[Senate Prints 106-51]
[From the U.S. Government Printing Office]
2d Session COMMITTEE PRINT S. Prt.
AID TO ``PLAN COLOMBIA'': THE TIME FOR U.S. ASSISTANCE IS NOW
COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN RELATIONS
UNITED STATES SENATE
JOSEPH R. BIDEN, JR.
One Hundred Sixth Congress
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COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN RELATIONS
JESSE HELMS, North Carolina, Chairman
RICHARD, G. LUGAR, Indiana JOSEPH R. BIDEN, Jr., Delaware
CHUCK HAGEL, Nebraska PAUL S. SARBANES, Maryland
GORDON H. SMITH, Oregon CHRISTOPHER J. DODD, Connecticut
ROD GRAMS, Minnesota JOHN F. KERRY, Massachusetts
SAM BROWNBACK, Kansas RUSSELL D. FEINGOLD, Wisconsin
CRAIG THOMAS, Wyoming PAUL D. WELLSTONE, Minnesota
JOHN ASHCROFT, Missouri BARBARA BOXER, California
BILL FRIST, Tennessee ROBERT G. TORRICELLI, New Jersey
LINCOLN D. CHAFEE, Rhode Island
Stephen E. Biegun, Staff Director
Edwin K. Hall, Minority Staff Director
LETTER OF TRANSMITTAL
May 3, 2000.
The Honorable Jesse Helms,
Committee on Foreign Relations.
Dear Mr. Chairman:
On April 19 and 20, I traveled to Colombia to examine
counter-narcotics programs there. In particular, my objective
was to discuss the ``Plan Colombia'' proposed by the Colombian
Government, and the U.S. proposal to assist the plan. While
there, I met extensively with President Pastrana, Minister of
Defense Ramirez, the President's Chief of Staff, Jaime Ruiz,
U.S. Ambassador Curt Kamman, and senior Embassy officials. I
also met with representatives of Colombian non-governmental
organizations working on human rights, and representatives of
the Colombian offices of two U.N. agencies.
I owe a great debt of gratitude to the Colombian
Government, particularly President Pastrana, for facilitating
my visit. President Pastrana graciously hosted me at his
government guest house in Cartagena. I also owe much to U.S.
Ambassador Curt Kamman, Political Counselor Leslie Bassett (who
served as the delegation control officer), and other staff of
the Embassy who traveled with us to Cartagena.
I was accompanied and assisted on the trip by Minority
Counsel Brian McKeon, and Professional Staff Member Marcia Lee.
They also traveled to Colombia in March for four days, during
which they conducted numerous meetings and visited forward
operating locations in southern Colombia. Some portions of this
report are based on their work in March.
The delegation was ably assisted throughout the trip by Lt.
Cdr. Valerie Ulatowski, USN, to whom I am extremely grateful.
I came away from my visit convinced that the U.S. Congress
should act quickly to approve President Clinton's request for
supplemental funding for Colombia. Unless the Congress acts
quickly to approve funding for this plan, a critical
opportunity in the fight against narcotics trafficking in
Colombia may be lost.
I understand the Committee on Appropriations will soon
mark-up the Fiscal Year 2001 foreign operations appropriations
bill, as well as the Colombia supplemental for Fiscal 2000. I
hope this report will be useful to the Senate during
consideration of this important issue.
Joseph R. Biden, Jr.,
Ranking Minority Member.
C O N T E N T S
Letter of Transmittal............................................ III
Key Findings and Recommendations................................. 1
Overview: Aid to ``Plan Colombia'' is a Critical Opportunity for
the United States.............................................. 2
Background on Colombia and Plan Colombia......................... 4
A. Overview of the situation in Colombia................... 4
B. U.S.-Colombian relations and the background to Plan
Narcotics issues................................................. 6
A. Background on the current narcotics situation........... 6
B. Key issues in implementation of Plan Colombia........... 8
C. Colombian Government and Plan Colombia.................. 15
Human Rights issues.............................................. 16
Schedule of meetings............................................. 18
Statements by the President of the United States................. 21
Table of U.S. Assistance to Colombia, FY 1995-2000............... 24
Table of Support for Plan Colombia............................... 25
Excerpt from State Department Report: International Narcotics
Control Strategy Report, March 2000............................ 33
Table of Worldwide Illicit Drug Cultivation 1991-1999............ 42
Table of Worldwide Illicit Drug Production 1991-1999............. 43
Remarks of Andres Pastrana Arango, President of the Republic of
Colombia, at the American Society of Newspaper Editors......... 44
Map of Colombia
KEY FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
1. The United States has a rare enforcement opportunity in
Colombia. Colombia today is the primary source of cocaine and
heroin sold in the United States. It is the primary source of
the raw material (coca leaf and opium poppy), the primary site
of the major laboratories, and the primary site of the leading
trafficking organizations. Never before in recent history has
there been such an opportunity to strike at all aspects of the
drug trade at the source. We also have an important opportunity
because of the strong commitment of the Government of Colombia
to fight narcotics trafficking. The United States should seize
this rare enforcement opportunity by providing assistance to
2. The security crisis in southern Colombia warrants
increased U.S. counter-narcotics assistance. Guerrilla fronts
have a heavy presence in southern Colombia and have a
significant role in protecting drug trafficking operations.
Similarly, right-wing paramilitary organizations are operating
in portions of southern Colombia. Because of security concerns,
U.S.-Colombian coca eradication operations were temporarily
suspended in late March. Increased U.S. assistance to Colombian
military units which will assist the Colombian National Police
in counter-narcotics operations is warranted by the serious
guerrilla and paramilitary threat to the Police.
3. There are considerable costs associated with Congress'
delay in approving the Colombia supplemental. Among the costs
are delayed delivery of the Blackhawk helicopters, delays in
training of the Colombian counter-narcotics battalions (which
have already occurred), and reduction in U.S.-Colombian
eradication operations. The delay also undermines President
Pastrana's ability to implement Plan Colombia.
4. The U.S. and Colombian Governments should ensure that
Plan Colombia focuses on drug trafficking both in the north and
south of Colombia. Plan Colombia focuses initially on southern
Colombia, where guerrilla organizations predominate. The plan
should also focus on coca trafficking in the north of Colombia,
where paramilitary organizations predominate. This is necessary
not only to demonstrate that no trafficking organization is
immune from attack, but also to contain the further spread of
narcotics trafficking in the north.
5. The Colombian Government should continue to make strong
efforts to improve the human rights record of the Colombian
Armed Forces, and to prosecute all violations of human rights.
U.S. engagement with Colombia is an important factor in
continued improvement of the human rights situation in
Colombia. President Pastrana reiterated his personal
commitment, and that of the Colombian Government, to improving
human rights. Congress should consider increasing the amount of
U.S. assistance proposed for human rights efforts.
6. Coordination between the Army and the Police needs
improvement. Important to the success of the military component
of Plan Colombia will be coordination between the Colombian
Army and the Colombian National Police. There are indications
that the Police are unreceptive to working closely with the
Army. Similarly, the Army counter-narcotics battalion at Tres
Esquinas has conducted operations unilaterally--without
including the police in planning or giving them adequate notice
to participate. The United States must continually emphasize to
the Colombian Government the importance of improving Army-CNP
7. The United States is well-served by the Country Team,
but more staff are needed. The U.S. Embassy team working on
Plan Colombia is led by a veteran Ambassador, is highly
motivated and is working diligently to advance U.S. counter-
narcotics objectives. Morale appears to be high. But the
Narcotics Affairs Section is understaffed and needs additional
personnel, and the Political Section needs additional officers
to monitor human rights.
Overview: Aid to ``Plan Colombia'' is a Critical Opportunity for the
Since February, a request by President Clinton to provide
nearly $1 billion in supplemental funding in Fiscal 2000 to
help Colombia and its neighbors fight drug trafficking has been
pending in Congress. The request was approved by the House of
Representatives in March, but it has since languished in the
During the Easter recess, I traveled to Colombia for a
first-hand look at the situation and to discuss U.S. and
Colombian counter-narcotics programs with senior Colombian
Government officials, U.S. Embassy officials, and
representatives of non-governmental and international
I spent several hours over the course of two days with
President Pastrana, who graciously hosted me at the
presidential guest house in Cartagena. I believe that my
lengthy meetings with him, mostly in informal settings,
afforded me the opportunity to take the full measure of the
man. I am fully convinced of President Pastrana's personal
commitment to the counter-narcotics effort. I also spent
several hours with U.S. Ambassador Curt Kamman and his team,
both in Bogota and in Cartagena. I was deeply impressed by the
dedication, knowledge and commitment of the senior Embassy
I came away from my visit convinced that the U.S. Congress
should act quickly to approve President Clinton's request for
supplemental funding for Colombia. Unless the Congress acts
quickly to approve funding for this plan, a critical
opportunity in the fight against narcotics trafficking in
Colombia may be lost. Colombia today is the primary source for
two leading narcotics sold on the streets of the United States:
cocaine and heroin. It is the primary source for the raw
materials (coca leaf and opium poppy), the site of the major
processing labs, and the site of the major trafficking
organizations. Never before in recent history has there been
such an opportunity for the international community to strike
against the bulk of the narcotics industry at the source.
Colombia today has a president committed to working closely
with the United States. He has developed a $7.5 billion dollar
plan--``Plan Colombia''--to fight traffickers and revive his
country's economy. President Clinton has proposed that the
United States provide $1.6 billion to assist Colombia and other
Andean nations, or about 20 percent of the plan. International
financial institutions have provided nearly $1 billion. Europe
and Japan are being asked to contribute as well.
Every day that the Senate delays imposes a cost on this
plan and to U.S.-Colombian counter-narcotics efforts.
Production of the proposed helicopters will be delayed, as will
training of the necessary pilots. Training of two Colombian
counter-narcotics battalions has already been delayed. The
Colombian effort to raise money from Europe is proceeding
slowly in part because of hesitation in Washington. Most
important, delay in Washington undermines President Pastrana
and his ability to implement the plan in Colombia.
Helping Colombia is squarely in America's national
interest. It is the source of many of the drugs poisoning our
people. It is not some far-off land with which the United
States shares little in common. It is an established democracy
in America's backyard--just a few hours by air from Miami.
Colombia is hardly a stranger to the drug war. It has been
battling this scourge for decades. In the 1980s, its equivalent
of the Supreme Court was attacked by traffickers. A decade ago,
its presidential candidates were gunned down. The current
president, when a candidate for Mayor of Bogota, was kidnapped
by traffickers. The people of Colombia have demonstrated great
courage in fighting drug trafficking. Colombia has achieved
some major successes in this effort--in the 1990s it dismantled
the major cartels in Medellin and Cali--cartels that a decade
ago were thought to be invincible. Last October, in a joint
U.S.-Colombian operation, over 30 major traffickers were
arrested on the same day.
America's apparently insatiable demand for narcotics has,
undeniably, helped fuel the drug trade in Colombia. Colombia
seeks significant U.S. assistance to help confront this trade--
and is pledging substantial funds and action by its government.
Colombia has a highly professional police force dedicated to
counter-narcotics, and now requests U.S. assistance to train
and professionalize military units that will be used against
narcotics traffickers. I believe the United States should
answer Colombia's call for help.
There is, to be sure, no guarantee that this plan will work
in significantly reducing narcotics trafficking. Anybody who
says they are certain that it will succeed is either lying or
is a fool. But in my 28 years in the Senate, I have been deeply
involved in studying and debating narcotics policy. I strongly
believe that at this moment, with this president in Bogota, we
have a real opportunity to make a significant difference
against the drug trade in Colombia. That opportunity could slip
away unless we seize this rare enforcement moment.
Background on Colombia and Plan Colombia
a. overview of the situation in colombia
Colombia is the third most populous country in Latin
America, with just under 40 million people. It is the second
oldest democracy in the Western Hemisphere, after the United
States. Unlike many countries in Latin America, it has rarely
been subject to military dictatorship. Military rulers have
governed Colombia for only three brief periods since the
formation of the republic in the early 19th century; the last
time was over forty years ago. Today, as democracies across the
Andes are threatened by renewed rumblings from military
barracks, or authoritarian tendencies by incumbent leaders,
Colombia remains squarely and unalterably in the camp of
Although civilian rule has been the norm, it has not spared
Colombia from instability. Rather, Colombian history has long
been marked by internal conflict. During the late 1940s and
1950s, for example, Colombia went through a civil conflict
referred to as ``La Violencia,'' during which over 200,000
people were killed. The violence ended when the two major
parties, the Liberals and Conservatives, agreed on a 16-year
period of ``National Front'' government during which the two
parties rotated the presidency and had parity in other elected
It might be said that Colombia is going through a second--
or perhaps extension of--``La Violencia.'' Colombia today is
wracked by violence. It faces a three-front war: with drug
traffickers, with left-wing guerrillas, and with right-wing
paramilitaries. These fronts are often intertwined; for
example, guerrillas and paramilitaries both cooperate with drug
traffickers, and the paramilitaries cooperate with the armed
forces. None of these groups are monoliths; there are numerous
drug trafficking organizations, two guerrilla groups, and
numerous right-wing paramilitary groups. The Colombian
Government actively fights on two of these fronts: against the
drug traffickers and the guerrillas, and occasionally fights,
but occasionally cooperates with, the right-wing
paramilitaries. At the same time, the government is engaged in
peace negotiations with both guerrilla groups, and has agreed
to ``demilitarized zones'' for both of them.
The violence associated with the civil conflict and drug
trafficking has been accompanied by an erosion of the rule of
law. Last year, for example, there were some 25,000 murders in
Colombia (this far exceeds the murder rate in the United
States--a country with more than six times the population of
Colombia--where there were about 17,000 murders in 1998). Of
these, about 2,000-3,000 were considered to be ``political''
crimes, that is, crimes related to the civil conflict. The rest
were common criminal murders. Kidnaping is also widespread:
there were over 2,500 last year, which is one out of every
three kidnapings in the world. Justice is often denied. A
recent judicial report in Colombia found that 63 percent of
crimes go unreported, and that 40 percent of all reported
crimes go unpunished. Because of the violence, particularly the
risk of kidnaping, the State Department currently warns U.S.
citizens against traveling to Colombia, and states that ``there
is a greater risk of being kidnaped in Colombia than in any
other country in the world.''
Colombia is, as it has long been, the source of up to 75
percent of the world's processed cocaine (cocaine HCL). It now
also holds the dubious distinction of being the world's leading
producer of cocaine base (the intermediate step prior to
cocaine HCL), as reductions in cultivation in Bolivia and Peru
have pushed cultivation into Colombia. Colombia is also the
leading supplier of heroin to the United States.
Colombia is currently suffering through a recession. Its
gross domestic product fell by 3.5 percent in 1999, the first
time the Colombian economy suffered negative growth in three
decades. Unemployment at the end of 1999 was around 20 percent;
inflation was over 9 percent. And approximately one million
people (out of a total population of about 40 million) have
been internally displaced in the last several years because of
the civil conflict.
b. u.s.-colombian relations and the background to plan colombia
U.S.-Colombian relations have historically been strong.
Under the previous Colombian president, however, the
relationship soured because of credible allegations that he
received financial contributions for his 1994 presidential
campaign from drug traffickers. This led President Clinton to
twice ``decertify'' Colombia under the Foreign Assistance Act.
A general reduction in the level of cooperation between the
United States and Colombia also resulted.
The inauguration of President Andres Pastrana in August
1998 changed the atmosphere in the U.S.-Colombian relationship.
President Pastrana made restoration of strong relations with
the United States a high priority, and he has succeeded in that
Undoubtedly, President Pastrana has demonstrated his
commitment to a key issue for the United States--the fight
against narcotics trafficking. Among other things, Pastrana has
released a first-ever national drug strategy, and renewed
extradition of criminals to the United States, as authorized by
a December 1997 constitutional amendment. He has also
formulated a plan to combat drug trafficking and revive the
economy, which he has called ``Plan Colombia''. Announced in
September 1999, the plan calls for a $7.5 billion investment
over three years (2000-2002); of this, the Colombian Government
would provide $4 billion, and would seek the remaining $3.5
billion from the international community. As articulated by the
Colombian Government, Plan Colombia focuses on five areas:
1. The peace process (i.e., negotiations with the
2. The economy;
3. The counter-drug strategy;
4. Reform of the justice system and protection of human
5. Democratization and social development.
In January 2000, President Clinton announced his proposal
for U.S. support of Plan Colombia: a two year, $1.6 billion
contribution. Of this amount, approximately $150 million is the
base Colombia program for Fiscal 2000 and 2001. The enhanced
funding would include $954 million in supplemental
appropriations in Fiscal 2000, and an additional $318 million
in Fiscal 2001. The supplemental request was approved by the
House of Representatives on March 30, and is currently pending
before the Senate.
a. background on the current narcotics situation
1. Trafficking Organizations
Organizationally, the drug trade in Colombia is no longer
dominated by major cartels based in Medellin and Cali, as it
was a decade ago. Because of law enforcement pressure by the
U.S. and Colombian Governments in the early and mid-1990s,
these cartels have been largely dismantled, and their leaders
killed or imprisoned. The result has been what the Drug
Enforcement Administration (DEA) aptly terms the
``decentralization'' of the trade, with numerous smaller
trafficking organizations emerging, the rise of independent
traffickers in Bolivia and Peru producing their own cocaine
HCL, and changes in the distribution networks such that Mexican
organizations are not merely middlemen for the Colombians, they
now have their own distribution networks in the United States.
2. Production and cultivation
The organizational changes described above have not
affected Colombia's role as the source of the large majority of
processed cocaine, or cocaine HCL (up to 75 percent of the
world's cocaine HCL comes from Colombia). Because of
enforcement pressure in Bolivia and Peru, much cultivation has
shifted to Colombia. As recently as 1995, Colombia only
produced about 25 percent of the world's cocaine base; it is
now the world's leading producer, at about 68 percent. Coca
cultivation is literally exploding in Colombia: in the last
four years, net coca cultivation has more than doubled in terms
of area, from 51,000 hectares in 1995 to 122,500 hectares in
1999. Moreover, a recent U.S. intelligence study determined
that Colombian leaf produced a higher yield than previously
thought, and that Colombian labs were more efficient than
previously thought. Colombia's estimated potential cocaine
production in 1999 was 520 metric tons; this compares to 70
metric tons in Bolivia, and 175 metric tons in Peru.
Much of this new cultivation is in southern Colombia,
primarily in two departments (or provinces), Putumayo and
Caqueta. The government does not have much of an institutional
presence in this region--that is, there are few roads, schools,
or hospitals--and has not for most of the history of the
republic. It is remote and much of it is jungle. There is also
significant cultivation in two northern departments, Norte de
Santander and Bolivar.
Nearly half of the coca in the country--about 56,000
hectares--is cultivated in Putumayo Department. Although I did
not visit southern Colombia, in March two members of the
Committee staff visited three forward Army and Police bases in
Putumayo and Caqueta Departments, and rode on Colombian
National Police helicopters to witness an eradication operation
(i.e., fumigation of coca leaves) in Caqueta. They also flew by
plane over portions of Putumayo Department where significant
cultivation occurs. In Caqueta, much of the cultivation the
staff saw was somewhat hidden, at least on the ground, within
wooded areas. That is, the peasants clear-cut several acres of
jungle to grow a plot of coca, but attempted to keep the
presence of the field hidden on the ground (though it obviously
cannot be hidden from aerial view). In Putumayo, there was no
such effort to hide the plots of coca: it was out in the open,
and went on and on for hundreds of acres.
In addition to coca cultivation, Colombia is now the
leading source of heroin sold in the United States. Starting
from almost nothing a decade ago, the opium and heroin trade
has expanded significantly: by 1993, Colombian heroin accounted
for 15 percent of the U.S. supply, and by 1998 it accounted for
65 percent. In 1999, Colombia produced an estimated 8 metric
tons of heroin, more than Mexico. Though it amounts to only a
small percentage of the world's heroin supply, Colombian heroin
dominates the trade in New York and other East Coast cities; it
is high quality and of high purity, allowing it to be smoked
rather than injected.
3. Involvement of guerrillas and paramilitaries in narcotics
In addition to the drug trafficking organizations, both
left-wing guerrillas and right-wing paramilitaries are involved
in the Colombian drug trade.
The two major guerrilla groups in Colombia are the
Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (commonly referred to by
its Spanish-language acronym of ``FARC''), and the National
Liberation Army (or ELN). The FARC is the larger of the two--it
is believed to have about 10,000-14,000 personnel, and is
better trained and equipped. It operates primarily in the south
and eastern lowlands, though it has some urban cells. The ELN
has about 3,000-6,000 personnel and operates primarily in the
north and the center of the country.
It would be ``misleading,'' says an unclassified portion of
an otherwise classified DEA report, to characterize the FARC or
ELN as drug cartels per se. Rather, they assist traffickers by
providing security for drug operations and assisting in
transportation of narcotics. They also impose taxes, not only
on the drug trade but all economic activity in areas they
control. In some areas, they allegedly establish the price paid
to peasants for coca leaf. Estimates of the profits the
guerrillas derive from this activity vary significantly, from a
few hundred million dollars to nearly $2 billion per year (this
higher end estimate was provided by a Colombian Army official,
and it appears to be greatly inflated).
Right-wing paramilitary groups are also involved in the
drug trade, and some of them are considered to be traffickers.
The paramilitaries were originally formed in the 1980s as a
response to guerrilla violence, and several of these were
originally authorized by the government to protect rural areas.
These groups are now illegal. The leader of the largest
umbrella group of paramilitaries is Carlos Castano, the leader
of the ``Peasant Self-Defense Groups of Cordoba and Uraba
(ACCU).'' Most paramilitary operations are in the north, though
they do have a presence in the south. Like the guerrillas, most
of the paramilitary groups do not appear to be directly
involved in any significant drug cultivation, but instead levy
taxes and protect the traffickers. The DEA recently testified,
however, that Castano's organization, and possibly other
paramilitary groups, ``appear to be directly involved in
processing cocaine,'' and that ``at least one of these
paramilitary groups appears to be involved in exporting cocaine
b. key issues in implementation of plan colombia
During my visit, I focused on several key issues related to
the implementation of Plan Colombia by the Colombian Government
and the U.S. Government.
1. The military component of U.S. assistance for Plan Colombia--and the
need for it
A key component of the U.S. contribution to Plan Colombia
is military assistance, specifically, the training and
equipping of three Colombian Army counter-narcotics battalions.
One battalion of about 950 men was trained last year by U.S.
forces, and is now in place at the Tres Esquinas base in
southern Caqueta Department. Together the three battalions will
form a brigade, just under 3,000 strong.
The basic argument for training and equipping the Colombian
Army--rather than the Colombian National Police (CNP), the
primary counter-narcotics agency in Colombia--is that the CNP
lacks the muscle to take on the guerrillas and paramilitaries
that are involved in drug trafficking in southern Colombia. In
other words, because the guerrillas and paramilitaries often
protect traffickers and their operations, the police cannot go
after the traffickers without also risking encounters with
well-armed irregular forces. And, because the police are
primarily a law enforcement agency, it lacks the military power
and training to confront the well-trained and well-equipped
FARC fronts and paramilitary units.
It bears emphasis that the United States is hardly
neglecting the CNP with this plan. It has provided over $775
million in support for the CNP since the mid-1980s, and the
Administration proposal provides roughly $100 million in
additional equipment and training for the CNP.
The security threat in Colombia warrants increased U.S.
counter-narcotics assistance. Numerous FARC fronts (the
estimate of how many is classified), as well as paramilitary
units operate in the south. Nearly half of the coca leaf grown
in Colombia is located in Putumayo Department. There is a
continuous security threat to the current U.S.-Colombian
eradication operations. In March, the State Department
temporarily suspended day-time coca spraying operations because
of the security situation. During the past four years
(including the first three months of this year), U.S.-CNP spray
planes in Colombia were hit over 100 times by groundfire,
including 21 times in the last six months alone. Because of the
threat from groundfire, two helicopter gunships and a search
and rescue helicopter continually accompany the spray planes.
U.S. assistance to the battalions will be in two basic
forms: training by U.S. military forces, and equipment,
particularly helicopters. Most of the training will be
conducted in Colombia by U.S. Special Forces on temporary duty.
Some of the training, particularly for the brigade headquarters
staff, will be conducted in the United States. Anywhere from 20
to 160 U.S. personnel will be involved in training at any one
time. Some training missions will be conducted at forward
operating bases in Colombia.
The training will be just that: training. Pursuant to a
Department of Defense memorandum issued by Secretary of Defense
Cohen in October 1998, Defense Department personnel are
prohibited from accompanying foreign law enforcement and
military forces on actual counterdrug field operations or
``participating in any activity in which counterdrug-related
hostilities are imminent.'' Moreover, they are prohibited by
the same directive from accompanying such law enforcement
forces outside a secure base or area. Secretary Cohen
reemphasized these points in a memorandum to Joint Chiefs
Chairman Shelton in March 2000.
In addition to training the battalions, the United States
will fill a key shortfall in the Colombian military arsenal:
tactical mobility. Under the U.S. contribution to the Plan, the
United States will provide 30 UH-60 helicopters (Blackhawks) to
the Colombian Army. The Blackhawks will be newly procured from
the contractor, Sikorsky Helicopters. Delivery of the
helicopters will be at a rate of two per month, and is
projected to begin in early 2001. In the interim, 15 additional
UH-1Ns (Hueys) will be provided to Colombia, which will add to
the 18 already in country. Up to six of these Hueys, however,
will likely be diverted from Colombian counter-narcotics
operations for use in training additional Colombian pilots.
2. The costs of delaying the supplemental
There are considerable costs associated with Congress'
delay in passing the supplemental appropriations that would
provide nearly $1 billion in assistance for Colombia in Fiscal
First, delay exacerbates the lag time for procurement of
the Blackhawks, the training of the pilots and the building of
the infrastructure to house and maintain them. Even if the
supplemental were enacted today, the first Blackhawks could not
be delivered until next year due to production schedules.
Second, the training for the second and third counter-
narcotics battalions has been delayed because of uncertainties
about the funding for Colombia. Training of the second
battalion was scheduled to begin in early April. Because the
entire training schedule was due to occur in sequence--that is,
training of the second battalion followed by training of the
third--the entire training schedule will now likely be pushed
Third, because of the delay in the supplemental, the Huey
helicopters that are currently in Colombia and designated for
the counter-narcotics battalions are not yet forward deployed--
for the simple reason that funds are not available, because
they were to be provided by the United States under the
supplemental. Consequently, the initial counter-narcotics
battalion at Tres Esquinas is greatly hampered in its range of
operation. To date, it has conducted operations only on foot.
Fourth, the State Department has forward-funded some
eradication operations in Colombia because it expected the
supplemental to pass by now. The Department increased the
operating tempo of eradication, in effect gambling that the
money from Congress would soon arrive. It was a reasonable
gamble given the original reception to President Clinton's
proposal and the recent successes in eradication. But the
gamble has not worked. The State Department just laid off 40
contract employees, severely reducing spraying operations in
Guaviare Department, where there has been significant success
in spraying in recent years.
Fifth, the delay in approving the supplemental undermines
Colombia's efforts to raise funds from Europe and Japan. In
April, President Pastrana met with British Prime Minister Tony
Blair, and in March his foreign minister traveled to Tokyo to
seek help from Japan. This summer, Spain will host a conference
of donor countries to garner more international support. But,
in the face of inaction on our part, all those efforts may be a
waste of time. I do not expect Europe and Japan to contribute
to Plan Colombia unless the U.S. Congress takes the first step.
Finally, and most important, we need to move now because we
have a limited window. President Pastrana is an ally of the
United States. But he is only going to be president for two and
one-half more years. The hesitation of the United States has a
negative psychological effect in Colombia and Pastrana's effort
to push forward his strategy. Every day we wait to pass the
spending bill means one less day that Pastrana will have to
implement Plan Colombia. And every day that we delay, more coca
seeds are planted, more coca leaf is processed, and more
cocaine is shipped to this country.
3. What does the Plan do to counter trafficking by paramilitaries?
The debate in the U.S. Congress to date has focused in part
on suggestions that the ``push into southern Colombia'' may be
a counter-insurgency in disguise--in that the south is also the
area where the stronger of the two guerrilla groups, the FARC,
During my visit to Colombia, I impressed upon Colombian and
U.S. Embassy officials about the importance of taking actions
against paramilitary trafficking in the north of the country
simultaneously with the push into the south--not only to
demonstrate that no trafficking organization is immune from
attack, but also to contain the further spread of narcotics
trafficking in the north.
The push into southern Colombian will in fact engage
paramilitaries. Although it is not well known in this country,
hundreds of paramilitaries are struggling with the FARC for
control of the drug trade in Putumayo province. Operations
against drug trafficking in Putumayo will not be targeted
against organizations because of their political views, they
will be targeted against drug traffickers.
In addition, the plan contemplates operations against drug
trafficking elsewhere in the country during the second phase,
beginning during the second year. Finally, senior Embassy
personnel indicated that it was an achievable objective to
undertake operations against coca cultivation in the north of
the country--where paramilitary organization predominate--
simultaneous with the ``push into southern Colombia.''
4. Concerns about coordination between the CNP and the Armed Forces
The military assistance component of Plan Colombia is
predicated on the need for the Colombian Army to secure
portions of southern Colombia so that police operations, and
ultimately alternative development programs, can occur. The
Colombian Army counter-narcotics battalions will not operate
alone, because, as is the case with the U.S. military, there
are legal restrictions on its ability to conduct law
enforcement operations. Rather, they must coordinate their
operations with the CNP, which has the law enforcement
authority and expertise to make arrests and take down
The CNP is formally part of the Ministry of National
Defense, but, as with any military establishment, there are
institutional rivalries between the CNP and the other services.
The rivalry between the CNP and the Army goes back at least
half a century, when the two services backed different
political parties during ``La Violencia.''
The U.S. Government recognizes the importance of improving
the joint efforts of the two services. During an appearance
before the Committee on Foreign Relations on February 25, Brian
Sheridan, the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special
Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict, testified that the
Colombian military needs to ``better coordinate operations
between the services and with the CNP.'' There are indications
that the police are unreceptive to working closely with the
Army. Similarly, the Army counter-narcotics battalion based at
Tres Esquinas has undertaken several operations on foot
unilaterally. These were not mere training missions: there was
a counter-narcotics objective to each operation (typically a
cocaine laboratory). The Army has failed to properly coordinate
these operations in advance with the CNP, but instead gave the
police only a few hours' notice that the operation was
imminent--leaving the CNP inadequate time to prepare for the
Coordination between the two services will be essential to
the success of the ``push into southern Colombia.'' The United
States must make it a high priority to foster and encourage
coordination between the two services. Embassy officials are
aware of this objective, and appear to be taking steps to
promote it. So, too, are Colombian Government officials. I
spoke at length about this issue with the President and the
Minister of Defense, and impressed upon them the urgent need to
improve coordination. The message should be constantly
emphasized by the United States.
5. Security at forward operating bases
In March, the Committee staff took a day-long trip to
southern Colombia, namely Caqueta and Putumayo Departments.
They visited the Larandia base in northwest Caqueta, the Army
base at Tres Esquinas (on the Caqueta-Putumayo border in the
western portion of Caqueta), and the CNP base at Villa Garzon
in Putumayo Department.
Because of time constraints and the Easter holiday period,
I was unable to visit southern Colombia. I did, however,
discuss the security issue with the U.S. Ambassador and the
head of the U.S. Military Group at the Embassy. I impressed
upon them the need to do everything possible to strengthen
security at the forward bases.
The key question for the United States is whether there is
adequate security at the bases where U.S. trainers will be
located during the training of the Colombian counter-narcotics
battalions. It is currently anticipated that some training of
the counter-narcotics battalions will be held at Larandia and
Tres Esquinas, which are in southern Colombia in areas where
FARC fronts operate.
There is no such thing as perfect security, and it is
unlikely that Colombian bases will ever meet standards of U.S.
military bases. But U.S. forces should not be exposed to undue
risk. Assistant Secretary of Defense Brian Sheridan stated in
response to a question for the record after a February 2000
hearing of the Committee on Foreign Relations that ``force
protection measures in place are adequate for the deployment of
U.S. personnel to train Colombian forces who conduct
counterdrug operations.'' U.S. personnel in Colombia echoed
this view, though they underscored that they are continually
working with the Colombian military to improve security.
6. Selection and operation of the Blackhawks
One question before Congress is whether the tactical
mobility requirement of the Colombian Army can be adequately
met with a cheaper option than the Blackhawks, namely Hueys.
The option was rejected by the Administration for three
reasons: the Blackhawk has a greater range, speed, and can
carry more troops than the Huey. The following table
demonstrates the differences:
(Blackhawk) UH-1N (Huey)
Maximum range (nautical miles).... 306 230
Cruising speed (knots)............ 150 110
Troop-carrying capacity........... 11 to 20 8 to 12
To be sure, the costs of the Blackhawks are substantial: the
initial investment under the supplemental is $385 million to
fund the procurement, operations and maintenance, and pilot
training. There will be associated costs for infrastructure at
Colombian bases: at least $13 million in Fiscal Years 2000 and
2001. But the payoff is a far more capable helicopter to
provide the critical requirement of the Colombian Army. The
advantage of buying a new helicopter--as opposed to a upgraded,
but decades-old helicopter--should be self-evident.
Questions have been raised whether the Colombian military
can adequately manage sophisticated helicopters such as the
Blackhawk. The Colombian Army and Air Force, collectively,
already possess 20 Blackhawk helicopters. The Air Force
helicopters are operational 80 percent of time, the Army
helicopters 50 percent. The latter is skewed by the inclusion
in the calculations of one Blackhawk with 73 bullet holes that
has been inoperational for 18 months. If this single helicopter
is not included in the data, the operational rate is 70
percent. These data compare favorably to the current CNP
aircraft inventory, which is operational at a 65 percent rate.
Perhaps more important, the operational rate of the Colombian
military is comparable to the U.S. military, in which the
operational rates of the Blackhawk average around 80 percent.
So this data suggest that the Colombian Armed Forces have
adequately learned how to operate and maintain the Blackhawks
in their inventory, though additional pilots, maintenance
crews, and infrastrucure will be needed for the new
7. Alternative development and assistance for the internally displaced
Two important components of Plan Colombia are providing
alternative development opportunities to peasants now growing
coca and poppy, and assisting those that are internally
displaced by the Plan and Colombia's conflicts.
The U.S. portion of plan provides for $115 million for
alternative development efforts in Colombia. This is clearly
insufficient given the substantial need to persuade thousands
of small farmers to switch from illegal activities. Colombia
needs more; it is planning to contribute several hundred
million dollars of its own funds, and is seeking funds for the
effort from Europe--which has been asked to provide up to $1
billion for alternative development--as well as Japan.
The key issue is one of timing: coordinating alternative
development programs with enforcement measures, so the peasants
have real economic alternatives at the moment their livelihood
(albeit illicit) is being reduced. This has historically been a
difficult challenge in the Andean region, because development
programs often take longer to develop than enforcement
programs. An added difficulty is that the Colombian Government
agency responsible for alternative development, known as
``PLANTE'', is relatively new and is relatively small.
Similarly, the Agency for International Development mission
must build its capacity, as its program in Colombia in recent
years has been negligible. The United Nations Drug Control
Program (UNDCP), which has been operating in Colombia since
1985, has extensive experience in the Andes, and should be
utilized in this effort.
The Colombian Government plans to begin alternative
development programs in Putumayo Department on a pilot basis
(there are already programs underway in opium growing areas).
Initial programs will be conducted, in coordination with
eradication operations, in an area along the main highway south
of the provincial capital. Unlike many areas in the rest of the
province, the soil there is suitable for agriculture. The
programs there will be an important test of whether real
alternatives can work in that region.
It should be recognized that even the best alternative
development programs cannot work unless the area is secure. Put
another way, we cannot expect the Agency for International
Development and PLANTE to work in areas effectively controlled
by guerrillas or paramilitaries.
Plan Colombia also provides for assistance to the
internally displaced. The battle between Colombia's armed
actors--the military, the guerillas, and the paramilitaries--
has had a tremendous impact on the Colombian people.
Kidnapings, massacres, battles, and threats force tens of
thousands of Colombian families to flee their homes each year
and move elsewhere in the country. Squatter settlements of
displaced people have sprung up around Bogota and other cities.
These internally displaced persons need food, clothing, shelter
(temporary and permanent), health care, counseling, job
training and employment. (In international law, these are not
``refugees''; refugees must cross an international border.
Those displaced by crises, but still within their own borders,
are referred to as ``internally displaced persons,'' or
Estimates of the number of IDPs vary considerably: ranging
from several hundred thousand to 2 million. The State
Department estimates that at least 800,000 people, primarily
women and children, have been displaced since 1996--a level
similar to those displaced in Kosovo in 1999. The ``Red de
Solidaridad Social'' (RSS), Colombia's government agency which
coordinates relief services, numbers the displaced at 400,000.
The reason for the disparity turns on definitional disputes
regarding precisely who is displaced. I am not in a position to
settle this dispute, but it is clear that the government has a
serious problem on its hands.
The problem is widespread in the country. According to the
Colombian Government, the internal displacement problem
involves 139 of the country's 180 municipalities. Forty-four
percent of IDP families are headed by a female, 23 percent of
IDPs are less than seven years old, and nearly 17 percent are
ethnic minorities. Most are poor families from rural areas with
an agricultural background.
The cause of displacement varies. The Council for Human
Rights and the Displaced, a respected non-governmental
organization in Colombia, estimates that 45 percent of IDPs are
displaced by the paramilitaries; 30-32 percent by the
guerrillas; and 8 percent by the armed forces.
The push into southern Colombia is expected to displace
30,000 to 40,000 of the estimated 300,000 residents of the
Putumayo Department. Many of those expected to be displaced are
migrant farmers who have moved to the region to grow or pick
coca. Because the displacements in Putumayo will be the result
of U.S.-assisted enforcement measures under Plan Colombia, the
United States will have a special responsibility to assist
those displaced from that region. The Clinton Administration
proposal requests $12 million in 2000 and $19 million in 2001
for resettlement assistance. Given the large number of people
already displaced and the additional people who will be
displaced as a result of the ``push into southern Colombia,''
this amount is probably insufficient, and additional resources
should be considered during debate on the supplemental or in
the regular FY 2001 budget.
8. Embassy staffing requirements for Plan Colombia
The Narcotics Affairs Section (NAS) in the U.S. Embassy is
understaffed. In September 1999, with the approval of the
Ambassador, the Section applied to Washington for 31 new
positions to help manage the counter-narcotics program, which
has grown significantly in the past few years--from about $20
million in Fiscal 1996 to some $235 million in Fiscal 1999--
without a corresponding increase in staff to manage the
program. Senior State Department officials have assured the
Committee that these positions will be approved; to date, 18 of
them have been. These staff are needed now. It bears emphasis
that these additional 30 positions were requested before
submittal of Plan Colombia. The Section estimates that it may
need up to 20 additional positions in order to support the
increase of U.S. assistance under Plan Colombia.
The importance of the State Department providing adequate
staffing to this mission cannot be overemphasized. If the U.S.
Government is going to devote substantial resources to fighting
narcotics in Colombia, it must provide adequate staff to help
ensure that these resources are spent properly.
C. Colombian Government and Plan Colombia
1. Securing assistance from other international sources
Plan Colombia is predicated on international assistance.
The United States has pledged, but not yet provided, over $1
billion in new assistance. International financial institutions
have committed nearly $1 billion. The Colombian Government is
making serious efforts to raise additional funds from Europe
and Japan. A donors conference, sponsored by Spain, will be
convened in Madrid in July for this purpose.
The Colombian government is working hard to solicit other
international assistance. The week before my visit, President
Pastrana traveled to the United Kingdom for meetings with Prime
Minister Blair and Foreign Secretary Cook. In March, Colombian
Foreign Minister Fernandez traveled to Tokyo to discuss a
possible Japanese contribution.
Should they be provided, contributions from other
international donors are designed to complement the Colombian
and U.S. portions of Plan Colombia. Europe is being asked to
provide up to $1 billion for alternative development. The
Japanese Government has expressed an interest in helping with
reforestation and programs for the internally displaced.
There are reasons to be skeptical that European states will
provide assistance--Europe has been slow to provide assistance
for Kosovo reconstruction--but one thing seems clear: neither
Europe nor Japan is likely to provide assistance unless the
United States does. In short, the failure of the United States
to approve the supplemental has delayed commitments by other
2. Peace process
Another key component of Plan Colombia, from the
perspective of the Colombian Government, is a peace process
underway with the two main guerrilla movements. President
Pastrana was elected in 1998 with a strong mandate to end the
civil conflicts, and a sizable civic movement called ``No Mas''
has marched in the streets of Colombian cities in the last two
years demanding an end to violence.
The talks with the FARC are further along than the
negotiations with the ELN. Through negotiations with the FARC,
last year the government agreed to a demilitarized zone in
south-central Colombia, in Meta and Caqueta Departments (the
zone, which is about the size of Switzerland, consists of about
4 percent of the country's land mass; 100,000 of Colombia's
roughly 40 million people live there). While the negotiations
continue, the conflict goes on outside the zone. There has been
no formal cessation of hostilities, and there are frequent
military encounters between government forces and the FARC
around the country.
There are reasons to be cautiously optimistic that
President Pastrana will make progress in these negotiations.
Last winter, FARC leaders went on a three-week tour of European
capitals. In part, the trip was designed to show FARC leaders,
many of whom have been living in the jungle for decades, how
the world has changed. It also exposed them to criticism from
left-of-center politicians in Europe, who used the opportunity,
I was told, to press the FARC leadership on its own violations
of human rights and involvement in drug trafficking. Colombian
officials believe the European tour will have a positive effect
in the long run on the FARC position. While I was in the
country, the FARC announced the formation of new political
party--perhaps an indication that the guerrillas recognize the
domestic political need to begin operating within the framework
of normal politics.
Just after my visit, the Colombian Government agreed to a
demilitarized zone with the ELN, though the exact parameters of
the zone, and the terms and conditions, have not been
Human Rights Issues
1. Background and Colombian Government actions
The dire human rights situation in Colombia has been well
documented in the annual State Department human rights report,
in reports by the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights
office in Colombia, and reports by respected non-governmental
organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights
Watch. I do not attempt to repeat their findings or analysis
here. It is enough to say that there is a crisis in the
country: massive human rights violations are committed by the
guerrillas, the paramilitaries, and to a lesser extent the
Colombian Armed Forces.
In recent years, there has been a measurable decline in the
number of human rights violations directly attributable to the
military. At the same time, violations by right-wing
paramilitaries have increased, leading to the widespread belief
in Colombia that the military collaborates with the
paramilitaries--and lets them do their dirty work. In February,
a Human Rights Watch report linked ``half of Colombia's
eighteen brigade-level army units (excluding military schools)
to paramilitary activities.'' Their report concludes that
``military support for paramilitary activity remains national
in scope and includes areas where units receiving or scheduled
to receive U.S. military aid operate.''
I discussed the human rights situation with the President,
the Minister of Defense, and the U.S. Ambassador. I impressed
upon them the importance of human rights issues in the
Congress, and urged them to keep making efforts to improve the
record of the Colombian Armed Forces. I emphasized to them the
need to end impunity in the Armed Forces--that is, to prosecute
all violators of human rights.
The Colombian Government, at high levels, concedes that
there is a human rights problem in the country, and has taken
certain efforts to address it. These actions by the government
are commendable, but it must do more. It must continue to make
human rights a priority. It must continue to send a message
throughout the armed forces that institutional tolerance of
paramilitary activity must cease. The actions take to date by
the Government include:
Firing of high-level officials: President Pastrana fired four
Army generals in 1999 for collaboration with or failure to take
action against paramilitaries. Despite those dismissals, many
military officials who are under investigation for links to the
paramilitaries--and some who have been found guilty by the
civilian courts for violating human rights--continue to serve
in the military, and some have even been promoted. A number of
investigators working on cases linking the Army and the
paramilitaries have been threatened and either forced to resign
from their posts or to leave the country.
According to Colombian officials, within the next six
months, the head of the Armed Forces, General Tapias, will be
given the authority to dismiss any officer tied to paramilitary
groups without going through lengthy dismissal proceedings.
This would give Tapias the same power that enabled General
Serrano, the head of the Colombian National Police, to purge
the police of human rights violators. This authority to clean
house is often credited with professionalizing the police force
and it is hoped that it will do the same for the military.
New military penal code: The Colombian Government passed a new
military penal code in August 1999, but it has yet to be
implemented. This new code includes protections for soldiers
who refuse to follow orders which would involve violations of
human rights. It also creates an independent body, similar to
the judge advocate general corps in the U.S. military, so that
unit commanders will no longer be judging their own troops. The
new code gives civilian courts jurisdiction over all ``crimes
against humanity'' including genocide, forced disappearance and
torture. Notably absent from this list of offenses, however, is
Law on forced disappearances: The new military code requires
that forced disappearances be tried in civilian courts, but the
law to implement it has been stalled. Though President Pastrana
initially supported this policy change, in December 1999 he
vetoed the necessary legislation due to his objections over
certain provisions in the bill. As a result, forced
disappearance continues to go unpunished in Colombia: very few
of the more than 3,000 cases reported to authorities since 1977
have been resolved. The government has promised that the bill
will move quickly during the current session of Congress.
Recent decree on human rights: In March, President Pastrana
signed a decree to create an inter-agency mechanism designed to
provide ``early warning'' of potential massacres--so the
government forces can act to prevent them. This mechanism will
be coordinated by the Ministers of Defense and Interior, with
the cooperation of Colombian law enforcement agencies and the
Prosecutor General. The Minister of Defense will be charged
with dispatching the military to secure areas where massacres
are believed to be imminent. It is too soon to say whether this
mechanism will be effective.
2. Discussions with human rights and UN representatives
While in Bogota, I met jointly with three representatives
of non-governmental organizations working on human rights
issues, and representatives of two U.N. bodies--the High
Commissioner for Refugees and the High Commissioner for Human
All five individuals expressed concern about various
aspects of Plan Colombia. They emphasized different points:
that the Colombian Government had not demonstrated enough of a
commitment to the internally displaced, that increased military
assistance could lead to increased displacements, that there
was a great need to reform the military and improve its human
rights record, that the plan could undermine the peace process,
and that the plan did not place enough emphasis on alternative
I assured the group that the United States was firmly
committed to human rights, and would continue to press the
Colombian Government on these issues. I also pointed out,
however, that the human rights situation in the country was
unlikely to improve unless the United States was fully engaged
with Colombia. In other words, U.S. engagement and assistance
to Colombia would inevitably (because of U.S. emphasis on human
rights) have a positive effect on human rights in Colombia, and
the converse--U.S. disengagement--would not be helpful to the
cause of human rights. One individual present responded by
saying ``I essentially agree with what you have said.''
3. Need for additional political officers in the Embassy
Currently, just one officer at the U.S. Embassy in Bogota
is designated to monitor human rights on a full time basis.
While others in the political section also have responsibility
for monitoring human rights, I believe more officers may be
needed to focus exclusively on this matter.
Under the ``Leahy Amendment'' to the Foreign Operations and
Defense Appropriations Act, all members of Colombian military
units receiving U.S. training must be vetted to assure that
they have not been involved in gross human rights violations.
Embassy staff must review available records on each and every
individual to receive U.S. training. This is a painstaking and
time-consuming task. Moreover, the scope of the human rights
violations in Colombia requires constant monitoring and
Schedule of Meetings
Wednesday, April 19
Arrive Bogota; travel to U.S. Embassy
Meeting with Jaime Ruiz, Chief of Staff to the President
Meeting with representatives of U.N. offices and non-
governmental organizations: Michael Hurtado, UNHCR;
Javier Hernandez, UNHCHR; Marco Romero, CODHES;
Rev. Fernando Gonzales, CINEP; Andres Sanchez,
Colombian Commission of Jurists
Travel to Cartagena aboard presidential aircraft; discussions
with President Pastrana and U.S. Ambassador aboard
Dinner with President Pastrana, Minister of Defense Ramirez,
U.S. Ambassador, and senior U.S. Embassy staff
Thursday, April 20
Breakfast briefing by U.S. Ambassador, Head of Narcotics
Affairs Section, and Commander of U.S. Military
Group, U.S. Embassy
Meeting with Minister of Defense Ramirez; briefing by Rear
Admiral Cubillos, Commander, Cartagena Naval Base
Meeting with President Pastrana and U.S. Ambassador
Dinner with President Pastrana
A P P E N D I X
Statements by the President of the United States
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary,
(Grand Canyon, Arizona),
For Immediate Release January 11, 2000.
STATEMENT BY THE PRESIDENT
Today I am announcing an urgently needed, two-year funding
package to assist Colombia in vital counter-drug efforts aimed
at keeping illegal drugs off our shores. It will also help
Colombia promote peace and prosperity and deepen its democracy.
Building on our current efforts, over this year and next our
resulting support would total over $1.6 billion.
President Pastrana's inauguration in August 1998 brought to
Colombia a new spirit of hope--for deeper democracy, for
broader prosperity, for an end to that country's long civil
conflict. But, increased drug production and trafficking,
coupled with a serious economic recession and sustained
violence, have put that progress in peril.
President Pastrana has responded with a bold agenda--Plan
Colombia. It provides a solid, multifaceted strategy that the
United States should support with substantial assistance. We
have a compelling national interest in reducing the flow of
cocaine and heroin to our shores, and in promoting peace,
democracy and economic growth in Colombia and the region. Given
the magnitude of the drug trafficking problem and their current
economic difficulties, neither the Government of Colombia nor
its neighbors can carry the full burden alone.
In Fiscal Year 2000, much of our support will be focused on
a one-time infusion of funds to help boost Colombia's
interdiction and eradication capabilities, particularly in the
The package will also include assistance for economic
development, protection of human rights, and judicial reform.
Our bilateral aid to Colombia will be supplemented by
multilateral agencies. The World Bank and Inter-American
Development Bank are considering hundreds of millions of
dollars in loans for Colombia next year. The IMF has already
pledged a $2.7 billion Extended Fund facility to help jumpstart
the economy. And we will also continue to encourage our allies
to assist Colombia.
The obstacles to a better future for Colombia are
substantial. We expect it will require years before the full
benefits of Plan Colombia are felt. But I believe that with our
support and that of other donors, Plan Colombia can soon
accelerate Colombia's nascent economic recovery. Over the
longer haul, we can expect to see. more effective drug
eradication and increased interdiction of illicit drug
Strengthening stability and democracy in Colombia, and
fighting the drug trade there, is in our fundamental national
interest. So, with President Pastrana and with our Congress, we
must and we will intensify this vital work.
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary,
(Grand Canyon, Arizona),
For Immediate Release January 11, 2000.
Colombia Assistance Package
Colombia and its democratically elected government are
facing an urgent crisis that has narcotics, military and
economic dimensions. Narco traffickers in Colombia now supply
about 80 percent of the cocaine used in the United States.
Colombian President Andres Pastrana, who took office in
August 1998, has developed a comprehensive, integrated approach
to addressing Colombia's problems. Plan Colombia would
strengthen the Colombian economy and democracy, and fight
narcotics trafficking. The Colombian government estimates that
Plan Colombia will cost $7.5 billion and is dedicating $4
billion of its own resources. It has also asked for the
participation and help of the United States and other nations.
The United States has a vital interest in the success of
this plan. For this reason, the President is proposing an
expanded comprehensive program; as a result, US support over
this year and next will total more than $1.6 billion.
The five major components of U.S. assistance are:
Helping the Colombian Government push into the coca-
growing regions of southern Colombia, which are now
dominated by insurgent guerillas. Funds will help train
special counter-narcotics battalions, purchase 30
Blackhawk and 33 Huey helicopters, and provide other
Upgrading Colombian capability to aggressively
interdict cocaine and cocaine traffickers. Funds will
be used for radar, aircraft and airfield upgrades, and
improved anti-narcotics intelligence gathering.
Increasing coca crop eradication. The Administration
will propose $96 million to purchase equipment that
will enable the Colombian National Police to eradicate
more coca and poppy fields.
Promoting alternative crops and jobs. The
Administration will propose $145 million over the next
two years to provide economic alternatives for
Colombian farmers who now grow coca and poppy plants.
Increasing protection of human rights, expanding the
rule of law, and promoting the peace process. The
Administration will propose $93 million for new
programs that will help the judicial system, and crack
down on money laundering.
This initiative will be submitted as part of the
President's Budget. It will add to our current support
of more than $150 million each year a $954 million
emergency supplemental request for FY 2000, as well as
an increase of in FY 2001 of $318 million.
The Administration looks forward to working with Congress
to help Colombia confront it current problems, while reducing
the supply of drugs coming to the United States--to help both
their national interest and our own.
Excerpt from: International Narcotics Control Strategy Report,
Department of State, March 2000
Colombia produces and distributes more cocaine than any
other country in the world and is also an important supplier of
heroin. Colombia bolstered its counternarcotics efforts in 1999
by extraditing a Colombian citizen to the United States on
narcotics charges for the first time in nine years. The
Colombian armed forces activated its elite, U.S.-trained, 931-
man strong counternarcotics battalion. Additionally, the
Colombian anti-narcotics police (DIRAN) formed an air-mobile
interdiction unit, which received United States training, to
conduct operations with the Colombian military.
After over a year in office, the Pastrana Administration
remains committed to its peace dialogue with the largest
insurgent group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia
(FARC). The government's talks with the FARC, which earns
substantial funds from the drug trade, particularly from
protection and taxation, have shown few gains thus far. Like
the guerrillas, the paramilitaries are involved in the drug
trade and are competing for an ever-greater share.
The combined U.S./GOC aerial eradication program had a
successful year in 1999. The program sprayed over 42,000
hectares of coca and more than 8,000 hectares of opium poppy in
The ``Antinarcotics Directorate'' (DIRAN) of the Colombian
National Police has continued its record of investigations and
operations against narcotics trafficking. A cooperative effort
between the Colombian National Police, the Prosecutor General's
office (Fiscalia) and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration
(DEA) led to the arrest of 30 significant Colombian drug
traffickers in ``Operation Millennium.'' The United States
requested the extradition of all 30 suspects and awaits the
GOC's decision on those requests.
As in 1998, guerrillas protecting the drug trade ratcheted
up their attacks on Colombian security forces, and hampered
counternarcotics operations, particularly in the coca growing
regions of southern and southeastern Colombia. As Colombia
struggles to climb out of its worst economic crisis since the
1930s, the GOC is hard pressed to commit the resources
necessary to combat the powerful combined threat of drug
traffickers and guerrilla elements involved in the drug trade.
Colombia is a party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention.
II. Status of Country
Colombia remains the world's largest cocaine producer: up
to three-quarters of the world's cocaine hydrochloride (HCl) is
processed in Colombia from cocaine base imported from Peru and
Bolivia and, increasingly, from locally grown coca. Coca
cultivation in Colombia increased by 20 percent in 1999. Most
of the increase occurred outside of the eradication areas.
Although opinions differ over statistical baselines, it is
generally agreed that despite efforts by the Government of
Colombia to limit increases, cultivation expanded dramatically
over the past three years. Estimated coca cultivation increased
36 percent in 1996, 18 percent in 1997 and 28 percent in 1998.
Colombia is also a significant supplier of heroin to the United
States, producing, according to U.S. estimates, six metric tons
(mt) yearly, virtually all of which is destined for the U.S.
III. Country Actions Against Drugs in 1999
Policy Initiatives. In November 1999, Colombia extradited a
Colombian citizen to the United States for the first time in
nine years, fulfilling one of the USG's most sought-after, but
elusive, counternarcotics goals with the GOC. Despite narcotics
traffickers' attempts to throw up legal roadblocks, and
bombings possibly linked to the extraditions, the Colombian
Supreme Court and Pastrana Administration demonstrated their
willingness to send narcotics traffickers to justice in the
United States regardless of citizenship.
In a cooperative anti-narcotics operation with the USG, the
GOC arrested 30 suspected narcotics traffickers in October 1999
as a result of ``Operation Millennium.'' This joint operation,
involved the Colombian National Police, the Colombian
prosecutor general's office and the DEA. The United States
requested the extradition of all 30 suspects.
The GOC succeeded in preserving some, but not all, key
elements of its ``faceless'' justice system when congress
approved the new ``specialized'' justice system in June 1999.
The specialized system no longer protects the identity of
judges, leading some judges to feel exposed to attempts at
intimidation. However, the system still protects the identity
of witnesses and prosecutors in a limited set of crimes such as
narcotics trafficking, kidnapping and terrorism.
The asset forfeiture process in Colombia remains stalled.
Although the GOC has seized millions of dollars worth of
narcotics trafficker assets, including land, homes, automobiles
and airplanes, the government has been unable to conclude the
process and take legal ownership of or auction-off the assets.
The Colombian Air Force (FAC) is improving its monitoring
and interdiction abilities. Over the last three years the
percentage of successful FAC interdiction attempts has
increased from 25 percent in 1997 to nearly 40 percent in 1999.
At the same time, the number of suspicious aircraft which radar
has detected flying to or from Colombia has fallen
dramatically, from 231 in 1997 to less than 100 in 1999.
The Colombian National Police successfully implemented a
civil aviation registration program to curb the use of aircraft
for drug trafficking. This program inspected 343 aircraft in
1999, seizing 50 of these for violation of ptotective seals
that prevent tampering with cargoes.
In mid-1999, for the first time, the GOC permitted its
eradication campaign to begin edging into coca-rich Putumayo
department. The GOC had previously prohibited eradication in
Putumayo; the mere threat of spraying there in 1996 ignited
vehement public demonstrations against the government by
residents of the coca growing areas. The eradication program
has been careful to enter Putumayo slowly and without fanfare
to avoid causing a backlash by farmers dependent on the coca
trade. By November 1999, planes were eradicating fields 20
miles into the department, allowing them to reach approximately
30,000 hectares of coca. This has permitted the eradication
program to enter the fastest growing coca cultivation area in
The eradication program was hindered in 1999 by the
diversion of escort helicopters for interdiction missions,
civic unrest in poppy-growing areas that forced the evacuation
of spray teams, and frequent ground-fire attacks on spray
planes (resulting, in part, from too few escort aircraft). In
1999 spray planes suffered 67 hits from ground fire.
Nonetheless, the program still managed to eradicate more than
50,000 hectares in 1999.
The February 1997 shipboarding agreement between the GOC
and USG streamlined the process for approving the boarding of
Colombian ships in international waters by U.S. officials and
has enhanced cooperation with the Colombian Navy. Following
talks between JIATF-East (USG inter-agency counternarcotics
task force) and the Colombian Navy, a standing interdiction
operations plan was signed in September 1999. This plan
augments the maritime agreement and has led to three U.S.-
Colombian combined maritime interdiction patrols since May
1999. The Colombian Navy's counternarcotics efforts however,
are limited by a lack of adequate resources for patrolling,
The USG and GOC have worked to resolve differences
regarding evidence preparation and delivery in cases where the
USG is the interdicting authority. In September 1999, U.S. and
Colombian authorities reached an accommodation concerning the
evidence required by Colombian prosecutors and other
Prison security remains a serious problem in Colombia.
Overcrowding, lack of administrative acumen and corruption
among guards plague the system. Almost two percent of inmates
escape each year. There are 50,000 prisoners in a system with
capacity for 30,000 and only 1 guard for every 10 prisoners
(compared with 1 guard for 4 in the U.S.). Violence among
prisoners is rampant. Due to lax security and permissive
conditions for prisoners, many convicted traffickers remain
directly involved in their operations from within prison.
The Minister of Justice and his director of prisons appear
committed to reforms. But thus far, the GOC has been more
inclined to build additional prisons rather than to reform
The ``carrot and stick'' approach that couples alternative
development with aerial eradication is key to Colombia's
national drug control strategy and to ``Plan Colombia,''
unveiled by the GOC in September 1999. The National Alternative
Development Plan (PLANTE) is the agency charged with
implementing the GOC's alternative development strategy.
Targeting approximately 35,000 small farmers nationwide, who
each produce less than three hectares of coca or opium poppy,
PLANTE focused on linking illicit crop abandonment or
substitution to markets for the resulting new products or
services. PLANTE organized strategic alliances with the private
sector, which provide farmer organizations with risk capital
and technical assistance in production, product processing and
As a matter of policy, the GOC does not encourage or
facilitate illicit production or distribution of narcotic or
psychotropic drugs or other controlled substances, or the
laundering of proceeds from illegal drug transactions. The
Pastrana government has made clear, on many occasions, its
opposition to official corruption.
Accomplishments. Law enforcement operations by the
counternarcotics police and others continue to be the most
successful element of the GOC counternarcotics program.
According to the CNP, GOC counternarcotics operations in 1999
included the seizure of almost 30 metric tons (mt) of cocaine
HCl and cocaine base; nearly 140 mt of coca leaves; 61 mt of
marijuana; and 644 kilos of heroin, morphine and opium, the
destruction of 96 cocaine base labs; 53 cocaine HCl labs and 10
heroin labs; the capture of over 760 mt of solid precursor
chemicals and over 890,000 gallons of liquid precursors; the
seizure of 540 vehicles, 189 boats, 51 aircraft and 422
weapons; the destruction of 44 clandestine airstrips, and the
arrest of over 2,200 persons.
Elite investigative units within the CNP are developing
long term investigations of trafficker organizations and are
moving forward on asset forfeiture. The GOC heroin task force
provided intelligence to effect drug seizures in Colombia and
assist in U.S.-based investigations. Overall, GOC seizures of
cocaine and heroin were higher in 1999 than in 1998.
The level of cooperation between the Colombian military and
police, and between the services within the military, continued
to improve in 1999. As in 1998, all of the armed forces
conducted unilateral and joint counternarcotics operations with
the police. Cooperation took the form of deployments in areas
where police face a significant guerrilla threat. The air
force, army, navy and marines coordinated with the CNP in
multi-week, joint counternarcotics operations along the Pacific
coast near the port of Buenaventura. These coordinated forces
destroyed drug labs, confiscated narcotics and arrested
Furthermore, the Colombian police and army have
participated in intensive joint training to prepare the army's
new counternarcotics battalion, which is intended to assist the
CNP during counternarcotics operations in the coca growing
regions. The police and army have also agreed to work together
on tactical operations that involve the new battalion. The co-
located Joint Intelligence Center (JIC) includes personnel from
CNP cooperation, including intelligence sharing with
international law enforcement entities continued this year. The
CNP also provided information that led directly to the seizure
of 30 mt of cocaine HCl outside of Colombian territory in 1999.
Agreements and Treaties. Colombia ratified the 1988 UN Drug
Convention in September 1994 and the GOC's National Anti-
Narcotics Plan of 1998 meets the strategic plan requirements of
the Convention. Recent reforms have generally brought the
government into line with the requirements of the Convention.
In February 1997, the GOC signed a maritime shipboarding
agreement with the United States. The agreement, which allows
for faster approval for shipboardings in international waters
and sets guidelines for improved counternarcotics cooperation
with the Colombian navy, has been credited with the seizure of
22 metric tons of cocaine since its signing. In February 1999,
the Colombian justice system obtained the first convictions of
individuals prosecuted for seizures related to the maritime
agreement. However reduced budgets and demands on resources for
riverine programs south of the Andes limited the navy's
1999 saw substantial improvement in the maritime
agreement's intelligence and communications exchange process.
JIATF-East has established direct communication links with
Colombian navy operations centers in Bogota and Cartagena to
speed the transfer of tactical interdiction information. The
navy has also, improved its own ship-to-shore communications.
Unfortunately, implementation procedures for article 16 of the
agreement have not been developed. Article 16 permits the
prosecution of high-seas seizures by U.S. authorities without
referral to Colombia's legal system and extradition process.
In September, U.S. and Colombian customs officials signed a
Customs Mutual Assistance Agreement (CMAA). The CMAA will
enhance the countries' ability to share information and
investigate cases jointly.
Cultivation and Production. Coca and opium poppy remain the
principal illicit crops grown in Colombia. In 1998, these crops
were estimated to be 101,800 hectares and 6,100 hectares
respectively. In 1999 there were estimated to be 122,500
hectares of coca and 7,500 hectares of poppy.
Coca, the predominant illicit crop, is primarily grown in
two regions on the eastern plains in Guaviare and neighboring
departments, and along the Ecuadorian and Peruvian borders in
the departments of Putumayo and Caqueta. Additionally,
increasing amounts of coca are appearing in the northern
departments of Bolivar and Norte de Santander. Most opium is
grown on the eastern slopes of the Central Cordillera Mountains
in Tolima, Huila and Cauca departments. Limited amounts are
also found in Norte de Santander, southern Bolivar and
Larger and ever more complex cocaine HCl laboratories are
replacing the less sophisticated labs previously encountered.
HCl laboratories can be found in all regions of the country,
but are primarily located in the plains and jungle regions,
near the coca-growing zones under de facto guerrilla control.
Numerous laboratories have been identified in extremely remote
areas that are difficult to reach even by helicopter.
Most opiate laboratories are small, producing small
quantities of drugs and using simple equipment and limited
quantities of precursor chemicals. Colombia accounts for an
estimated two percent of the world's opium poppy. Nearly all of
the resulting heroin, however, is destined for the United
Marijuana cultivation remained active in 1999, but is not
believed to have increased significantly. Colombian marijuana
seizures in the United States are believed to be minimal.
Drug Flow/Transit. Colombia is the center of the
international cocaine trade, with drugs flowing out of the
country at a stable and constant rate. In addition to producing
large quantities of cocaine base domestically, Colombian
traffickers import cocaine base, by air and by river, from Peru
and, to a lesser extent, from Bolivia. The base is converted
into cocaine HCl at clandestine laboratories in the Colombian
source zone. Cocaine HCl shipments move out of Colombia
primarily by commercial maritime vessels (multi-ton loads) and
general aviation aircraft (400-800 kgs shipments) to Mexico,
Central America and the Caribbean, typically en route to the
United States. Cocaine is also concealed in legitimate air and
sea cargo destined for European ports.
Recent statistics indicate that approximatels 85 percent of
the heroin seized by federal authorities in the northeastern
United States is of Colombian origin. DEA believes that almost
all of the heroin produced in Colombia goes to the United
States and is generally smuggled by human couriers on
commercial airline flights in quantities of one to five
Domestic Programs (Demand Reduction). The National
Directorate for Narcotics Control administers cost sharing drug
abuse prevention and education projects with the UNDCP. The
annual UNDCP budget for Colombia programs is USD five to seven
The DNE coordinates GOC demand reduction programs through
governmental and non-governmental organizations. Demand
reduction efforts in Colombia faced an uphill battle in 1999 as
domestic drug consumption continued to rise. Increasing drug
abuse by Colombians has spurred greater efforts by the DNE to
publicize the dangers of drug abuse and convince the public
that local consumption is a problem for Colombia now, not in
the future. The U.S. Embassy hopes that one result of this
active media campaign will be that counternarcotics programs in
general will be more palatable to the Colombian public.
The priority target group for programs to prevent the use
of psychoactive substances is male students, ages 12-17, with
high school level education. New users are located in the
geographic areas with the highest population densities and
greater economic development, such as the coffee producing
region and cities such as Bogota, Medellin and Cali.
IV. U.S. Policy Initiatives and Programs
Policy Initiatives. The USG continues to place its focus on
institution building, especially within the law enforcement and
judicial systems. The counternarcotics legislation passed in
1997 is an indirect result of advice and studies funded by the
Bilateral Cooperation. Judicial reform in Colombia moves
forward, albeit at an extremely slow pace. USAID coordinates
the USG's justice sector reform program in cooperation with the
Department of Justice (OPDAT and ICITAP). This long-term effort
is aimed at strengthening the administration of justice in
Colombia through support and training for judges, prosecutors,
and investigators. Since 1991, several thousand law enforcement
officials have received training in basic investigative
techniques and planning. Recently, OPDAT and ICITAP have
focused on the development of task force units (teams of
prosecutors and police) that are charged with investigating
money laundering, corruption, narcotics and human rights
violations. Human rights training is an important element of
the program and has been provided in the United States to some
program participants. USAID and OPDAT continue to support the
judicial branch in a challenging effort to establish oral
trials in a country that has traditionally relied on written
evidence and the inquisitorial system to resolve cases.
To reduce the amount of cocaine HCl reaching the U.S., many
USG programs focus on the Colombian source zone to stop air
transportation and drug production in this targeted area. This
focus aims at improving not only bilateral and joint CNP-
military operations, but multilateral cooperation, as well.
USG entities, including DEA, FBI, USAID, and training
elements of the Department of Justice (OPDAT and ICITAP), work
with GOC law enforcement and judicial entities to increase the
effectiveness of the Colombian judicial system, developing and
refining law enforcement capabilities, training host nation
counterparts, and improving access, fairness and public
perceptions of the justice system. Thousands of judges,
prosecutors and investigators have been trained since 1991.
The U.S. Embassy in Bogota provided the impetus to
establish a port cargo security program that is now in place at
all five of Colombia's seaports. The private ports agreed to
provide $1.5 million per year for the foreseeable future to
fund 100 specially trained narcotics police who carry out
inspection and interdiction operations at the ports. This
private funding complements nominal USG sponsorship. The USG
monitors performance and provides U.S. Customs Service
trainers. As a result of this program, the ports have seized
more than 16 mt of cocaine and 40 mt of marijuana, all at very
little cost to the USG. Additionally, Colombia is one of seven
countries participating in the U.S. Customs' Americas Counter
Smuggling Initiative (ACSI), a program designed to deter
narcotics smuggling in commercial shipments by enhancing
private sector security programs at manufacturing and export
facilities while also seeking to assist law enforcement
agencies to improve their counternarcotics effectiveness and
develop private sector partnerships.
In 1999, the total operating budget for the Narcotics
Affairs Section (NAS) of the U.S. Embassy in Bogota was $38
million, with the largest sums going to support CNP air
operations ($15.3 million) and the crop eradication program
($7.7 million). The CNP air wing consists of 47 helicopters and
20 fixed wing aircraft. The USG-funded private contractor that
manages the CNP's eradication program operates an additional 12
helicopters, 9 spray planes, two intelligence-gathering planes
and several transport planes. In addition to this assistance,
the USG provided $96 million for the acquisition of six
BlackHawk helicopters to enhance the CNP's counternarcotics
capacity. The first three were delivered in November 1999 with
the remaining three scheduled to arrive in the first quarter of
2000. The crews and technicians for these new helicopters were
trained in the United States. The USG is also upgrading the
CNP's Huey helicopter fleet. The first ten of 25 upgrades were
performed in 1999 at a cost of $1.4 million each.
The CNP agreed to an audit of the CNP air services program,
which receives substantial U.S. assistance. Unfortunately, in
December 1999, the accounting firm contracted to perform the
audit backed out, citing security concerns. Nonetheless, the
CNP's agreement to have the audit performed is a positive step
and the USG is working to contract another accounting firm for
The GOC also worked with the U.S. Embassy's consular
section to deny U.S. visas to persons involved or suspected of
trafficking in drugs or related activities such as money
In 1999, ICITAP assisted the GOC in developing a unified
training curriculum for Colombian investigators. In August 1999
the National Judicial Police Council formally adopted the
curriculum and made it mandatory for all Colombian
investigators after January 2000. For the first time, all
Colombian law enforcement investigators will receive the same
The Colombian army's new counternarcotics battalion became
operational late in 1999. The United States provided training
and equipment to the 931-man battalion and will assist the GOC
with the costs of maintaining the elite unit. In 1999, total
USG assistance relating to the battalion was approximately $7.5
million. The battalion is expected to commence field operations
in early 2000.
The USG also provided 18 UH-1N helicopters to the Colombian
army to support the new counternarcotics battalion. Helicopter
operations should begin in early 2000 with full operational
capability shortly thereafter.
Using $6 million in supplemental USG funding, the DIRAN,
with U.S. Embassy assistance, embarked on an ambitious program
to upgrade security at 16 base sites throughout Colombia.
Following recommendations by USG security experts, the DIRAN
enhanced security at all 16 bases. As the program continues,
the DIRAN will install electronic sensor systems at a number of
In 1999, NAS/INL provided substantial training for CNP
personnel, including 12 pilots, 37 technicians, 57 ground
troops and 95 agents of the CNP's new air-mobile unit.
The Road Ahead. The GOC's ``Plan Colombia'' recognizes the
interrelated nature of Colombia's counternarcotics efforts and
its peace process. In 2000, the foremost obstacle to curbing
narcotics trafficking in Colombia will still be guerrillas who
depend heavily on the drug trade for their substantial annual
income. These well-armed rebels violently oppose police
eradication operations and CNP/military interdiction efforts.
Some paramilitaries are also involved in the drug trade and
likewise pose a threat to law enforcement efforts.
In the year 2000, PLANTE will fund many of these ongoing
projects from the $15 million alternative development agreement
signed with the USG in August 1999. Although the number of
small farmers who have abandoned their illegal trade thus far
is small, it is hoped that, as PLANTE's market-oriented
projects take root and spray planes take to the air, an
increasing number of farmers will see the benefit of getting
out of coca or poppy cultivation.
USG programs will continue working with the GOC to solidify
reforms in the DIRAN and support Colombia's efforts to sustain
and improve the capability and efficiency of the judicial
system, which remains one of the weakest links in the
counternarcotics chain. The USG fully expects that the
cooperation between U.S. and Colombian law enforcement agencies
that produced Operation Millennium will continue to show
results in 2000. The U.S. Embassy is confident that after
extraditing a Colombian citizen to the United States for the
first time in 9 years, the GOC will respond favorably on the
merits to U.S. extradition requests for Colombian nationals and
others involved in narcotics trafficking. The Colombian
military's counternarcotics role may broaden in 2000, as its
first counternarcotics battalion comes on line and as the GOC
implements plans for additional specialized battalions.
Resources will be devoted to firming up the Colombian armed
forces' and police's ability to institutionalize and carry
forward the training they have received from the United States.
Priorities will include enhancing the armed forces' capacity to
conduct field medic training, as well as ground and small units
training in counternarcotics operations. As Colombia's first
counternarcotics battalion commences operations, plans continue
to train and equip additional battalions to strengthen the
army's counternarcotics capability and expertise.
Remarks of Andres Pastrana Arango, President of the Republic of
Colombia, at the American Society of Newspaper Editors
WASHINGTON, DC, APRIL 12, 2000
My former colleagues in the media--ladies and gentlemen:
I am honored to be here today to address the American
Society of Newspaper Editors at your annual convention. Let me
thank your president, Christian Anderson, for this generous
invitation, and all of you for making me feel at home, and for
easing the anxiety every politician feels standing before a
large room full of journalists.
Let me also express my admiration for this society's long
commitment to upholding the First Amendment, promoting and
protecting the free flow of information, and nurturing the
great responsibility that comes with an open and independent
press. And in this time of unparalleled prosperity and
leadership for the United States, when our globalizing world
grows constantly more interconnected, those everywhere who
believe in freedom are grateful for your work with the Freedom
Forum, and for your continuing self-examination of how your
newspapers can better cover the international arena, and bring
responsible and relevant news to your readers. In the Cold War,
the United States was deeply concerned with the way it was seen
by other nations. In the post-Cold War era, other nations are
concerned about how we are viewed, politically and
economically, in the United States. We Colombians welcome and
invite increased interaction with the entire spectrum of your
media--to exchange ideas, challenge misperceptions, and widen
The last President of Colombia to speak at your convention
was Virgilio Barco in 1986. From this platform, President Barco
made a strong plea for the United States and Latin America to
do more together in the war on drugs. Here the first steps were
taken that led to the landmark 1990 drug summit, attended by
President Bush in Cartagena. The effort marked the beginning of
the end of the Medellin drug cartel.
Today, I return here with a similar, urgent call for both
our nations and the entire international community once again
to do more in the fight against a new wave of drug trafficking
and drug violence. I also come here to speak candidly about a
dangerous problem of misinformation about Colombia. As you know
better than anyone, in the era of instant information, it can
be difficult to distinguish impression from truth, and the
headline of one news cycle from the cycle of history. Today I
ask you, in a decisive time for my country, to reflect with me
on the real Colombia . . . our strengths, our problems, our
resolve, and our prospects.
In recent months, Colombia has become what truly can be
called ``a hot topic'' here in the United States. Mike Wallace,
Dan Rather, Charlie Gibson and Tom Friedman have come to Bogota
plainly expecting the worst, with a preconceived idea of what
our country was all about--in a phrase, violence and cocaine.
Yet they each left with a powerful sense of the character and
values of the Colombian people, our commitment to peace and
democracy, and our unbending determination to reforming and
modernizing our society for the twenty first century.
What may sometimes be lost in the glare of the media moment
is the historic truth that Colombia is South America's oldest,
most resilient democracy, and that we Colombians share your
long tradition of a free press and open access to information.
Our newspapers are a powerful, independent influence--something
we politicians learn again everyday. El Tiempo, the largest
national daily and one of Latin America's most highly respected
newspapers, has been at the center of Colombian life for almost
a century, along with its main competitor, El Espectador. Our
other major cities--and Colombia has five cities with over one
million people--each have influential newspapers, and so do
many smaller communities.
In reality, it is this regional diversity that defines us
as a nation. I could also argue that Colombia stands as a
microcosm for all of Latin America. Consider, just for a
moment, our geography. Central America ends at our border with
Panama. From there, to the east, stretch 1000 miles of
Caribbean coastline, at its center the walled city of
Cartagena, once the third most powerful city of the Spanish
Empire, is today a magnet for tourists from around the world.
To the south, 600 miles along the Pacific Ocean is an area
still largely undeveloped, with extraordinary potential,
especially as Asia looks more and more to Latin America. We
share borders with Ecuador, Peru, Venezuela and with Brazil, at
the very heart and soul of South America, the vast Amazon
rainforest. Across our entire country, which is the size of
Texas and California combined, 33 national parks shelter more
plant and animal species per square mile than anywhere else on
Yet it is the Andes Mountains, more than anything else,
that have shaped Colombia as it is today. Most of the Andes,
like the Rockies or the Alps, are one massive chain, rising
above a continent. But in Colombia--and only in Colombia--the
Andes literally branch out into three distinct ranges, with
altitudes that reach 15,000 feet. Crossing Colombia by car is
no easy task, and can take many days. The distance traveled in
a 35 minute flight can take an eight to ten hour drive. No
wonder Colombia was the first country in all of the Americas
with a national airline.
There is an old saying from your old West: ``Give me men
that match our mountains.'' Colombia has been blessed with a
people of energy, faith, and enterprise. We have 67 years of
uninterrupted economic growth, and a pantheon of Colombians who
have made a difference in the wider world, like Manuel
Patarroyo, the scientist who has done more than anyone to
eradicate malaria, or Rodolfo Llinas a worldwide recognized
neurologist. There is our Nobel Laureate, Gabriel Garcia
Marquez, whose novel ``One Hundred Years of Solitude'' has sold
more than 30 million copies in over 40 languages, Fernando
Botero, whose sculptures have lined Park Avenue and the Champs
Elysees, Juan Pablo Montoya, our Formula Cart world Champion,
and Shakira, our amazing Spanish rock superstar.
I also take pride in reminding people that six out of every
ten fresh-cut flowers imported to the United States come from
Colombia, that we are your seventh largest source of crude
petroleum, and will soon become the world's third largest
exporter of coal. Such is the Colombia of our history and our
hopes, a Colombia which today also faces fateful choices.
The choices, and the crises, are, in my view, often
misreported and misunderstood. I am regularly surprised and
sometimes genuinely stunned by what I read in the foreign
press. When you see your country's name continually misspelled,
even in the most distinguished newspapers, you naturally worry
about the rest of the reporting. And even when a wire service
isn't saying that the United States is being drawn into a
guerrilla war, some editorial board here is predicting my
government's imminent collapse. A ripple can too easily be
mistaken for a wave; the limelight on one event can obscure the
complicated interplay of underlying events.
The problem is not one of intentions.I know the need to
capture and convey drama in a headline or in a news story.
Still, I ask you to imagine what it is like when El Tiempo or
our evening TV news reports a standoff between a guerrilla unit
and an army platoon several miles away from Bogota, and the
headline in the United States reads: ``Colombia's capital under
siege.'' For us, every single casualty is cause for national
concern, but it is not a signal of national collapse.
To understand modern day Colombia, we must look beyond the
incidents and see the conditions for what they are--or in this
case, as they are NOT. For starters, Colombia is not in the
midst of a civil war, despite what is continually said in the
international media. Colombians have never referred to this
conflict as a civil war, for the simple reason that it isn't
A civil war occurs in a divided nation, torn apart into
armed camps of more or less the same size. Ireland. the former
Yugoslavia and the Congo--these are present day examples of
civil wars. Colombia's case is dramatically different. There
are approximately 35,000 well-armed and well-financed
insurgents, both guerrilla and paramilitary, operating mainly
in the remote countryside. They have inflicted enormous
suffering, killing innocent civilians, driving others from
their homes and villages, and blocking any chance for
development and progress.
But the insurgents make up barely one tenth of one percent
of the total population. Militarily, their tactics are classic
guerrilla--hit and run, strike and retreat. Every time they
have faced the Colombian Armed Forces out in the open, they
have been soundly defeated. And unlike guerrilla movements in
other places, they have completely failed to convince
Colombians that they provide a legitimate alternative to our
The guerrilla's roots are in the 1940s and 50s, at the very
height of the Cold War. In the decades that followed, however,
their support steadily decreased until today, when the
guerrillas can claim little more than three- or four-percent
popular support. Even intellectuals and university students,
once the bedrock of guerrilla sympathy, have turned against
them as they wage continuous war on the civilian population.
The guerillas' loss of support reflects more than the end
of Cold War confrontation. Colombia today is a much more
modern, urban and just society than it was a half century ago.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is not a civil war; and even though
billions of dollars generated by drug-trafficking sustain the
violence, the guerillas cannot overthrow our democracy--and no
one knows this better than they do.
Yet the talk, so common here in the United States of a
Colombian government under siege, on the verge of collapse, has
given rise to another false assumption--namely, that Colombia
is somehow another Vietnam. A quarter century after the fall of
Saigon, the shadow of Vietnam understandably continues to shape
public opinion and influence policy makers.
But Colombia is no Vietnam, and for many reasons. While
Vietnam was a divided country and an ideological battlefield--
its borders imposed by the Geneva Accords of 1954--Colombia is
a unified nation with a strong national identity, where 95
percent and more of our citizens believe in democracy, freedom
of the press, and an open economy. While Vietnam had been a
colony under foreign domination for over a century, Colombia
has been a free and independent nation since defeating the
Spanish empire in 1819. The Vietcong enjoyed significant
support, while the Colombian insurgents are almost entirely
without political support or sympathy. Equally important is the
fact that while Vietnam was a distant Asian country, Colombia
is an integral part of this hemisphere. Colombia is your
neighbor, with Bogota roughly the same distance from New York
as Los Angeles is.
What must be understood is how drug-trafficking and its
obscene profits have changed the very nature of our conflict.
My own opinion--one shared by most Colombians--is that we would
already be a nation at peace, were it not for the violence and
corruption fueled by the illegal drug trade. No nation has
suffered as severely as Colombia from the boom in the demand
for illegal drugs over the last generation. Rather than fall
victim to this menace, we have systematically opposed it, taken
on and destroyed ruthless cartels from Medellin and Cali.
The cost has been high. Imagine U.S. Supreme Court justices
murdered in their chambers, or federal judges from Miami, Los
Angeles or Chicago killed by the scores. Imagine one fifth of
your FBI and local police forces wounded or killed with their
wives and children also targeted. Imagine courageous public
officials--Cabinet Ministers and Mayors, Senators, Governors
and Presidential candidates--gunned down for giving voice to a
society that refuses to back down. Imagine being given just ONE
option, plata o bala--a bribe or a bullet.
And I ask all of you to imagine newspaper editors,
publishers and reporters shot in cold blood, their offices
bombed into rubble, or exiled because they would not be
intimidated, because they held on to the conviction that was
worth living for--and all too tragically, all too often worth
dying for as well.
Imagine this, my friends, and you get a clear idea of what
Colombia has endured in this generation. Heroic men and women
have paid the ultimate price, earning the lasting admiration of
all Colombians, and we will never forget their sacrifice.
So we fight on. We push back the forces of violence--and
then we read that Colombia is on the verge of collapse, of
becoming a narco-terrorist state. Nothing is further from the
truth. Indeed, after the break up of the cartels, the nature of
drug-trafficking has changed dramatically. Unlike the days of
Pablo Escobar, the drug war has shifted from the cities to the
Amazon region, particularly the Putumayo. Today, a new breed of
criminals operates in smaller organizations, underground, with
closer ties to traffickers in other countries. Indeed, drug
mafias, too, have become increasingly globalized.
There is a growing awareness in Colombia, the United
States, and around the world, that the threat of drug
trafficking is no longer a national or regional issue. For
example, the precursor chemicals needed to process cocaine are
smuggled into Colombia from abroad, while most of the tainted
profits that drive the drug trade end up invested in financial
markets abroad. As long as a demand exists, there will be
suppliers somewhere to meet it. This is why we urgently need
improvements in education and prevention, as well as more drug
Colombia's resolve to combat production and distribution
has not lessened, but intensified. Last October, after months
of preparation and with the help of your drug enforcement
agencies, we conducted the most important worldwide drug bust
in over five years. In Operation Millennium, 30 of the most
powerful of the new breed of drug traffickers were arrested
across Colombia and elsewhere. And we have sent those still at
large the strongest message, in the clearest possible terms:
Drug-traffickers will never be tolerated in Colombia, and we
are determined to destroy them and their empires.
But Colombia cannot and should not continue to bear the
greatest weight of this global crisis. I have taken the message
of greater burden sharing in the fight against drugs to the
international community. President Clinton has committed the
United States to do more in this crusade. We discussed this at
our first meeting, in August of 1998, and since then we have
worked closely to execute a bilateral strategy. Leaders on
Capitol Hill, Republicans and Democrats alike, have been
essential in this effort.
In some quarters, I know there is resistance to U.S.
assistance for Colombia. The most common argument is that you
could become, and I quote, ``entangled in a Vietnam-like
quagmire.'' I would like to make one more point about this--one
that I cannot emphasize too strongly.
Implicit in the Vietnam analogy is the belief that the
United States would end up committing troops to Colombia. But
that is flat out impossible. Neither your public opinion nor
ours would support or permit such a move--and neither your
government nor ours has considered this in even the most
extreme circumstances. It is simply not on the table, and as
long as I am President this will not happen. You can quote me
What Colombia has proposed, and your government endorsed,
is giving us the resources, the hardware and the training
needed to combat the changing nature of the drug trade. This
means exposing and penetrating remote jungle areas once beyond
the sustained reach of our security forces. Earlier on, I spoke
of our unique geographic make-up and how this has influenced
our development as a nation. Well, this unique geography also
plays a critical part in the war against narcotics, where often
inaccessible areas have become hot beds for cocaine
production--areas we could not fully control in the past, but
where our reach is now becoming increasingly stronger.
Our strategy here is twofold: in the end, we must negotiate
a meaningful peace agreement with the guerrillas; but from the
beginning, we must root out the drug-traffickers and the
violence they cause our society and the damage they do to our
economy. U.S. assistance is meant to support counter-narcotics
operations, as well as alternative crop development, economic
stimulation, and government reform.
Our strategy is called Plan Colombia, a comprehensive
blueprint for our future. And while our goal is peace, our
first order of business has to be the strengthening of our
institutions, political, judicial and military. No peace
process can succeed without the institutional strength to
support it. Above all, our democratic institutions must serve
the people, and this means guaranteeing their fundamental human
Plan Colombia's cost is estimated at 7.5 billion dollars
over three years. My government is pledged to providing 4
billion, while actively seeking additional support from the
international community. In addition to the Clinton
Administration's assistance package, we will be meeting with
European leaders at a conference this July in Spain.
I have called our efforts ``Diplomacy for Peace''--because
if we have learned anything from the recent progress in
Northern Ireland, Central America, and the Middle East, it is
that the international community must be actively engaged in
order for peace to prevail.
A Colombia at peace is in everyone's interest. Not only
will it bring an end to the violence and human rights
violations, so those displaced from their homes can return to
them unafraid. A Colombia at peace also depends on more
effective counter-narcotics operations, in terms of both
interdiction and alternative crops for subsistence farmers.
That means not only less violence on our streets, but less
drug-trafficking on yours. Every shipment of drugs we stop in
Colombia is a shipment that doesn't reach American
neighborhoods, playgrounds, and schools.
In Colombia, the last year and a half has witnessed
dramatic steps forward in the name of peace. Never in our
history has there been such a commitment, from all sectors of
our society, to bring a lasting end to the violence and an
honorable end to the insurgency.
Only days after my election, I flew to the jungle to meet
with the leaders of FARC, the oldest and largest guerrilla
group. I was the first President to do so. Since then, we have
agreed to a twelve point agenda for negotiations. And only last
month, government and guerrilla delegations traveled in Europe
together, in order to show the guerrillas, who have lived in
almost total seclusion for decades, how the world has changed
and the wide range of new social democratic models.
More recently, last weekend we started with the public
hearings procedure, which will give citizens the chance to make
their contributions to the peace process.
At the same time, Richard Grasso, Chairman of the New York
Stock Exchange, Congressman Bill Delahunt of Massachusetts, Jim
Kimsey, founder of America Online, and Joe Robert are just a
few of those who have met with the guerrilla leaders, carrying
a realistic message of progress and development, of the shared
prosperity that can come with peace. Such exchanges go a long
way to remove outdated stereotypes and suspicions. They show
the guerrillas the intentions of the international community,
the opportunities available to a united, peaceful Colombia, and
the potent fact that guerrilla warfare has no part in a modern
Perhaps more important have been the strides on the
domestic front. A little over a year ago, more than 10 million
Colombians--almost one third of the entire country--marched
peacefully through our streets, calling for a negotiated end to
the insurgency. And just as Plan Colombia recognizes the need
for strong, accountable institutions to sustain any peace
agreement, we are convinced that only by engaging civil society
as a whole--labor unions and business executives, teachers and
health care workers, farmers and truck drivers--only then can
we meet everyone's legitimate needs.
Equally important is the economy. Job creation, low
inflation and interest rates, sustained GDP growth--all of this
plays a decisive role in strengthening our society. So does
expanding trade and attracting more foreign investment--another
way the international community can help. The sheer size of our
economy--around $86 billion dollars--makes Colombia one of the
largest and most attractive markets for U.S. trade and
investment in all the Americas. Bilateral trade with the U.S.
exceeded $8 billion dollars last year. There are over 120 U.S.
companies operating successfully in Colombia, most of them for
many decades. Political strength and economic health are bound
together. At the end of the day, Colombia cannot be a nation at
peace if it is not a nation in prosperity.
Plan Colombia also includes the most ambitious and
organized strategy of social reform that has ever been proposed
in the country. The purpose of this reform is to create new and
better opportunities for progress for the poorest Colombians.
This component of Plan Colombia includes on the one hand,
the Social Emergency Fund made up of three basic programs:
``Hands to work,'' ``Subsidy for Poor Families,'' and
``Training for the Unemployed Youth.'' All of these programs
geared toward creating a better quality of life for the most
needy through investment in health, education and job creation.
On the other hand, we will assign more than $2 billion
dollars for Alternative Development and Human Rights and
Humanitarian Aid programs. The first program seeks to go beyond
crop substitution by promoting a comprehensive regional
development strategy that will generate legal work alternatives
for Colombian peasants. In matters of Human Rights and
Humanitarian Aid, we intend to improve the mechanisms for the
respect and protection of these rights and the attention of the
victims of the armed conflict with special emphasis on
One the main enemies we face to make Colombia a peaceful
and prosper nation is corruption. This terrible cancer, on one
hand, undermines the legitimacy of the Government and, on the
other, subverts social ethics, creating a vicious cycle of
mistrust and despair.
For instance, a large corruption scandal was recently
uncovered in our Congress, thanks to my government's
accusations. As a result, a very serious investigation is being
carried out to uncover those responsible.
However, the magnitude of this case demands a more profound
response, one that assures this will never happen again. It is
necessary to make a radical reform of our political system, and
especially of the legislative branch.
For that reason, last week, based on our Constitution and
our laws, I proposed to the Colombian people a referendum, in
which they will vote for a change for honesty and transparency
in the way of doing politics. More than 90% of the Colombian
people have expressed their support for this initiative, which
I am sure will serve as the cornerstone of the transformation
of our democratic system.
In closing, I would like to extend to all of you, as
leaders in American journalism, an open invitation to visit
Colombia. Talking about misperceptions will do little unless
you are given first-hand access. Our problems are formidable,
yet our nationwide determination to overcome them is making a
difference. I want nothing more than to demonstrate that our
resolve and our progress are much more than words delivered
from a podium.
Behind my invitation stands a big, bold and beautiful land.
It is a land full of people who would welcome you in their
homes and neighborhoods, villages and schools, their soccer
fields, offices and places of worship. You will hear stories of
great success and serious struggle. You will witness sorrow
mixed with joy. And only then will you understand the real
By helping us, I believe that in the truest sense you also
help your own country. Only provide us with the tools and we
will do the job. I thank you for the opportunity to speak here
today, and I hope for a new beginning in the way you see and