Cartel. I was kidnapped and held for 8 months.

Some key statistics illustrate the extent of the human cost in terrorist violence:

· In the nexus between narco-trafficking and terrorism Colombia has suffered an average of 30,000 violent deaths a year for the last three years. This is a figure close to the total number of victims of the attacks of September 11, 2001 - every month!

· Over the last five years, 16,000 people have been kidnapped.

· Over 6,000 children have been recruited mainly by coercion or force to fight for the illegal armed groups.

· Today, the illicit armed groups are responsible for almost all the violations of human rights in Colombia.

· Over the last five years, we have suffered 8,000 acts of collective destruction.

The economic costs of their actions are also enormous:

· During 2002, the illegal armed groups downed 483 power lines, 62 communications towers, 100 bridges and attacked 12 reservoirs. These attacks have cost Colombia more than $4 billion dollars, money which was literally stolen from the citizens of our country.

· Terrorist violence costs an estimated 2 points of Colombia's Gross Domestic Product every year.

The FARC and Colombia's other two State Department-designated FTOs, the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN), have moved from simply taxing coca fields to the production and distribution of pure cocaine.

Here are some examples:

· In November 2000, a senior lieutenant to FARC military commander, Mono Jojoy, was arrested in Mexico City while meeting with the chief of operations of the powerful Mexican Arellano Felix Cartel.

· In March 2002, soon after the end of the Zona de Despeje, the Colombian National Police discovered over seven metric tons of pure cocaine in several FARC-run cocaine production labs - these drugs were ready to be shipped to international markets.

· The leader of the AUC has publicly admitted to trafficking in drugs to finance his weapons and arms purchases. There is ample evidence that paramilitary groups ship tons of pure cocaine through Pacific and Caribbean drug transshipment points to United States and Europe.

The FARC, ELN and AUC are the perpetrators of the majority of the violations of human rights and international humanitarian law in my country. The principal victims are the civilian population. For each member of the Armed Forces killed last year, at least six civilians were murdered by the illegal armed groups. For every soldier and policeman taken hostage against international humanitarian law, 43 civilians were kidnapped. A total of 35 mayors have been assassinated over the last three years and 62 representatives of city councils in the last year alone.


Together with this escalation of death and terror, drug trafficking organizations cause enormous, irreparable damage to the global environment.

Drug traffickers have concentrated their activity in environmentally-sensitive ecosystems: poppy is planted in high Andean forests and highlands while coca is grown in the vast plains and tropical forests of Orinoquia and Amazonia. These form part of one of the world's most important ecological zones to regulate global climate. Moreover, this region is humanity's largest source of flora and fauna that could hold the secrets to curing diseases.

Studies show that for every hectare of coca cultivated, four hectares of Amazon forest are felled. For every hectare of opium poppy, 2.5 hectares of Andean forest are destroyed. In addition to this loss of flora and fauna, destruction of these forests itself contributes to global warming - an estimated 380 kilograms of biomass per hectare is burnt. The area destroyed by traffickers between 1990 and 2000 is equal to about twice the size of Yellowstone National Park.

Drug traffickers use a broad range of insecticides, herbicides and fungicides to grow their illegal crops. These destroy biomass because of their high toxicity. In the year 2000 alone, approximately 4.5 millions liters of these chemicals were used. These chemicals, solvents, acids and bases are dumped into Amazon streams and rivers, damaging the environment and the normal functioning of aquatic ecosystems, especially the biological cycles and the very existence of their fauna. The quantity of chemicals dumped into the Amazon river systems each year is equivalent to two Exxon Valdez disasters.


In spite of terrible terrorist atrocities committed against my country, Colombia continues to thrive. It is a dynamic nation of 44 million people - the vast majority of whom are honest, love their country, want their rights to be respected and are productive members of society.

Colombia is the fifth largest economy in Latin America after Mexico, Brazil, Argentina and Venezuela; the second largest in the Andean region; and, the largest market among the Andean Trade Program and Drug Eradication Act (ATPDEA) member states. Our population is the third largest in Latin America. 90% of our inhabitants are under 50 years of age and 71% live in urban areas. Colombia has a cultured entrepreneurial class with a sizable and growing middle class. It has a productive, intelligent workforce, with significant skilled human resources and low labor costs. According to the United Nations Development Program's (UNDP) Human Development Index, Colombia is a medium developed country, ranked 15 among the 83 countries in that category.

Even during recent years when acts of narco-terrorism were at their highest, the Colombian economy continued to grow. Colombia grew 2.23% in the second half of 2002 and 3.8% in the first quarter of this year. This places us in the same position of the 1980s and 1990s, when our economy grew without interruption and at rates much higher than the Latin American average.

Colombia has always honored its international debts and commitments. At present, the majority of our external debt is long-term. In recent years, Banco de la República, the country's central bank, succeeded in stabilizing inflation in line with international standards.

The fact that we have achieved constant, uninterrupted economic growth in spite of being plagued by many difficulties, is a demonstration of the determination of our hard working people.

Colombia will not permit minority terrorist armed groups, principally financed by drug trafficking, to continue indiscriminately attacking innocent citizens, perpetrating assaults and massacres, kidnapping, laying anti-personnel land mines and committing other terrorist acts. These terrorist groups are harming our country's economy, spoiling the tranquility of our citizenry and restricting Colombians' right to progress.

President Uribe's commitment is to defeat narco-terrorism shares the same vision expressed by President Bush after the events of September 11, 2001 when he said "We will direct all the resources we have available to us - all diplomatic channels, all the tools of intelligence, all the instruments for the enforcement of the law, all the financial influence and the necessary arms of war - towards the destruction and defeat of the global network of terror."


Under the leadership of President Uribe, we are implementing a policy of democratic security to combat terrorism, drug trafficking, extortion and kidnapping.

One of the priorities of this policy is to strengthen the Armed Forces. Our military personnel and police ratio is very low compared to other countries: 3.9 troops for every 1,000 citizens. President Uribe's intends to increase the size of the Military Forces by 126,361 and defense spending from 3.5% to 5.8% of GDP during his four-year administration. To achieve this, Colombians are being called upon to make a greater sacrifice. Last year, the Government decreed a tax on capital for companies and citizens with the highest incomes, through which, in spite of the economic difficulties of the time, resources close to 1% of GDP are being collected.

Since the onset of Plan Colombia, Colombia improved the professionalism and efficiency of its public forces. Today we have a force that is more aggressive and offensive-minded, better equipped and trained for night combat, with improved war-fighting capability. There is improved coordination and cooperation between the different services. The military force is more sensitive to and respectful of human rights.

One shortfall in returning security to Colombians has been the lack of police presence in conflicting zones. The Colombian National Police (CNP), in cooperation with the U.S. Government, is implementing a plan to reestablish public security by training and equipping 165,000 policemen. These will be assigned to 157 municipalities which currently do not have a police presence. We are creating 62 mobile Carabineros Squadrons, or rural police, and building 80 hardened new police stations in the larger municipalities.

Our efforts are already showing results, but we recognize there is a long and difficult road ahead. Some statistics:

· Compared to last year, in the first four months of 2003 we reduced the number of homicides by 20%, thus saving the lives of 1,964 Colombians.

· We also managed to reduce kidnappings by 32% and have increased rescues of people held for ransom by 56%. This has meant freedom for 322 Colombians.

· In the first half of 2002, there were 170,000 displaced persons and in the second half, 98,000.

· In the first half of 2002, the deaths of 98 union members were reported; in the second half, these deaths declined to 52 and in the first quarter of 2003, to 9.

These results have been achieved by public forces who are respecting human rights. Data we have provided to this Congress and to the United States Government, in accordance with the requirement contained in Section 564 of Law 107-115, show that in spite of the intensification of the conflict, human rights complaints against members of the Armed Forces have been substantially reduced.

President Uribe has made it clear: We do not accept violence either to combat the Government or to defend it. Both are terrorist acts. We are committed to promoting and defending human rights.


Three of the four State Department-designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations which operate in the Western Hemisphere are present in Colombia. It is time for all leaders, media, individuals and organizations to realize the enormity of the danger these organizations represent to our country.

Since 1992, these groups have kidnapped 54 and murdered 11 American citizens. While they are not as a clear and present danger as Al-Qaeda, they have indirectly caused greater harm to Americans by promoting drug consumption, poisoning the population, frustrating the future of millions of young people and inciting violence and crime in towns and cities. According to information provided by the ONDCP, drugs in the United States cause the death of as many as 50,000 Americans every year. This is a threat to both of our countries and we need to continue working together to defeat it. The Uribe administration is committed to this war.

The Uribe Administration, in addition to democratic security, is focusing on political, economic and social transformation by reducing government spending, improving tax collection, reforming the administration, reinvigorating the economy and social policy. In addition to the results in the fight against drugs and the struggle to overcome terrorism, the assistance we have received from the United States have been important to our efforts to fight corruption, improve the justice system, protect human rights, reinsert ex-combatants into society [especially children] and promote alternative development in coca and poppy growing regions.

In addition to building up democratic security, our priority is to continue strengthening our economic stability. US-lead initiatives such as FTAA, ATPA and ATPDEA allow us to create more jobs and move towards greater growth and development, providing legal alternatives to narco-trafficking.

I wish to express, once again, the gratitude of millions of Colombians who have benefited, directly or indirectly, from America's generous assistance.

We are committed to defeat terrorism. We need know-how, expertise and to maintain the levels of support the U.S. provides Colombia. I invite you to continue to protect this alliance, to strengthen and empower its results. To channel the successes and abundant experience we have accumulated in the fight against narco-trafficking and terrorism, which are, at the end of the day, the same thing, to fulfill the plans and attain the goals which the Presidents of our two nations have been so right in outlining to eradicate these threats.

Thank you.