REGIONAL CONFLICT: COLOMBIA'S INSURGENCY AND PROSPECTS FOR A PEACEFUL
SUBCOMMITTEE ON THE WESTERN HEMISPHERE
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
ONE HUNDRED FIFTH CONGRESS
AUGUST 5, 1998
Printed for the use of the Committee on International Relations
COMMITTEE ON INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS
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BENJAMIN A. GILMAN, New York, Chairman
WILLIAM GOODLING, Pennsylvania
JAMES A. LEACH, Iowa
HENRY J. HYDE, Illinois
DOUG BEREUTER, Nebraska
CHRISTOPHER SMITH, New Jersey
DAN BURTON, Indiana
ELTON GALLEGLY, California
ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN, Florida
CASS BALLENGER, North Carolina
DANA ROHRABACHER, California
DONALD A. MANZULLO, Illinois
EDWARD R. ROYCE, California
PETER T. KING, New York
JAY KIM, California
STEVEN J. CHABOT, Ohio
MARSHALL ''MARK'' SANFORD, South Carolina
MATT SALMON, Arizona
AMO HOUGHTON, New York
TOM CAMPBELL, California
JON FOX, Pennsylvania
JOHN McHUGH, New York
LINDSEY GRAHAM, South Carolina
ROY BLUNT, Missouri
KEVIN BRADY, Texas
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RICHARD BURR, North Carolina
LEE HAMILTON, Indiana
SAM GEJDENSON, Connecticut
TOM LANTOS, California
HOWARD BERMAN, California
GARY ACKERMAN, New York
ENI F.H. FALEOMAVAEGA, American Samoa
MATTHEW G. MARTINEZ, California
DONALD M. PAYNE, New Jersey
ROBERT ANDREWS, New Jersey
ROBERT MENENDEZ, New Jersey
SHERROD BROWN, Ohio
CYNTHIA A. McKINNEY, Georgia
ALCEE L. HASTINGS, Florida
PAT DANNER, Missouri
EARL HILLIARD, Alabama
BRAD SHERMAN, California
ROBERT WEXLER, Florida
STEVE ROTHMAN, New Jersey
BOB CLEMENT, Tennessee
BILL LUTHER, Minnesota
JIM DAVIS, Florida
LOIS CAPPS, California
RICHARD J. GARON, Chief of Staff
MICHAEL H. VAN DUSEN, Democratic Chief of Staff
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Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere
ELTON GALLEGLY, California, Chairman
CASS BALLENGER, North Carolina
MARSHALL ''MARK'' SANFORD, South Carolina
CHRISTOPHER H. SMITH, New Jersey
DAN BURTON, Indiana
ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN, Florida
JAY KIM, California
ROY BLUNT, Missouri
KEVIN BRADY, Texas
GARY L. ACKERMAN, New York
MATTHEW MARTINEZ, California
ROBERT E. ANDREWS, New Jersey
ROBERT MENENDEZ, New Jersey
CYNTHIA A. McKINNEY, Georgia
BRAD SHERMAN, California
VINCE MORELLI, Subcommittee Staff Director
PAUL BONICELLI, Professional Staff Member
DAVID ADAMS, Democratic Professional Staff Member
LAURAJANE RAMIREZ, Staff Associate
C O N T E N T S
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Mr. Marc Chernick, Adjunct Professor, Georgetown University
Mr. Michael Shifter, Program Director, Inter-American
Dr. Richard Downes, Consultant, Center for Hemispheric
Defense Studies, National Defense University
Mr. Carlos M. Salinas, Advocacy Director, Latin
America and the Caribbean, Amnesty International
Hon. Benjamin A. Gilman, a Representative in Congress from New York,
and Chairman, Committee on International Relations
Hon. Elton Gallegly, a Representative in Congress from California
Hon. Gary Ackerman, a Representative in Congress from New York
Hon. Robert Menendez, a Representative in Congress from New Jersey
Mr. Marc Chernick
Mr. Michael Sifter
Dr. Richard Downes
Mr. Carlos M. Salinas
Additional material submitted for the record:
Mr. Russell Crandall, Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International
Studies (SAIS), The Johns Hopkins University
The Los Angeles Times, August 3, 1998, ''Will Narci-Guerrillas
Become the Rulers?''
The Washington Times, September 22, 1996, ''Front Line of the
REGIONAL CONFLICT: COLOMBIA'S INSURGENCY AND PROSPECTS FOR A PEACEFUL
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 5, 1998
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House of Representatives,
Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere,
Committee on International Relations,
The Subcommittee met, pursuant to notice, at 2:10
p.m., in room 2172, Rayburn House Office Building, Hon. Elton Gallegly
(chairman of the Subcommittee) presiding.
Mr. GALLEGLY. [presiding] Today the Subcommittee
continues its look at the second and perhaps most vexing conflict in the
region, the insurgency in Colombia. In just 2 days Colombia will inaugurate
a new President, President Andres Pastrana.
President-elect Pastrana will take office at perhaps
the most difficult and challenging time in Colombia's history. I think
everyone will agree Colombia is the most troubled country in the hemisphere
and is facing a crisis in confidence. Although a guerrilla war has been
going on in that nation for some 30 years, the level of violence has dramatically
increased over the past 5 years, with political violence and murders continuing
to rise, with human rights abuses being committed by all sides, and with
the internal displacement of Colombian citizens, now estimated to be over
1 million, continuing unabated.
While stepping up attacks on army and police units
by the guerrillas has contributed to this renewed violence, and I understand
a battle is raging even as we speak, a large part of the violence has been
the result of the rise in the role of the paramilitaries. The situation
is further complicated by the inability of the Colombian military to keep
either group in check.
The tasks facing President-elect Pastrana are enormous.
Not only will he have to address the peace issue, as the majority of Colombian
citizens demanded when voting him into office, but he will also have to
provide serious solutions to Colombia's political and economic problems.
And of course, he will have to continue to wage the war on illicit drugs.
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Colombia's importance to the United States goes far
beyond the war on drugs, however. Ending the violence, restoring law and
order, strengthening civil society, and reducing human rights abuses, are
also important to this nation, and will serve to strengthen Colombia's
democracy and the region's stability.
As with our hearing last week on Chiapas, Mexico,
today's Subcommittee hearing is an attempt to better understand the current
state of affairs in Colombia; to assess the potential for a peaceful resolution
of the violence; to understand what it will take to restore an economically
sound and politically viable democracy in Colombia; and what role the United
States should play in this process.
We want to wish President-elect Pastrana all the
best as he takes the helm in Colombia, and extend to him whatever assistance
we can to make his job easier and more successful. We also call on the
guerrillas and paramilitaries to enter into a cease-fire and to negotiate
a peaceful resolution to the conflict.
Today we have an expert group of witnesses before
us, including three who have just recently returned from Colombia. Their
insights from these visits will be timely and very helpful.
Are there any Members on the Subcommittee that would
like to be heard or have an opening statement? Hearing no requests, at
this time we will recognize Dr. Mark Chernick, and at this time Dr. Chernick,
I will yield to you. Welcome.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Gallegly appears
in the appendix.]
STATEMENT OF MARC CHERNICK, ADJUNCT PROFESSOR, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY
Mr. CHERNICK. OK, thank you very much. I
want to thank the Committee, and you, Mr. Chairman, for inviting me today.
Let me say, just briefly, that we are in a unique moment, both in Colombian
politics and in U.S.-Colombian relations. With the election of President-elect
Pastrana, there is a chance—and I think it's already happened—the acrimonious
and tense nature of the relationship between the two governments has already
been left behind, and there's an opportunity to rebuild the traditionally
strong relationship between the two countries.
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President-elect Pastrana, of course, was here just the
other day in Washington, and he has made it clear, both in this capital
and in Bogota, that the very essence of his Administration will be to address
the issue of peace in Colombia, and in attacking illicit narcotic crops.
These two issues are related, and it's important
to understand that. He is calling, in very bold moves, for direct relations
and direct negotiations with the guerrilla movement, and he's calling for
what he's calling, a ''martial plan.'' A major investment in the zones
where coca and opium poppy production exist throughout the Colombian countryside.
It's important to understand that in the areas of
Colombia where they grow coca leaf and grow opium poppy, and even where
they process these agricultural crops into cocaine and heroin, that the
Colombian state has very little presence. And in these areas, it's important
to understand that the FARC—the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia,
the guerrilla movement which has waged war for over 30 years and has roots
that go back over 50 years in the Colombian countryside—that this movement
is the de facto authority in these zones.
What is quite interesting, is that the FARC has
stated publicly, and from what we hear, has stated privately, in the discussions
that President-elect Pastrana had with the leadership of the FARC, already,
even before taking office, that the FARC has indicated that they are willing
to work with the state in eradicating coca production, and in eradicating
opium poppy production. They're willing to do this in the context of negotiation,
and within the broader context of a major national convention and dialogs
for peace which will include a number of structural reforms.
Now, talking about structural reforms, as the FARC
has it, and as the other group, the National Liberation Party, ELN, they're
talking about structural reforms in the context of national convention
and constituent assembly. It's quite interesting that President-elect Pastrana
took the bold initiative to fly deep into the mountains of Colombia and
meet with Manuel Masulanda, who is the historic leader of the FARC, who's
been in the mountains for over 50 years. And all indication is, that they
have set the basis from which to begin to address both the broader issues
of peace, and specifically, the issue of illicit narcotic commodities.
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One of the things that the Pastrana Government has agreed
to—and this is a pretty large concession—is that the negotiations with
the FARC will take place inside Colombia, not outside, but inside Colombia.
And it will take place within a demilitarized zone which the FARC has requested
which will cover five municipalities. It's not clear at this point, what
the terms about demilitarization zone will be, because one of the five
municipalities has been identified; it is an area that has major coca production
and cocaine processing.
One of the things which the FARC might want to do,
and which might be discussed as they begin to negotiate the terms of the
withdrawal and demilitarization zone, is some gestures and efforts to reduce
coca production in these zones. Let me say very clearly, the FARC is not
a cartel; it's not a cartel like we knew of the Medellin Cartel and the
Cali Cartel. It is an insurgent group that exercises authority in parts
of rural Colombia, particularly in these coca grown zones.
I am convinced that if the FARC ordered the eradication
of coca production tomorrow, and if they and the state could provide alternatives
to the populations that live and depend on coca production, perhaps as
much as 90 percent of coca cultivation would be eliminated tomorrow. This
cannot happen without the provision of alternatives, and it cannot happen
without a peace agreement. As such, today there is an opportunity for peace.
Now, if you've been following Colombian politics
as long as I have, there have been 16 years of peace negotiations, most
of those have been frustrated. And so the question one might ask: What
has changed? And I would say almost everything has changed. The level of
violence is dramatically much higher. In fact, it's three times higher
than the peace process first began 16 years ago and, as a result, today
there is greater support for peace, particularly among civil society, and
most or all of the major sectors of political society. That did not exist
in the past; it exists today. There is a clamor for peace among both major
political parties; there is a clamor for peace among the business community
which is feeling the effects of the war; there is a clamor for peace from
other areas of civil society.
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And also, what distinguishes this moment from the past,
is that there is major interest involvement of the international community.
This hearing represents this difference to some respect. We have now involvement
by the World Bank, Inter-American Development Bank, U.N. organizations,
and so forth, and NGO's from inside and outside of Colombia.
This new confluence of circumstances, willingness
from the new President, political society, civil society, the international
community, can lead, I think, to the beginning of an effective peace process.
The skeptics in Colombia and outside of Colombia
have questioned how legitimate is the interest of the FARC and the ELN
in their interest to negotiate a settlement. My assessment is that the
FARC and the ELN are quite interested in entering into serious peace negotiations,
that this is more than a tactic move. There are many reasons for that,
but one of them would be that I believe they think that they can cut the
kind of deal that they have not been able to in the past and they are unlikely
to cut in the future. Much has been made about the military strength of
the guerrilla; that the military is strong; that they're on a roll; that
they're moving forward; and that they don't have a real interest in peace;
that they are only using negotiations to augment their political projection.
But I think the military capacity of the guerrilla
is overblown. It has had a few major successes but I don't think they can
sustain it. There has been some success against the Colombian Armed Forces,
but there is reason to believe that the guerrillas are also hurting; that
this is not a conventional bipolar conflict; that there are at least three
actors; that the paramilitaries are making major encroachments on the FARC;
and that this too will change the military situation within a matter of
years. And I don't think that FARC is willing to put their eggs in the
basket of military victory, because military victory is extremely unlikely
in the short-, medium-, or long-term. And in fact, if the situation continues,
it's likely that we will see more anarchy and chaos arise of the paramilitaries,
but not increased projection of the guerrillas. The guerrillas have a military
incentive to enter into peace negotiations. They have political incentives
to enter into peace negotiations. It will, however, cost major concessions,
not just to them, but in the construction of a new Colombian political
system and state which will involve not just the guerrilla, but in fact,
all of political and civil society in Colombia.
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And also, a minor issue of course, is that the leadership
of the FARC, Manuel Masuland Velez, is now approaching 70 years old. Unlike
in most civil conflicts, guerrilla leaders in Colombia die of old age in
the mountains. His co-leader, Jacko Radanis, died of a heart attack a few
years back. The leader of the other group, ELN, just died this past year.
Masulanda is concerned about that. People who are close to him say that
he has personal incentive to be the person, not who died of old age in
the mountains waging a 50-year struggle, but, in fact, the person who made
And most importantly, the President-elect of Colombia
has stated that he is committed to peace, and again he made the dramatic
gesture to fly into the mountains to meet with Manuel Masulanda Velez,
an unprecedented act in the annals of Colombian history.
And so my message to you, and my advice to U.S.
policy, is that the United States should support the peace process in Colombia.
The major interest of the United States and Colombia, of course, are anti-narcotics.
From what I can see, the most enlightening and effective U.S. policy would
be to support the peace process because the peace process is in fact, the
most direct, effective, and efficient way for the United States to be able
to deal with the problems of illicit narcotics in Colombia. That can only
be done, not fighting the guerrillas, and not increasing the war and increasing
the violence, but, in fact, engaging the guerrillas into a relationship
with the state in which the state and the guerrillas, with national—that
is Colombian national—and international assistance, can begin to substitute
the crops and to provide alternatives to the people who depend on them.
The FARC says they're willing. We should test them at their word. We might
ask for some early gestures of support and try to move this process forward.
This is a unique moment. It's a unique opportunity.
I would experiment with that policy and see how far it can go. Thank you,
[The prepared statement of Dr. Chernick appears
in the appendix.]
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Mr. GALLEGLY. Thank you very much, Dr. Chernick.
STATEMENT OF MICHAEL SHIFTER, PROGRAM DIRECTOR, INTER-AMERICAN DIALOGUE
Mr. SHIFTER. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Let
me first commend you and the other Members of the Subcommittee, for holding
today's hearing on this important policy challenge. The timing could not
be more propitious.
Let me just make a few background points, and then
I'd like to offer some guides that one might think about when considering
U.S. policy toward Colombia.
The first point is that Colombia is not about to
collapse or disintegrate, as has been reported in some quarters. It is
a tremendously resourceful and resilient country. Nevertheless, nobody
should doubt, as you mentioned, Mr. Chairman, that Colombia is a deeply
troubled country and perhaps the most troubled country in the hemisphere,
wracked by substantial violence.
The second point is that the guerrillas are longstanding;
both of the country's major guerrilla groups have their origins in the
1940's and 1950's, though they were formally established in the 1960's
during the cold war. The situation of violence in Colombia is not new.
It is, however, very complex, and there is an important need to understand
its origins. Today's guerrilla groups are not the same as the groups that
were in Colombia when I lived and worked there some 8 to 10 years ago.
They've expanded substantially; their power has increased. There are various
estimates of the size of the FARC and the ELN forces—Colombia's two major
guerrilla forces—but, clearly, both the FARC (15,000) and the ELN (5,000)
have roughly 20,000 troops combined.
Geographically, these groups have expanded tremendously.
They now derive their financing primarily from illicit drugs and kidnapping.
They are no longer interested in a socialist plan (a goal of both groups
some years ago) but in fact, in enhancing their position and expanding
their presence throughout the country. In many places they serve as surrogate
states. In these areas, the government is very weak or doesn't exist at
all, leaving the guerrillas to perform state functions.
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The fourth point is that the guerrillas should not be
considered as common criminals or drug mafias, as they are sometimes characterized.
Nor should they be thought of as rigid idealogues. They are political actors
with interests and agendas. They are pragmatic and very much linked to
the economic structure and products of their country (petroleum, in the
case of the ELN, and the illicit coca in the case of the FARC.)
The fifth point is that the guerrilla groups are
very diverse regionally. It is a mistake, I think, to think of them as
some sort of monolific force. They are fragmented, have different relationships
and alliances, and different configurations in different parts of the country.
The FARC, in particular, exhibits a great deal of fragmentation.
The sixth point is the presence of paramilitaries
in Colombia has grown. Again, when I worked in Colombia 8 to 10 years ago,
paramilitaries did exist. Since then, however, they have changed dramatically,
growing exponentially. They have developed their own political ideas. They
enjoy some degree of autonomy from the state's security forces, although
the extent of their independence varies in different parts of the country.
Their relationship with the state is very complex. Like the FARC and ELN,
they also have a degree of fragmentation. There is one national paramilitary
group, the United Self Defense Groups of Colombia. Region-based groups
also exist, along with very private militias that are also considered paramilitary
The seventh point is that Colombians, as Dr. Chernick
mentioned, are tired of war. They are increasingly worried about its effect
on the national economy, as well as sovereignty and viability of the country.
This attitude has simulated, for the first time, a greater role for civil
society, especially leaders of the Catholic church and the business community,
in actively trying to seek some sort of solution and peace for Colombia.
There are two schools of thought in terms of the
prospects for some sort of negotiation, as Dr. Chernick mentioned. The
first perspective argues that the peace process is a tactical move on the
part of the guerrillas. Peace is in the air and the guerrillas are basically
buying time. Even though they are very strong militarily and financially,
the guerrillas have lost some political support, and negotiations are part
of an effort to restore their political image. Once they achieve that goal,
then they will go on fighting the war.
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The second school of thought views the peace process
as a much more serious prospect. It holds that the guerrillas are in fact
being battered very badly by the paramilitary groups and that this is a
moment when there is greater interest and incentive to reach a durable
My view is that, whichever of those interpretations
one holds, one arrives at roughly the same conclusion, which is that the
attempt to try to seriously engage and develop a peace strategy is the
most attractive, viable option for the country. That's what should drive
Let me just very briefly mention a few guidelines
that should frame any discussion about Colombia.
One is that it's important to think of Colombia
on its own terms. Many people compare Colombia's situation to that of El
Salvador and Vietnam, among others. However, Colombia is very, very different
from these countries, has very different characteristics, and it's important
to understand those differences. My view is that such analogies obscure
the facts more than they clarify or illuminate them.
Second, the most important thing is that the United
States should support and build a cooperative relationship with the Pastrana
Administration. The recent election of the new President provides an excellent
opportunity to improve U.S.-Colombian relations. Moreover, backing a good,
honest, competent Colombian administration that has identified peace as
its highest priority also serves U.S. interests.
This means, concretely, that the United States should
support the Colombian Government, and mobilize international support for
the peace effort, and resist setting down any preconditions for an agreement.
The United States should pursue a broad agenda with Colombia, focusing
not just on the issues of narcotics and peace (although peace should be
the highest priority and overriding commitment of the U.S. Government),
but also on economic areas as well.
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And finally, it is important to be sensitive to human
rights issues. There is a human rights crisis in Colombia. Abuses have
been committed on all sides, and the U.S. Government should continue to
press for greater progress on the human rights front and urge for the application
of effective monitoring mechanisms. Congress should make sure that strict
adherence to human rights standards is a fundamental prerequisite for any
U.S. support to the Colombian military and police forces. Thank you very
much, Mr. Chairman.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Shifter appears in
Mr. GALLEGLY. Thank you very much, Mr. Shifter.
STATEMENT OF DR. RICHARD DOWNES, CONSULTANT, CENTER FOR HEMISPHERIC
DEFENSE STUDIES, NATIONAL DEFENSE UNIVERSITY
Dr. DOWNES. Mr. Chairman, Committee Members,
I am pleased to accept your invitation to offer my personal views on the
Colombia is a democracy with historically close
ties with the United States and its security situation merits our close
attention. We should stress that violence has long been a factor and an
integral part of Colombian life. Starting in the 1940's, over 200 guerrilla
groups of various idealogies operated within Colombia, and widespread rural
violence had claimed as many as 200,000 victims by the 1960's. Marxist
Leninism gained more prominence during the 1960's with the founding of
the guerrilla groups we're talking about today, especially the ELN and
With the onset of the illicit drug trade in the
late 1970's and 1980's, violence engulfed virtually all aspects of Colombian
society. Homicides in the 1990's have risen dramatically so that there
were over 31,000 homicides registered in 1997. Even so, less than 10 percent
of these homicides could be attributed to guerrilla action. One researcher
has concluded that Colombia's current reality is a war system, with the
drug trade, traffic in contraband, armed robberies, kidnapping for ransom,
and associated support activities have been organized into a self-perpetuating
violent life of its own.
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The major parties in today's violence are the insurgents,
the paramilitaries, organized crime, and the Colombian Armed Forces. The
ELN and the FARC have evolved into major political and economic actors.
The ELN was founded by disgruntled university students disillusioned with
the orthodoxity of the Communist Party of 1962. During the 1970's they
gained important assets by kidnapping. It has come to specialize in attacks
on oil pipelines and facilities in northeastern Colombia. Despite internal
divisions in the 1990's, it continued to kill officials in eastern oil-producing
cities. Today, the ELN has about 5,000 combatants operating on rural and
urban fronts, and they are self-financing through extortion, kidnapping,
taxes on coca, and poppy paste, with an annual income estimated to be around
The attacks on the oil industry represent their
conviction that Colombia's resources are being drained for foreign profits
to the detriment of its population, especially the rural poor. An Internet
site claiming to represent the ELN states that they're fighting for a revolution
to ''defend the rights of the marginalized or double-exploited women, indigenous
peoples, and blacks.''
The larger FARC emerged in 1964 as an informal arm
branch of the Communist Party. From a coalition of guerrilla groups in
southern Colombia, it has long been an advocate of social revolution. Though
challenged by President Misael Pastrana, the father of the President-elect,
the FARC remained active in the 1970's. It started protecting cocaine processing
plants in the 1980's, and recently has become engaged in the growing, processing,
and transporting of cocaine within Colombia. Meanwhile, it continues to
attack the government and its supporters and has kidnapped and murdered
Americans. The fate of three American missionaries kidnapped by the FARC
from Panama in 1993 is still unknown. An American geologist was recently
tortured and killed by the FARC.
Ideologically, the FARC leadership continues to
embrace Marxist Leninism, but intermediate levels are more pragmatic. It
exercises power and control for economic purposes, substituting for legitimate
government and sustaining themselves through about $270 million in illicit
receipts. The FARC is composed of between 5,000 and 7,500 combatants.
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With respect to the prospects for peace, there are serious
barriers to an effective resolution to this conflict. Virtually, every
President over the last two decades has tried unsuccessfully. A dialog
that began in 1982 led to agreements in 1984 with the FARC and two other
guerrilla groups, but this progress was ended with the 1995 attack on the
Justice Palace. President Gaviria's Administration conducted 4 years of
start-and-stop negotiations with the FARC and other guerrilla groups but
achieved a peace agreement with just one group, the Popular Liberation
President Ernesto Samper engaged in correspondence
with the FARC in search of peace. The violence continued, however, and
actually accelerated as the FARC attacked former guerrillas who had joined
the political process. The self-defense forces sought revenge on the guerrillas
and their supporters, and the FARC handed the armed forces a string of
defeat that raised serious questions about the armed forces' effectiveness.
The overall challenges in this process are the establishment
of a credible justice system and the legitimate integration of rural lands
into Colombia's economic and political life. The justice system is in a
shambles, and the chances for prosecution of even serious crime are negligible.
The political elite from Colombia's historically dominant parties seem
more concerned with maintaining their respective positions of privilege
within a highly clientelistic political system that focuses its attention
on the urban areas where 74 percent of Colombia's population now lives.
Rural areas suffer from lower tariff barriers in agricultural goods, and
a buying spree by the narco-traffickers has reversed 25 years of government-sponsored
land reform. Government neglect and guerrilla control of rural resources
have led to even more recruitment into the guerrilla ranks and a total
insurgent force of 20,000 may be possible by the year 2000.
Any peace agreement must recognize the long neglected
needs of the rural areas, and in particular substitute legitimate economic
activity for the estimated $400 to $600 million in the legitimate proceeds.
The Colombian Armed Forces are unlikely to reverse this situation on their
own even if they were properly organized, trained and equipped. Illustrative
of their problems is a recently issued ''General Strategy of the Armed
Forces'' that identifies the many objectives that the armed forces would
undertake as part of a coordinated government effort to restore state authority
in the insurgent areas. Unfortunately, there is no overall government national
strategy for pacification to convince the insurgents to lay aside their
arms. Recent negotiations between the President-elect and the FARC leadership
suggest the price of peace is complete FARC autonomy over the contested
regions. The fundamental issue is whether the Colombian political elite
is willing to commit the resources necessary to integrate insurgent areas
into the national political and economic life.
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The current state of affairs may constitute more of
an inconvenience than the true threat to that elite's position in society.
This impression is supported by Colombia's expenditure, a modest 2.8 percent
of its gross domestic product for security forces during the 1990's. While
this figure is high from a regional perspective, it is lower than the 3.9
percent of the 1995 defense burden of the United States, and much lower
than one might expect from a state engaged in intense and violent struggle.
Further, Colombian Armed Forces may not be tailored
for counter-insurgency. The tooth-to-tail ratio, that is the ratio of combat
forces to support forces for all the armed forces is one to eight, higher
than the U.S. ratio during Vietnam. The ratio of combat to support forces
in the counter-insurgency area may be deficient. Here, for every nine soldiers
in the field there is only one supporting soldier. Moreover, approximately
75 percent of the armed forces budget is consumed by personnel costs.
The United States has valid national interest in
the sustainment of Colombian democracy. Drastic solutions to Colombia's
dilemmas could reverse the democratic process at the heart of the recent
political and economic progress in the region. U.S. actions in this dilemma
should be carefully weighed. There's a need to draw upon the lessons of
Central America, and employ the assistance of neighbors who are concerned
about Colombia's fate. However, without a Colombian commitment to dedicate
the resources necessary to resolve this issue, there is very little that
neighbors, the United States, or other individual nations can do.
There is a logical inconsistency with some of the
policy that's coming from Washington. A Colombian general recently stated
that U.S. policy forces him to place bullets into two piles: one to be
used against insurgents, and the others to be used against narco-traffickers.
Further, he has to be able to ascertain whether the incoming bullet originates
from a narco-trafficker or an insurgent. The stress on human rights is
an important and valid element of U.S. policy. However, it should be subordinated
to the overall U.S. objective that should be clearly stated by an enduring
consensus within the inter-agency.
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U.S. Government support for a comprehensive Colombian
approach to this issue should take the form of planning assistance to the
defense ministry, civilian agencies, and the Colombian Presidency to facilitate
the preparation of a comprehensive Colombian pacification program.
Mr. Chairman, my time has expired so at that point
I'll conclude. Thank you.
[The prepared statement of Dr. Downes appears in
Mr. GALLEGLY. Thank you very much, Dr. Downes.
STATEMENT OF CARLOS SALINAS, ADVOCACY DIRECTOR, LATIN AMERICA AND THE
CARIBBEAN, AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL
Mr. SALINAS. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for
your leadership and having a hearing that actually involves and addresses
the human rights situation in Colombia. We also believe that Congress would
greatly benefit from a further hearing where Colombian and other U.S. human
rights organizations could also testify, and further explore this often
Colombia has been living through a human rights
nightmare for the past decade, which I had an opportunity to personally
examine while spending a few weeks of extensive research in Colombia as
part of an Amnesty International delegation. We began and ended in Bogota
where we met with Colombian Government officials including General Serrano,
and members of several different peace and human rights organizations.
Also, members of the Colombian displaced communities; Chilean, U.S., English
and Dutch diplomats; experts of the office of the U.N. High Commissioner
for Human Rights; as well as local and foreign journalists.
We also traveled to one of the more remote departments
of Colombia, the Putumayo, which is in the map before you and it's at the
westernmost part of the Amazon, right to the east of the Andes at the bottom
there with the border of Ecuador, where we travelled to six towns and met
with officials such as mayors, city councils, and other local officials,
military and police commanders, members of the church and local organizations,
as well as the local population. This mission was a sobering reminder of
the military quagmire that is Colombia, and added further nuances to what
I already knew to be a complex situation. The incoming government, indeed,
has a huge challenge ahead and in this context, it is imperative that the
U.S. Government ensure that its ongoing programs do not contribute to human
Page 20 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
The general situation in Colombia is dire, where to
be a human rights activist is not a question of if one may become an assassination
target, but rather when. Virtually every sector is also affected by political
violence. Bearing the brunt of the violence is the civilian population
which is assailed from every side. Paramilitary forces often operating
with the support or acquiescence of the regular security forces currently
account for two out of three political killings in Colombia, and carry
out massacres of non-combatant civilians. The links between the paramilitary
and regular security forces cannot be stressed enough, and have been amply
The rural population also suffers violence directly
from the regular security forces and from the armed opposition groups,
state-sponsored paramilitary groups known as CONVIVIR have also added to
the violence against and abuse of the rural population.
Both of the most significant armed opposition groups,
the FARC and the ELN, have waged guerrilla warfare for three decades, and
both engage in violations of humanitarian law, including the killing and
abduction of non-combatants. Although there has been a period of relative
calm the situation will likely deteriorate in the months ahead. Furthermore,
knowledgeable and credible sources believe that a strategy to kill or otherwise
silence human rights activists continue in place. One human rights defender,
Jesus Maria Valle Jaramillo, was murdered on February 27th of this year;
one day after a member of his group was publicly commended by Chairman
Gilman during a hearing on Colombia.
Another human rights defender assassinated this
year, Dr. Eduardo Umana Mendoza, was a longstanding member of the human
rights community in Colombia.
Colombian human rights activists share our belief
that the human rights problem cannot wait until there is a comprehensive
peace plan in place, as some in Colombia and elsewhere have suggested.
Peace negotiations, if they come, will be welcome, but they will surely
be prolonged and very difficult. Meanwhile, hundreds of defenseless non-combatant
civilians are dying. There must be immediate action to stop the wanton
killings. We cannot overstress this in this 50th anniversary of the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights: that human rights are inalienable, non-negotiable
rights. The argument that there can be no meaningful discussion about human
rights protection, absent a peace process, not only betrays a fundamental
lack of understanding of the concept of human rights, but it's also a great
disservice to the many in Colombia and elsewhere who are trying to get
all belligerent parties to respect their obligations under international
Page 21 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
As I mentioned, we traveled to Putumayo, an isolated
part of Colombia along the border of Ecuador, where transportation by river
is as important as transportation by land. The broad, expansive rain forest
is interrupted by many clearings for cattle raising and where many camposinos
also grow coca plants in addition to basic subsistence crops. A force of
around 300 paramilitary gunmen had arrived in the Puerto Asis area at the
end of January, 1998, and began to selectively kill community members.
In Puerto Asis, we met with a wide range of people including officials
such as the police commander, members of the city council, the mayor, and
the local community. And we also visited the base of the 24th Brigade to
ask about the paramilitary attacks. Yet, both police officials and military
leaders down-played this type of activity, yet at the same time openly
talked of widespread killings during earlier periods, and of the confiscation
of weapon caches.
Some elected officials and other community leaders,
however, confirmed that there had been a huge wave of paramilitary violence
that had not been in any way blocked by the local security forces. Many
with whom we spoke were still terrified.
Our investigation also encompassed Orita La Hormiga,
also known as Valle del Guamuez. La Hormiga is reputed to be one of the
major markets for the coca trade in the region. In La Hormiga, we found
the population even more terrified because of the many sources of violence,
including the security forces, the police, the FARC, and the so-called
urban militias, armed urban gangs with a flimsy ideological veneer. These
militias set a curfew at 10 p.m. after which few venture on to the streets.
At midnight the generator for the town shuts down, and as the local priest
told us, the shots begin. Indeed, the night we spent in La Hormiga was
interrupted at 5:30 in the morning by several volleys of gunfire. Here,
the police stay in their base and rarely venture forth. Indeed, everyone
agreed that here, it was suicidal for a policeman to travel by himself.
We heard credible reports about security forces
killing actual or perceived FARC or militia supporters, and the other way
around. In La Hormiga, there is no middle ground permitted and the civilian
population is unprotected from the ravages of all sides. Despite international
attention in this area, no one was ever detained for the wave of killings
that swept through the Puerto Asis area earlier this year. And the paramilitary
chief, Carlos Castano, who incidentally, has been identified in a recent
DEA report as being a narcotics trafficker, has declared controlling Putumayo
as one of his region's key objectives.
Page 22 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
We also met with the U.S. Embassy and were heartened
by the fact that U.S. Embassy personnel were supportive of the human rights
protection known as the Leahy amendment. As you know, this is a modest
and very reasonable prohibition of the United States from known human rights
criminals. We were repeatedly reassured by embassy staff that it was doing
all it could to vigorously implement this, which we welcome.
We believe Congress should make more resources available
to the embassy to fully implement the terms of the March, 1998, instructional
cable on the implementation of the amendment, as well as provide more resources
so that the embassy can provide Washington in a timely way with information
about its Andes monitoring activities.
As you know, the Andes monitoring report produced
by the State Department's Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement
Affairs, suffers from a 2-year lag.
We asked about Colombian units who had participated
in exercises with the U.S. special operations forces, and we were not convinced
by the answer. I believe that the Washington Post accounts that
units possibly implicated in rights violations, have participated in operations
with these U.S. forces.
We were also told by apparently well-informed sources
in Bogota that the two Colombian army units cleared so far to receive U.S.
aid under the terms of the Leahy Amendment, are apparently the 24th Brigade
in the so-called Eastern Unified Command. This is very important to verify
because at least we are not at all aware of the Eastern Unified Command
and are not familiar with it.
We also obtained a copy of the annex to the memorandum
of understanding signed between the governments of the United States and
Colombia, which names the regions in Colombia in which U.S. aid can be
used, and that is this area denoted by the pink. As you can see from comparing
this to the typographical map, this not only encompasses coast line, high
Andes mountain ranges, large plains, but Amazon rain forests.
Page 23 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
We have, after many deliberations, some modest recommendations
for the U.S. Government. The single most important contribution being to
speak clearly, consistently, and forcefully about the importance of protecting
human rights and to match these words with deeds. Furthermore, this protection
should not be conditioned on the success of peace talks. Human rights protection
for the civilian population is needed right now.
But these words must be matched by deeds. All aids
to security forces units should rigorously comply with the terms of the
Leahy Amendment and this type of prohibition should expend to contact with
paramilitary organizations. More resources should be provided to the embassy
to comply with congressional mandates. The Andes monitoring reports should
be published in a timely fashion. All military training, joint exercises,
and combined military operations should only take place with Colombian
military units not implicated in human rights crimes.
And finally, no person implicated in human rights
violations should receive any payment or protection from the U.S. Government,
including U.S. intelligence assets.
I look forward to your questions, and again, Mr.
Chairman, I commend you for holding this hearing.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Salinas appears in
Mr. GALLEGLY. Thank you very much, Mr. Salinas.
As I'm sure my colleagues are aware, the bells have
gone off and unfortunately it's not a single vote. There are going to be
a couple of votes. What I'd like to do before we go over to vote is recognize
the distinguished chairman of the Full Committee, the gentleman from New
York. Mr. Gilman, did you have any opening comments?
Chairman GILMAN. Well, I thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I hope that you'll be able to wind up your hearing properly, and I regret
I was detained on the floor and debating an important issue. And I want
to thank you, Mr. Chairman, for scheduling this hearing with regard to
the prospects for peace in the long, troubled area of Colombia.
Page 24 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Colombia has been wracked for decades by violence. It
has exacted a terrible toll. Colombians clearly hope for peace. However,
we should not be naive about the situation in Colombia, nor close our eyes
to the nature of Colombia's insurgency.
Over the past 48 hours, while President-elect Andres
Pastrana was meeting right here in Washington with President Clinton, the
nation's two major insurgent groups launched a frenzied series of attacks
across Colombia that delivered a clear and violent message. Using an impressive
array of fire power including rockets and car bombs, the guerrillas attacked
the forward police base in Mariaflores, and the coca-producing Guaviare
region, major dam, oil pipelines and other targets and government bases
in 24 of Colombia's 32 departments. Colombian sources and press accounts
report up to 100 police and soldiers killed or wounded. I want to extend
our sympathy to the director of the Colombian National Police, General
Rosso Jose Serrano, and to the families of the police officers, civilians,
and soldiers wounded or slain in those attacks.
And I note for the record, that the two main guerrilla
groups in Colombia, the National Liberation Army and the Colombian Revolutionary
Armed Forces, have been designated by Secretary of State Albright as foreign
terrorists organizations, and both of those groups have kidnapped American
citizens for ransom. Both have wantonly murdered innocent Americans, and
today these terrorist organizations still hold five of our fellow Americans
hostage and we must not ignore or tolerate that kind of despicable conduct.
Moreover, an outline of the principal coca and opium
poppy growing areas in Colombia, and an outline of the principal areas
of the strength and presence of the guerrillas, reveals a stark correlation.
Virtually all of the guerrilla fronts in these drug-producing regions are
an integral part of the drug business, and despite their denials, there's
no question these guerrillas facilitate and profit from the drug trade.
And by guarding coca and opium fields, coca, cocaine labs and clandestine
airstrips, these insurgent groups have evolved into an essential part of
the drug production business.
Page 25 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
The money that these narco-terrorists collect on a monthly
basis facilitating the drug trade exceeds the entire annual budget of the
U.N. Drug Control Program, the UNDCP. Colombian and U.S. sources estimate
that Colombia's guerrillas take in $60 million a month from the drug trade.
These vast sums have transformed the insurgency that we're examining here
into a formidable force. General Serrano told our Full Committee earlier
this year, and I quote, ''This is one of the best financed and sophisticated
guerrilla movements in the entire world.'' He went on to say that they
are extremely well armed with money from narcotics trafficking.
It clearly will be difficult for Colombia's narco
guerrillas to lay down their arms and walk away from $60 million a month,
drug money. Any effort to find peace in Colombia, therefore, cannot ignore
the role of illicit drugs and the money and weapons it provides to the
insurgency. Colombia's a beleaguered nation that yearns for peace and we
of course, want to help Colombia's recently elected President, Andres Pastrana,
in his efforts. Nonetheless, as Colombia searches for peace, establishing
demilitarized zones that exclude anti-drug operations, I think would be
too high a price to pay. This would effectively allow drugs to be cultivated,
produced freely, and peace at the price of a free narco production zone
would be a Faustian bargain that would seriously damage our bilateral relationship
In the end, lasting and meaningful peace will only
come to Colombia without drugs. It can never be achieved by accommodating
an evil which threatens our core interests and Colombia's future. Now,
more than ever, it is time for our Administration to send a decisive message
by expediting badly needed counter-narcotics assistance to Colombia. It
would be wrong to further delay counter-narcotics aid by taking a wait-and-see
approach, in the hopes that the narco guerrillas are going to lay down
their arms and abandon their drug trade.
Mr. Chairman, in closing, let me say if Colombia's
guerrillas negotiate in bad faith and reveal that they have, as many of
us believe is evidenced by this week's events, abandoned any trace of ideology
to pursue their criminal enterprises, our Nation should redouble its support
for counter-narcotics efforts in Colombia.
Page 26 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
And I want to thank you, Chairman, for giving me this
opportunity to make some comments.
[The prepared statement of Chairman Gilman appears
in the appendix.]
Mr. GALLEGLY. I thank the gentleman from
New York, and with that, we will recess to—I guess we have two votes, do
we not? So we have two votes, it will be about 20 minutes, and if you gentlemen
can stick with us fine, if any of you have to leave we'll understand. We
will reconvene in about 20 minutes as quickly as we can get back from the
Mr. BALLENGER. [presiding] If you all don't
mind, evidently, they're going to give me the authority to go ahead and
start asking questions, at least save us some time. They promised us the
last time they'd give us an hour, which never happened. And then they found
out when they called the vote that the leadership was off in a room somewhere
so they kept the vote open. It's supposed to be closed after 17 minutes,
it went about 25 minutes. So our apologies to our group here.
I know I called Dr. Chernick. Do you call him I
guess? He's coming? All right. Yes, sir. Sorry, they gave me the opportunity
to run this thing by myself.
I'd like to throw at all of you the same question
because I have worked in Central and South America for about 35 years and
it appears to me—let me use Peru as an example, if I may. They didn't seem
to have any success in Peru as far as cleaning up or using other alternate
methods and so forth, until the Shining Path no longer was a dangerous
thing. I know we're all talking about, at least Dr. Chernick was talking
about, alternate methods and so forth. And in Peru they've come in, I personally
am involved in trying to help this out, in planting coffee instead of coca.
And because of the fact that they were taking the cost of, their planes
being shut down and so forth, that they reduced what they were paying for
coca, and therefore coffee became a practical thing.
Page 27 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Is there such a thing feasible? First of all, can you
have any kind of pacification of that sort until you have peace? I mean,
you can talk about human rights all you want to but you can't have that
until you have peace. We'll start with Dr. Chernick, if I may—just your
considered opinion about the possibilities of doing something like that.
Mr. CHERNICK. Yes, it's an excellent question
and in fact, one that I've been thinking about in the last few days—I arrived
last night from Colombia. And I was thinking how different the Colombian
guerrillas are from the Peruvian guerrilla situation.
One could not imagine in any way, shape or form,
the idea of creating zones of distinction where the guerrilla and the state
would work together in substituting crops and helping local populations
move to a more viable economy. It's out of context to think that that has
happened with the Shining Path because there was no relationship with the
state. The guerrillas worked to destroy the state.
The Colombian guerrillas, quite differently, have
worked with the state agencies in the past, as particularly in the context
of cease-fires in the past and demilitarized zones. Most of these things
are broken down with the dynamics of war. But it is reasonable to expect
that there is interest on the side of the guerrillas as there is interest
on the side of the state, to enter into agreements. The reason for the
guerrillas are, is that they are a significant military force, they have
local influence but they have very little national projection as a political
The state has almost no presence, and what the proposal
is, is that within the context of demilitarized zones the state would increase
its presence. Not its military presence, but its state presence. And again,
there have been experiences where in the context of cease-fire or demilitarized
zones, the guerrillas and state agencies—state agencies like Encore or
the Grand Reform Agency, the Ministry of Ecology, different forms of social
welfare organizations, have worked with the guerrillas. It's almost inconceivable
to think of these kinds of things because almost no where in the world
can I think where this is possible.
Page 28 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Mr. BALLENGER. Mr. Shifter, would you agree with
Mr. SHIFTER. Yes, I would. I think the contrast
with Peru is striking. I think the Shining Path was not going to negotiate
with anybody so a peace process was unthinkable in the Peruvian context.
I think in Colombia negotiations are very difficult because there are tremendous
obstacles. I don't think there are very detailed, elaborate plans on how
to proceed with the peace process, but I think that is the opportunity
and I think there is the awareness in the international community that
this is the only way to sustain some sort of development process.
So I think that is really the approach that makes
sense at this point.
Mr. BALLENGER. Dr. Downes.
Dr. DOWNES. My view, Congressman, is that
the victory in Peru, or almost victory over the Shining Path—it seems they're
still active in some areas—was more of a military victory than a total
incorporation of guerrillas' return to society and economy, if you will.
With respect to Colombia, I think that's less of
a possibility given the unwillingness of the Colombian Government to dedicate
the resources necessary across the board for that to happen.
Mr. BALLENGER. All right. And Mr. Salinas,
can you have human rights without peace?
Mr. SALINAS. Absolutely. It is a question
of political will. It's a question of political will by the regular security
forces making sure that all of their subordinates obey the chain of command
and obey respect for their international obligations. It's a question of
political will by both the ELN and the FARC. The ELN is taking a step toward
that but were definitely very far from it when they announced in Mainz,
Germany, that they would refrain from certain kinds of kidnappings.
Page 29 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
It is also a question of political will for their paramilitary
forces. The paramilitary forces are currently seeking political recognition.
Mr. BALLENGER. Let me, if I may interrupt,
because I want to get one more question in before I lose my time.
I'd also like to ask, because of the fact that we
have not really given any great assistance to the Colombian Government
for the last 2 to 4 years. There are a group of us here in Congress that
would like to come forward with substantial aid, mostly military, and I
realize it has to go with—you've got to have civilian aid and plant coffee
trees and all that kind of stuff. But what effect, how effective would
additional aid on our part—I mean, first of all you've got to have the
army to recognize human rights and I think the police, their reputation
is they recognize human rights. But how effective can they be without substantial
aid from us? Anybody.
Mr. CHERNICK. Well, I'll begin. They can
be effective with or without U.S. aid. This is a country that has substantial
resources and they don't depend significantly on U.S. assistance for either
military strategy or for other development policies. Nevertheless, the
United States can be quite, quite effective in bringing the military along.
Frankly, there will not be peace without the military.
The military need to be there. The United States is already working on
improving dialog between civilians and militaries, military authorities
which up to now have had little contact. Just this month they're promoting
a reunion among military and civilian members of society. That's positive.
I think the United States should play that role, and then that may be their
most important role within a peace process.
Mr. BALLENGER. Mr. Shifter.
Mr. SHIFTER. Yes, Congressman, I think that
the critical point is that what has to drive the policy is the commitment
to the peace process. Military aid may be a part of that. The Pastrana
Government has got to come up with its plan. The United States should look
at it and should be sympathetic. But I think it is a mistake, frankly,
to believe we're going to go in militarily, and sort of beat these guys.
And just to have that view, along with more money and equipment is not
going to work. That approach is not going to be viable or productive.
Page 30 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Dr. DOWNES. Congressman, I would cite the testimony
of General Wilhelm on 31 March, 1998, to the International Relations Committee,
outlining the deficiencies of the Colombian Armed Forces. They are significant.
When you say, more military aid, I wonder how much military aid that the
United States is willing to commit to, to overcome those deficiencies.
It would seem to me it would take a great deal.
Military aid, or defense assistance, should, I think,
concentrate on the reorganization of the defense ministry, support to the
defense ministry, and some way of helping the Colombian Armed Forces get
their priorities and training right.
Mr. BALLENGER. But we can't tell them how
to run their military.
Dr. DOWNES. Sir, if we were to provide aid
we can suggest how that aid be used and how we might be more helpful.
Mr. SALINAS. If I could add something.
Mr. BALLENGER. Yes, sure.
Mr. SALINAS. We have to really ask who are
really the U.S. allies. Are they people who are willing to rape and murder
innocent civilians, or people that are out of combat because they've been
injured or captured as prisoners? Obviously not. Those are the same people,
if they're not willing to respect the rule of law on those occasions, there's
nothing that's going to stop them from accepting kickbacks from engaging
in the many existing alliances that there are between the official security
forces and the narcotics traffickers.
As you have to remember, narcotics traffickers are
equal opportunity corrupters. They're going to play ball with whoever is
willing to take the money and unfortunately, there are many takers. So
we have to be very careful in who it is that is being provided the aid.
And part of one of the key filters that you have, a great tool that Congress
has created, is in fact this human rights restriction on its Leahy Amendment,
to ensure that those who are getting U.S. taxpayer dollars aren't misusing
them. That they're actually using them to combat narcotics trafficking.
Page 31 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
In short, a counter-narcotics strategy that does not
completely integrate a human rights strategy is one that's doomed to failure.
Mr. BALLENGER. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Let
me sneak in on you.
Mr. GALLEGLY. That's all right, mutiny is
With that, I would yield to the gentleman from New
Jersey, Mr. Menendez.
Mr. MENENDEZ. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and
thank you for calling the hearing. In the interest of time, I have a statement
that I'd like to be entered into the record.
Mr. GALLEGLY. Without objection.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Menendez appears
in the appendix.]
Mr. MENENDEZ. You know, President Pastrana's
stated commitment to fighting narcotics and internal insurrection are welcomed
I think, both in Colombia and in the United States. I personally view it
as an opportunity for the U.S. bilateral relationship with Colombia. Having
travelled there a little less than a year ago, I think it's a very difficult
proposition that the new President walks into, but one that he already
seems to be trying to undertake.
When I was in Colombia and I have subsequently heard
the same from many, I heard that the guerrillas had abandoned any ideology
whatsoever. I think you were referring to that before. Is that, in fact,
the case? There were some who suggested they're only interested in making
money from kidnapping and the narcotics trafficking that they permit to
Do the guerrillas have an ideology, because if they
are only interested in making money, they will be harder to negotiate with
than if they have a political ideology that leads them to want to govern
in some capacity. What is your sense of that? However, you may answer,
what about the recent offensive that the guerrillas undertook despite having
just met with the President-elect and having received some good faith efforts?
I open that to anybody on the panel who wishes to respond.
Page 32 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Mr. CHERNICK. Why don't I begin?
Mr. MENENDEZ. Sure.
Mr. CHERNICK. The guerrillas haven't abandoned
ideology. In the territories where they have influence they govern. It's
hard to say if they were ever strong Marxists Leninists. If you look at
some of the leadership that comes out of the liberal party and they have
very liberal ideas, they have political agendas. They published and stated
openly their political agendas. They're quite reformist when you look at
it, and what they propose for the negotiating table is basically major
liberal reforms of the Colombian political system. They make lots of money.
All evidence shows that they don't save lots of money. Over the last 10
years they've dedicated almost their entire earnings to building a major
fighting capacity, not to saving money. This is not a drug cartel, this
is a fighting machine that's put their money into sustaining an insurgency.
There is no reason to think that they need that in the context of peace.
Now, the recent offensive, what does that say? It
says that the war continues. That there is no cease-fire agreement. And
unfortunately, the way the dynamics of war and peace work is, we'll probably
see more offenses from all sides as they move closer to the negotiating
table. That's the sorry dynamic of war and peace. But it doesn't say that
they are against peace or that they abandoned the talks or—no, there is
not a cease-fire, until there's a cease-fire, don't expect the violence
to go down and very sorrowfully, expect it to go up.
Mr. MENENDEZ. Anyone else?
Mr. SHIFTER. Yes. Congressman Menendez,
as I said, I think I agree with Dr. Chernick, that there are political
interests and political agendas. I think that rigid ideologies may have
changed over the years, but to deal with the guerrillas, as you correctly
said, as common criminals or drug mafias, eliminates possibility of negotiation.
So I agree that they do have political ideas and agendas that need to be
Page 33 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
I will only add that I think the recent offensive is
unpardonable and deplorable. But one should be very calm in this context.
Current conditions still offer a unique opportunity for peace, and one
has to put the offensive in proper perspective. But I agree that it's certainly
Mr. MENENDEZ. So you both believe that the
guerrillas have a political agenda that could ultimately serve as a basis
Mr. SHIFTER. Yes.
Mr. MENENDEZ. Let me ask you this: if you
were writing U.S. policy now, with a new turn of events and a new President-elect
who is taking some dynamic moves and whom I met with in July when he came
here to the United States, what should be the two or three founding points
for U.S. policy now with Colombia? What would you suggest they should be?
Mr. CHERNICK. Support the peace process.
One, two, and three. Support the peace process. Support the peace process
as the key determinant to pursue U.S. interests which are anti-narcotic
democracy, human rights, political stability. This is the agenda set by
the new President, clamored for by Columbia society, business, church,
and other interests. Support that. It's the best, it has to deal with all
of U.S. interests.
Mr. MENENDEZ. How can we best do that?
Mr. CHERNICK. Support the Pastrana agenda,
the Pastrana Administration. As negotiations go forward, don't set conditions.
Pastrana is going to set the conditions under which negotiations will take
place. The United States should support those as they develop and not resist
them. They should not second-guess Pastrana. There's a very strong dynamic
already in place. United States should support it. It should support it
every way it can. It should support it by its relationship with the armed
forces, with other sectors of society, and not second-guess and look over
the shoulder of the Colombian Administration as it makes its first steps
Page 34 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Dr. DOWNES. I would like to just add to that,
that I think there is a sentiment that there are three Colombian policies
in this town: there is a counter-narcotics policy, a counter-insurgency
policy, and human rights policy. There should be one strategic objective
with respect to Colombia, and that is the support of Colombian democracy.
And those specific policies should be subordinated to that.
In deference to my colleague here on the panel,
when we have people who can be tainted by accusations that are unproven,
people that are ''incriminated'' and processes that may involve human rights
violations and that holds up any process whatsoever. What we're doing is
forgetting about long-term strategic interests in this country.
Mr. SALINAS. If I might add, there is nothing
in the U.S. legislation other than the high threshold that only credible
evidence can hold up any assistance from any military unit. And that's
important to note, that, you know unfounded allegations have absolutely
no place in the current policy as we have been informed as it is being
implemented. While we believe that it is important that a peace process
could be very important, we must remember that it will be a long arduous
process and in the meantime, people are dying.
In the meantime, current policy, the current consensus
on ensuring solid human rights protection and ensuring that U.S. aid does
not go to known human rights criminals, should be kept and should be rigorously
Mr. MENENDEZ. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. GALLEGLY. I thank the gentleman from
New Jersey. In the interest of time, I'd made an earlier commitment that
we'd be wrapped up by 3:30 but because of the vote that kind of puts everything
back and I do have another commitment. But before I leave, and I will yield
to Mr. Ballenger, if you folks can stick around for another 15 minutes
or so. I do have one quick question I would like to ask Dr. Chernick.
Now, this has been a very enlightening hearing today
and I appreciate the input of all of our distinguished witnesses.
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Dr. Chernick, some claim that the paramilitaries seem
to be more effective in certain areas than the military in combatting the
guerrillas. Yet, from what most of us know, the paramilitaries rarely engage
actual guerrilla units, preferring to attack local communities and civilians.
Is that assessment accurate and if so, or if not so, what are the goals
of the paramilitary organizations as you see it?
Mr. CHERNICK. Your assessment is 100 percent
correct. They almost never engage the guerrillas directly. They almost
never engage the state forces directly. Their war is basically a dirty
war. It's gauged against the civilian population. Their objective seems
to be that the guerrilla gets his support from the civilian population.
It's the old Maoist dictum, that the guerrilla goes
through the population like a fish in water. Well, they're draining the
water. They're killing the civilian support of the guerrillas. And what
they're doing is that there's basically a process, what people are calling
the depeasantization of Colombia. They're forcing a tremendous problem
of internal refugees, of displaced people, people who are leaving the rural
This is the policy of the paramilitaries. It's a
dirty war policy, and when they displace small or peasant farmers from
their zones, basically those lands are incorporated into larger cattle
ranches. Cattle ranches that are owned mostly by drug traffickers. So it's
a counter-agrarian reform, it's displacing peasants, and it's being incorporated
into unproductive cattle raising. That's the role they play.
And so they neither fight the guerrilla directly,
or if they do in fact, it's civilian social based, and they don't engage
in any offensive action against the state or military forces itself.
Mr. GALLEGLY. So would it be safe to say
that they consider, maybe a poor choice of words, but it sounds like it's
like a peasant cleansing type operation that they consider somewhat of
a badge of honor. Is that——
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Mr. CHERNICK. That's right, and in the name of
the people who employ them which are the large landowners—and today the
large landowners are mostly people who acquired their money through drug
trafficking. That's the role they play. What's interesting is that in the
last 6 months, the same paramilitary forces which have engaged in social
cleansing of the civilian population, have put forward a political agenda.
And the debate is, OK, in the name of peace do you recognize them as political
actors or not? And that's the discussion that is on the table today in
The guerrillas are absolutely posed that they be
recognized as political actors who can sit at the negotiating table, but
members of civil society are saying, but we need to engage them in dialog
as heinous as they may be.
Mr. GALLEGLY. If the military was stronger
in those areas would they be able to counter the paramilitaries or would
they have to be significantly more powerful? What would it take to deal
Mr. CHERNICK. Well, they would have to change
their strategy. All evidence shows that the paramilitaries operate basically
under the umbrella of the military. That might not be direct support, but
at least indirect support or acquiescence, that it would be difficult for
the paramilitary to have gained as much ground as they have without the
acquiescence of the military. So we would need a major reordering of military
priorities. It's a debate which has begun among the Colombian military
but it hasn't been——
Mr. GALLEGLY. Does it appear that the acquiescing
of the military is deliberate or it's just a matter of not being strong
enough to do anything? I'm reading between the lines and unless I misunderstand
you, it's as though they're acquiescing not only because of their limited
strength, but because well, maybe it promotes their own agenda to a degree.
Mr. CHERNICK. I think that's right. I think
there is some deliberateness in the strategy and the deliberateness has
to do with the effectiveness that the paramilitary forces have been in
relation to their own effectiveness. But I also think there's a growing
awareness, certainly among political and civil society but also within
the military, that this effectiveness against the guerrillas has been at
great cost, political cost for Colombia, for the Colombian state. And so
there is the beginning of a discussion about breaking that relationship
of acquiescence or even support.
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Mr. GALLEGLY. It's certainly made the equation
a lot more complex, hasn't it?
Mr. CHERNICK. Tremendously more complex and
basically, this is the single most difficult element and it's the single
greatest force of violence in Colombia today.
Mr. GALLEGLY. Before I turn the Chair over
to Congressman Ballenger, I would like to personally thank each of you
for your testimony today, and I hope that we'll have a chance to continue
this dialog in a subsequent meeting and look to all of you as an on-going
resource for me and the Members of the Committee. This is an area when
the problem is not going to go away while we're on break. I wish that were
the case but obviously it is not. So I want to thank you and appeal to
you to be an ongoing resource to us, and thank you for being here today.
Before I turn the microphone over to Mr. Ballenger,
I'd just like to have unanimous consent to submit Congressman Ackerman's
testimony, and also Congressman Menendez' statement for the record and
without objection, that would be the order. And with that, I will turn
the Chair over to Mr. Ballenger. Thank you all very much.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Ackerman appears
in the appendix.]
Mr. BALLENGER. If I may, gentlemen, just
quickly throw some questions at you since the Chairman, Mr. Gilman can't
be here. Sadly, there should be larger numbers of us because I'll be frank
with you, we very seriously recognize the problem in Colombia and I think
we also seriously recognize that the problem in Colombia is a problem that
we have here, maybe even more so because of the drug situation in this
First question is that, the monthly income from
illicit drugs, kidnapping, extortion, for these Colombian guerrillas exceeds
$100 million; that's monthly. And this is the very same amount that President-elect
Pastrana asked the IDB for alternative development in Colombia. What's
the incentive for people that are generating their own cash and so forth,
to convince him to give up the access to the money that they already have
control over? Anybody got an answer to that one?
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Mr. CHERNICK. Well, I would simply repeat what
I stated before. What the guerrillas have done with the money in the last
10 years is to create an effective fighting force. The time when the Berlin
Wall fell everyone thought, ah, guerrilla insurgency in Latin America is
over, it's anachronistic, there is no reason for it to continue.
What happened in Colombia is that there were very
real reasons why the guerrillas continued, they had a social base to continue.
But what they did is they basically ignored the politics of the national
political equation and they dedicated the resources in building a fighting
machine. That fighting machine now has brought them this far to the negotiating
There is no reason to believe that they are a capital
accumulating cartel. They're a fighting force. In the context of peace,
they can live without that money. That money is to sustain insurgency,
not to sustain a political movement in peace.
Mr. BALLENGER. Let me ask you another question.
History has shown that when you deal from a position of strength only,
only then can the insurgency be brought to a peace table. Do any of the
panelists believe that Colombian Government is acting from the position
of strength in dealing with FARC and ELN?
Dr. DOWNES. Mr. Congressman, I don't
believe that to be the case. When you have to agree to withdrawing army
units from broad expanses of territory, then you're effectively admitting
you're dealing from a position of weakness. In answer to your previous
question, there are such things as negative incentives, and were the Colombian
army to be stronger and the government to be more supportive of its efforts,
perhaps some of those negative incentives could have a major role here.
Mr. BALLENGER. Do you think—this is a question
that, because of the attack in the last couple of days—the deadly attacks
on the Colombian national police and the army on Monday, the same day that
President Clinton and President-elect Pastrana, met here in Washington.
Was a clear message that they, not the government, will call the shots
in Colombia? Would you agree with that assessment?
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Mr. CHERNICK. Let me just answer briefly the
previous question in order to answer that. There's a sense in Colombia
that everyone has lost this war. It's not a question of who's stronger—all
have some strengths, all have many deficiencies. Neither the state, the
paramilitaries, or the guerrillas, are winners in this war. And the great
losers are the majority of the population; the citizens, and civil society,
and political parties, and other areas in democracy, the church, and so
What most Colombians want, is to get everyone to
come together in a national convention and national dialog. Not just the
government and guerrillas negotiate some sort of cease-fire, but that everyone
has lost this, everyone must engage in the reconstruction of the country.
And I think that's how it should be looked at rather than trying to prop
up one side or the other.
Mr. SHIFTER. If I might, I just would say
that it's important to bear in mind that we've seen a terrible crisis in
the Colombian Government over the last 4 years. The election of Pastrana
is really an opportunity to change course, to build a legitimate, credible,
and coherent government. Military reform may be essential in Colombia,
but it's hard to imagine such reform taking place without a fully functioning
government. And restoring some measure of legitimacy and efficacy is, I
think, the essential objective of the Pastrana Administration. It should
be the goal of U.S. policy as well.
Mr. BALLENGER. I would agree with that. Now,
Mr. Salinas, do you disagree with everything I've said or just part of
Mr. SALINAS. Not necessarily. Basically,
we don't have a position on whether or not a peace process should take
place, and if so what it should look like. When we look at the question
of a possible peace process, we're really looking at the question of what
will happen with the majority of the population that is currently being
subjected to massacres, to killings, to atrocities, throughout Colombia.
And when we look at that we cannot fail to notice that there is a tendency
for many to believe that the human rights question is something that should
be left to the future, that should be left to the time when people can
negotiate a human rights position.
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But the fact is, the Geneva Conventions already apply
and have applied for a long time, and apply to the paramilitaries, apply
to the armed opposition groups, the FARC and the ELN. And international
human rights law applies to the government security forces, and that's
an undeniable and inescapable fact.
So when we look at this issue we have to remember
that there is a current reality now that urgently needs to be addressed.
And while we are not going to obviously minimize the importance of an eventual
peace process, we have to keep reminding people that there is an urgent
situation right now that needs to be addressed, and it's a situation that
depends on the political will of the different belligerent parties.
Mr. BALLENGER. Well, I think, just off the
top of my head, the political will has got to be there on all sides because
how can you have peace without the rule of law? And how you're going to
have judges—I mean, so many judges have been killed there that—who wants
to be a judge if you haven't got some real reasoning to say that the rule
of law exists?
I don't want to keep this thing going because I
know you all probably have a schedule of some sort. I'd just like to say
thank you very much for coming. Again, like the rest, I have a personal
interest that we do something there, and there are a group of us here that
would like to have advice that you've given, as such you have already done.
We feel very strongly that what happens in Colombia has a great deal of
effect on what happens in the United States with our drug problem, and
it's our duty as people who recognize that to do everything we can to support
So we thank you again. Thank you very much for coming.
[Whereupon, at 3:52 p.m., the Subcommittee adjourned subject to the call
of the Chair.]
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A P P E N D I X
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