Tuesday, 31 March 1998


SUBJECT: Counternarcotics Policy Towards Colombia 

CHAIRED BY: Representative Benjamin Gilman (R-NY) 


--Randy Beers,
Acting Assistant Secretatry of State, Bureau of International 
Narcotics and Law Enforcement 

--General Charles E. Wilhelm,
Commander-in-Chief, US Southern Command

--General Jose Serrano,
Director General, Colombian National Police 

--Thomas Hargrove, Former FARC Hostage

--Dan Germann, New Tribes Mission

--Tania Rich, Wife of Hostage, New Tribes Mission 

------------------------------------------------- 2172 Rayburn House 
Office Building
Washington, DC
2:00 pm


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. ----------------------- 

We begin today the second in a series of hearings on our United 
States policy toward Colombia, in particular, the war against illicit 
drugs. And today, we hear from the administration as well as our 
good friend, General Jose Serrano, director general of the Colombian 
National Police. 

General Serrano is world renowned as a fearless drug fighter. DEA 
Administrator Tom Constantine recently said in the congressional 
testimony, and I quote Tom, "General Serrano and his men and 
women are heroes in our war on drugs." I fully agree, and I'm sure 
our committee agrees, the general is a cop's cop; and we're proud to 
have him with us today.

A raging war that is based upon and financed by narcotics is placing 
the future of Colombia and the stability of the entire region at risk. 
Our own vital national interest and that of the good Colombian people 
who are engaged in the struggle hang in the balance. The frightening 
possibilities of a narco-state just three hours by plane from Miami 
can no longer be dismissed.

President Clinton's February 26 certification of Colombia with a 
(national interest waiver?) was, in large measure, due to the efforts 
of General Serrano, Colonel Gallego (ph), and the other brave men 
and women of CNP's (ph) elite antinarcotics unit, the Dante (ph). 

We must help them do better and even more in the common struggle 
against illicit drugs. And, though long overdue, the president's 
certification of Colombia was welcome. There are no longer any 
excuses nor any reasons to delay vital counternarcotics assistance to 
the CNP. We must help all those good, dedicated men and women in 
the fight against the corrosive and deadly narcotics trade which 
originates in Colombia. 

Following the certification decision, Secretary of State Albright 
summed up what the future of our bilateral relationship should be, 
and I quote Secretary Albright: "The (Heyward ?) decision is 
intended to lay the groundwork for increased future cooperation and 
to support those in Colombia who are striving to strengthen the rule 
of law and to buttress their embattled democracy." Those were 
certainly welcome words from the secretary of state.

And now we look forward to some more concrete action. For 
example, when will we see delivery of the long-overdue Blackhawk 
utility helicopters? At least 12 Huey (II?) upgraded choppers, DC-3 
supply planes, and other vital assistance that's urgently needed by 
the CNP. As of today, only seven of the entire fleet of 36 CNP Hueys 
are operational for missions. The rest have shot up or are being 
repaired or have been grounded, and I note our military has 
grounded our own used Hueys that were used in Vietnam as being 
unsatisfactory for operational activities at the present time. I hope 
we're not sending more of the same to Colombia. They need better 
equipment than that. They need good assistance now if they are to 
wage a serious and credible war against drugs in the major source 
nation in our own hemisphere.

We find now a recent communique issued by the narco-guerrillas 
just this week declared war on any US operatives in Colombia. If 
that's a declaration of war, it certainly spells out the need for our 
being engaged in a warlike response. Helicopters are not an 
insignificant part of that struggle against drugs in Colombia. And, as 
General Serrano has said, these choppers are involved in 90 percent 
of the CNP's antidrug missions. 

Colombia is a nation with high-altitude mountains and low plains and 
is larger than Texas and Kansas combined. Mobility is the key to 
victory in any real war on drugs in Colombia, as General Wilhelm 
recently stated himself, and we're pleased the general is here with us 
today. However, the enthusiasm with which the certification waiver 
was received here, and in Bogota, has been tempered by recent 
events. Earlier this month, the (FARC Narco Guerrillas?) killed or 
captured more than 100 members of the Colombian Army in the coca 
and cocaine- producing regions of southwest Colombia. It was the 
worst defeat of the Colombian Army in what some still mistakenly 
believe is a war driven by ideology rather than by narcotics.

The subsequent announcement of the triumphant FARC commander 
that they will now also target Americans working in Colombia is a 
measure of how strong and arrogant these guerrillas have come to 
feel. They're also targeting American-provided helicopters, and last 
week they downed two CNP choppers that were on a mission to 
destroy a cocaine laboratory. In reality, the guerrillas of the FARC 
and the ELN (ph) are nothing but common criminals and terrorists.

Our own State Department last fall officially designated these 
Colombian guerrillas as terrorist organizations. In light of these 
determinations and their targeting of Americans, there should no 
longer be any romanticism about the former leftist guerrillas. These 
groups have kidnapped and held Americans for ransom and just last 
week grabbed four more Americans, including a 63-year-old retired 

Along with these individuals, the narco-guerrillas are holding 
hostage the future of our own youth. We will hear later in our 
hearing from the families of some of the hostages and an American 
who was held for nearly a year by one of the criminal guerrillas. 
What happens in Colombia directly affects our own nation and 
especially our young people. Colombia's the source of more than 80 
percent of the world's cocaine and 60 percent of thethat you would 
set a hearing for such a subject. I understand you and your staff are 
working on a date now. I wonder if the Chairman can confirm that.

REP. GILMAN: Yes, we will be holding a hearing hopefully near the 
end of April.

REP. HAMILTON: Well, I appreciate that very much. Returning to the 
Colombian situation, it's a very bad situation. Seems to me to get 
worse every day. They have a wide range of problems -- drugs, 
corruption, armed insurgency, human rights violations, very weak 
civilian leadership in the government. Instability there affects 
regional stability; it affects drug production. And, as the kidnapping 
of the four US citizens last week demonstrates, it affects the national 
security of our citizens. I think it's time for us to look at our 
counternarcotics policy and to ask ourselves what assistance to 
Colombia is accomplishing. I have a number of questions. Among 
them are these:

First is the question of effectiveness. Is our assistance leveraging 
tangible cooperation from Colombia to curb drug production? Is the 
US certification policy, after four straight years of decertification, 
producing positive results?

Second is the question of end use. Are we getting the kind of 
cooperation on (end-use?) monitoring and respect for human rights 
that US law requires?

Third is the question of sustainability. Is the government of Colombia 
taking steps to curb corruption and provide sufficient resources to 
sustain an effective counternarcotics program? Does the government 
of Colombia have the personnel to use the assistance we have 
provided and are intending to provide? Finally is the question of 
who's dealing with whom. What are the connections between the 
guerrillas and the drug trade? What are the connections between 
paramilitary organizations and the drug trade? What are the 
connections between the government and the drug trade? So I 
welcome our distinguished guests this afternoon. I look forward to 
their testimony, and I want to explore with them some of these 
questions. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.

REP. GILMAN: Thank you, Mr. Hamilton. Any other members seeking 



REP. ROS-LEHTINEN: I just wanted to --

REP. GILMAN: Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen. 

REP. ROS-LEHTINEN: Thank you so much. I wanted to welcome 
General Wilhelm to our committee hearing. We are so fortunate and 
blessed in Miami to be the new home of SouthCOM (ph). It's a 
wonderful center. Along with my colleague, Congressman Lincoln 
Diaz- Balart, we had an opportunity to tour SouthCOM just the last 
week. Wonderful men and women who make up that center. Of 
course, strategically located in Miami because that's the place where 
you can get the updated information about what is going on, 
especially in the Caribbean.

We had a heated exchange, Lincoln and I, with the general about the 
new report that we expect to be coming out soon about whether 
Castro is or is not a threat to the United States. And, although we did 
not agree, I know that we do agree on the fact that drugs is a never-
ending threat to our national security, and we believe Castro's 
complicity is ever-present. And we know that it's been a problem for 
Colombia as well, but no group of people have valiantly fought 
against drug traffickers as the Colombian people have. And we're 
very pleased to have SouthCOM in our community. We're very 
honored to have General Wilhelm here, and there will be other times 
when we will agree more than we have this past few days. And I 
welcome the free exchange of ideas. Welcome so much to our 
committee, General.

REP. GILMAN: Thank you --

REP. DAN BURTON (R-IN): Mr. Chairman.

REP. GILMAN: -- Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. Our first witness -- 

REP. BURTON: Mr. Chairman.

REP. GILMAN: -- is Mr. Burton.

REP. BURTON: Yeah, Mr. Chairman, in the other room, we just met 
with three of the wives of the New Tribe Missionaries who have been 
held captive down there for five years. And, this past week, four 
more Americans, I believe they were all Americans, they were down 
there watching birds, were captured. And the guerrillas have sent 
out a memorandum which we're having translated right now which 
indicates that any American that's down there, military or otherwise, 
iveloped a broad concept of operations for moving across the board 
against narco-trafficking. This will involve an expanded intelligence 
collection effort in cooperation between the United States and the 
government of Colombia. It will involve an expanded interdiction 
campaign, both busting cocaine laboratories on the ground and going 
after narco-trafficking aircraft in the air in southern Colombia. It will 
involve an expanded eradication program, both against opium poppy 
and coca; and it will involve expanded efforts to improve the justice 
situation in Colombia with respect both to issues such as extradition, 
but money laundering and corruption as well. 

We, the United States, and we, the government of Colombia, cannot 
cede Colombian territory, either air or ground, to the traffickers and 
the insurgents. We must contest them in a broad-based effort, using 
our flexibility, our mobility, our technology, and sound management 

We must be more effective than the traffickers are. I believe we're 
committed to this process. I believe we have a plan for this process 
which I'm prepared to discuss in more detail.

We need essentially to increase the operational tempo of our 
activities in Colombia. We have budgeted for fiscal year '98 and 
notified to Congress a $30 million budget for Colombia. I am here 
today to tell you frankly that that is an inadequate budget for 
Colombia. We need a larger budget for Colombia. We need, at 
minimum, another $21 million to maintain the momentum in order 
to maintain the level of eradication at 50,000 hectares, whieh is what 
we sprayed last year; in order to be able to go after both opium and 
coca in the field; and in order to expand our interdiction effort.

REP. GILMAN: Mr. Beers, let me interrupt you a moment. Have you 
made a request for that additional fund?

MR. BEERS: I would like to come and see you and explain to you how 
we intend to do that. But let me start by saying, sir, that this 
expanded effort is constrained by the earmark for the Blackhawk 
helicopters which you have placed into the record. And --

REP. GILMAN: We'll get it in.

MR. BEERS: -- as the secretary explained to you earlier, there are 
other alternatives, and we would like to come and talk with you 
about that and begin to discuss how we can deal with this problem 
and accomplish both of our objectives, because we do share the 
objectives behind which you stood when you put forward this 
Blackhawk earmark. And we do need your assistance in this process. 
We cannot do it, the administration cannot do it, without the 
cooperation of the Congress. Let me end there and leave the floor to 
my colleague or however you wish to proceed, Mr. Chairman. 

REP. GILMAN: Thank you very much, Mr. Beers, and we'll get to 
questions after both panels are finished. We'll now hear testimony 
from General Charles Wilhelm, commander in chief of our US 
Southern Command. Prior to his (employment or deployment?) in 
September of 1997, General Wilhelm served our nation as 
commander of the various forces in the United States Marine Corps 
and has received many decorations for his distinguished service. 
Having recently returned from Colombia, I'm certain that General 
Wilhelm will be able to offer us some keen insights. General Wilhelm, 
welcome to our committee. You may proceed. You may put your full 
statement in the record or summarize, whichever you may deem 

GEN. CHARLES E. WILHELM: I have a brief opening statement that I 
would like to make, Mr. Chairman.

REP. GILMAN: Without objection.

GEN. WILHELM: Mr. Chairman and distinguished members of the 
committee, I appreciate this opportunity to appear before you to 
discuss United States narcotics policy for Colombia and the current 
security situation in what I consider to be the most threatened 
country in the United States Southern Command area of 
responsibility. The timing of this hearing could not be more 
appropriate. The events of the past month have brought into clear 
focus the growing strength of insurgent forces in Colombia and the 
inability of Colombian security forces to answer their challenges. The 
unfavorable outcome of the major engagement between the 
Colombian Army and elements of the FARC, southern front near 
(LBR?), (in or and?) their Cocotaw (ph) department, and the recent 
spate of kidnappings involving Americans are alarming indicators of 
just how badly the situation has deteriorated.

While the current tactical picture is bleak, I am encouraged by the 
recent policy decision to grant a national interest waiver to Colombia. 
This decision can open the doors for better, more comprehensive, and 
more effective security support to the security forces of Colombia as 
they attempt to regain the initiative.

I have just returned from a visit to Colombia during which I 
discussed the current situation at length with our new ambassador, 
Kurt Caemon (ph), and spent considerable time with the c mmander 
of d he armed forces, General Bonet (ph), touring rocent areas st 
conflict, surveying coca production in the southern departments, 
discussing planned operations and the intelligence training and 
equipment support needs of the armed forces. As a prelude to your 
questions, I would like to provide the committee my personal 
assessment of the current situation in Colombia and some of my 
thoughts about the approaches we should take to assist the 
government of Colombia and its security forces in reasserting control 
and governance over the countryside.

The problems confronting the government of Colombia are numerous, 
complex, and, in many cases, they're intertwined. They are 
simultaneously confronted with an active, growing, and increasingly 
violent insurgency, an expanding narcotics industry, and brutal 
paramilitary organizations which are wreaking havoc on the civilian 

In combination, these elements have abridttlement. 

As the impasse continus the government little leverage in their 
attempts to reach a negotiated settlement with the insurgents. 
Absent incentives to negotiate, FARC and ELN spokesmen are 
becoming increasingly strident in their demands for the government 
to cede control of large areas where their fronts now hold the upper 

Having briefly defined the problem, I would now like to discuss some 
possible solutions. My focus will be on the military side of the 

Our analysis of Colombian security forces is based on a review of 
their doctrine; their organization, training, and equipment; and its 
adequacy to successfully counter the alliance of convenience between 
the narco-traffickers and insurgents.

As we see it, the primary vulnerability of the Colombian armed 
forces is their inability to see threats, followed closely by their lack 
of competence in assessing and engaging them. In the near term, 
intensified assistance in intelligence collection and analysis, 
command and control, operational level planning, small-unit training, 
and aviation maintenance can bring about a significant and posit 
have correctly identified the deficiencies themselves.

For the long term, we at US SouthCOM are working with Colombian 
military leaders to build a stronger base of professionalism within 
their armed forces and an enduring code of military ethics. We will 
achieve this through a military-to-military (context?), the 
(Interdashional?) Military Education and Training Program, small-
unit exchanges, battle staff training, and through Colombia's 
participation in joint and multilateral exercises.

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