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 You are in: Under Secretary for Political Affairs > From the Under Secretary > Remarks > 2002 Under Secretary for Political Affairs Remarks

U.S. Policy Towards Colombia

Marc Grossman, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs
Testimony before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Subcommittee for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Peace Corps, and Narcotics Affairs
Washington, DC
April 24, 2002

As prepared

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN:  Thank you for inviting me to testify before you today on our policy in Colombia.

I greatly appreciate the opportunity to exchange views on how we can best help Colombia address the tremendous challenges it faces as well as to review with you how we are doing in trying to advance American interests in Colombia. I will also detail the new authorities the Administration is seeking in order to better meet these challenges and enable Colombians to defend their democracy and achieve a secure and prosperous future.

Colombia matters to the United States.

Congress has been a key partner in our efforts to help Colombia defend its democracy from the demons of narcotrafficking, underdevelopment, human rights abuses, and terrorism.

Many of you have traveled to Colombia. I thank you for your engagement. For those who are considering travel to Colombia, I urge you to go. Your visits make clear everything America stands for -- democracy, security and prosperity -- both in the U.S. and in Colombia.

I cannot pass up this opportunity, Mr. Chairman, to urge you to pass the Andean Trade Preferences Act as soon as possible.

-- Renewing ATPA is a national security issue.

-- ATPA has been an effective weapon in our fight against drugs by fostering economic alternatives to illegal narcotics production.

-- ATPA will promote economic development which in turn will help defeat the scourge of drug trafficking while building stronger democratic institutions.

-- ATPA is a reflection of a long-term U.S. commitment to working with the Andean region to address issues of fundamental interest to all of us.

On March 21, the Administration asked the Congress for new authorities. The terrorist and narcotics problems in Colombia are intertwined. President Bush recognized this link when he stated on April 18 after his meeting with President Pastrana, "We’ve put FARC, AUC on our terrorist list. We’ve called them for what they are. These are killers, who use killing and intimidation to foster political means…By fighting narco trafficking we’re fighting the funding sources for these political terrorists. And sometimes they’re interchangeable.

It is essential for Colombia to succeed in this war against terror in order for her people to realize the vast potential of a great, democratic country… I am confident that with the right leadership and the right help from America… Colombia can succeed. And it is in everybody’s interests that she does succeed." The President added that he discussed with President Pastrana "how to change the focus of our strategy from counternarcotics to include counterterrorism."

Here is what the new authorities we seek would allow us to do:

-- address the problem of terrorism in Colombia as vigorously as we currently address narcotics; and

-- help the Government of Colombia address the heightened terrorist risk that has resulted from the end of the demilitarized zone.

Here is what we will not do:

-- We will not stop our human rights vetting of all Colombian military units receiving U.S. assistance. We are committed to abiding by the Leahy amendment.

-- We will not exceed the 400 person cap on U.S. military personnel providing training in Colombia, nor the 400 person cap on U.S. civilian contractors. We are committed to abiding by the Byrd amendment.

-- We will not do away with the requirement in the Foreign Operations Appropriations Act that the Secretary of State certify on Colombian Armed Forces’ human rights record before we can provide assistance to the Armed Forces.

-- We will not bypass regular reprogramming requirements.

We were not interested in stretching the existing counter-drug authorities and because we are committed to abiding by the restrictions and laws you enact, we come to you today to seek new authorities to respond to the needs for a new mission – to combat terrorism.

The authorities we seek would enable Colombia to use U.S.-provided helicopters and the counter-drug brigade from Plan Colombia to fight terrorism some of the time as needed. Let me be also clear that use of those helicopters and all other equipment and units would continue to be subject to existing Leahy restrictions.

I look forward to discussing this proposal with you.


We can be proud of the hemispheric consensus in favor of democracy, rule of law and human rights, open markets and social progress.. As President Bush stated at the April 2001 Quebec Summit of the Americas, "We have a great vision before us, a fully democratic hemisphere bound together by goodwill and free trade. That’s a tall order. It is a chance of a lifetime. It is a responsibility we all share. (..) The interests of my nation, of all our nations, are served by strong, healthy democratic neighbors, and are served best by lasting friendships in our own neighborhood."

At Quebec, 34 democratically-elected heads of state and government agreed on:

-- a democracy clause which makes democratic government a requirement for participation in the summit process;

-- an approved action plan to promote economic prosperity, protect human rights, and fight drug trafficking and organized crime; and

-- a 2005 deadline for the Free Trade Area of the Americas.

Democracy, security, prosperity.

What good will these principles be if they are trampled in Colombia?


Colombia’s 40 million inhabitants and its democracy are under assault by three narcoterrorist groups – the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the National Liberation Army (ELN) and the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC).

The three groups -- with a combined force of over 25,000 combatants -- regularly engage in massacres, kidnappings, and attacks on key infrastructure. The FARC and AUC are involved in every facet of narcotics trafficking, including cultivation, processing, and transportation. The income they derive from narcotics – estimated at over $300 million a year - has been key to their expansion – both in numbers and armament – over the last ten years.

These groups attack your counterparts. AUC killed two Colombian legislators over the last twelve months. The FARC kidnapped six Colombian legislators, including presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt. The three terrorist groups assassinated 12 mayors in 2001. FARC efforts to disrupt the March 10 legislative elections failed, but the terrorist group will undoubtedly try to interfere with the May 26 presidential elections as well.


ELN and FARC bombings of the key Caño Limón oil pipeline cost the Government of Colombia almost $500 million in lost revenue last year – equal to almost one-third of Bogota’s spending on health for its citizens. FARC strikes against the country’s power grid in February left 45 towns, including two departmental capitals, without electricity for days. The FARC also attempted twice to blow up a dam near Bogota, actions which – if successful- could have killed thousands of civilians. Fortunately, Colombian security forces thwarted both attempts.


Terrorist attacks on Colombia’s security have resulted in over 3,000 Colombians killed in 2001. Another 2,856 were kidnapped, with the ELN, FARC and AUC responsible for almost 2,000 victims.

In the former demilitarized zone, the Colombian military recently found two large FARC-run cocaine laboratories and 7.4 metric tons of cocaine.

AUC Commander Carlos Castaño has publicly admitted that the AUC obtains 70% of its income from narcotics. FARC and AUC activities in southern Colombia have been a major obstacle to our aerial eradication and alternative development programs, especially in Putumayo and Caqueta.

The FARC, ELN, and AUC also threaten regional stability. The FARC regularly uses border regions in Panamá, Ecuador, Brazil and Venezuela for arms and narcotics trafficking, resupply operations, and rest and recreation. The insecurity created by the FARC, AUC, and ELN creates a haven for criminal activity that affects Colombia’s neighbors.

Since 1992, the FARC and ELN have kidnapped 51 U.S. citizens and murdered ten. Colombia supplies 90% of the cocaine consumed in the U.S. It is also a significant source of heroin.


In 1999, President Pastrana responded to the crisis undermining Colombia’s democracy, prosperity and security with the launch of the six-year, $7.5 billion Plan Colombia. Plan Colombia calls for substantial Colombian social investment, judicial, political and economic reforms, modernization of the Colombian Armed Forces, and renewed efforts to combat narcotrafficking.

The Government of Colombia is well on its way to funding its commitment under Plan Colombia having spent $2.6 billion for Plan Colombia-related infrastructure projects, including a hospital in Puerto Guzman, a school in Orito and a farm to market road in Mocoa, as well as projects regarding human rights, humanitarian assistance, local governance, and the environment. Colombia has also spent $426 million on social services and institutional development, including family subsidies and programs for job creation and youth training..

The Government of Colombia’s contribution to Plan Colombia is being used for counterdrug efforts and social and economic development projects. These projects include social and infrastructure programs in Putumayo Department, in southern Colombia, the site of the heaviest concentration of coca growth. Colombia has also continued to modernize its armed forces; stabilized its economy in accord with IMF guidelines; and undertaken an aerial eradication program resulting in the destruction of unprecedented amounts of coca.


U.S. support has been a key component of Plan Colombia. With your support, since July 2000, the U.S. has provided Colombia with $1.7 billion to combat narcotics trafficking and terrorism, strengthen democratic institutions and human rights, foster socio-economic development, and mitigate the impact of the violence on Colombian civilians. Our assistance to Colombia using Plan Colombia funds is limited to support of counternarcotics activities.

Have we had any success? Let me give you eleven examples of what we have already in the works:

-- First, we have delivered to the Colombian National Police 8 of the 11 helicopters to be provided under Plan Colombia. The Colombian military has received 35 of the 54 helicopters that it is programmed to receive under the plan.

-- Second, The Government of Colombia extradited 23 Colombian nationals to the U.S. in 2001, an unprecedented level of cooperation.

-- Third, we trained, equipped, and deployed the Colombian Army’s counternarcotics brigade, which destroyed 818 base laboratories and 21 HCL (hydrochloride) laboratories, and provided security for our aerial eradication operations in Southern Colombia. Operating as part of a Colombian Joint Task Force (JTF-South), we judge it the best brigade-sized unit in the Colombian military.

-- Fourth, with Colombians we sprayed a record potential 84,000 hectares of coca cultivation last year, up from 58,000 in 2000, and have set a goal of 150,000 hectares in 2002.

-- Fifth, through Colombia’s Ministry of Interior, we have funded, since May 2001, a program that has provided protection to 1,676 Colombians whose lives were threatened, including human rights workers, labor activists, and journalists.

-- Sixth, the U.S. Government-funded Early Warning System alerts Colombian authorities to threats of potential massacres or other human rights abuses, enabling them act to avert such incidents. To date, the EWS has issued 106 alerts.

-- Seventh, the U.S. - working with non-governmental organizations and international agencies - has provided assistance to 330,000 Colombians displaced by violence since mid-2001.

-- Eighth, our program to demobilize child soldiers has helped 272 children to re-integrate into society.

-- Ninth, we have implemented programs to help the Government of Colombia reform its administration of justice and strengthen local government. We have opened 18 Casas de Justicia, which provide cost-effective legal services to Colombians who have not previously enjoyed access to the country’s judicial system.

-- Tenth, our program to help municipalities improve their financial management, fight corruption, and boost community participation has completed six Social Investment Fund projects in southern Colombia.

-- Eleventh, we are also helping the Prosecutor General’s Office set up human rights units throughout the country to facilitate the investigation and prosecution of human rights abuses.


We remain committed to alternative development as a key component of our overall effort in Colombia.

Promoting alternative development in Colombia is not easy. The security situation is a major obstacle and there is no alternative agricultural production that can match the income of coca production. The limited insitutional capacity of the Colombian Government agency charged with implementing the programs has also been a problem.

I have great respect for the people in our Mission in Bogota, and USAID here in Washington, who recognized that we were not achieving the results we hoped for in alternative development and are making adjustments to our program.

USAID wants communities to participate in drug control efforts and is designing programs that are less risky to implement under current security conditions. These adjustment include:

-- Working more closely with individual communities to tailor the program to help these communities with the needs they identify. For example, many villages are willing to abstain from coca production in return for access to potable water or a road to link them to a neighboring market.

-- Funding activities which improve the economic potential of isolated regions such as Putumayo and boost temporary employment and income of rural residents, encouraging them to make the transition from coca to legal crop production or employment opportunities.

-- Extending the alternative development program to areas beyond southern Colombia , where conditions may be more favorable for alternative income generation.

As we move forward, we need keep in mind that, as the recent General Accounting Office February report on alternative development in Colombia noted:

"Without interdiction and eradication as disincentives, growers are unlikely to abandon more lucrative and easily cultivated coca crops in favor of less profitable and harder to grow licit crops or to pursue legal employment."

Therefore, it is critical that we continue an aggressive spraying and eradication campaign if we are to persuade communities to participate in alternative development programs.


Human rights concerns are a central element in our Colombia policy. In meetings with senior Colombian civilian and military officials, U.S. officials regularly stress the need for Colombia to improve its human rights performance. During my visit to Bogota last February, I emphasized to President Pastrana that the Colombian military must take additional actions to sever any links between military personnel and paramilitary forces. I also met with the leading presidential candidates and made clear our expectation that they too be fully committed to improving human rights. Chief of Staff of the Army General Eric Shinseki and Acting Commander for the Southern Command Major General Gary Speer have also traveled to Colombia and delivered strong human rights messages to their counterparts in the Colombian Armed Forces.

Our human rights message is making a difference. President Pastrana and Armed Forces Commander Tapias have repeatedly denounced collusion between elements of the Colombian military and the paramilitaries.

The Colombian military captured 590 paramilitaries and killed 92 in combat last year.

Eight military personnel, including two colonels and a lieutenant colonel, were charged in civilian courts with collaborating with paramilitaries or with committing gross human rights violations in 2001. A senior Colombian naval official’s career has effectively ended because of allegations that he collaborated with paramilitaries.

Still, too many Colombians continue to suffer abuses by state security forces or by terrorist groups acting in collusion with state security units. Those responsible for such actions must be punished. The establishment of the rule of law and personal security for all Colombians cannot happen if human rights abuses and impunity for the perpetrators of such crimes continue to occur.

The best way to ensure that Colombia continues to make progress on human rights is through continued U.S. engagement. In fact, when I visited Colombia in February, representatives from civil society and human rights groups said that what Colombia needed most was a professional, accountable and strong military that can provide security against the terrorist actions of the FARC, ELN and AUC throughout the country. They said strong United States involvement was needed to make this happen.

Colombia needs more U.S.-provided training and human rights vetting, not less. We would do this under the new authorities and programs we are proposing.


On February 20, President Pastrana ended the demilitarized zone and the Government of Colombia’s peace talks with the FARC.

Since February 20, the Colombian military has reoccupied the main urban areas in the former zone, while the FARC has continued its terrorist violence.

President Pastrana has announced plans to increase Colombia’s defense budget, currently at 3.2 percent of GDP, to cover the cost of heightened military operations, and to add 10,000 soldiers to the army. He also requested additional aid from the U.S. to help cope with the increased terrorist threat.

We answered Pastrana’s request for immediate help by providing increased information sharing on terrorist actions, expediting the delivery of helicopter spare parts already paid for by the Government of Colombia, and assisting the Colombians with eradication activities in the former zone.

In the counterterrorism supplemental submitted on March 21, we are seeking new legal authorities that would allow our assistance to Colombia, including assistance previously provided, to be used "to support a unified campaign against narcotics trafficking, terrorist activities, and other threats to its national security."

These new authorities recognize that the terrorist and narcotics problems together threaten Colombia’s security, prosperity and democracy.

Expanding the authorities for the use of aircraft and other assets to cover terrorist and other threats to Colombia’s democracy does not ensure that Colombia will be able to address these multiple threats in the short-term. However, if approved, they will give us the flexibility we need to help the Government of Colombia attack this threat more efficiently and more effectively, in the shortest possible time, with resources already in Colombia.

Our request for new authorities is not a retreat from our concern about human rights nor does it signal an open-ended U.S. commitment in Colombia. Our proposal expressly states that we will continue to do human rights vetting of all Colombian military units receiving U.S. training or equipment and will maintain the 800 person cap on U.S. military personnel and contractors providing training and other services in Colombia.

In addition to new legal authorities, we are also seeking $35 million in the counterterrorism supplemental to help the Colombian Government protect its citizens from kidnapping, infrastructure attacks and other terrorist actions. Our $35 million request is broken down as follows:

--$25 million in Non-proliferation, Anti-terrorism, Demining and Related Programs (NADR) funding for anti-kidnapping training and equipment for the Colombian police and military;

--$6 million in Foreign Military Funds (FMF) funding to begin training for Colombian military units protecting the key Caño Limón oil pipeline; and

--$4 million in International Narcotics Control Law Enforcement (INCLE) funding to help organize, train, equip and deploy Colombian National Police units that will provide security for the construction of reinforced police stations to enable the police to reestablish a presence throughout Colombia.


The U.S. Government remains supportive of the peace process. We are encouraged by the current talks between the ELN and the Government of Colombia, and hope that they will soon produce a viable, lasting peace accord.


The U.S. is committed to helping Colombia in its fight against terrorism’s assault on its democracy, prosperity and security, but Colombians must take the lead in this struggle. Colombia needs to develop a national political-military strategy, boost the resources devoted to security, implement economic reforms, improve human rights protection, and sustain vigorous and effective counternarcotics programs.


Mr. Chairman, members of the Committee, your support will be crucial in the days ahead as you discuss our proposal for new and supplemental funding request for our assistance to Colombia, as well as our FY-03 budget request. I look forward to maintaining a dialogue with you as we work together to help provide Colombia’s democracy the tools it needs to build a secure, prosperous and democratic life for its citizens. The people of Colombia must not be denied the opportunity to enjoy the benefits of a hemisphere united by open markets, democratic governments, respect for human rights, and the rule of law. Thank you.

Released on April 24, 2002

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