Testimony of Ambassador Thomas R. Pickering,
Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs
before the Senate Appropriations Committee
Subcommittee on Foreign Operations

February 24, 2000


Mr. Chairman, members of the Committee, I appreciate the opportunity
today to discuss U.S. Government assistance for Plan Colombia. I know
that we are all very concerned about the ramifications of the
situation in Colombia on the United States. The importance of fighting
the scourge of illegal drugs is an issue on which we can all agree.
The problems in Colombia affect the lives of Americans at home and
abroad. Illegal drugs cost our society 52,000 dead and nearly $110
billion dollars each year due to health costs, accidents, and lost
productivity. Narcotics also have a corrosive effect on the democratic
institutions and economies of the region. Although counternarcotics
remains key in our assistance to Colombia, strengthening the economy
and institutions and supporting the peace process would help to bring
stability to the entire region.

I am very grateful for the support of Congress on this issue. Our
approach to Colombia is one of the best examples of what can be
achieved when there is a bipartisan consensus on pursuing American
interests abroad. I thank you for that.

We are fortunate to be working with President Pastrana and his
Administration. After strained relations with the Samper
Administration, President Pastrana's tenure offers the United States
and the rest of the international community a golden opportunity to
work with Colombia in confronting these threats. President Pastrana's
commitment to achieve peace is indisputable. He has also demonstrated
his willingness to root out narcotics trafficking while remaining
firmly committed to democratic values and principles.

Colombia is currently enduring critical societal, national security,
and economic problems that stem in large part from the drug trade and
the internal conflict that it finances. This situation has limited the
Government of Colombia's sovereignty in large parts of the country.
These areas have become the prime coca and opium poppy producing
zones. This problem directly affects the United States as drug
trafficking and abuse cause enormous social, health and financial
damage in our communities. Over 80 percent of the world's supply of
cocaine is grown, processed, or transported through Colombia. The U.S.
Drug Enforcement Agency estimates that up to 75 percent of the heroin
consumed on the East Coast of the United States comes from Colombia --
although Colombia produces less than 3 percent of the world's heroin.

Colombia's national sovereignty is increasingly threatened by
well-armed and ruthless guerrillas, paramilitaries and the
narcotrafficking interests to which they are inextricably linked.
Although the Government is not directly at risk, these threats are
slowly eroding the authority of the central government and depriving
it of the ability to govern in outlying areas. It is in these lawless
areas, where the guerrilla groups, paramilitaries and narcotics
traffickers flourish, that the narcotics industry is finding refuge.
As a result, large swathes of Colombia are in danger of being
narco-districts for the production, transportation, processing, and
marketing of these substances.

These links between narcotics trafficking and the guerrilla and
paramilitary movements are well documented. We estimate that the FARC
now has 7,000-11,000 active members, the ELN between 3,000-6,000, and
that there are an estimated 5,000-7,000 paramilitary members. They all
participate in this narcotics connection. Much of the recruiting
success occurs in marginalized rural areas where the groups can offer
salaries much higher than those paid by legitimate employers.
Estimates of guerrilla income from narcotics trafficking and other
illicit activities, such as kidnapping and extortion, are unreliable,
but clearly exceed $100 million a year, and could be far greater. Of
this, we estimate some 30-40% comes directly from the drug trade.
Paramilitary groups also have clear ties to important narcotics
traffickers, and paramilitary leaders have even publicly admitted
their participation in the drug trade.

This situation is worsened by the fact the Colombian economy is
undergoing its first recession in 25 years, and its deepest recession
of the last 70 years. Real gross domestic product is estimated to have
fallen by 3.5 percent last year, the result of external shocks, fiscal
imbalances, and a further weakening of confidences related to stepped
up activity by insurgent groups. Unemployment has rocketed from under
9 percent in 1995 to about 20 percent in 1999, adding to the pool of
unemployed workers who can be drawn into the narcotics trade or into
insurgent or paramilitary groups. This recession has also sapped the
Colombian government of resources to address societal and political
pressures, fight the narcotics trade, or respond to its thirty-five
year internal conflict.


The Government of Colombia has taken the initiative to confront the
challenges it faces with the development of a strategic approach to
address its national challenges. The "Plan Colombia -- Plan for Peace,
Prosperity, and Strengthening of the State" is an ambitious, but
realistic, package of mutually reinforcing policies to revive
Colombia's battered economy, to strengthen the democratic pillars of
the society, to promote the peace process and to eliminate
"sanctuaries" for narcotics producers and traffickers. The strategy
combines existing GOC policies with new initiatives to forge an
integrated approach to resolving Colombia's most pressing national

The USG consulted closely on the key elements that make up the Plan
with Colombian leaders and senior officials. It ties together many
individual approaches and strategies already being pursued in Colombia
and elsewhere in the region. The Plan itself was formulated, drafted
and approved in Colombia by President Pastrana and his team. Without
its Colombian origins and its Colombian stamp, it would not have the
support and commitment of Colombia behind it. Colombian ownership and
vigorous GOC implementation are essential to the future success of

The USG shares the assessment that an integrated, comprehensive
approach to Colombia's interlocking challenges holds the best promise
of success. For example, counternarcotics efforts will be most
effective when combined with rigorous GOC law enforcement/military
cooperation, complementary alternative development programs and
measures to assure human rights accountability. Similarly, promoting
respect for the rule of law is just as essential for attracting
foreign investors as it is for securing a durable peace agreement.

I met with President Pastrana and his Plan Colombia team on February
13-14 to discuss the Plan's implementation. To underscore the
importance of integrated planning, I brought a senior counterpart team
including Rand Beers, Assistant Secretary Bureau of International
Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs; Harold Koh, Assistant Secretary
Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor; Julia Taft, Assistant
Secretary Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration; Brian
Sheridan, Assistant Secretary of Defense Special Operations Low
Intensity Conflicts; Mary Lee Warren, Deputy Assistant for the
Attorney General; and William Brownfield, Deputy Assistant Secretary
Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs. We reviewed with the Colombians
a wide array of coordination and implementation issues. I believe we
have launched a process of continuous bilateral discussions that will
refine and make more effective our implementation policies.

Before I describe for you our proposal to assist Plan Colombia, let me
remind you that the Plan cannot be understood simply in terms of a
U.S. contribution. Plan Colombia is a $7.5 billion plan of which
President Pastrana has said Colombia will provide $4 billion of its
scarce resources. He called on the international community to provide
the remaining $3.5 billion. In response to this request, the
Administration is proposing a $1.6 billion assistance package to
Colombia of new monies and current funding. Our request for new monies
includes a $954 million FY 2000 emergency supplemental and $318
million in FY 2001 funding. A significant share of our package will go
to reduce the supply of drugs to the United States by assisting the
Government of Colombia in its efforts to limit the production,
refinement, and transportation of cocaine and heroin. Building on
current funding of over $330 million in FY 2000 and FY 2001, the
Administration's proposal includes an additional $818 million funded
through international affairs programs (function 150) and $137 million
through defense programs (function 050) in FY 2000, and $256 million
funded through function 150 and $62 million through function 050 in FY
2001. We are looking to the European Union and the International
Financial Institutions to provide additional funding.

The Departments of State, Defense, Justice, and Treasury, as well as
the Agency for International Development, the Drug Enforcement
Administration, and the Office of National Drug Control Policy all
played major roles in proposing and crafting the Plan Colombia two
year support package. They will all play essential roles in the
interagency implementation effort.

The Administration's proposal for support for Plan Colombia addresses
the breadth of Colombia's challenges, and will help Colombia in its
efforts to fight the drug trade, foster peace, increase the rule of
law, improve human rights, expand economic development, and institute
justice reform. Much of the assistance for social assistance programs
will come from the International Financial Institutions (IFI), future
potential bilateral donors and Colombia's own funds.

There has been an explosive growth in the coca crop in Putumayo, in
southern Colombia and, to a lesser extent, in Norte de Santander, in
the northeast. Putumayo is an area that remains beyond the reach of
the government's coca eradication operations. Strong guerrilla
presence and weak state authority have contributed to the lawless
situation in the Putumayo. As our success in Peru and Bolivia
demonstrates, it is possible to combat narcotics production in the
Andean region. This package will aid the Government of Colombia in
their plans to launch a comprehensive step-by-step effort in Putumayo
and Caqueta to counter the coca explosion, including eradication,
interdiction, and alternative development over the next several years.

The push into drug producing southern Colombia will give greater
sovereignty over that region to the GOC, allowing the CNP to eradicate
drug cultivation and destroy cocaine laboratories. Increased
interdiction will make the entire drug business more dangerous for
traffickers and less profitable. Meanwhile, funding for Plan Colombia
will support internally displaced people with emergency relief in the
short term and will fund alternative economic development to provide
licit sources of income in the long term. USAID and DOJ will fund
programs to improve human rights conditions and justice institutions
giving the Colombian people greater access to the benefits of
democratic institutions.

Our counternarcotics package for Colombia was designed with the
benefit of knowing what has worked in Bolivia and Peru. With USG
assistance, both countries have been able to reduce dramatically coca
production. This was achieved through successful efforts to
re-establish government control and bring government services to
former drug producing safe havens. Both Bolivia and Peru combined
vigorous eradication and interdiction efforts and with incentives for
small farmers to switch to legal crops. We aim to help Colombia
accomplish a similar record of success.

In doing this, we cannot, and will not, abandon our allies in Bolivia
and Peru. Their successes are real and inspired with 66-73% reductions
of coca production in each country. But they are also tenuous against
the seductive dangers of the narcotics trade. This is why our Plan
Colombia support package includes $46 million for regional
interdiction efforts and another $30 million for development in Peru,
Bolivia and Ecuador. These countries deserve our continued support to
solidify the gains they have striven so hard to obtain. We are not
content to allow cultivation and production of narcotics to simply be
displaced from one Andean country to another.

Components of U.S. Assistance Package

The proposed U.S. assistance has five components:

l. Boosting Governing Capacity and Respect for Human Rights:

The Administration proposes funding $93 million over the next two
years to fund a number of programs administered by the Agency for
International Development (AID) and the Departments of State and
Justice to strengthen human rights and administration of justice
institutions. Specific initiatives include increasing protection of
human rights NGOs, supporting human rights NGOs' information and
education programs, creating and training special units of prosecutors
and judicial police to investigate human rights cases involving GOC
officials, and training public defenders and judges. We propose to
allocate $15 million to support GOC and NGO entities specifically
focused on protecting human rights. Boosting governing capacity also
includes training and support for GOC anti-corruption, anti-money
laundering and anti-kidnapping personnel.

2. Expansion of Counternarcotics Operations into Southern Colombia:

The world's greatest expansion in narcotics cultivation is occurring
in insurgent-dominated southern Colombia. With this package, the
Administration proposes to fund $600 million over the next two years
to help train and equip two additional special counternarcotics
battalions (CNBN) which will move into southern Colombia to protect
the Colombian National Police (CNP) as they carry out their
counter-drug mission. The program will provide 30 Blackhawk
helicopters and 33 Huey helicopters to make the CNBNs air mobile so
they can access this remote and undeveloped region of Colombia. It
will also provide intelligence for the Colombian CNBNs. These troops
will accompany and backup police eradication and interdiction efforts.
They will also provide secure conditions for the implementation of aid
programs, including alternative development and relocation assistance,
to those impacted by the ending of illegal narcotics cultivation.

3. Alternative Economic Development:

The Administration includes new funding of $145 million over the next
two years to provide economic alternatives for small farmers who now
grow coca and poppy, and to increase local governments' ability to
respond to the needs of their people. As interdiction and eradication
make narcotics farming less profitable, these programs will assist
communities in the transition to licit economic activity.

4. More Aggressive Interdiction:

Coca and cocaine are produced in a relatively small area of Colombia,
while the Central American/Caribbean/Eastern Pacific transit zone is
approximately the size of the United States. Enhancing Colombia's
ability to interdict air, water-borne, and road trafficking is
essential to decreasing the price paid to farmers for coca leaf and to
decreasing the northward flow of drugs. The Administration proposes to
spend $340 million on interdiction. The program includes funding over
the next two years for radar upgrades to give Colombia a greater
ability to intercept traffickers, and also to provide intelligence to
allow the Colombian police and military to respond quickly to
narcotics activity. It will support the United States forward
operating locations in Manta, Ecuador, which will be used for
narcotics related missions. These funds will also provide $46 million
to enhance interdiction efforts in Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador to
prevent narcotics traffickers and growers from moving into neighboring

5. Assistance for the Colombian National Police (CNP):

The Administration proposes additional funding of $96 million over the
next two years to enhance the CNP's ability to eradicate coca and
poppy fields. This request builds upon our FY-99 counternarcotics
assistance of $158 million to the CNP. Our additional assistance will
upgrade existing aircraft, purchase additional spray aircraft, provide
secure bases for increased operations in the coca-growing centers, and
provide more intelligence on the narcotics traffickers.

All U.S. counternarcotics assistance to Colombia will continue to be
in the form of goods and services. The counternarcotics components of
Plan Colombia will be implemented by the Colombian police and
military, and there are no plans to commit U.S. forces to implement
militarily any aspect of this Plan. On the ground, our military
assistance will be limited to training vetted counternarcotics units
through the temporary assignment of carefully picked U.S. military

Human Rights Dimension

We have also strongly supported the efforts of the Pastrana
Administration to advance the protection of human rights and to
prosecute those who abuse them. Complicity by elements of Colombia's
security forces with the right wing militia groups remains a serious
problem, although the GOC has taken important steps in holding senior
military and police officials accountable for participation in human
rights violations. Since assuming office in August of 1998, President
Pastrana has demonstrated his Government's commitment to protecting
human rights by the dismissal of four generals and numerous mid-level
officers and NCO's for collaboration with paramilitaries or failure to
confront them aggressively. There have also been repeated government
declarations that collaboration between members of security forces and
paramilitaries will not be tolerated. More must be done, however.

U.S. assistance to Colombian military and police forces is provided
strictly in accordance with Section 563 of the FY 2000 Foreign
Operations Appropriations Act -- the so-called Leahy Amendment. No
assistance is provided to any unit of the security forces for which we
have credible evidence of commission of gross violations of human
rights, unless the Secretary is able to certify that the Government of
Colombia has taken effective measures to bring those responsible to
justice. We are firmly committed to the Leahy Amendment, and have a
rigorous process in place to screen those units being considered for

The Government of Colombia also acknowledges the urgent need to
improve physical security and protection for human rights workers and
the NGOs to which they belong. Currently, the GOC has dedicated $5.6
million to provide physical protection to approximately 80 human
rights activists and their offices. The Plan outlines measures to
strengthen the Human Rights Ombudsman's office, as well as to
establish a Permanent National Commission on Human Rights and
International Humanitarian Law.

One of the most serious problems in Colombia, a "silent crisis", is
the plight of its internally displaced persons (IDPs). The scope of
the problem is enormous. The vicious conflict between paramilitaries
and guerrillas is largely responsible for the forced displacement of
Colombians. As many as 300,000 persons, mostly women and children,
were driven from their homes in 1998 by rural violence. NGOs report
that Colombia has the fourth largest population of displaced persons
in the world. The USG provided, in FY 1999, $5.8 million to the
International Committee of the Red Cross's (ICRC) Western Hemisphere
operations, with an additional $3 million earmarked for Colombia.
Additionally, $4.7 million was contributed to the United Nations High
Commissioner for Refugees' (UNHCR) general fund for the Western
Hemisphere, a portion of which was used for institutional capacity
building in Colombia. Responsibility for assistance to IDPs has been
assigned to the Colombian government's Red de Solidaridad (Solidarity
Network) which will work closely with the UN system, NGOs, and other
Colombian agencies to coordinate services for IDPs throughout the

Peace Process

President Pastrana has made bringing an end to Colombia's civil strife
through a peace agreement with the various insurgent groups a central
goal of his Administration. Pastrana believes, and the United States
Government agrees, that ending the civil conflict and eliminating all
of that conflict's harmful side effects is central to solving
Colombia's multi-faceted problems.

A peace agreement would stabilize the nation, help Colombia's economy
to recover and allow for further improvement in the protection of
human rights. A successful peace process would also restore Colombian
government authority and control in the coca-growing region. We hope
the peace negotiations going on now between the GOC and the FARC and
the GOC and the ELN prove successful. We applaud the Colombian
Government's determination to press the guerrillas to cease their
practices of kidnapping, forced recruitment of children, and attacks
against the civilian population.

Mr. Chairman, distinguished members, the Administration has been
pleased by the bipartisan support from both houses that share our
concern for Colombia's future. At this moment, Colombia is a partner
who shares our counternarcotics concerns and possesses the will to
execute the needed reforms and operations. Our challenge, as a
neighbor and a partner, is to identify ways in which the U.S.
Government can assist Colombia in resolving these problems. Concerted
action now could help over time to stem the illicit narcotics flow to
the United States. Action now can contribute to a peaceful resolution
of a half-century of conflict. Action now could return Colombia to its
rightful historical place as one of the hemisphere's strongest