Hearing of the House Government Reform Committee on the War on Drugs and Thugs : A Status Report on Plan Colombia - Transcript

Date: June 17, 2004
Location: Washington, DC


HEADLINE: HEARING OF THE HOUSE GOVERNMENT REFORM COMMITTEE SUBJECT: THE WAR ON DRUGS AND THUGS: A STATUS REPORT ON PLAN COLOMBIA SUCCESSES AND REMAINING CHALLENGES

CHAIRED BY: REPRESENTATIVE TOM DAVIS (R-VA)

WITNESSES PANEL I:

JOHN P. WALTERS, DIRECTOR, U.S. OFFICE OF NATIONAL DRUG CONTROL POLICY;

PANEL II:

LUIS ALBERTO MORENO, AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, REPUBLIC OF COLOMBIA; ROGER F. NORIEGA, ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR WESTERN HEMISPHERE AFFAIRS, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE; ROBERT B. CHARLES, ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR INTERNATIONAL NARCOTICS AND LAW ENFORCEMENT AFFAIRS, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE; THOMAS W. O'CONNELL, ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR SPECIAL OPERATIONS AND LOW-INTENSITY CONFLICT, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE;

GENERAL JAMES T. HILL, COMMANDER, U.S. SOUTHERN COMMAND; KAREN P. TANDY, ADMINISTRATOR, U.S. DRUG ENFORCEMENT ADMINISTRATION;

PANEL III: CARLOS PLOTTER, FORMER POLITICAL COMMANDER, REVOLUTIONARY ARMED FORCES OF COLOMBIA (FARC);

DR. MARC W. CHERNICK, VISITING ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF FOREIGN SERVICE; ADAM ISACSON, DIRECTOR OF PROGRAMS, CENTER FOR INTERNATIONAL POLICY

LOCATION: 2154 RAYBURN HOUSE OFFICE BUILDING, WASHINGTON, D.C.

BODY:

REP. TOM DAVIS (R-VA): Well, good afternoon. And my remarks said good morning, but we got delayed by votes, so we'll have members coming in.

I want to welcome everybody to today's oversight hearing on Plan Colombia, an important component of the United States' foreign aid and counter-narcotics policy. Today we'll examine the U.S. government's support and contributions to the progress being made in Colombia in fighting drug trafficking and international crime and improving economic and social conditions.

Since its inception in 1999, Plan Colombia has been an integrated strategy to meet the most pressing challenges confronting the country today, promoting the peace process, combating narco-terrorism, reviving the economy and strengthening the democratic pillars of society. The combined efforts of several of our government agencies who are here testifying today are providing assistance to meet these challenges and improve the stability and future of Colombia.

Not only is Colombia one of the oldest democracies in our hemisphere, but it is also home to three terrorist groups who fund guerilla activities with drugs smuggled into the United States for American consumption. Colombia is a significant source of cocaine and heroin for the U.S. market. As many of us are well aware, the drug trade has a terrible and destructive impact on Americans through addiction, drug related crimes and death. Because drug trafficking and the guerilla insurgency have become intertwined problems, Congress has granted the U.S. expanded authority and increased flexibility to fight narco-terrorism and reduce the flow of illicit drugs into the U.S.

I led three Congressional delegations to Colombia last year and can say first hand that our significant investment after years of effort is beginning to see returns on the time, the money and the resources spent in Colombia. Together with the strong commitment of President Alvaro Uribe and historic levels of support from the Colombian people, U.S. involvement is beginning to get narco- terrorists where it hurts.

Some European left wing politicians and human rights groups claim the Uribe administration has failed to honor commitments on human rights. They've also criticized new Colombian anti-terrorism laws passed in December. But I think the view from Bogota looks very different, and I think the European left may be guilty of clinging to an overly romantic, na?ve opinion of the guerillas.

The mask is off the lone ranger. These are not idealistic liberators, they're thugs and terrorists, funded by the illicit drug trade. The fact is President Uribe continues to enjoy unprecedented support from the Colombian people because his no nonsense strategy is producing results. He's popular because Colombians feel safer. Men, women and children once afraid to hit the road to visit family and friends for fear of kidnapping or worse are now doing so.

A publicly recognized state presence now extends the towns and villages that for decades had been rebel territory. We're seeing tremendous results in illegal crop eradication and Plan Colombia's efforts to produce record reductions in coca production and the destruction of drug labs. Net coca production in Colombia dropped from 355,347 acres in 2002 to 280,071 acres in 2003, a stunning 33 percent decline from the peak growing year of 2001.

Interdiction efforts by the government of Colombia have increased significantly, and each week brings news of new seizures of cocaine and heroin, interdictions that are usually the result of U.S. supplied intelligence. Eradication coupled with increasing successful interdiction efforts is a key to our war on narco-terrorism, reducing profitability and slowly but surely leading farmers to abandon coca in favor of other legitimate crops.

Ultimately that in turn will leave less cocaine on American streets. Criminals who have remained at large for years are being captured and extradited to the U.S. for prosecution. Colombia extradited 90 suspects to the United States in the first 16 months of the Uribe administration, quite an accomplishment considering that five years ago it offered up just one of its citizens to the U.S. justice system.

The extraditions illustrate the unprecedented cooperation and partnership between our two nations, and the fact that public opinion on extradition in Colombia has changed due largely to the political will and persistence of President Uribe. Last month Attorney General Ashcroft announced the indictment of nine top leaders of Colombia's largest drug cartel, an organization responsible for as much as half of all the cocaine smuggled into the United States.

This cartel had exported more than 1.2 million pounds of cocaine to the U.S. through Mexico since 1990, a load worth more than $10 billion. To put that number in perspective, it's approximately the combined annual budgets of the FBI, the DEA and the Bureau of Prisons.

Our continued support of Colombia's unified campaign against drug trafficking and terrorist activities, and their effort to obtain democratic security is a wise investment.

Although U.S. assistance to the Colombian government has led to meaningful signs of success under the strong leadership of President Uribe, challenges remain. Complete realization of U.S. policy goals requires a concerted Colombian strategy and effort sustained by continuous U.S. assistance. Our panels of witnesses today will provide an update on the current status of U.s.-Colombian programs, progress that's been made in recent years, and an assessment of remaining challenges in the war against narcoterrorism.

I look forward to our discussion today, and I again want to welcome our witnesses and their important testimony. I now yield to any members wishing to make an opening statement.

Mr. Kucinich.

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REP. DAVIS: Thank you very much.

Any other members wish to make opening statements? The gentlelady from Florida and then Mr. Souder.

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REP. DAVIS: Thank you very much.

Ms. Norton.

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REP. DAVIS: Thank you very much.

I ask the subcommittee chairman, Mr. Souder.

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REP. DAVIS: Well, thank you very much.

Any other members wish to make opening statements? Let's move to our panel.

We have our first witness, is the honorable John Walters, the director of Office of National Drug Control Policy. Thank you very much, Director Walters, we'll provide the committee with the report on how we're achieving the president's counter-drug objectives by reducing the production of cocaine and heroin in Colombia and the Andean region.

It's our policy we swear you in before you testify, so if you'd rise with me. Do you solemnly swear the testimony you're about to give will be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?

(Witnesses sworn in)

Thank you very much. I think you know the rules, the light will turn orange after four minutes, your entire statement is in the record, when it's red five minutes are up. If you could move to summary, questions will be based on your entire statement.

But we appreciate the job you're doing, and we just welcome you here today and look forward to your testimony, thank you.

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REP. DAVIS: Without objection, so ordered.

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REP. DAVIS: Well, thank you very much. Let me start the questioning, if I may.

I heard Representative Kucinich's opening remarks. Is it possible that as we eradicate in Colombia it's moving to other countries?

MR. WALTERS: It is possible, and it's a great concern, and in the past this has happened, that cultivation was once much greater in Peru and Bolivia. It's been reduced dramatically, during that reduction cultivation moved to Colombia. That's why what we've tried to do is make sure that we continue the pressure, working with the governments of Peru and Bolivia.

Fortunately over the last two years we have been able to sustain that reduction and we have not seen the spread, and to belabor the point that, as the New York Times reported on June 9th, 2004, this year, quote, "The overall decline in coca in Colombia and the rest of the Andes is indisputable, and the strategy appears to have controlled the so-called balloon effect, the recurring phenomena that once saw huge fields of coca pop up in one region after being stamped out in another."

So we have our own estimates, we have the UN estimates and we have the New York Times. We don't usually line up all three in such a point.

REP. DAVIS: Could you share with me some of the links? We've seen the evidence that the administration's collected that detail the relationship between drugs and financing for terrorist groups in the Andean region?

MR. WALTERS: Yes. Our current estimates, and we're trying to refine some of the dollar amounts, are that substantial operational resources are provided both for the extreme right and extreme left armed groups, the FARC, the ELN and these so-called AUC. The precise amount that they get from drug trafficking is hard to identify, but they could not operate at current levels without the resources they receive.

They also take money as you know from kidnapping and from some other criminal activities, but the bulk of that money is, no question about it, has come from drug trafficking.

We have various estimates of the relative amounts, but both for the violence that they cause in Colombia and the violence that we see through armed groups in Mexico, those organizations that are most dangerous and most violent make their money and remain under arms and remain able to put armed, dangerous people in the field because of what they make from the United States drug consumer.

REP. DAVIS: Are there any other cartels or cabals or drug lords operating independently of the three groups you've described in Colombia?

MR. WALTERS: Yes, there are. We have identified a number of organizational leaders that are facilitators, organizers, they use these-sometimes they use the armed groups and pay them for protection, sometimes the armed groups in different areas provide certain levels of product for final processing and distribution.

Basically the large scale distribution and shipment to the United States is not run by the armed groups, although there have been some of them involved in a few cases of distribution. But basically those are run by trafficking organizations both in Colombia and Mexico today, and they use both the central American Mexican route to move the drugs into the United States and the Caribbean.

REP. DAVIS: So let me just understand, what percent of the cocaine-let's talk about cocaine for example-and the coca crop is controlled by the paramilitary groups and what percent by these other independent operators or cartels? Any idea?

MR. WALTERS: Yeah, I can't give you a precise percentage because in some cases they're mixed, that the areas controlled by one of these groups --

REP. DAVIS: And subcontracting, that sort of --

MR. WALTERS: -- outsourcing in later stages, yes.

REP. DAVIS: Okay.

MR. WALTERS: We're trying to get a better handle on that. We also believe frankly that some of what we've seen in the large number of desertions I referred to in my written testimony of the armed group participants are a result of difficulties in financing because of the magnitude of the eradication and the disruption of the market for cocaine.

REP. DAVIS: I'm just trying to figure out, okay, we're going-the Colombian government with help from us is going after some of the paramilitary groups down there now, and we wiped those out. There are still others standing that are going into the trade, is what you're saying?

MR. WALTERS: Yes. Again, they're working very closely together and how it might transform itself in the future, again, what happened was the drug cultivation moved to Colombia and these armed groups became involved by controlling countryside, keeping government forces, the rule of law from that area so they could grow and produce cocaine.

As the government takes control of the country, and I think that's important, we're not just eradicating, the government of Colombia is systematically taking back the country as you know, providing government presence and rule of law in all the municipalities of the country for the first time in more than two decades.

REP. DAVIS: What do you think is the major obstacle and challenge that we face in Plan Colombia at this time?

MR. WALTERS: Follow through. We can, have and do make this problem smaller by pushing back. What happens is we frequently don't stay at it. I think that everyone is rightly concerned that one of the limits of commitment, this is a large dollar amount, we know that. But when you look at the investment in terms of the $12 and a half billion that we spend on drug control at the federal level and the many times greater amount that we spend in trying to pick up the pieces from the consequences of substance abuse, this is a cost effective investment.

Now, it obviously is only cost effective if it makes a difference, and I think that's what the historic opportunity is, that the commitment and leadership of Colombia, where most of the effort is being applied, that the resources that we're supplying to support them there and in the other parts of the Andean region are making a difference and systematically shrinking in historic allotments the amount of cocaine coming into the country.

REP. DAVIS: Okay. Thank you very much.

Mr. Tierney.

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REP. DAVIS: Thank you very much.

Who should I go to? The gentleman from Tennessee.

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REP. DAVIS: Thank you very much.

The gentlelady from Minnesota, Ms. McCollum.

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REP. DAVIS: It's her time.

MR. WALTERS: Okay.

REP. McCOLLUM: Thank you.

Would you-so you're saying that the amount of --

REP. DAVIS: Go ahead.

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REP. DAVIS: Thank you.

Did you want to add anything else, Mr. Walters?

MR. WALTERS: Yeah, I just want to say that-I mean, I want to make sure there's not any misunderstanding. We do not have information that suggests in the last several years there's been a substantial change in the productivity of the coca varieties or a substantial change in the output of the varieties that are there, such that in the last couple of years-so such that the reductions that we're talking about with eradication are really superficial and undermine to buy a change in the agronomy of this.

I want to make that clear because I want to not leave the suggestion that somehow it looks good but it's not. There are over time have been changes in processing over the last 10 years, there have been changes in the use of different varieties. We monitor those as we produce our estimates of both output, and we adjust for that. So the declines that we report are real declines based on the most comprehensive knowledge that we can find.

REP. DAVIS: Thank you very much.

Mr. Souder.

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REP. DAVIS: Thank you.

Ms. Mimms (ph).

The gentlelady from California.

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REP. DAVIS: Thank you very --

MR. WALTERS: If I could just touch on that point? We're focused on the international programs. The international programs of the federal government, just to put it in context because I think it is a point of emphasis, are a little over $1 billion total worldwide, 9.1 percent of the federal drug control budget. Interdiction is a little over $2 and a half billion at our borders, a little over 20 percent of the budget request.

Domestic law enforcement is a little over $3 billion, or 25 percent. Forty-five percent of the overall budget is prevention and treatment. Fifty-five percent is supply control, including all those things. The single largest area of funding at 29.4 percent is the $3.7 billion we spend on treatment. We've made progress in prevention in the last two years, we want to treat people because most of this cocaine as you know is going to dependant individuals.

And we need to reduce that demand and we need to do it through treatment at multiple points. But we are not, and I didn't mean to suggest, forgetting to do law enforcement in the United States and a key component that Administrator Tandy, who will be on a subsequent panel, has done is every single case DEA does has a money component.

Take the money out, find the money. We do not believe we're doing a good enough job against the money. But we are doing a better job against the organizations and the structures that fund this here and abroad. We've linked in a consolidated way the businesses of the drug trade in focusing intelligence and enforcement efforts against that business.

So we hope that in the future we'll be able to both parallel what we're doing at home in what we're doing with other nations as well as our partners in other parts of the world.

REP. DAVIS: Thank you very much.

Mr. Van Hollen, any questions?

All right, I think that's all from this witness. Thank you very much --

REP. TIERNEY: Mr. Chairman, could I ask just two questions?

REP. DAVIS: Oh, I'm sorry, Mr. Tierney. Sure.

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REP. DAVIS: Thank you.

Mr. Slattery, do you have some follow ups?

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REP. DAVIS: Okay, thank you very much. We're going to move to our next panel, we'll take a two minute recess. Thank you very much, Director Walters.

(Recess.)

REP. DAVIS: All right, we're going to move to our next panel. Again, I want to thank our witnesses for appearing today. Joining us in our second panel will be the Ambassador of Colombia to the United States, the Honorable Louis Alberto Moreno. Ambassador Moreno will provide the committee with an update on his country's ongoing fight against drugs and terror.

Several important leaders in the administration who are key figures in the battle against narcoterrorism also join us. I want to welcome the Honorable Roger Noriega, the assistant secretary of State for Western Hemisphere affairs; the Honorable Robert Charles will be with us in just a minute, assistant secretary of State for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs; the Honorable Thomas O'Connell, the assistant secretary of Defense for special operations, and low intensity conflict; and General James T. Hill, the commander of U.S. Southern Command; and finally last but not the least, the Honorable Karen Tandy, the administrator of the DEA.

We welcome all the witnesses and their testimony today. It's a policy that we swear you in before you testify, if you just rise with me and raise your right hand. Do you solemnly swear the testimony you are about to give to be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth? Thank you very much.

(Witnesses sworn in)

I think you know the rules, Ambassador Moreno, we'll start with you. Thank you for being with us.

MR. LUIS ALBERTO MORENO: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Ranking members, members of the committee --

REP. DAVIS: Do you want to turn your microphone on so we can hear you?

MR. MORENO: Mr. Chairman, ranking members and distinguished members of the committee, it's my distinct pleasure to appear before you today, to discuss developments relating to Plan Colombia and the current situation in my country. I have a written statement that I would like to submit for the record.

REP. DAVIS: With no objection, all of your written statements will be in the record, as will I might add, you just interrupted, Mr. Souder has a statement he wants to put in the record.

Turn it on. Yes, thank you, without objection that'll be-go ahead, thank you.

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REP. DAVIS: Thank you very much.

Ambassador Noriega?

MR. ROGER F. NORIEGA: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I want to thank you and members of the committee for your continued leadership on U.S. policy towards Colombia, and particularly on your willingness to engage with Colombian government officials, and to take congressional delegations to Colombia to see for yourselves the reality there. We believe that the engagement of the U.S. Congress and the leadership of the U.S. Congress on this issue are crucial to developing, implementing and maintaining momentum behind our policy on Colombia which is, I think you'll agree, paying solid dividends for our national interest.

It is these common efforts between the Congress and the executive branch, and the bipartisan support that this policy enjoys makes a big difference to our success and the prospects for meeting our objectives. You see before you here, Mr. Chairman, members of the committee, members of an inter-agency team expanded by international component here, that works together well in implementing this policy. There are many that you have met, also in the field in Colombia, led by Ambassador Bill Wood, members of the various agencies that are represented here, that put their lives at risk.

REP. DAVIS: Could you move a little closer to the mike, I've been asked.

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REP. DAVIS: Thank you very much.

Mr. Charles, I have to swear you in, you were not here for the swearing in, do you solemnly swear the testimony you are about to give to be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth? Thank you very much, I think you know the rules, the light will go on after four minutes and try to sum up after five if you can.

MR. ROBERT B. CHARLES: I'll try to beat it.

REP. DAVIS: Your entire statement is in the record and we appreciate the job you did with the speaker's drug task force before you came here, and now the administration thanks you for being with us.

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REP. DAVIS: Thank you very much.

Mr. O'Connell, thank you for being with us as well.

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REP. DAVIS: Thank you very much.

General Hill, welcome.

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REP. DAVIS: Thank you very much.

Ms. Tandy, thank you for being with us. Last but not the least, we appreciate the job you've done.

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REP. DAVIS: Let me just say thanks again to all of you, it really has been a team effort, as I think several of you have said in your testimony.

Ambassador Moreno, let me ask you a question. Does the hero of today, which is the Colombian Army, which is I think taking unprecedented steps to go into FARC controlled areas and other areas, do you think they have the staying power really to defeat the FARC and the ELN? Do you think they're helping to bring the ELN to the conference table?

I mean, talks are going on, they're starting to sustain some heavy casualties, this is really a new test. Can you give us your appraisal on that?

And then I'd like to hear from General Hill the same.

MR. MORENO: Yes, Mr. Chairman. Clearly there is an opportunity with the ELN, the Mexican government has been very cooperative, in fact recently they named their ambassador to Israel to begin the initial contacts with the ELN leadership to see if we can get to a situation where a negotiation can proceed.

President Tuleda (ph) from the beginning has always stated that a precondition for any peace process is that of a ceasefire and a cease of hostilities that will permit any process to go forward. I think it's too early to tell, my sense is from what I hear and I would like to hear of course General Hill, who is closer to our military on this issue, but the reality is that the ELN progressively has been losing some of their strength as a result of clearly the better campaign that the military is doing with success, especially on territorial control throughout the country.

And as that campaign of territorial control is successful, any group, any terrorists in Colombia will have a harder time going about its business.

REP. DAVIS: What's the-in terms of the casualties and everything else that the army is taking on, any kind of ratios-what's happening with the FARC and the ELN as we go into some of these areas? What kind of resistance? Are we hitting them and they're running? I mean, try to give me a feel for what's happening.

MR. MORENO: I will try to give you some, and again I would like to be complemented by General Hill. In terms of the number of both casualties and deserters, the numbers are very impressive. I mean, the last numbers that I've seen are around 7,000 in the last year between FARC, AUC and the ELN, between people who have lost their lives on the field and those who have deserted.

Clearly the push on desertion has been working very well, this we have done, again, with some U.S. funding, especially for child soldiers. The number of combats, which I think is a very important denominator, has increased significantly, meaning that the army more and more is doing combats on the field. This is a very deep change from what it was as recent as two years ago.

REP. DAVIS: General Hill, what's your appraisal?

GEN. HILL: Let me take that from a couple of different angles, Chairman Davis. One is in military parlance, which is the close fight, and the other is the long fight or the deep fight. On the close fight, not only what they're doing with Plan Patriota, but they're standing up a special operations command, they're improving their ability to operate jointly, they're doing a lot better in terms of intelligence sharing.

And that has allowed them to conduct tactical military operations that they were simply incapable of doing two years ago, both in terms of major combat operations and in terms of specialized operations going after the heads of the organizations. Ambassador Moreno mentioned combat actions. In 2003 they were involved in 2,312 distinct combat actions. That's a 73 percent increase from 2002.

REP. DAVIS: And that's the government's initiative, not in reaction to --

GEN. HILL: Absolutely. Because if you would look at the results of Plan Patriota in the early stages, the first two or three, four months of it, what we're seeing is a delaying action by the FARC in the sense that they are putting out a lot more anti-personnel mines, they're trying to fight in smaller organizations and they're trying to avoid major combat. That was to be expected.

The problem for them, however, is they will not be able to avoid that forever, because the Colombian military is not going to go away, they're going to continue to push the fight. That's near term. Let me talk about one thing just in terms of long term. The one thing that separates the United States from most militaries in the world, and if you've brought in anybody in uniform and then say, what's the one thing that makes you different or better than anybody else?

And the answer is non-commissioned officers. Non-commissioned officers and the responsibility that we give to non-commissioned officers. I had a long discussion about a year and a half ago with General Mora, who was then the chairman of their joint chiefs, and General Ospina, the head of their army, along this professionalization.

They wanted to professionalize the Colombian NCO corps. So my command sergeant major and several senior NCOs from SOUTHCOM went down, began working with the Colombian Army and we have-they have built a non-commissioned officer sergeant major academy, started out in first class with us teaching it, only Army. Second class, mutual teaching, included some Marines.

This third class includes all services, they did a scrub of their senior sergeants major and opted about 30 percent of them to retire and have changed the role of a sergeant major from an admin role to a combat role. This will put them long term in a much better stead.

REP. DAVIS: When they go out on these missions, are they accompanied by American advisors?

GEN. HILL: No, sir. We are prohibited from being in a direct combat role, we stay on secure bases only in a planning assistance role. And in my request for the cap increase, the 800, those rules of engagement do not change.

REP. DAVIS: Do you have any idea how many Americans are currently held captive by the different groups, contractors or --

GEN. HILL: There's three.

REP. DAVIS: Just the three?

GEN. HILL: Yes, sir.

REP. DAVIS: Okay.

Let me ask, Secretary Charles, is it still your position that the Colombian air wing program is best left where it is? There's a lot of debate about moving the program to a law enforcement agency, have you been able to identify and assess any existing problem areas with the air wing at this point?

MR. CHARLES: I think it belongs where it is, but the second part of the question is a very important one. And the answer to it is that since the nine months I've been there one of the focal points has been evaluating the air wing. In a nutshell, that air wing has run on a shoestring for a long time and God bless them, every one, for having been able to achieve what they have to date, but the air assets need support, and one of my missions in addition to putting performance measures on the contractors and penalties in place for contractors and contractor oversight is also to look at the capital account of that air wing.

You're talking about an air wing around which the environment has changed and which is responding very well to the changed environment. But nevertheless, in 2002 you had about 194 hits on that air wing, the next year, '03, you had about 383 hits on it, even this year while there's been a reduction in the this the risk environment is very high. It complements exactly what General Hill has been talking about and Ambassador Moreno.

As you get closer and closer to the burning ember of the FARC, the heat is felt by everybody, and it's being felt here. That's good in the sense that we're having an impact, and it will be good as we capitalize that account and make sure they know how to do their job there and frankly elsewhere in the world. That air wing also operates in Pakistan and other locations for other purposes.

But the short answer is I'm very confident that it belongs there, that is functionally and operationally where it belongs, but it is also true that proper management of the air wing is an imperative, and I'm working on it.

REP. DAVIS: Do you know how the Colombian government will use the recently acquired DC-3 airplanes for opium poppy eradication efforts? These planes, will they make it easier to find and eliminate the hard to reach or concealed fields of opium poppy?

MR. CHARLES: Now, as you may or may not know, I am a strong advocate of that particular decision, and I --

REP. DAVIS: That's why I asked you.

MR. CHARLES: Yes, well, I appreciate it. I know you are too. I think that this is again an example of the United States Congress working closely with the administration, and I think we all know that the heroin that shows up on the eastern seaboard, whether it's Congressman Cumming's district in Baltimore or whether it's the 352 deaths outside of Chicago, Speaker Hastert's, or whether it's anywhere, is chiefly coming on this side of the continent from Colombia.

That means we have to be very aggressive about addressing it. What those DC-3s do is they give us the opportunity now to get to altitude with manual eradicators and to complement other programs. And let me just tell you how important we think, I think and I think this entire table thinks heroin is. And frankly, the leadership for this also comes as much from the Colombian government as it does from the American government and from the United States Congress.

One thousand-two hundred kilograms of heroin seized last year, DEA has an entire operation that is affecting it, Operation Firewall, a significant maritime interdiction together with other efforts. DEA runs the heroin taskforce in Bogota, 50 DEA and CMP members very aggressive on it. We're targeting heroin organizations which never occurred before. In the last two years on eradication, in 2002, we talk a lot about coca but let's not forget the significant impact of heroin.

In 2002 there was a 10 percent reduction. I'm sorry, in 2002 there was a 25 percent reduction, in 2003 there was a 10 percent reduction. And what do we mean by these reductions? Why do they count? Why do they matter? They matter because they are deterrents. Just like in the Cold War, aggressive, continuous, sustained effort ended in victory in every reasonable sense of the word.

The same thing is what we're shooting for here, we're looking for an end game that puts deterrents in place so that if you destroy those crops again and again and again, people say, to heck with it, the risks are too high, the prosecution too high, police are now in every district. Short version of this is we're doing good things I think, we've also got a rewards program. Heroin will not go away soon but we are aggressively tackling it and the DC-3s are a big part of it.

REP. DAVIS: Thank you very much.

Mr. Cummings.

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REP. DAVIS: Yeah. We've got to move to our next panel, but that's fine.

MR. NORIEGA: The democracy and human rights and rule of law programs amount to about $200 million of that $3.3 billion. Looking at training of prosecutors, support for the Colombian judicial system, teaching a culture of lawfulness, judicial systems assistance in various ways, at various levels in the Colombian government, starting from the municipal local level all the way up to training of prosecutors at the highest level. Security for prosecutors so that they're not afraid of enforcing and imposing the rule of law against corruption when it's detected.

MR. CHARLES: Could I add one refinement to that, Mr. Chairman?

REP. DAVIS: Yes, you may.

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REP. DAVIS: Thank you very much.

Ambassador Moreno?

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REP. DAVIS: That'd be fine. Without objection.

Thank you all very much, it's been very, very helpful to us.

We're going to take a brief recess before the start of our third panel, we're going to be setting up a screen so that one of our witnesses is shielded from the cameras. The media knows this gentleman can't be filmed or photographed. We'll resume in about three minutes.

(Recess.)

REP. DAVIS: Well, thank you very much. We're moving to our third panel. We have Mr. Carlos Plotter, and before him, translating, we have Mrs. Patricia Sapeta (ph). I'm going to have to swear you both in. Mr. Plotter is a former member of the FARC and he'll discuss the time he spent with the FARC, why he chose to voluntarily turn himself in to the Colombian National Police after serving 10 years as a guerilla. His testimony will provide a valuable inside guerilla perspective on the peace process between the Colombian government and the guerilla groups in an effort to restore authority and control of the Colombian government in the areas of the country where the government control was lacking. And we're just very appreciate of you taking the time to be here today.

And so I-if you just-you can stay stead. Would you raise your right hand. Do you solemnly-both of you. Do you solemnly swear the testimony you're about to give to be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?

MR. CARLOS ALBERTO PLOTTER: I do. Muchos gracias.

(Witnesses sworn.)

REP. DAVIS: Thank you. You need to turn the microphone on. He's got a microphone there. Translator have her-there, all set. All right. We'll allow Mr. Plotter to speak, and then he can be the beginning and you can translate for him. Thank you very much.

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REP. DAVIS: Muchos gracias. Thank you very much as well.

And we also have Dr. Marc Chernick and Mr. Adam Isacson, well- credentialed in this area. Could you raise your right hand. So you solemnly swear the testimony you're about to give to be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

WITNESSES: I do.

(Witnesses sworn.)

REP. DAVIS: Thank you. Let me-for the record, your entire testimony is in the record. We're expecting votes in about 10 minutes, so if you can get there, we'll try to get to some questions. Once the bells go off, we'll have a couple of minutes, but I want to get you each going.

I'll start with you, Dr. Chernick, and then to Mr. Isacson.

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REP. DAVIS: Thank you very much.

Mr. Isacson.

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REP. DAVIS: Well, thank you all very much. I've been to Putumayo and what alternative crop would you suggest for these farmers? That's the difficulty.

MR. ISAACSON: Well there are crops and there are products that will make money. Juice concentrates are showing some --

REP. DAVIS: They'll make money but it's nothing near what they're getting for the --

MR. ISAACSON: Actually, it wouldn't be that far off. A coca grower who has three hectares after they make their payment to the paramilitaries and to the guerrillas in the area, after they pay for all their inputs, two hectares would probably give you a net of about $300 - $300 or $400 a month, which Colombia's minimum wage is only $110, but you could probably make that with hearts of palm or something like that.

REP. DAVIS: The use of Varag (ph) programs where they pay you not to grow, you'd probably do better down there.

Mr. Plotter, let me ask a couple of questions. What was it like on a day to day basis of being a guerrilla, I mean what was the quality of life like? Would you have running water, or were you living out there in the jungle in tents? What kind of food did you get? I mean what was the quality of life compared to going into the city and living a normal civilian life.

(Mr. Plotter's remarks are given through a translator.)

MR. PLOTTER: It was a drastic and a radical change. I grew up in the provinces, but I always, up to the moment I went into the guerrillas, lived in urban centers. In my 10 years as a guerrilla I was always in the geographical regions of either the big mountain range or the jungle. The conditions maybe satisfied the military struggle but they didn't satisfy human needs. We never get used to war. We just become resigned to living in those conditions.

Our basic sanitary services, for example, are what nature provides. When the FARC started getting money, and when they started getting more comfortable in the demilitarized zone, those of us who were outside of the zone wanted to copy those bourgeois kind of accommodations. What happened was the sacrifice and the personal giving oneself up to the revolutionary or guerrilla fight --

REP. DAVIS: Keep going, we can hear you.

MR. PLOTTER: -- was substituted-the march along the jungle or along the mountain ranges was substituted for traveling in a Toyota 4 by 5. But the guerrilla that in the FARC is really a (pestilence ?) man, lives like the snail, carrying its house on its back constantly.

REP. DAVIS: How do you-let me ask, how do they get recruits, how do you recruit people to live under those conditions, or were they conscripts? Many of the new people coming in.

MR. PLOTTER: Today those that enter the FARC are, in the words of Che, are social transformation agents, are really the minority. The FARC takes advantage of the conditions and the reality of the conditions that people live in. The majority of the recruits come from the countryside and the biggest majority is 15 to 22 years old.

REP. DAVIS: Are they volunteers-do they come voluntary or do they come at the point of a gun?

MR. PLOTTER: At the beginning it's a psychological pressure. You start telling the young boys "you're almost at the age of coming in, almost, pretty soon you'll join us." That's the beginning. There was what we would call a national directive that arised lately and said that those in the guerrilla areas had - it was an obligation. They had to join up or else they should leave. This is happening in the clandestine communist party, and in the Bolivian militias.

REP. WATSON: Okay. I thank you very much. Somebody must be getting rich with all of the drug money that's coming in there. Somebody has got to be living the high life somewhere, I would expect. Are there any people at the top of the FARC chain that are living palatial-ly or taking nice vacations? I know they caught some of the para-military leadership in other countries vacationing. Do you see any knowledge of that.

MR. PLOTTER: The phenomenon does not show up in that particular way in the FARC. The way it shows up among the FARC is the influx of capital as the profit from the drug war has created a whole set of false needs in the guerrilla commanders. The guerrilla that in the past used to wear a pair of rubber boots that cost 10,000 Colombian pesos now wants a brand name boot that costs 150,000 pesos.

They want to have a watch, but one that not merely tells time but one that has a global positioning satellite. Through this whole set of false needs, they're now at a situation where both at the middle range and then at the Commander range, everybody wants something more and everybody wants something better of needs and goods that aren't really necessary in the armed struggle.

There is also a need for more and more economic process. With this comes a lessening of mobility of the guerrilla which was essentially a mobile force. Now it's tied to the areas of narcotics production.

REP. DAVIS: Okay, thank you, I'm going to cut it and have some questions from the other side. Ms Watson, I'll start with you.

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REP. DAVIS: Let me just ask, you know the Homestead Act was, under President Lincoln, did so much to develop the West here and the gold rush and everything. Would something like that be conceivable for Colombia?

MR. ISACSON: I think so, and actually a lot of the places we're talking about, like Putomayo, some of the people that came in the '60s and '70s came at the behest of the Colombian government, as what they called colonization plans. But the Colombian government didn't follow up.

REP. DAVIS: Didn't follow - they didn't have Wyatt Earp following it up and the cavalry and everything else.

MR. ISACSON: That's exactly right. No pony express either, nothing.

REP. DAVIS: Yes.

DR. CHERNICK: There is a problem here, it is true that Colombia has this really hundreds of years process of colonization of its-of what they call the agricultural frontier, it's like the Homesteading Act. The problem with it is most of the areas of homesteading, it's not only they don't have title to the land and therefore-and the state doesn't have infrastructure, no roads to market and all that, but most of this area is not suitable for agricultural production. Most of this is very fragile rainforest that does not lend itself to agricultural production. You ask what else can you grow. In most places, nothing.

And that is-one really needs to think about it, and I in fact worked with the World Bank on a project of creating alternative poles for development, because it's not only alternative crops, it's in fact alternative poles for development that would draw populations out of the forest. One can't think of simply continuing the colonization. They thought about that in the past. Half the country is basically unpopulated. But it's not suitable for habitation, and one needs to think of a different relationship of the population and that land, and that's-the alternative development question hasn't even begun to address that issue.

REP. DAVIS: Thank you. Well, our votes are on, and I don't want to hold you while we go over and do them, but it's been very helpful. We appreciate all of your perspectives as we put this in the record and as we move forward. So Mr. Isacson and Dr. Chernick and Mr. Plotter and also to you, Ms. Epada (ph), thank you very much for being with us today. This has been very, very helpful to us.

Hearing is adjourned.

END

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