Copyright 1998 Federal Document Clearing House, Inc.
FDCH Political Transcripts
March 31, 1998, Tuesday
HOUSE COMMITTEE ON INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS HOLDS HEARING
ON U.S. ANTI-DRUG POLICY TOWARDS COLOMBIA
U.S. REPRESENTATIVE BENJAMIN GILMAN (R-NY), CHAIRMAN
U.S. REPRESENTATIVE BILL GOODLING (R-PA)
U.S. REPRESENTATIVE JIM LEACH (R-IA)
U.S. REPRESENTATIVE HENRY HYDE (R-IL)
U.S. REPRESENTATIVE DOUG BEREUTER (R-NE)
U.S. REPRESENTATIVE CHRISTOPHER SMITH (R-NJ)
U.S. REPRESENTATIVE DAN BURTON (R-IN)
U.S. REPRESENTATIVE ELTON GALLEGLY (R-CA)
U.S. REPRESENTATIVE ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN (R-FL)
U.S. REPRESENTATIVE CASS BALLENGER (R-NC)
U.S. REPRESENTATIVE DANA ROHRABACHER (R-CA)
U.S. REPRESENTATIVE DONALD MANZULLO (R-IL)
U.S. REPRESENTATIVE EDWARD R. ROYCE (R-CA)
U.S. REPRESENTATIVE PETER KING (R-NY)
U.S. REPRESENTATIVE JAY KIM (R-CA)
U.S. REPRESENTATIVE MARSHALL "MARK" SANFORD (R-SC)
U.S. REPRESENTATIVE MATT SALMON (R-AZ)
U.S. REPRESENTATIVE AMO HOUGHTON (R-NY)
U.S. REPRESENTATIVE TOM CAMPBELL (R-CA)
U.S. REPRESENTATIVE JON FOX (R-PA)
U.S. REPRESENTATIVE JOHN MCHUGH (R-NY)
U.S. REPRESENTATIVE LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC)
U.S. REPRESENTATIVE ROY BLUNT (R-MO)
U.S. REPRESENTATIVE KEVIN BRADY (R-TX)
U.S. REPRESENTATIVE LEE HAMILTON (D-IN), RANKING
U.S. REPRESENTATIVE SAM GEJDENSON (D-CT)
U.S. REPRESENTATIVE TOM LANTOS (D-CA)
U.S. REPRESENTATIVE HOWARD BERMAN (D-CA)
U.S. REPRESENTATIVE GARY ACKERMAN (D-NY)
U.S. REPRESENTATIVE ENI F.H. FALEOMAVAEGA (D-AS)
U.S. REPRESENTATIVE MATTHEW MARTINEZ (D-CA)
U.S. REPRESENTATIVE DONALD PAYNE (D-NJ)
U.S. REPRESENTATIVE ROBERT ANDREWS (D-NJ)
U.S. REPRESENTATIVE ROBERT MENENDEZ (D-NJ)
U.S. REPRESENTATIVE SHERROD BROWN (D-OH)
U.S. REPRESENTATIVE CYNTHIA MCKINNEY (D-GA)
U.S. REPRESENTATIVE ALCEE L. HASTINGS (D-FL)
U.S. REPRESENTATIVE PAT DANNER (D-MO)
U.S. REPRESENTATIVE EARL HILLIARD (D-AL)
U.S. REPRESENTATIVE BRAD SHERMAN (D-CA)
U.S. REPRESENTATIVE ROBERT WEXLER (D-FL)
U.S. REPRESENTATIVE STEVE ROTHMAN (D-NJ)
U.S. REPRESENTATIVE BOB CLEMENT (D-TN)
U.S. REPRESENTATIVE BILL LUTHER (D-MN)
U.S. REPRESENTATIVE JIM DAVIS (D-FL)
U.S. REPRESENTATIVE LOIS CAPPS (D-CA)
ACTING ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE BUREAU OF
INTERNATIONAL NARCOTICS AND LAW ENFORCEMENT AFFAIRS
GEN. CHARLES E. WILHELM
UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS, COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF, U.S.
GEN. JOSE SERRANO
DIRECTOR GENERAL, COLOMBIAN NATIONAL POLICE
FORMER FARC HOSTAGE
NEW TRIBES MISSION
WIFE OF HOSTAGE, NEW TRIBES MISSION
GILMAN: The committee will come to order.
I'd like to, along with my colleague, Mr. Hamilton, extend a warm
welcome to our newest member, the gentle lady from California, Mrs.
CAPPS: Thank you.
GILMAN: Lois Capps brings to our committee a devotion to public
service that's dedicated to helping people improve their everyday
lives. It includes more than 20 years of service in education and in
Trained as a nurse at Pacific Lutheran University at Tacoma,
Washington, Mrs. Capps earned a master's degree in religion at Yale
University while serving as head nurse at Yale, New Haven Hospital.
She learned earned a master's degree in education at the University
of California at Santa Barbara. Her training and experience in child
development and health care provide a special perspective to our
We look forward to working with her on these and other issues as
We are pleased that she has elected to join our committee and to
fulfill the good experience and history and activity of her former
husband, who was a member of our committee, who we sorely miss.
Welcome, Mrs. Capps.
CAPPS: Thank you.
GILMAN: Mr. Hamilton.
HAMILTON: Mr. Chairman, thank you very much. I just want to join
you in welcoming to the committee Lois Capps. We are delighted to
have her here, as we were delighted to have her husband here,
I think you have pretty well run down her biography so that we are
reasonably well acquainted with her. But I think it is important to
note that for many years, she served as an educator and as a nurse
and a teacher, dedicated herself to public service. She was of
enormous help to her husband, Walter Capps, and worked very hard
to improve the lives of the people on the Central Coast, their families
and their children.
She and her family have been very much in our thoughts and in our
prayers in recent months. She and they have made and are making a
remarkable contribution in this town and in the country. She is a
very remarkable lady, and we are delighted to have her on the
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
GILMAN: Thank you, Mr. Hamilton. Mr. Bereuter.
BEREUTER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Hamilton, I join you in the sentiment of expression of welcome to
our colleague from California. I have gone up personally to say how
pleased I am she has joined us here in the committee, and how much
I know she'll continue to do the good work her husband was doing
with us. Welcome.
CAPPS: Thank you.
GILMAN: Any other members seeking recognition? If not, Mrs. Capps.
CAPPS: Thank you very much. Mr. Chairman, those of you who have
spoken, Mr. Bereuter, Mr. Hamilton, I'm very touched by your
welcome, and I will briefly say that it is such a pleasure and a real
honor to be sitting here today.
I can't tell you how much it means for me to be able to fulfill
Walter's term of office, particularly to be sitting on this esteemed
committee, which he held in such high regard.
I want to thank especially the chairman, Mr. Gilman, ranking
member, Mr. Hamilton, as well as the chairman and ranking
members of Walter's subcommittees, Mr. Bereuter, Mr. Berman, Mr.
Gallegly, and Mr. Ackerman.
This committee addresses issues of great importance to our country.
Today's hearing on narcotics policy reflects the urgency of the tasks
before us. And my experience for 20 years bears witness to that
urgency. I eerily anticipate the challenges that lie ahead in our work
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
GILMAN: Thank you, Mrs. Capps. And again, we hope you'll enjoy the
work of our committee, and I'm certain that you will be an asset to
We begin today the second in a series of hearings on our United
States policy toward Colombia, particularly 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
DEA administrator Tom Constantine recently said in a 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 are proud to
have him with us today.
The 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 interests and that of the good
Colombian people who are engaged in the struggle hang in the
The frightening possibilities of narcostate 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 Garhajo
(ph), and the other brave men and women of CNP as they meet
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 or any reasons to delay vital counter-narcotics 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 waiver 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." Close quote.
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
As of today, only seven of the entire fleet of 36 EMP Hueys are
operational for missions. The rest have been 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 are 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 found now that a recent communique issued by the
narcoguerrillas just this week declared war on our MEUS operatives
If that's a declaration of war, it certainly spells out the need for our
being engaged in a war-like 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 anti-drug 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 are pleased the General is here with
However, the enthusiasm with which the certification of waiver was
received here and in Bogota has been tempered by recent events.
Earlier this month, the FARC narcoguerrillas killed or captured more
than 100 members of the Colombia army in the cocaine-producing
regions of Southwest Colombia.
It was the worst defeat of the Colombia army in what some still
mistakenly believe is a war driven by ideology rather than by
narcotics. A subsequent announcement by 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 are 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 are nothing but
common criminals and terrorists. Our own State Department last fall
officially designated these Colombia guerrillas as terrorist
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 kidnaped and held Americans for
ransom. And just last week, we had four more Americans, including a
63-year-old retired school teacher.
Along with these individuals, the narcoguerrillas 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 is a source of more than 80
percent of the world's cocaine, and 60 percent of the heroine that's
seized on our streets.
We look forward to today's testimony, which I hope will serve as a
wake-up call for all of us -- the administration and the Congress
alike -- as to what's unfolding in Colombia. We'll also learn what
more must be done to turn things around before it's too late.
Before turning to our first panel, I welcome any comments that our
ranking member, Mr. Hamilton, may have.
HAMILTON: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I think you should be
commended for the hearing that we are having this afternoon. I
think this is the second hearing, and I understand there are other
hearings scheduled with respect to Colombia.
I do want to remind you that you made a commitment to me on a
hearing on a drug certification -- decertification question, and that
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
GILMAN: Yes. We'll be holding a hearing, hopefully, near the end of
HAMILTON: Well, I appreciate that very much. Returning to the
Colombian situation, the -- it's a very bad situation. It 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 kidnaping of
the four U.S. citizens last week demonstrates, it affects the national
security of our citizens. I think it's time for us to look at our counter-
narcotics 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
U.S. 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
U.S. 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 counter-narcotics program? Does the government
of Colombia have the personnel to use the assistance we have
provided, and are intending to provide?
And finally is the question of who is dealing with whom. What are
the connections between the guerrillas and the drug trade? What are
the connections between para-military organizations and the drug
trade? What are the connections between the government and the
So, I welcome our distinguished guests this afternoon. I look forward
to their testimony, and I want to explore with them some of these
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
GILMAN: Thank you, Mr. Hamilton. Any other members seeking
ROS-LEHTINEN: Mr. Chairman?
GILMAN: Yes, Mrs. Ros-Lehtinen.
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. 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 will make up that center.
Of course, it's 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
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 Colombia people have, and we are very pleased to have
SOUTHCOM in our community. We are very honored to have General
And there will be other times when we will agree more than we had
this past few days. And I welcome the free exchange of ideas.
Welcome so much to our committee, General.
GILMAN: Thank you, Mrs. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.
BURTON: Mr. Chairman?
GILMAN: Our first witness is -- Mr. Burton.
BURTON: 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 are having translated right now which
indicates that any American that's down there, military or otherwise,
is in jeopardy.
And it sounds like the guerrillas have declared war on any American
that's in that vicinity. I hope that the administration and SOUTHCOM
will give some direction as to how we are going to deal with that.
It may necessitate some direct involvement if American lives are at
risk. And whatever pressure needs to be exerted on the
narcoguerrillas down there needs to be exerted. It's been Beers as
our first witness, I'd like to recognize in the audience Gustavo Gajon
(ph), president of the Colombia Commission on Jurists. Welcome, Mr...
GILMAN: Welcome, Mr. Gajon (ph).
Our first witness is Mr. Randy Beers, principal Deputy Assistant
Secretary of State for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement
Prior to his position at the Department of State, Mr. Beers served in
the Marine Corps, the Foreign Service, and on the National Security
Council. His experience working in the fields of international security,
counter-terrorism and political-military affairs make him a valuable
witness for today's hearing.
Mr. Beers, we look forward to your testimony. You may read the
entire testimony, or you may insert it in the record and summarize
it, whichever you deem appropriate.
BEERS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Congressman Hamilton, other
members of Congress.
I would ask that my statement be submitted to the record, and I'd
like to make some brief formal presentation.
GILMAN: Without objection, your statement will be made part of the
BEERS: Thank you, sir.
And thank you again for the opportunity to appear before this body
and talk about a subject of such importance -- Colombia. And thank
you and the committee for your support over the years for the
As you mentioned, I am recently come to this job. In December of
1997, I was asked to take on this position after 10 years at the
National Security Council, serving in three administrations.
As I took the job, several of my colleagues asked me what I thought
was the greatest challenge and the greatest opportunity in this job.
And without a doubt, my answer was, and remains, Colombia, as both
the greatest challenge and the greatest opportunity. Let me briefly
As you all know, over the course of the last year, we learned of the
great success of our and the national efforts of both Bolivia and
especially Peru in limiting the amount of cultivation in both of those
countries, a change that was so dramatic that over the entire Andean
Ridge, there was a reduction of 100 metric tons of cocaine being
potentially produced in the course of the last year, or a 15 percent
That said, it is clear that the traffickers have made a strategic
decision, thwarted in Peru, to move their production to Colombia.
They have moved and expanded their production in Colombia so that
even despite a massive effort on the part of the Colombia National
Police air wing to limit that cultivation, it still expanded by
approximately 18 percent in the southern area of Colombia.
This situation is compounded further, as you are well aware, by the
growing nexus of cooperation between the insurgents and the
narcotraffickers in protecting and transporting that cocaine
throughout the country.
With this situation, we are, if we do not do something about it, are
going to find ourselves in a much worse strategic situation in the
years ahead. Fortunately, there are several important advantages for
the U.S. in Colombia.
Firstly, we have, as you have mentioned, a police agency within
Colombia and leadership of that agency that is forcefully committed
to taking the war on drugs to the narcotraffickers with a strong
interdiction program. In addition, we have a government of Colombia
which is prepared to allow aerial eradication as a tool for extending
this war against the traffickers.
We have a military which is prepared to participate in this effort,
and we have an intelligence community which has now established
itself into a useful and contributing member of the fight in the war
Based on these considerations, I traveled to Colombia in February to
discuss future cooperation, and I talked with the CNP, with General
Serrano, the minister of defense, the representatives of the military,
with the minister of foreign affairs, and with the minister of justice
about what cooperation we could look to in the year ahead. And then
I toured several of the field activities that the police and military are
undertaking there. As a result of this effort, we -- that is, the United
States and the government of Colombia -- we, Washington and the
country team in Bogota, have developed a broad concept of
operations for moving across the board against narcotrafficking.
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
narcotrafficking 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 Colombia 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 are
committed to this process. I believe we have a plan for this process,
which I am 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, to deal with the traffickers in Colombia, in order to
maintain the level of eradication at 50,000 hectares, which 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.
GILMAN: Mr. Beers, let me interrupt you a moment. Have you made
a request for that additional fund?
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.
GILMAN: Well, we'll get...
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
Let me end there and leave the floor to my colleague, or however
you wish to proceed, Mr. Chairman.
GILMAN: Thank you very much, Mr. Beers. And we'll get to questions
after both panels are finished.
We now hear testimony from General Charles Wilhelm, Commander-
in- Chief of our U.S. Southern Command. Prior to his appointment 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 am 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
WILHELM: I have a brief opening statement that I would like to
make, Mr. Chairman.
GILMAN: Without objection.
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
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 Colombia 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 the Choco (ph) department and the recent spate of kidnapings
involving Americans, are alarming indicators of just had 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,
Curt Kamman and spent considerable time with the commander of
the armed forces, General Bonne (ph), touring recent areas of 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 are intertwined. They are
simultaneously confronted with an active, growing and increasingly
violent insurgency and expanding narcotics industry and brutal
paramilitary organizations, which are wreaking havoc on the civilian
In combination, these elements have abridged governance in about
40 percent of the rural countryside, distorted and damaged the
national economy, displaced significant portions of the population,
and created security emergencies for each of the five countries with
which Colombia shares a common border.
Colombia is ill-prepared to effectively counter these threats, due in
part to weak national leadership and an overloaded, often corrupt,
judicial system, and, in part, due to the ineffectiveness of its security
Although senior officials of the government of Colombia have sought
to establish a peace process, few believe they are in a strong enough
position to reach any acceptable accords. Thus far, the insurgents
have rejected offers to begin a dialogue, and at this point, I see little
hope for a negotiated settlement.
As the impasse continues, the government of Colombia has little if
any presence in large, rural sections of the country, has been unable
to bring economic and infrastructure development to these regions,
and has not provided alternatives to coca and poppy cultivation.
This lack of control has opened the door for the cultivation of illicit
narcotics on a huge scale. In fact, recent surveys indicate that the
vigorous eradication efforts in the Guaviare department have been
more than offset by new growth in the Putumayo and Cocata (ph)
The performance of the Colombia military to date provides little
cause for optimism that they will be able to reverse the erosion of
government control over the outlying departments. To the contrary,
the weak performance of the military gives the government little
leverage in their attempts to reach a negotiated settlement with the
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
hand. Having briefly defined the problem, I would now like to
discuss some possible solutions.
My focus will be on the military side of the equation. Our analysis of
Colombia 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
narcotraffickers and insurgents.
As we see it, the primary vulnerability of the Colombia 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 and intelligence collection
and analysis, command and control, operational level planning, small
unit training, and aviation maintenance can bring about a significant
and positive change in the capabilities and performance of the
Colombia security forces.
For the mid-term, we will need to look at the physical capabilities of
the forces themselves. During my recent visit, I received a needs
assessment from my military group in Bogota, and then I discussed
this in some length with General Bonne (ph).
Based on their analysis, the combat deficiencies of the Colombia
armed forces reside primarily in seven areas: Mobility; direct attack
capabilities; night operations; communications systems; intelligence
systems; the ability to operate in rivers and coastal regions; and the
ability to sustain their forces, once committed.
I am reviewing the assessment and though I am not in full
agreement with the priorities that have been assigned, I think they
have correctly identified the deficiencies themselves.
For the long term, we at U.S. SOUTHCOM are working with Colombia
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 military-to-military contacts, the international
military education and training program, small unit exchanges, battle
staff training, and through Colombia's participation in joint and
In conclusion, as I look at the Andean Ridge, I see a study in contrast.
On one hand, we have Peru, which has made steady and measurable
progress against the dual threats of insurgencies and
narcotrafficking. On the other, we have Colombia, which has not.
My staff is completing a side-by-side analysis of the situations, past
and present, in these two countries. We believe that the results will
be useful and may provide a set of benchmarks which we and
Colombia can use as we attempt to reverse the current stream of
For now, we believe it imperative that whatever we do to assist
Colombia not be at the expense of Peru and Bolivia, where things are
going reasonably well for us.
Again, I appreciate this opportunity to appear before the committee,
and I look forward to your questions. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and
members of the committee.
GILMAN: Thank you, General, and thank you, Mr. Beers. We have a
few questions. I'm sure my colleagues have a few also.
Apparently, both of our witnesses believe that our own vital national
interests are at stake in Colombia, especially from the illicit drugs
down there which are destroying a number of our young people in
If Colombian stability and our common effort in fighting drugs there
is in our vital national interests, and as the vice president has said,
illicit drugs have cost our nation over $67 billion in societal costs
each year, what should we be spending annually in Colombia to help
the courageous people like General Serrano and others fight our
fight? Mr. Beers?
BEERS: Yes, sir. That is a question which can be answered in two
ways. Firstly, while it is possible to postulate a very large budget in
order to pursue activities within Colombia, we all are within the
constraints of an overall United States budget that makes it
particularly important that we manage and husband our resources
We have, as I indicated to you at the beginning of this testimony,
recalculated our current budget level for Colombia with the narcotics
section in Colombia. And we believe that we can perform the mission
of both maintaining and expanding the current program in Colombia
with approximately $51 million for that section.
In addition to that, we have approximately $20 to $25 million which
come out of our air wing, which produce additional support for that
Colombia program, and we have other programs in terms of training
which amount to about $5 million.
So, what I'm telling you at this particular point, sir, is that for what
we believe is approximately $75 to $80 million, we can offer you a
prudent, managed, but forceful program in Colombia.
GILMAN: Well, Mr. Beers, how much are we spending then today in
BEERS: In fiscal year 98 or 97, sir?
GILMAN: The most current year. How much have we spent for the
BEERS: In the year to date, sir?
BEERS: We have...
GILMAN: No, in the last year, which is a full year.
BEERS: Well, that's why I asked you. I can give you a full fiscal year
total for fiscal year 97, which is the last complete...
GILMAN: How much was that?
BEERS: ... fiscal year. We spent approximately $90 million during that
fiscal year, sir.
GILMAN: For all of the...
BEERS: And that included...
GILMAN: Is that for all of the counter-narcotics programs?
BEERS: That is for all of the counter-narcotics programs and that
included $14 million in a 506 draw-down, and that included about
$20 million in pipeline FMF programs from prior years. So, while I
tell you that that amount of money was about $90 million, I'm telling
you that out of that monies, approximately $35 were extraordinary
expenditures, which came above and beyond the ENL budget.
GILMAN: Do you know how much the FARC takes in in one month
from their trafficking in drugs?
BEERS: The FARC, sir?
BEERS: No, sir. We estimate that they receive approximately a third
of their subvention from the narcotrafficking trade, and we estimate
that in the tens of millions of dollars, sir. But I can't tell you a precise
GILMAN: It's been estimated, I think by some of our intelligence
people, that that's about $100 million in one month that the FARC
receives from the drug trade. And we're spending $90 million for the
entire year in trying to combat this drug trade.
It seems to me we are a little bit out of whack. And I'm very much
concerned. When we were trying to find out why the State
Department was withholding support for giving them the Blackhawk
helicopters and some of the other equipment, we couldn't fathom
what the resistance was. And now, in the Washington Post this past
Saturday, March 28, I'm reading from that article by Dana Priest,
who said, "Officials in the State Department which have been cautious
about increasing U.S. involvement in one of the world's most violent
countries, are skeptical and recently opposed the transfer of three
Blackhawk helicopters to the Colombia National Police." And the
quote says, "we are really not interested in getting sucked into this,"
said a State Department official. Can you comment on that kind of a
response for the (OFF-MIKE)
BEERS: Yes, sir, I can. It's a total misquote. It couldn't possibly be
correct because they have mixed counter-narcotics assistance with
the question of assistance to the insurgency.
And there is no lack of support within the administration or within
the Department of State for assistance with respect to counter
narcotics for the government of Colombia.
We, the administration, and you, the Congress, may have some
differences or questions about what particular programs or what
particular pieces of equipment might be the appropriate amount. But
with respect to the commitment to support the counter-narcotics
efforts in Colombia, there is no difference between the
administration and the Congress, sir.
GILMAN: Well, this comment was made in response to our request
for the Blackhawk helicopters, Colombian National Police. And I
would hope that you would straighten out anyone in the State
Department who feels that we shouldn't become involved in trying to
do something about the narcotics trafficking in that country.
We've long advocated getting the CNP some good Blackhawk utility
helicopters to help do a better fighting job on drugs in Colombia. And
I've faced inexplicable State Department resistance to that effort.
And that's why we were concerned about that kind of a response.
The newest American hostages, four or five, taken by the
narcoguerrillas last week, we understand are possibly being held in
the San Juanito mountain area above 10,000 feet in the Andes.
Colombian police have no helicopters that can safely even attempt to
rescue with enough armed troops in that high altitude.
Can you tell us what plans, Mr. Beers, we have to help get our
Americans out of there? We have some of the families here today
who are very much concerned. It's been five years that some of them
have not had any information about their missing.
BEERS: Yes, sir.
GILMAN: I'd address that to both you and General Wilhelm, if
General Wilhelm can provide us with any information on what could
BEERS: Let me begin, and General Wilhelm can add if he wishes to.
Sir, with respect to the various hostages which have been taken, as
you are aware, there are three hostages which are held who were
members of the New Tribes missionary program. With respect to
those, while we have asked repeatedly of the Colombian government
for any information which they have, we still do not have any
information with respect to their presence. We continue to ask for
that information, and we are working with the government of
Colombia. With respect to the other hostage who has been held, while
we -- that is, the United States government -- do not engage in
negotiations for hostages, we are assisting the family in their own
efforts to get back their loved one.
With respect to the new hostages who were taken over the course of
the last two weeks, we do not -- we do not, I repeat -- have any
information about where they are located, although we do have
information that there have been discussions with them by various
non- governmental organizations who are seeking to gain their
At this particular point in time, were there to be a location of those
hostages and were we and the government of Colombia to choose to
proceed, it is my understanding that the government of Colombia
would probably use the military and would probably use the
capabilities that the military have to pursue that, which are at any
altitude, adequate to deal with that problem, sir.
GILMAN: General Wilhelm, do you have some comments about the
WILHELM: Yes, sir. I think your most direct reference was to the four
hostages who had been loosely referred to as bird watchers and the
one U.S. property owner who was formerly an employee of one of the
petrochemical companies in Colombia. I believe those are the ones to
which you were making reference, sir.
I have been in contact throughout the weekend with Ambassador
Kamman and we have been following closely the discussions that
have been taking place within the embassy with representatives
from the government of Colombia.
We are prepared to provide advice and assistance as may be
requested through the State Department and some other support, sir,
that I cannot discuss in this hearing but could talk with you
GILMAN: Thank you, General.
Let me ask both of you. What do you think now would be our best
strategy to try to attack the drug production in Colombia and to try
to assist those police and military who are trying to do their best to
reduce the supply? What can be our best strategy in that area?
BEERS: Sir, I have spent the entire time since I have come to INL,
working on that very question. And we have, I think, a strategy
which we are in the process of trying to pursue. It involves basically
four major elements which I alluded to earlier. First, it involves, as
General Wilhelm would say, preparation of the battlefield through
the use of expanded intelligence to locate targets of opportunity, both
fixed and mobile, that we can go after, using the various elements of
both the Colombian National Police and the military, if that's
In addition to that, we foresee, in conjunction with DEA and the
Colombian military and police, an expanded interdiction campaign,
which would go both after laboratories, which our intelligence
agencies working together can locate, and after trafficking aircraft in
Southern Colombia which are flying from Peru, and from within
Colombia, moving both cocaine base and cocaine hydrochloride in
In addition to that, we would like to take the eradication campaign,
which we have been conducting but at a relatively stable rate against
opium poppy, and expand it. We agree with you entirely that it is not
sufficient to simply keep the opium poppy crop stable. We need to
put a bigger dent in that because you are right; we can argue about
the numbers of the amount of heroine on the street that's Colombia,
but there's no question. There's too much of it if there's any of it on
the street in the United States.
And we want to eliminate that crop over the course of the next
several years. And by several, I mean three. In addition to that,
based on the four-fold expansion of our coca eradication effort in the
course of the past year, we think we can do more. We think we can
do better, and we think we can expand to areas that we haven't even
gone after in the past year.
If you look at the effort in the course of the last year, when we
sprayed 43,000 hectares of cocaine, that was a four-fold increase in
our pilot effort. It was a eight-fold increase in the number of
hectares which were sprayed during the course of the last year.
We know we can do better than that. We cut coca cultivation in the
area which we sprayed by 25 percent last year. The traffickers
planted new cocaine in areas that we did not spray. And we and the
Colombian National Police want to go after those coca areas in the
year ahead, and we are in the process of making plans in order to do
In addition, but by no means last, we have a strategy to work with
the current government and the next government in order to resolve
our differences over extradition, over money laundering and
corruption. We believe that this is a program for the future of
Colombia and the future of the United States, and we welcome your
help and assistance in moving forward with it, sir.
GILMAN: Well, the Congress is prepared to help, Mr. Beers. We have
been awaiting some significant request by the administration. Your
program sounds ambitious. I hope that you will back it up with the
kind of resources that are needed to implement that program.
General Wilhelm, on March 12, you appeared before the committee, a
hearing on oversight of U.S. regional counter-drug efforts, the
Subcommittee on National Security. And at that time, a question was
asked of you, General, could you give us an assessment of what the
disruption in Colombia would mean to Panama, Ecuador and
Venezuela -- Venezuela and the whole region. And you responded, as
you may recall, about five nations that share borders with Colombia.
Would you like to repeat your assessment that you stated to the
National Security committee?
WILHELM: Yes, sir, I'd be glad to. As I mentioned, Mr. Chairman,
members of the committee, in my opening statement, each of the five
nations which shares a border with Colombia is being stained in one
size, manner, shape or form by the situation that exists in that
country right now.
I would say, in terms of direct involvement, Venezuela is probably
feeling the pressure more than any other. No less than 12,000 of
their troops are now arrayed along the border to prevent incursions
by both narcotraffickers and paramilitaries across the border into
I would say the second most hard pressed right now is probably
Panama in the southern Darien province. There, there has actually
been a loss of life. While the narcotraffickers and insurgents have
sought sanctuary in southern Panama, they have been pursued by
paramilitaries who have then actually killed Panamanian citizens
who they construed to be sympathizers with those that had crossed
Ecuador has a relatively small commitment of forces along the
border, but that's not because they do not place a lot of importance
on the threat which the situation poses to them. Until their current
dispute with Peru is ironed out, however, in the Amazon, that will
command their first attention. And having talked to their military
leaders, I am very confident that that is, in fact, a very sincere
appraisal from them.
Brazil, on the other hand, has really, I think, declared itself over the
last year. There was a long period of denial in Brazil about having a
narcotics problem. Now, I think there is full and free
acknowledgment that the pressure that we have put on the air
bridge between Peru and Colombia and the effects of our ground-
based radars have forced some of the trafficking over into Brazil,
again, much of it leaking over from Colombia.
There is concern about the effects of chemicals being dumped into
the watershed of the Amazon. There are now indications that some
cultivation has spread from Colombia into Brazil, so this is most
definitely very much in the minds of the Brazilians.
Peru, on the other hand, has had a good run for the last year. I think
we all appreciate that, a 27 percent net reduction in coca cultivation
within Peru; last year alone, 45 percent over the last two years. They
are pretty much riding, I think, a favorable crest right now, and I've
probably heard less in terms of overall national anxiety from them.
Sir, a quick five-country run-down. That's the way I see it, and that's
the way I've heard it.
GILMAN: Thank you, General Wilhelm. I have exceeded my time. Mr.
HAMILTON: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. General Wilhelm, you are the
commander-in-chief of U.S. forces in this hemisphere. You have
recently prepared a report to the Congress on the assessment of the
Cuban threat to the United States. I know this is a hearing on
Colombia that's been in the press. I have some questions on
Colombia. But I wanted to get your judgment on that.
Do you consider the Cuban military in its current form a threat to the
national security of the United States?
WILHELM: Sir, as I've stated previously, I do not consider the
current Cuban armed forces to be a threat to the United States. I
believe in the years since their client status with the Soviet Union
has lapsed that we have seen a very significant change in the quality
and character of those armed forces.
In terms of size, their active forces are about half of what they were
in the decade of the 80's. It is a force that can no longer project itself
beyond the boundaries of Cuba. I have no indications that Cuba is
fomenting instability elsewhere in the Western Hemisphere. And in
fact, we have convincing evidence that as much as 70 percent of the
effort of the existing forces is being expended on agricultural and
other self- sustainment kinds of activities.
HAMILTON: So their -- the trend line on the Cuban armed forces is
diminished in number, diminished in capability, not a threat to
anybody beyond the Cuban borders. They can't project force.
WILHELM: That is my assessment, sir. It's a force that maintains
internal order. It's no longer an offensive force.
HAMILTON: Turning to Colombia, I'm interested in the whole process
of decertification. And I'd just like to get your assessment of it. Is it
working, I guess, is my fundamental question.
We've kind of, in a kind of peculiar sort of way here, we've
decertified Cuba for what, three or four years now, whatever the
time period is, but increased aid while it's been decertified. Now, of
course, this year I understand the president waived.
But are we producing what we had hoped to produce by the
decertification process, or has it now become a hindrance to effective
BEERS: Sir, you are correct in indicating that we have decertified
Colombia over the last four years. But the first and the last year in
that process was for the national interest waiver. We only decertified
Colombia for two of those years fully.
HAMILTON: But aid goes up.
BEERS: Yes, sir. As you well know, the actual terms of the legislation
are that aid, except for counter-narcotics assistance and some other
humanitarian forms of assistance, are limited or voted against in the
development banks. The aid profile which we have been talking
about over the course of this time frame is aid which we have
indicated is for counter-narcotics purposes. And the irony of this
HAMILTON: What I'm really after here is, does this process now help
us or hurt us in our objectives that all of us share here?
BEERS: Sir, I would argue that the basis which led us to the national
interest waiver this year with respect to Colombia is a testament that
the process has worked for the following reasons. Over the course of
the last several years, we have stated unequivocally that we do not
and have not had a problem with the performance of the Colombian
National Police or those entities within the Colombian government
who were pursuing the traffickers directly as law enforcement
We have indicated that we have had some problems, some serious
problems, with the government, with the senior levels of that
government, and you're certainly aware of what those problems are.
HAMILTON: You would like to see us continue this annual exercise of
either certifying or decertifying Colombia, and then waiving or not
waiving, on a year-by-year basis?
BEERS: Sir, it is my intention that at this time next year, we will be
talking about a fully certified government of Colombia, that the
United States and the government of Colombia will have overcome
their differences, that the new presidency in Colombia...
HAMILTON: OK. I -- you've got a lot of optimism there, and I hope
you are right about it.
BEERS: Sir, this is the reason that I took the job.
HAMILTON: I've got the picture, sir. I admire your dedication and
your commitment, and we want to be helpful in your achieving those
Now, let's talk a little bit about that Colombia government and
whether or not they have the political will to deal with
You've had some very curious language in some of your statements.
You talk about coordination with the Colombian National Police. You
never talked about cooperation and coordination with the Colombian
government. It's a very curious way of stating things.
Here we are dealing with the Colombia National Police, the Colombian
National Police. Now, we know their record is good, and I applaud
that. But what's not clear to me is that the Colombia national
government has the political will to deal with the problems in
narcotics trafficking. And I don't care how good our program is and
how good you are. If you don't have the cooperation of the Colombian
government, you're not going to get the job done over a period of
I am impressed by the fact that the Colombian military budget has
been decreased by 30 percent. That doesn't impress me as a
government that is serious about dealing with the problems of the
guerrillas and the insurgents or the narcotraffickers.
BEERS: Sir, with respect to the government of Colombia, I spoke, as I
indicated in my opening statement, not solely with the Colombia
National Police nor with the Colombian military. I spoke to ministers
of four departments while I was down there.
HAMILTON: I caught your statement, but I also caught your answers.
And your answers were in connection with the Colombian National
BEERS: That is correct, sir, and that's why I'm returning to my
original statement, lest I leave a misimpression with you.
The certification this year was based on the clear, tangible effort of
the Colombian National Police last year and the commitment of the
current government to me, during my meetings in Colombia in
February, for the rest of the administration of this government.
We are talking, and we will continue to talk, with the next
government. We are talking now with the candidates about
continuing that program with the next government. So, please don't
misunderstand in the way that I answered the questions that we are
not talking to the Colombia government.
HAMILTON: Well, that...
BEERS: ... that they have not indicated to us that they are prepared to
HAMILTON: And so I ask you the question. Do you think the
Colombian government has the political will today to fight an all-out
effort against the narcotics traffickers?
BEERS: I think, at this particular point in time, they have indicated to
me that they are prepared to do it. We have a change of government.
We have to reaffirm that with the next government. But that is our
process in the year.
HAMILTON: You have no doubt in your mind about their political will
to carry this fight?
BEERS: I have talked with members of the government with respect
to the expanded program which I have described to you and they
have indicated to me their commitment to pursue that program.
HAMILTON: Vigorously. Why are they cutting their defense budget
BEERS: Sir, I'm sorry. I can't speak to the issue of their defense
budget. I was talking about the counter-narcotics budget.
HAMILTON: Look. You heard the general a moment ago. He said they
don't control a large part of the country. The insurgents, the
guerrillas, are stronger today than they've been for a long time.
This country is falling apart. It's coming apart. And they cut their
budget 30 percent for defense. That doesn't make any sense to me at
all, absolutely no sense. And I don't understand it.
BEERS: Sir, I can't disagree with you on that. I don't understand it,
either. General Wilhelm has a comment on this.
WILHELM: Sir, I think we see fractional commitment in Colombia.
General Jose Serrano, sitting right over here, he's committed. General
Jose Bonne (ph) is committed.
I would tell you that I don't think the national leadership is. General
Bonne (ph) took pen in hand and wrote a military strategy which is
tied to nothing. There is no national strategy that states that it is an
objective of the government of Colombia to defeat the insurgency or
He took the bull by the horns. Of course, when you write a military
strategy that doesn't support a national strategy, you've got no
resource hooks to hang anything on. So, it's a nice, philosophical
document which contains some good ideas. And I think it contains
some good guidelines for the conduct of military forces and
operations. And I think it provides some good and solid rudder for
how to maintain or establish and maintain good relationships with
the civilian populous.
I think the military, and I think General Serrano and the CNP
deserve better. And I hope they'll have it after the elections this
HAMILTON: I hope the State Department can learn something about
the directness of an answer that you just gave me, General.
GILMAN: The gentleman's time has expired.
HAMILTON: I thank you, Mr. Chairman. I've got a lot more to say, but
my time is up.
WILHELM: Mr. Beers has a future and I don't.
GILMAN: Mr. Burton.
BURTON: What are we doing to help get those hostages out of there?
BEERS: Sir, as I indicated earlier, we are in regular contact with the
government of Colombia to develop any information with respect to
BURTON: Mr. Beers, Mr. Beers, we just heard very clearly that the
government of Colombia is not really all that sympathetic to taking
on the FARC guerrillas down there. And if that's who we're
negotiating with, we're probably not going to get much accomplished.
What are we doing, outside negotiating with this government that's
as corrupt as you can get, to try to get those people out of there if
they are still alive, and the ones that were just captured?
BEERS: Sir, in addition to talking to the government of Colombia about
this, we are also talking with intermediaries who may have some
access to hostages in order to learn whether or not there is a way in
order to locate and rescue those individuals. And we are using our
intelligence assets to supplement that effort.
Beyond that, sir, I can't go into any more detail, but that's the
breadth of our effort.
BURTON: Well, I'd just like to express my concern that it doesn't
appear as though this government is really doing much. It just
doesn't appear to be doing anything but talking.
BEERS: Sir, I've served in the counter-terrorism area for many of the
10 years that I spent on the National Security Council. And I agree
with you that trying to get hostages out of any situation is a tough
and demanding task.
But I have to assure you, sir, that it is not from a lack of effort of our
Central Intelligence Agency or our State Department or our Defense
BEERS: ... to protect American citizens around the world.
BURTON: Well, General Serrano, as has been stated by General
Wilhelm, is one of those people down there that's expending a lot of
personnel. A lot of lives are being caught in fire fights down there
with the narcoguerrillas, with FARC guerrillas. In fact, we had one
case where over 100 died and a helicopter was shot down. Just
recently, four FARC -- four of General Serrano's men were butchered
by the guerrillas.
The ones that were butchered were butchered because of the
helicopter in which they were riding. The mini gun, one of the few
mini guns they had, misfired because it didn't have ammunition from
the United States. It had ammunition from Portugal and possibly
South Africa, that was inferior.
What are we doing to try to get adequate, good, quality ammunition
down there so that they can have the kind of fire power that's
necessary to protect their troops when they are in a fire fight?
BEERS: Sir, we have an open FMF case that will run until it runs out
in order to supply mini gun ammunition to the Colombian National
Police. There may have been an instance of procurement by the
Colombian National Police of some other ammunition. But the case is
there. It's open. And anytime there's any need for any ammunition,
it simply needs to be ordered against that open case. And we will
move it down there as quickly as we can move it down there.
BURTON: So, it wasn't because we wouldn't supply it? It was just
BEERS: No, sir, it was not because we wouldn't supply it.
BURTON: What about the mini guns? We have been trying to get
additional mini guns down there, the chairman of the committee and
myself for what, a year and a half now?
GILMAN: It's two years.
BURTON: And every time we talk to the State Department about the
Blackhawk helicopters or the mini guns, they always say, yes, we're
getting them down there. They are going to go. And they never get
And regarding the Blackhawk helicopters, you indicated a while ago
that you've got some concern about the funding. There was $16
million -- we upped the budget request by $16 million, and then we
took $25 million out of the Bosnia authorization for those
Blackhawks, so the money should be there for those three
Blackhawks. It doesn't need an additional -- any additional funding.
And the mini guns should get down there.
I mean, the weapons that they are using on the side of those -- you
were shot at, I understand, just recently, when you were down there
in a Huey. And the weapons that they have on the side of those
Hueys -- and I've been in them myself -- are not nearly as accurate
as the mini guns. Why in the world wouldn't we want to get the mini
guns down there so that we can be effective in those fire fights with
the guerrillas, and also, why aren't we going to get the Blackhawks
BEERS: Sir, I was not shot at in a helicopter. There were helicopters
that were shot at, but I'm -- please don't...
BURTON: Well, I'm happy.
BEERS: I've served in Vietnam. I just -- I'm not trying to take credit
for having been in a fire fight, sir.
BEERS: That's all. With respect to the mini guns, let me tell you, I
have been wringing the neck of my staff since I determined that this
problem existed. And I am no happier with this situation than you
But let me tell you what we are doing and what we intend to do in
order to solve that problem. First of all, we have open-end FMF case
to repair the 15 miniguns that were in the Colombian National Police
fleet. We have repaired, unfortunately, only six of them. We have
located in the last month the parts which are being ordered now to
repair the remaining nine.
In addition to that, because we were not satisfied with the fact that
procuring these parts for obsolete mini guns was becoming such a
problem, INL transferred some money to the Defense Department
and ordered 10 new mini guns in November, approximately, of 1997.
To date, four of those -- excuse me, 12. To date, four of those mini
guns have been delivered and mounted on air wing aircraft. We
expect to receive another six. I was told on Monday that it would be
Monday or Tuesday. I come down here, having called just before I
get here, and I can't report to you that they are yet delivered.
But let me tell you, sir, we will take those six mini guns that belong
to the INL air wing and we will make a decision, consulting our
lawyers to make sure that we are complying with the law. And we
will put those mini guns on the CNP helicopters if that is the highest
I won't ask them to fly. I won't ask pilots for INL to fly without
adequate protection. And I am committed to that and I am not
satisfied with where we are. And I intend to be able to report to you
in the next 30 days exactly what the disposition of those weapons
are. BURTON: One last question, Mr. Chairman. I see my time has run
out, and I guess you have addressed the Blackhawk helicopter
question earlier. I hope you'll keep that in mind because there are a
number of us who are still concerned about getting those three
additional helicopters down as you know, because of the legislative
action we have taken. We have heard that there are Russian advisers
in Colombia. And this is a question for General Wilhelm. And they are
assisting the FARC in training. Is it possible they are former KGB or
Russian military now entering Colombia disguised as businessmen or
maintenance personnel for the MI-17 helicopters sold to the
Colombians, and acting in the capacity as advisers to the FARC
WILHELM: Sir, there are certainly technicians from Russia who are
there to assist with the maintenance of the MI-17s that the
Colombians bought. The only thing that I've heard about advisers or
anyone who has direct involvement with any of the insurgents of the
narcotraffickers has only been rumor and hearsay. I have seen no
responsible intelligence reporting that would lead me to believe
BURTON: Well, since that is a concern, I hope that the DIA and the
CIA will use their resources to find out if that's true. Because we are
assisting Russia a great deal with economic and every other kind of
support right now. We certainly don't want Russian military people
down there helping the narcoguerrillas.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
GILMAN: Thank you, Mr. Burton. Mr. Menendez.
MENENDEZ: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Chairman, I have a
statement for the record I'd like to include.
GILMAN: Without objection.
MENENDEZ: Mr. Chairman, I want to very briefly -- I came here to
talk about Colombia, but since my dear colleague and friend, Mr.
Hamilton, raised some questions about the Cuba DOD report, does not
have the capability of producing biological and chemical weapons?
WILHELM: I'll see if I can -- I hope I got the question right, sir.
MENENDEZ: The report says that they don't have the capability of
WILHELM: OK. I think I know what they are trying to tell us.
MENENDEZ: Now, the question is -- Is the report also saying they do
not have biological and chemical weapons ability?
WILHELM: I think the indications that we have received is they do
have the capability to produce those kinds of substances, but they
have not weaponized them.
MENENDEZ: They have not weaponized them. So, if I produce a
defector to the United States that says to the contrary that DOD will
consider that in their report as an amendment?
WILHELM: I'm sorry, sir. Would you please repeat that?
MENENDEZ: If I produce someone who worked at the biological and
nuclear weapons -- the biological and chemical weapons stations in
Cuba and that person is proven to be credible and tells you that in
fact, that they have in fact created biological and chemical weapons,
not with missile projection ability, the DOD will consider that
WILHELM: Sir, I don't know who they would report that kind of
information to. You know, I would just offer an observation. Any
nation with a pharmaceutical industry, and Cuba certainly has that,
can engage in the production of biological agents or chemical agents.
MENENDEZ: Well, the suggestion, however, is that -- I think that there
is a difference between missile projection ability and not having the
ability to perform biological and chemical weapons. And that's what I
wanted to clarify with you.
Lastly, is it fair to say that the shoot-down of United States' citizens
in international air space would be considered an offensive act?
WILHELM: I would say that it was.
MENENDEZ: Thank you, General.
Now, Mr. Beers, let me ask you a question. While this testimony of
the hearing has been focused on our counter-narcotics policy, I'd like
to ask you to speak, if you can, to what I think is a very important
element of the counter-narcotics policy, which is the forthcoming
presidential elections in Colombia, the impact of corruption, the
extent to which threats will affect voter turnout, and ultimately
whether it's possible to hold a fair and free election in Colombia.
And the reason I ask you that is based upon your testimony here,
where you say, and I quote, "we are nearing completion of a new
ambitious strategy to attack narcotics trafficking in Colombia on all
fronts. To implement it, we will need the active cooperation of the
Colombian government, both for the remainder of the Samper
administration and after the inauguration of a new president in
And I heard Mr. Hamilton's comments, which I am equally concerned
about. In the municipal elections last year and in the legislative
elections earlier this month, the FARC and the ELN narcoguerrillas
successfully, in my view, asserted themselves, intimidating and
murdering candidates who are not affiliated with their movements.
Twelve hundred candidates dropped out of the municipal elections
for fear of their lives.
In the March legislative elections, 15 people were killed on election
day, and the campaign has had allegations of tainted -- of drug
contributions, as well as allegations of massive voter fraud, in the
context of registrations.
What I want to know from you is, is it possible, under these present
set of circumstances, to hold an election upon which we are going to
base our relationship with the government of Colombia? I'm not
talking about General Serrano, who I've met and who I've visited and
who I flew on helicoptrs on. I have the greatest respect for him.
But for the government of Colombia, can we have a presidential
election that in fact can be free and fair and that for which we can
put our policy considerations and decision-making with? Is that -- do
you believe that this election provides that opportunity? BEERS: Sir,
with respect to the municipal elections last fall and the elections this
spring, I believe that the turnout figures were relatively normal for a
Colombia election, which is not to say that the traffickers didn't seek
to thwart that election, didn't seek to intimidate candidates, didn't
bring violence to the election place on an election day.
But I think that with respect to the elections themselves, we judge
those that are past to have been free and relatively fair. That is not
to say that there wasn't corruption from the traffickers, as well as
that. And we are not entirely happy with every individual result or
any individually elected candidate.
With respect to the elections that still are to come this year, with
respect to the first round of the presidential election and the second
round, if that is necessary, the Colombian government, as I
understand it, as I have talked to them, and General Wilhelm can add
his own comments to this, are committed to protecting the Colombian
people with respect to that election. And until that actually occurs,
we have to -- we can make, I think, a reasonable assumption, based
on elections to date in the course of the last year, that they stand a
reasonable chance of being able to protect those elections.
Now, are they going to be perfect? No. They are not going to be
perfect elections. There probably isn't an election anywhere in the
world that's entire perfect. But I think that we have here a
reasonable expectation that it will be. And we have a reasonable
expectation that the government that comes to power in August will
be a fair and openly elected -- freely elected government and we
intend to do everything in our power to make sure that it's a
government that we can work with.
MENENDEZ: Well, this is a final follow-up. In 1,200 municipal
candidates -- you know, an election is also about what you get to
vote for. It's not only something to vote for, but someone to vote for.
When 1,500 candidates get out of an election because of what is
happening, when people die on election day, when thousands of
Colombian citizens cannot register, are prevented from registering to
vote, we can have an election. Fidel Castro just had an election. Now,
I hope you are not going to tell me that that is an appropriate
election as well.
So, there are elections and there are elections. And the question is
that for the United States and its national security interests and its
national interests, in the context of dealing with resources and
intelligence, which puts the lives of Americans at risk, along with the
lives of Colombians at risk who have done it with great courage, I am
concerned that we are having an election process which we are not
paying attention to in the context of having a fair and free election.
And at the end of the day, that we can say we had an election in
Colombia, but what we really have is not an -- is not an election
based upon the fundamental principles that not we in the United
States, but the international community, would accept.
I am concerned about what is happening with the narcoguerrillas
and the context of the intimidation that they are generating in this
election, with the lack of Colombian citizens able to register to vote,
and with other questions of drug money in the context of this
And to me, that will undermine all of our efforts. It will undermine
machine guns. It will undermine Blackhawk helicopters, because as
Mr. Hamilton says, what you need is the national will, through its
leadership, to help General Serrano and others who are beyond that
type of reproach to make a difference.
And I hope that we are serving observers. I hope that we are doing
it before election day and looking at the registration process so that
we can make a decision as to whether the next government that is
elected in Colombia is one that we are truly worthy of making the
type of very important and sensitive decisions on behalf of the
United States with.
GILMAN: The gentleman's time has expired. Thank you, Mr.
Menendez. Mr. Ballenger.
BALLENGER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Beers, I'm reading your poop sheet here and it says that you've
been in this job since January?
BEERS: Yes, sir.
BALLENGER: And I heard you say, I think you volunteered for the
BEERS: I was asked, but I took it willingly, sir.
BALLENGER: You didn't turn it down, in other words?
Considering the past record of what seems to have been occurring as
far as our own government is concerned, I'm just curious -- I hope
somebody somewhere -- in other words, I hope you're not sticking
your neck out with nobody behind you. I mean, you've got the
general there and SOUTHCOM. But the support that you might be able
to get from here in Washington, D.C. -- I'll be frank with you. This
committee is with you, and we'll do anything you would like.
But I'm afraid that past history has shown our administration doesn't
really push very hard as far as doing something down there. I mean,
we decertify them very easily, which I think may or may not have
been -- I mean, it showed that we didn't like their politics, but it
didn't do anything great as far as accomplishing a great deal as far as
this drug war is concerned. But somebody somewhere made a
commitment to you, I hope.
BEERS: Sir, I took the job. I came to office. Within two weeks, we held
senior-level meeting at which I put my first proposal on the table. I
was approved to go to Colombia in order to talk about those proposal
with the Colombian government. I came back from Colombia. I
briefed that same senior committee. I have circulated my draft
strategy within the administration. No one in the administration is
opposed to my proposal. I believe that I have the backing of the
administration for this expanded effort against Colombia. If I don't
have the backing of this government, then I'm not going to be able to
do what I said I'm trying to do, and that's my basic purpose for being
in this job, sir.
BALLENGER: I understand that. And I recognize -- somebody made
the statement that sending our people into dangerous areas, we
didn't seem to worry a great deal about Bosnia. And I would
consider, as far as the safety and health of American people, this is
much worse than Bosnia. Do you have any idea how many American
citizens there are in Colombia now?
BEERS: No, sir, I can't answer that question with respect to -- I can
only tell you about official presence at this point in time, which is
roughly 400 plus people.
BALLENGER: But there's an oil -- Occidental Petroleum...
BEERS: Yes, sir.
BALLENGER: ... and all those boys are there.
BEERS: Yes, sir. There is a larger presence. I just don't have that
BALLENGER: So, there are substantial numbers of American citizens
there. And our government made a wild commitment to Bosnia, and
we just passed a bill. I don't know how much of it is for Bosnia --
maybe a billion dollars -- for a peace effort there. So, I hope that
somewhere, somebody somewhere up there is particularly desirous
of somehow doing the proper thing.
Am I mistaken? I understand -- I know everybody talks
Blackhawks, Blackhawks, Blackhawks. But did you all not sign a
contract on super Hueys?
BEERS: We did, sir. We -- what we actually did, sir, was we appended
our buy to an existing DOD contract in order to get the best price for
the super Hueys. We did that in the middle of this month. I am fully
committed to that program. I know there's been some problems with
that program before, but I intend to see it through.
I've talked to General Serrano about this, and we will get those
helicopters refurbished as quickly as it is possible to do so.
BALLENGER: When you were there, did you have the opportunity to
see -- they had just done -- I mean, the -- what do you call it, the
repair and maintenance crew for the air force, I guess it was, had
done -- had built a super Huey down there. It was the first or second
BEERS: Yes, sir. I did not see that repair facility, but I am aware, and
we are working with the Colombian government to see if some of
that work can be produced in Colombia with the Colombian National
Police, since we are aware of that capability.
But our first commitment is to the time to delivery of those
helicopters and the best possible product. So, we will work multiple
strands in order to do that as effectively and quickly as possible.
BALLENGER: I'd like to ask the general, in a situation where we have
American citizens kidnaped in a very dangerous area, what has been
our past reaction when things like that occur? It would seem to me
we shot up a little island in the Caribbean under Bush because
students weren't even hurt. They were threatened to be in danger,
and we blew that little island apart.
And I think we -- I'm not sure whether we did that in Panama or
not. But we seem to have reacted, maybe I should say -- excuse me,
if I may be political -- under Republican effort rather than the
peaceful effort of the Democrats. But what is the normal reaction that
you have in a situation like that?
WILHELM: Sir, in a situation like the one that we have in Colombia
right now, our point of contact, the place where we go for request for
assistance is to the ambassador and the country team. That
immediately becomes a policy issue because the criminal act of
kidnaping in Colombia is still something that the Colombian
authorities exercise jurisdiction over and responsibility for.
Now, there are support measures that are available from the armed
forces to provide them. It requires a policy decision. Are we
prepared to do it? Yes, we are.
BALLENGER: Mr. Beers, one more thing. We had -- I was down there
at Christmas time, a little before Christmas. And there was a big to-
do, and I think this is all of Central America. And you've probably
been in it long enough to know that most Central American countries
don't want to have the big daddy up north tell them what to do.
But we were pretty well strongly talking about extradition of
criminals into this country, people that had committed crimes in this
country and then gone back to Colombia. And at that time, we were
told that there would be a likelihood that an extradition would be
I just remember hearing over and over again, well, it's going to
happen. It's going to happen. Has it ever occurred yet?
BEERS: An extradition from Colombia, sir? I'm not aware of one
actually having happened. The current terms of the constitutional
amendment are such that a case has to have occurred after that
amendment was passed in December, under the current terms.
Now, there is a challenge in the court to the way in which the non-
retroactivity clause of that amendment was put into the
constitutional amendment. And it may well be that the court
removes the non-retroactivity clause and then we could request
extradition of a Colombian who had committed a crime prior to that
time in December when the law was passed.
But the current way the law is written, we cannot do that. We expect
to hear from the Colombian courts during the course of April, I
believe, is when the ambassador told me that would be -- that
process would normally have run its course.
BALLENGER: Thank you. Mr. Chairman, I'm sorry I ran over, and I
thank you kindly.
GILMAN: Thank you, Mr. Ballenger. Mr. Blunt.
BLUNT: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I know we are all anxious to get on
to another panel, but I have a couple of questions.
General Wilhelm, it seems to me that clearly, the key to this is
helping Colombia not doing anything at the expense -- as I think you
have said in your testimony -- of the other countries of Bolivia and
How do we ensure, first of all, that we don't actually take money
from them and see it go to Colombia, and secondly, is there some
potential that if we do solve part of this problem in Colombia, that
that -- with more money to Colombia -- that that in fact puts more
stress on Bolivia and Peru, and we need to also be spending more
money to help them because we are creating a problem for them as
we push the drug business out of Colombia into the places of less
WILHELM: Yes, sir. Really, you just articulated the case that I try to
make and that is that right now, we are talking about this problem in
a regional context. In truth, it's a hemispheric problem, as we all
know. And it extends all the way from North America, from Canada,
to Tierra del Fuego, if you look at who's making it and who's using it.
Right now, we are focused on the Andean Ridge, which we call the
source sum. And again, to deduct assets from the successful
programs in Peru and Bolivia to really sort of bail out our activities
in Colombia, might leave us with three problems instead of one.
Recognizing that none of us can print money, what I'm saying is that
if more money is required for Colombia, then the effort in all three
countries needs to be plussed up. We simply need to raise the bar.
Again, there's a lot of pessimism that I find, particularly in
Washington, and I guess I understand why. But you know, Peru has
had an aggressive strategy, strong national leadership, really a three-
point program based on interdiction, eradication and alternative
The vice president of Bolivia was in town about a month ago, and we
articulated a four-point strategy designed to really eliminate coca
production in Bolivia over the next five years. It had the same three
components as the Peruvian strategy, but it added one of education
to reduce the use factor in Bolivia.
So, my concern is that again, we mortgage two successes to bail out
one country that is not going in the direction that we all want it to go,
including obviously, our Colombian friends.
Now, if we solve Colombia, do I think that the problem is then going
to immediately worsen in Peru and Bolivia? The answer is, no, sir, I
don't think it will.
I think both of those countries have strong strategies that are
succeeding on their own rights, and I don't see a displacement of the
insurgents nor the narcotraffickers into either of those countries.
If we can stay the course and sustain good, sound, robust programs
in all three countries, we are going to be making headway.
BLUNT: Mr. Beers, in that regard, what kind of assistance are we
providing in Bolivia and Peru right now?
BEERS: With respect to both Bolivia and Peru, sir, based on the
requirement to notify Congress with respect to what we were doing
with this fiscal year's budget, both of those programs are under
funded. The Bolivian program is under funded dramatically below
the request level which we had. We had requested originally $45
million. We have it funded currently, until we resolve the Blackhawk
issue, at $14 million.
With respect to the Peruvian program, we have it funded at $31. We
had requested $40. We would like to work on a proposal to restore
those programs to their request levels. And we expect to have a
proposal to this committee and other members of Congress for that in
the very near future.
BLUNT: Yes. You know, we are talking today about helicopters and
relative helicopter costs and those are obviously serious things. But
you know that your agency -- I think it was September 11, 1996, in
this room before this committee, said they were going to get a dozen
Huey II's to Colombia. And none have been delivered, and this is the
last day of March of 1998, so it's 18 months later, you know.
If the agency had done what they told the committee they were
going to do 18 months ago, the committee, in all likelihood, would
have had a different view of the helicopter issue and the Blackhawk
issue. Are you -- why has it taken that long to get that -- to get
BEERS: Sir, I appreciate your comment. I understand your frustration.
I am certainly committed to the Super Huey program. The
circumstances which led to the inability to produce the contract for
the Super Hueys had to do with a number of budgetary problems
that the bureau experienced during that time. I'm afraid I can't tell
you in great detail what those were. I wasn't here. But I can tell you
that I am committed, at this point, to making that Super Huey
program work, and not just this fiscal year, but in several years
The original, or this year's buy that we have programmed, is only the
first of several years of this program. I have spoken with the
company. They are aware of my intentions, and I am committed to
making this program work.
BLUNT: Well, I think there's been a long gap of leadership in the
agency, and maybe that's then part of why there's been no follow-
up on these commitments. But certainly, the commitments made
before the committee, hopefully, would be made with some
correlation with whether it was possible to get that done or not. And
I hope your commitments today are made in that regard.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
GILMAN: Thank you, Mr. Blunt.
Just one or two quick questions. Mr. Beers, how can we expand
operations when the Hueys are deadlined and can't be flown? Just
this week, we learned they were taken out of operation and it may
be six months to a year before they can be put back in operation.
Only seven of the 36 Hueys delivered to the CNP are operating today.
It's certainly strange credibility. And as Mr. Blunt noted, I have a
letter of October 10, 1996 from Barbara Larkin, the acting assistant
secretary for legislative affairs, saying, "As you noted, the 12 UH-1H
helicopters for the CNP have been included in the fiscal year 96
draw-down, notified by the president on September 14. And as you
know, it is our intention to convert a number of UH-1H helicopters to
the so-called Super Huey configuration for the CNP."
This is October of 96, and not one of those has been delivered yet.
BLUNT(?): Mr. Chairman, could I put this letter into the record?
GILMAN: Yes, by all means. The letter of October 10, 1996 directed to
the chairman of this committee by Barbara Larkin will be made part
of the record.
Mr. Beers, I would hope that -- you have indicated you are going to
give attention to this. But October of 96 and here we are in 98 and
not one of these have actually been worked on yet. I would hope that
there is going to be some better attention to a war that's going on
down there, and we're sitting back, saying, well, we'll get to it and
try to provide them with something up the road.
BEERS: Sir, that fiscal 97 letter...
GILMAN: 96 letter.
BEERS: Sir, fiscal year 97 was when the letter was written.
GILMAN: October 10, 1996.
BEERS: Yes, sir. I'm simply making a point that we were talking about
fiscal year 97 money. That's all, sir. I don't mean to contradict you.
GILMAN: The money was there. There was no problem.
BEERS: Yes, sir. I'm not disagreeing with you. I'm simply...
GILMAN: That was a 96 draw-down, not...
BEERS: It was a 97 line item that was not spent.
GILMAN: If I might interrupt you, as you noted, and this is the letter,
12 UH-1H helicopters for the CNP have been included in the fiscal
year 96, Section 506(A)(2) draw-down, notified by the president on
September 14. And we're talking about 96.
BEERS: Yes, sir. That's correct. And the program for the
refurbishment was the fiscal year 97 program. That's the only point
I'm trying to make, sir. I'm not disagreeing with you about the time.
I'm simply making the point that the money that was in the budget
that was not spent -- I'm not disagreeing with you -- it was not
spent. It was fiscal year 97 money that was in the program budget.
GILMAN: Why wasn't it?
BEERS: And it was not spent because other program priorities as
determined by the leadership at that time made the determination to
spend the money in the area of operations in Colombia to expand the
eradication effort in Colombia in order to be able at the end of the
year to produce basically the results that we are talking about here,
which were 50,000 hectares of coca and opium poppy that were
sprayed in fiscal year 97.
Now, I understand your concern about the Hueys, and as I have
indicated to you in this fiscal year, with the money that I am acting
assistant secretary and charge of, we have produced that contract,
and we are committed to completing that program. And we will do it
again the following year if I am in charge of the bureau, or if I am
still the principal deputy at that time, and I have no reason to
believe that I won't be one or the other of those positions at this
GILMAN: Mr. Beers, is that contract been let?
BEERS: Yes. Yes, sir. That's what I'm telling you.
GILMAN: Who is the contractor?
BEERS: We have two pieces of that contract. We have a piece of that
contract with U.S. Helicopter for the refurbishment of five and we
have a contract for an additional five kits with Bell Helicopter, who
provide the input for that.
The reason that I am not at this point in time able to tell you who the
final contractor for assembly is, is one, we have some time in order
to make that decision, and two, we are investigating with the
government of Colombia as to whether or not some of that work will
in fact be done by the Colombian firm.
GILMAN: You talked about two five units, two contracts for five...
BEERS: That's correct. That is what the contract was let for, yes, sir.
GILMAN: What happened to the 12 we were talking about?
BEERS: At this point in time, sir, the contract is for 10. That's what
$14 million buys.
GILMAN: The letter I received from your department, from the
Department of State, said 12 UH-1H helicopters for the CNP have
been included in the fiscal year draw-down, notified by the
president in September. What happened to the other two?
BEERS: Those helicopters are either in the air wing in Florida, or they
are already in Colombia. Those were the helicopters that were to be
refurbished, sir. We have some of those retained at the air wing in
Florida and the rest of them have gone down to Colombia.
GILMAN: Are those the used Vietnam type?
BEERS: Those are UH-1H Vietnam-era aircraft, yes, sir.
GILMAN: Are these the ones that have been grounded this past
BEERS: Yes, they are, sir. And the terms of the grounding, as we
understand it, are that the engines have been -- have raised a
concern with respect to the vibration of the engine, leading to some
form of metal fatigue.
There is a test which the Army has and for which we also have the
diagnostic equipment, which we are undertaking with respect to our
own and with respect to the Colombian helicopters, to determine
whether or not they are encompassed by the grounding or whether
or not they are believed to be safe.
We will as vigorously as we can, as quickly as we can, as we learn
fully what the Army grounding order intends to determine whether
or not the helicopters in our and the Colombian fleet should be
grounded. We don't know the answer to that yet, sir.
GILMAN: I'm reading a Washington Times article of March 30 of this
year that the National Guard and the Army have grounded their
fleets of UH-1 Huey helicopters which have an unexplained history of
potential catastrophic mechanical problems.
And this is the kind of equipment that we delivered to the Colombian
police who were trying to do a job. And we can't get them the
Blackhawks that they need. And now we -- you're telling us that the
12 Super Hueys that they wanted will probably not be available for
quite a period of time. Is that correct?
BEERS: We do not expect the Super Huey helicopters to be available
before the end of this calendar year.
GILMAN: When do you expect them to ere is a war going on. I sure
would hope that in any time of emergency, we would want to do
better for our own troops than we are doing for the Colombian
people, who are left out there hanging without the kind of equipment
that they need.
I guess my time is up, and I am going to ask Mr. Ballenger if he'd
take over for a few minutes. I have a meeting in a side room. Mr.
GILMAN: Fire away.
MICA(?): Thank you for recognizing me. I'm not a member of this
committee, but I am a member of the National Security International
Affairs Subcommittee, and the general has testified before us. I
haven't had the opportunity to deal much with you, Mr. Beers, but
we have been investigating this since our side took over the Congress
We have held 40 hearings. We have begged, pleaded, asked,
demanded, done everything we can to get the equipment to Colombia
to General Serrano and others, not just helicopters but all the other
array of equipment. We've had every excuse. We've had every delay.
We've had every blocking of this.
It is the intention of this panel, I believe, our subcommittee, the
leadership of the House of Representatives, to get this equipment
there. If we have to do it piece by piece in resolutions before the
House, if we have to haul people in and charge them with whatever
we can charge them for not obeying a direct law and request of
Congress, we will do whatever measure we need to do.
This stuff is coming into the country in incredible quantities. We saw
charts behind closed doors and open doors of what's taking place,
and Colombia is a disaster and we have helped it get in that situation.
That's not a question. It's a statement of fact, and it's a statement of
action. I thank you, Mr. Chairman, for allowing me to join your
committee. Thank you.
BALLENGER(?): Let me thank you gentlemen for coming here. I think
we want to start the next panel. And sadly, we have a vote coming
up. But Mr. Beers, you seem maybe too tough to be able to stick on
your job, but I hope like the dickens you do stay there and that if
you need some help with your employment on the Senate side, we'd
be glad to put somebody in your position that would really kick some
Now General, we greatly appreciate your service and anything we
can do to help you, let us know. And with that, we thank you and
we'll call the next panel.
BEERS: Thank you, sir, for the opportunity to appear before this body.
WILHELM: Thank you, sir.
BALLENGER: You know, if possible, we'd like to be able to call the
next panel in and start the questioning if -- considering those ladies
have waited a long time. And the longer we spend here, the longer
they'll be sitting there.
If we may break up the conversations. We are honored today to have
as our second panel, General Jose Serrano, director general of the
Colombia National Police.
General Serrano has served in the Colombian National Police for 39
years. He has commanded respect throughout the world as the man
who dismantled some of the most notorious drug cartels.
Currently, General Serrano is battling the FARC and the ELN
narcoguerrilla organizations throughout Colombia. And we are
pleased that you have come all this way to be with us today, General
Serrano. We look forward to your testimony.
If we may, General Serrano, could we postpone the beginning of your
testimony for -- it'll take us about five or seven minutes to go over
and vote, and we'll be right back. So you can relax.
RECESS FOR VOTE
SERRANO: (THROUGH INTERPRETER) Thank you very much. I want t
plant this time the wrong way, the guerrillas destroyed one
helicopter, killed one policeman, and this moment, we have five
And this is the best proof to confirm that the guerrillas have a nexus
with narcotraffickers. And now, for this reason, this is true war.
And one war on the police, Colombian National Police, lose more than
4,000 policemen. We find also in the war against marijuana and after
today, the coca war, and now the heroine war.
And this establishes very concern but we continue to fight. We try to
break these criminal networks. We receive, very glad to receive the
support we receive today from this committee and the helicopter we
tried to obtain is very necessary for our duty.
We need two helicopters to take more (OFF-MIKE) for our reach,
because the reason is the altitude of the poppy crops and also the
increase of the coca cultivation in the far away regions. In this
moment, we turn operated (ph).
For this reason, we propose of the Colombian government to consider
to approve a new herbicide. If this herbicide is not liquid, it is
granular, and the name is Tibution (ph). And if we use Tibution (ph),
we can fumigate more hectares of coca.
And also, we put a very strong effort for the new orientation of the
police. In this moment, we have more than 100,000 men. And also in
one process against with the corruption, we fight it 7,000 men,
policemen. And these provide for us to clearly -- clearly operation
for my policemen.
With this operation, we obtain -- stopped narcotraffickers' trends
(ph). Also, the Colombian fiscal year put a big effort to give
application of the new laws to essentially approve (OFF-MIKE),
increase the (OFF-MIKE) and also the extradition.
The extradition is an element. The narcotrafficker is very afraid with
this element. Essentially, extradition was approved. We tried to
improve (ph) to the leaders of drugs after they approved the new
legislation, extradition, put against the narcotraffickers the new law
We continue to fight shoulder-by-shoulder with DEA, with CIA, with
FBI and, of course, with the State Department. This (OFF-MIKE) is
very important for continuous and to give good results. Also, we
have support from other branches, international branch, for trying to
break the network of the international network of criminals.
Also, today, we have new concerns. For example, the presence of the
mafia, the Russian mafia in our region. They suspect analysis with
American counterparts for trying to avoid the new element the mafia
put in the drug fight, in the drug wars.
In Colombia today, we don't have big cartels or big organizations. We
have small groups. They are not big. But it's very difficult to detect
these new groups.
This new trend to appear in our panorama because the former big
cartel to get back experience. The big cartel has big strength. His boss
has died and also the Medellin Cartel today was dying. The Cali Cartel
is more sophisticated. Try to employ the corruption like a big
strategy, but now, all of the kingpins of the Cali Cartel was behind
bars. Now, the CNP, we prepare to try to attack the narcotrafficker
with the new trends and also OFF-MIKE), if the country doesn't put a
strict control, maybe we will be producing more dangerous than the
And this is -- this problem is for the next century and this problem
we put in our focus. And so we would like to put this today for the
concern of the American society. The reason is try to the analysis
very close in the future.
To end, let me say again my (OFF-MIKE) and my gratitude for the
interest of this committee in trying to obtain support for CNP. This
attitude is our compromise certainly and continues to work for
Colombia and for the rest of the world, to try any day in the future,
to try to eradicate this problem, the drugs, to put many problems for
our country and also of the rest of the war.
Thank you very much.
GILMAN: Well, thank you, General Serrano. I'm sorry we had the
interruption with the votes on the floor.
General, how well financed and armed are the narcoguerrillas that
your men face in each and every day in Colombia? Are they well
armed? Are they heavily financed?
SERRANO (THROUGH INTERPRETER): This is one of the best financed
and sophisticated guerrilla movements in the world.
They have modern arms. We have information that they are working
to obtain missiles (OFF-MIKE). They have M-60s, 50 caliber, AK-47s.
They have rockets. This is a guerrilla force that is extremely well
armed with money financed by narcotics trafficking.
GILMAN: Who's the major supplier of their arms? I note the photos
here showed some Russian arms. Who is the major supplier of the
arms for the narcotraffickers?
SERRANO (THROUGH INTERPRETER): There are important stockpiles of
weapons. They were left over from the conflicts in Central America.
We also believe that there are new arms coming in from the former
Soviet Union. Last year, the police alone seized 400 AK-47s.
GILMAN: Are there any Russian military trainers there, training the
SERRANO (through interpreter): No. The Colombian guerrillas have
been around for 40 years. It is a self-sufficient guerrilla force in
terms of its training. In fact, they are actually looking outside to
develop a network and reactivate the network of guerrilla
organizations to try to destabilize other countries.
GILMAN: General, how many in personnel do you have in your anti-
SERRANO (THROUGH INTERPRETER): Anti-narcotics intelligence, we've
got 1,000. And they work exclusively on gathering information. They
work with the DEA, with the CIA and other international
And for operations in the field, we have 3,000 men in the anti-
narcotics police. On a permanent basis, we have 30 helicopters that
are operating, and we have nine turbo-thrust airplanes used for
GILMAN: You use your helicopters in about 90 percent of your work.
Is that correct?
SERRANO (THROUGH INTERPRETER): Every aircraft which the national
police have is used exclusively for counter narcotics operations.
GILMAN: For many years, General, you have been recommending and
advocating Blackhawk utility helicopters for the CNP to help your
fighting. Can you tell us why you need the Blackhawks?
SERRANO (THROUGH INTERPRETER): For several reasons. First, the
poppy is located at more than 3,000 meters above sea level. The UH-
1H helicopters do not have the capability to carry necessary
elements to the Alps to provide the support for the fumigation.
And the Huey, at those altitudes, we can only send two men up. In
the Blackhawk, we could put 15 to 18. Where coca is concerned, the
narcotics traffickers are planting the coca at greater distances than
the range. They know what the range of the Huey helicopter is. So,
they calculate that range and plant the coca farther than that.
We can also put more armed men onto a Blackhawk to destroy, take
down and destroy laboratories and also clandestine air strips. And
instrument flight is also possible, allowing foul weather flying. The
Huey helicopters are flown by sight only, which makes it more
complicated to fly them in jungle areas.
GILMAN: General, we've been talking about removing our troops
from Panama. If the U.S. were to leave Panama, you have expressed
some concern. Would you state those concerns to us if U.S. troops
were to leave Panama completely?
SERRANO (THROUGH INTERPRETER): It's a -- we have observed (OFF-
MIKE) close to the (OFF-MIKE) zone. There's a proposal to create a
counter narcotics school in a part of the facilities there.
Even though it's a decision that may have been taken, we would
certainly like to see the continuation of schools there to prepare
people for that counter-narcotics fight. Because without that, we
would be left only with the School of the Americas at Fort Benning.
GILMAN: General, there was some testimony, when we were talking
about the Blackhawks and some of the critics said that they don't
have enough -- you don't have enough qualified pilots to handle the
Blackhawks in Colombia, nor are you capable of maintaining it. Can
you tell us how you would respond to that?
SERRANO (THROUGH INTERPRETER): We have had trainers arrive at
our facility in Maroquita (ph). We also have over -- we have 800
technicians who are trained with the police. Also, I'd like to point out
that we have loaned pilots to the Army to fly their helicopters, and
these pilots have over 4,000 hours of flight time under their belts.
They have an extraordinary amount of experience at their disposal.
I'd like to point out that they also train the pilots for the Army, for
the Air Force, and for the Navy as well. And they also provided
training internationally to pilots from the region, from the Dominican
Republic, Panama and Chile with great results. Actually, it's the first
pilot training school in Latin America for police.
The United States government invested $9 million in that school.
GILMAN: What's the name of the school, General?
SERRANO (THROUGH INTERPRETER): The Maroquita (ph) School.
GILMAN: Thank you, General.
SERRANO: Thank you, Senator.
GILMAN: Mr. Ballenger.
BALLENGER: Mr. Chairman, if I may, I'd like to introduce for the
record information that is answering those questions that they have
GILMAN: Without objection. What is it entitled? What is the paper
BALLENGER: It's Colombian National Police anti-narcotics direction
helicopter pilot population, repair population and fleet.
GILMAN: Without objection.
BALLENGER: Thank you.
GILMAN: Mr. Burton.
BURTON: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. General Serrano, have you gotten
any intelligence information from our spy satellites or any of our
other intelligence gathering paraphernalia to assist you in fighting
SERRANO (THROUGH INTERPRETER): We do have support from CIA
satellites to be able to map the illicit cultivation of drug crops. The
satellite images tell us how many hectares are under cultivation.
Also, it follows up and takes a look at the results after fumigation.
BURTON: Well, what I want to find out is, you have lost a lot of men
in fire fights with the guerrillas. And one of the things that our
intelligence satellites and others could provide would be some
information on troops movements, where there's a heavy
concentration of guerrillas, and whether or not they are prepared for
And what I want to find out is, has our intelligence people, DIA or
CIA, given you anything like that?
SERRANO (THROUGH INTERPRETER): We have two OB-10 (ph)
airplanes with flares to detect the presence of groups and also of
And we do have some support from platform, but in a very limited
BURTON: Do you think they could be more helpful than they have
been, our intelligence agencies, in giving you satellite information on
SERRANO (THROUGH INTERPRETER): They have given good support
with equipment that we ourselves have installed. Last year, we --
Colonel Naranjo (ph) is the chief of our intelligence program. We have
invested $20 million in our own efforts. This is money from the
Colombian government for the development of an integral
intelligence capacity. And this is extremely helpful to us.
BURTON: But -- I guess maybe I'm not making myself clear. Are you
getting from our government and our intelligence sources as much
help as you think you should get, or do you think you should get
SERRANO (THROUGH INTERPRETER): I think we could use more, some
intelligence support. But knowing of the U.S. intelligence gathering
capacity, we could receive much more.
BURTON: One second. Are you getting real time intelligence that you
can use when you get it?
SERRANO (THROUGH INTERPRETER): In some cases, yes, we have
gotten that support.
BURTON: OK. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
GILMAN: Thank you, Mr. Burton. Mr. Ballenger.
BALLENGER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
You mentioned in your statement that you had 4,000 police members
killed, I think. Over what period of time?
SERRANO (THROUGH INTERPRETER): Since the beginning of our fight
against the narcotics traffickers. In 1990, 500 policemen were
murdered by Pablo Escobar. He paid between $2,000 and $3,000 for
each policeman who was killed. That's not taking into account the
BALLENGER: Do they have a price on a helicopter that they shoot
SERRANO (THROUGH INTERPRETER): The guerrillas will pay for the
shooting down of a helicopter. We have lost five helicopters and
BALLENGER: I was there in Colombia, Bogota, when they were
rebuilding the Huey I into the Huey II, the Super Huey. And I've
seen pictures of it flying. Does that belong to your police force or to
the air force?
SERRANO (THROUGH INTERPRETER): The air force
BALLENGER: Well, has the air force tried it at the altitudes that you
need for say, your Blackhawk?
SERRANO (THROUGH INTERPRETER): The army does have Blackhawks
and they use them in the highest parts of the country.
BALLENGER: But I'm asking about the Huey, the Super Huey.
SERRANO (THROUGH INTERPRETER): I don't know. We don't have
them, and I'm not sure what tests the air force may have conducted.
BALLENGER: From prisoners that you may have captured among the
narcotraffickers, is there some way of knowing what they want to
do? Do they want to overthrow the government? Do they want to
SERRANO (THROUGH INTERPRETER): They don't know what they
Terrorism. They blow up pipelines. They attack police stations. The
truth is, they don't have an ideology. It's from the time that they join
with the narcotics traffickers.
BALLENGER: Mr. Chairman, thank you. We've got to (OFF-MIKE)
GILMAN: Thank you, Mr. Ballenger. Do you want to do it now? Mr.
BEREUTER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. In the way of brief background,
Mr. Brian Sheridan (ph), deputy assistant secretary of defense at the
BALLENGER: Would you like me to take over?
BEREUTER: It was quoted in the Columbus, Georgia Ledger Inquirer of
March 20, 1998, as follows: "Young Latin American soldiers and
police officers who train at Fort Benning School of the Americas are
vital in keeping drugs off America's streets. There is no greater
threat to our hemisphere right now than drug trafficking, and the
young people that we just saw are going out and risk their lives
trying to keep cocaine, heroine and marijuana off the streets of the
General Serrano, I think you are familiar with the School of the
Americas. Could you comment on what types of counter drug
operations graduates from the School of the Americas are performing
to aid the U.S. in prosecuting the drug war in Colombia?
SERRANO (THROUGH INTERPRETER): We have two very important
(OFF- MIKE). First, there is the School of the Americas, which train
our reaction forces for use in fighting narcotics trafficking with
We also receive support from Fort Rucker to train our pilots. It seems
to me that the School of the Americas has been a very valuable
instrument to train the anti-narcotics police.
We also have officials who are instructors there who also support
other countries. I know of its organization. I've been to visit several
times. And I'm a witness to the fact that it's a valuable, very
valuable instrument for training our men to carry out the anti-
BEREUTER: Thank you, General Serrano. Just one more question. Last
year at Mata (ph), Colombia, 19 young Colombian National Police
officers were executed by guerrillas on the battle field (OFF-MIKE)
attack and they were shot in the back of the heads.
SERRANO (THROUGH INTERPRETER): I have always generally
complained. Even though I respect and we have very good relations
with non-government organizations, we wish that the NGOs would
also speak out when established norms of human rights for the
policemen are also violated.
BEREUTER: Thank you, General.
GILMAN: Thank you, Mr. Bereuter. General, we thank you and we
thank the captain (ph) and your associates for being here. We can't
tell you how much pride we have in the wonderful work you are
doing. May you continue your good work and via con Dios.
SERRANO (THROUGH INTERPRETER) Thank you.
GILMAN: The committee stands in recess during the vote. We'll
return very quickly.
RECESS FOR VOTE
BLUNT: I think we are ready to go ahead and start with this panel.
We want to thank the panel who has been here with us all afternoon
and certainly, our schedule is pretty unpredictable. It's just as
unpredictable for us as it is for you.
This panel, of course, is going to be able to focus on the cruel
phenomenon of kidnaping in Colombia. There are currently nine
Americans who have been kidnaped and held hostage in Colombia.
On March 23, only eight days ago, four American bird watchers, as
they have been described, traveling a road outside Bogota, became
the latest kidnaping victims. Three men and a 63-year-old former
nun from Peoria were seized at a road block by the so-called
Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia, known as the FARC.
The FARC recently announced it would seek to kill American counter
narcotics officials. The FARC clearly has no compunctions about also
targeting American civilians.
Since 1980, 83 innocent Americans have been held hostage in
Colombia. Twelve of these Americans are known to have been
murdered. On February 1997, an American geologist was brutally
killed by the narcoguerrilla group that called itself ELN, National
Liberation Army. In 1995, Steve Welch, Timothy Van Dyke of the
Florida-based New tribes Mission, were executed by their abductors
These kidnapings and suffering of the victims and their families go
largely unnoticed and are under-reported in the media. In Colombia,
kidnapers act with substantial impunity. Ninety-seven percent of the
crimes in Colombia are never brought to justice. Colombian judicial
authorities do not prosecute cases involving narcoguerrillas to any
appreciable extent. The U.S. government does not negotiate with
terrorists. In Colombia, however, kidnaping victims are commonly
ransomed. Such negotiations are legal under Colombia law but must
be coordinated with the government's anti- kidnaping czar.
Today, we'll hear testimony from three Americans whose lives were
callously and inextricably altered by kidnaping at the hands of the
narcoguerrillas. And before I introduce the panel, I'd like to yield to
Mr. Mica for an opening statement.
MICA: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And I want to thank your
committee on international relations for the opportunity to be with
you today and to introduce to your committee three (AUDIO GAP)
HARGROVE ... work on the morning of September 23, 1994. And if I
had been following the normal pattern, I would have missed what
happened. In a way, I blame Robert Fulghum, the author, for what
happened. I had just read one of his books, and he gave 10
commandments for a better life. One of them was -- Always take the
Even though I was late for work that morning, I could either drive
through Cali, Colombia traffic, heavy traffic and nerve- wracking, or I
could take a little longer and drive through the Colombian
countryside. I thought, always take the scenic route. Life's too short
So, I turned right off the Pan American Highway to drive through the
countryside. That was the last decision I made on my own for about
a year. I was driving fast. I saw --up ahead, I saw a road block --
retin (ph), they call them. That didn't bother me at first because road
blocks are a common part of life in Colombia. Manned by the police
or the army, they search cars looking for drugs, guerrillas, arms,
I pulled up and saw all of these soldiers. Then I knew something
looked a little strange. A couple of them held pistols instead of
having the pistols in their holsters. Then two men came from behind
a truck wearing ski masks. Well, that's when I knew I had trouble.
One waved a .45 at me and told me to get out of the car. Well, I said
that I worked for this agricultural research -- the International
Center for Tropical Agriculture in Spanish and I'm on my way to
work. I heard them talking, and I heard one word. I heard the word
"gringo." The next thing I knew, they were motioning me to get in the
back of a pickup. It was a stolen pickup. The FARC had come down
from the mountains to steal cars, pass out propaganda, rob people,
and I drove into that.
Then two -- well, a fellow -- they started passing out propaganda
with a portrait of Che Guevara on it. I said, who are you? He said,
FARC. Well, I knew who FARC was, but I know a lot better now.
Two kids about 13 and 14 were put in the back of the pickup. One
was wearing bandoliers of M-60 machine gun ammunition and
carrying Galiels (ph) and AK-47s. And the next thing I knew, we
were bouncing away. I was in the back of the truck. They took me to
a village up in the mountains. Then we pulled out of the Coca (ph)
Valley and went up into the Andes Mountains. The guerrillas were
all over this village like they owned the place.
That night, we went further in the mountains, and they took over an
Indian's hut up there and we stayed there that night. They offered
me the -- the guerrillas asked if I would like marijuana or basoko
(ph). Basoko (ph) mean bazooka. In Spanish, it's what's left over from
the cocaine process. It's bad cocaine that's sold to the poor all across
South America. That is the drug of choice, by the way, of the
I said I didn't. I was never offered drugs again, by the way. These
guys didn't know. They weren't expecting me, so they didn't know
that they weren't supposed to offer me drugs.
The next morning, I kept thinking, I'll be out of this as soon as I meet
somebody who is in charge and who understands what I do. So I
thought, you know, Marxist guerrillas, they must out to help the poor
and everything. Well, that's what I'm doing.
The next day, I was able to look around. And behind the Indian's hut,
he was growing an unusual agricultural crop -- onions inter- cropped
with opium poppies. Even though I had lived and worked in Asia for
a long time, I saw my first Asian opium poppies in the Andes while I
was up there.
I kept thinking we would be released soon. After three days, they
said -- Tomas, can you ride a horse? I said, yes, of course I can ride a
horse. I'm from Texas. They said, we're going to be making a trip.
Would you rather ride a horse or a mule? I said a horse. That night,
they brought me a mule, and we started riding higher and higher
into the mountains. The mule's name was Batalia (ph), Battle.
As we rode incredible territory with hundreds of feet below, straight
off, drop-offs, the river rushing through the rocks, I kept thinking,
boy, I'm glad I have this mule instead of a horse after a while.
We wound up at a mountain camp that was typical of most of the
FARC camps that I was in. We rode for two solid days, OK? And we
came to a high river valley. Then you went straight up the mountain
from that high valley and the peaks were 3,000 meters. Just below
the mountain peaks were other valleys that you can't see from
below. And up there, in that case, there was a one-room mud hut.
That became our headquarters.
They -- the guerrillas didn't worry much about helicopters or
anything like that. There was a lot of wind up there, and also the
mountain peaks trap the clouds. And it was almost always raining or
misting and covered over in clouds.
We stayed in that camp, well, altogether for two months. There were
seven guerrillas guarding me at first. Let me say something about
the guerrillas as I know them. A lot of people think South American
guerrilla, they have an idea of an intellectual revolutionaries that
have left the university to fight for the poor. The people who had me
had about a second-grade education. It was about the most that
anybody had. They were all either illiterate or semi-literate.
I never met anyone that I really considered of average intelligence,
and I am not confusing intelligence with education. They use drugs.
They like to talk about drugs. People who use drugs like to talk about
drugs. A third of the guerrillas are female. About a third of all of
them I saw were female, same age group.
I classified -- if I had to categorize them from the least cruel to the
most cruel, I would put the women in both extremes. I thought a lot
of the women, I felt, had been abused by men, and it's pretty easy to
take revenge on a hostage.
I almost died -- well, after a month, about every three weeks,
supplies would come up by mule train. And we were very, very
remote. During the whole year, I never saw a wheel -- and I don't
mean a wheele saw that his troops under his command, while stoned,
had killed this cow.
And he started wandering around, shooting randomly at different
things. Later on that day, he put -- he decided that I was the real
reason that this had happened. If I hadn't -- the unit had not been
detailed to guard me, this all wouldn't have happened. He put the
muzzle of his assault rifle behind my head. Then, at the last minute,
he raised the muzzle and fired over my head through the roof.
I didn't even jump. I knew that I was very, very close to death. I
turned around and he was laying against the bunk with the muzzle
of his rifle like that, his eyes wide open. I left. Two hours later,
without going into it, he put the selector switch of his galia (ph) on
full automatic, stuck the muzzle under his chin, pressed down with
his thumb, and blew three rounds through the top of his head.
At that time, we left that camp, and I called it -- as we left, I'll never
forget. I looked back and there was dead waco (ph) laying by the
dead cow. And I said in Spanish, farewell, to El Valle de la Muerte,
this valley of death. From then on, that camp was called El Valle de la
Muerte. They asked me to name the other camps.
I wound up in December...
BLUNT: Dr., could you summarize here so we can get everybody in
here and then we'll make -- we'll have some questions and come
HARGROVE: OK. Later, I was accused of being a full colonel in the
United States Army in a letter from the commander of 6th FARC, and
I was put in chains. I was kept in chains for two and a half months.
Later on, a 15-foot chain -- I could take 22 steps exactly. Christmas
Later on, well, it was going on eight, nine, ten months past. In July,
the camp I was in was attacked by the Colombian army. And from
then on, we were on the run or hiding from the Colombian army until
the time I was released.
Meanwhile, they took a proof of life video of me, which was sent to
both my company and my family. The organization that I worked for
decided it would not negotiate with terrorists, so my family was sort
of left out there alone.
My family hired professional negotiators. They took money that
would eventually be my inheritance -- my father was a very good
cotton farmer -- and hired professional negotiators, worked with the
company and initiated negotiations with FARC.
In -- after nine months, an initial ransom was paid. But I was not
delivered. Later on, FARC contacted the family again and said that we
used that money to give him better treatment. Now, this is the real
ransom. If you want him back, you're going to have to pay. Then,
they have to decide whether I'm still alive and whether to raise the
money to pay again.
We wound up hiding in an extinct volcano crater at the end. One
morning on August 21, someone came to me and said, Le tucka de
salia (ph). It's your time to leave. We walked through a free-fire
zone. They said that the army would shoot anything on the ground. A
spotter plane saw us and called a helicopter. By the time the
helicopter got there, we were running and we had escaped from it.
After two days, on the evening -- my family thought I was dead -- I
walked into our living room at 8:15 on the night of August 23, 1995.
I had lost 50 pounds during the -- 50 to 60 pounds, and my hair was
the color it is now when I was taken. My hair and beard had turned
to orange from malnutrition and vitamin deficiency.
I think you would rather me cut it off right now and leave time for
BLUNT: Certainly, we are interested in your story and it's helpful, but
we do need to do that. So, Mr. Germann, let's go on to you and I'm
going to set this for five minutes.
GERMANN: Could I defer to Mrs. Rich, please?
RICH: I just wanted to introduce the three of us missionary families
who were living in Pucado (ph), Panama when on the evening of
January 31, 1993. We are the Mankins. Dave and Nancy Mankins had
been living in the village for the longest amount of time, seven years,
and Rick and Patti Tenenoff had been living in Pucado (ph) for about
Mark and I had been living in Pucado (ph) for about six months
when the night of January 31 came around. We were each in our own
homes that night and it was starting to get dark. And each, in a little
bit different way but all similar in the way that it happened, armed
men burst into our homes and tied up our husbands and they had us
pack bags for our husbands. They ransacked the homes, took the
things that they wanted, food, mainly, medicine, and whatever else,
electronic equipment they could find. And they led our husbands off
into the night. We believed they were led across the river and down
a trail towards Colombia, South America.
We were living in Pucado (ph) to help the Kuna (ph) people. We were
there upon their invitation. We had asked their permission to be
living there. And they encouraged that and were thankful that we
were there. We were helping them and our goal there was to teach
them the word of God and to help them be able to live a better life.
We had just had a team meeting and were planning on how we could
best teach them how to reach and also we were very interested in
their medical supplies and just the medical work that needed to be
done there in the village also.
January 31 was the most terrifying night of any of our lives. There
were four children three and under there in our houses with us, and
I am thankful that Tamra (ph) and Jessica, my daughters that were
2-1/2 and 11 months old at the time, were asleep in their beds.
In Rick and Patty's house, the children were still awake and so they
saw these guerrillas in their house. That night is a night I will never
forget. The girls ask us -- the children ask us all the time about their
dad. None of the younger ones remember their dad at all. And so, we
have to talk to them about things that have happened before and try
to remind them the best we can of their dads.
The Tenenoffs had an eight-year-old daughter at the time. She was
in boarding school in Chamai (ph), Panama, and Dave and Nancy
Mankins had two grown children. Their daughter Sara was living in
Chamai (ph), working as a secretary for New Tribes Mission, and
their son was going to college at the time.
You know, life hasn't stopped in these five years since our husbands
were taken. I have mentioned just the age difference in our children.
Kids that were learning to walk and talk are now playing baseball
and riding bikes and roller blading and their dads have never been
able to share in some of these first events in their lives. The older
children, Chad and Sara, Dave and Nancy's children, have both met
their spouses and gotten married in these five years. And Dave and
Nancy have -- Nancy has found out that she is going to be a grandma
in October and Dave doesn't even know that his daughter is married.
Also, family members, grandparents, have died and our husbands
have no idea that they are gone. The children seem to take their cues
from us. When we are doing OK, they seem to be doing OK. The girls
have recently asked me, Mommy, do you think that people know
that it's not just hard for us to have Daddy gone, but that it actually
hurts inside, because we can't have Daddy here with us?
It's very hard to look your children in the eye and tell them, I have
to go another meeting. And they say, well, will Daddy come back?
And I say, I don't know. We are asking people to help, and we'll do
the best we can and it will just be a wonderful day when we can tell
them. Because we went on this meeting and talked to these people,
your Daddy is going to come back.
Nancy, Patty and I are getting through each day because of God's
strength. People have looked at us and said, you're strong women.
But I'm here today to say we serve an awesome, strong God and
that's the reason why we're still here. It has not been easy, but we
have learned to trust Him more and know that he loves us no matter
what happens. But we are ready for this horrible ordeal to be over.
BLUNT: Thank you. Mr. Germann, do you have a statement? You can
put it in the record and summarize it, or you cstrongest possible
terms that the United Nations take an active role in seeking the
return of these hostages.
Our repeated requests to the United Nations have been rebuffed with
the explanation that this case is not within its mandate. We want to
ensure that all appropriate government resources are used in efforts
to determine the location and condition of the hostages.
And finally, we want the administration and its agencies to forward
in a timely manner information it obtains, learns and develops about
the location and condition of the hostages and the identity and
circumstances of their captors to the crisis management committee
that actively works to gain the release of these hostages.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and we're open -- welcome questions.
BLUNT: Thank you, Mr. Germann. Mr. Germann, what was the last
contact that you had with anybody who had seen the three hostages?
GERMANN: We had a proof of life in early 1994 that the captors sent
via the radio. That's the last time we heard the voices of the men.
They prerecorded a message from them. That was the last actual
proof of life. They have been seen, and we've gotten reports of
having seen them, as well as statements from FARC representatives
in countries such as Costa Rica, where they acknowledge that the
men continue to be alive and well.
Our most recent comment from a FARC representative, stating that
the men are alive, was December of 1997.
BLUNT: Did you -- have you had any contact from the guerrillas or
emissaries of the guerrilla groups or the families with a ransom
request? What's the status of that?
GERMANN: Yes. And I'm sorry that I didn't go into just the process
that we face. But during the first year of captivity via radio
communication, they demanded $5 million for the release of these
BLUNT: And what kind of response was there? Did you have any
dialogue following up on that, or...
GERMANN: Yes, we certainly did. During that entire year, we
endeavored to explain to them that we were indeed missionaries,
that the payment of this ransom was very difficult for them. We
sought other avenues. We insisted that there must be some other
way to resolve this particular situation.
They unexpectedly cut off those radio communications early in 1994
and they didn't return to communicate with us again.
BLUNT: Mrs. Rich, this is not to be critical of you in any way, but did
you have any notification from our government that the part of
Panama you were in was dangerous? These guerrillas have been in
this area prior to the time they came in and took the husbands of the
three of you? What was kind of -- what led up to that in terms of the
security you felt that obviously wasn't there?
RICH: Right. We felt totally secure living in this basically idyllic little
village on a river in Panama. Panama was not known to have any
problems with guerrillas or there were no threats that we were
aware of, or that we had been advised of at all, as far as any danger.
There are always hikers going through, because Pucado (ph) is
located in the Dadienne (ph) Gap, the gap in the Pan American
Highway. So, I mean, chances are that people -- guerrillas -- were
passing through there, but we had no warning from anybody that
anything like this would happen.
BLUNT: Do you feel the Panamanian government was at fault in not
guarding their borders adequately, or do you think they also had no
reason to anticipate something like this could happen?
RICH: I'm not sure. I mean, looking back, you always wish somebody
would have been paying attention, you know, to let us know to be
more careful or to get out of the area, or even that the guerrillas
themselves would have given us some warning that they didn't want
But I believe that everybody thought that it was safe for us to be
there. Otherwise, there would be no way that New Tribes Mission
would have even allowed us to be in that area.
BLUNT: OK. Another question, Mr. Germann. Do you have missionaries
in areas that you know have travel warnings and things like that,
and how do you alert them? And would there have been any reason
to have done that here?
GERMANN: No, we had no prior information that this was an area of
risk. And currently, any New Tribes Missionaries have been taken
into areas that are safe, and no one is out in those remote areas any
more. Missionary work in Colombia has changed drastically over the
last few years. BLUNT: Well, what about in other parts of the world?
Do you send missionaries where there are State Department
warnings against travel?
GERMANN: No, we don't, Mr. Chairman.
BLUNT: You don't do that?
GERMANN: No, we don't.
BLUNT: Mr. Hargrove, did you have any knowledge of other hostages
while you were a hostage?
HARGROVE: No, I did not. BLUNT: The guerrillas you were with never
mentioned that there were other hostages in other places? You were
just -- their world was them and you, right?
HARGROVE: No, no. That I had no contact with other hostages,
although I was in one camp. There were two fellows down below and
they told me not to even look at them because they were high FARC
officials and that I would go back into chains if I -- you know, not to
even look. This was in the volcano crater that we were in.
And I found out -- I never doubted the story. I found out later, after
I came out, a negotiator who worked with them, I found out that this
was a father and son, Colombian sugar mill owners, and they were in
fact hostages themselves.
They -- had I known that they were other hostages, I would have
tried to have communicated in some way but I did not know. I never
had personal contact with anyone other than FARC.
BLUNT: In your situation, did your family have any assistance from
the government or did they hire negotiators on their own, or how did
that work out?
HARGROVE: Yes, they did have assistance from the government. The
FBI gave my family all the assistance that they could. And in fact,
during the course of my captivity, when my family became very,
very close friends with the FBI agent who was looking on my case.
But they hired professional negotiators to handle the negotiations.
BLUNT: OK. I'm going to turn this back over to the chairman. I'm also
going to tell you that I'm going to be looking into what we can do to
draft a sense in the Congress resolution that -- and I can only speak
for myself, not for the committee here -- that goes into the specific
areas that you asked about and see if we can get some more
attention to this case.
I know I've written about half of the countries, their ambassadors
that you have mentioned today, but I don't think I've written all of
them. And maybe it's time for the Congress to step up and draw the
kind of attention to this case that it needs to have and to the whole
problem that Americans face in Colombia today.
GILMAN: Thank you very much. Thank you, Mr. Blunt, for chairing it
during our absence. And I regret that we were called to a couple of
other meetings while you were testifying, but I've been briefed a bit
Let me ask our good wives. How long had your husbands been in the
missionary work in Colombia?
RICH: Mark and I had been living in Panama for a year...
GILMAN: Would you put that mike a little closer to you?
RICH: Yes. Mark and I had been living in Panama for only about a
year and a half, but the Mankins, Dave and Nancy, had been living
there for, I believe, seven years and the Tenenoffs for five. That's the
time that we had been involved with the New Tribes Mission,
GILMAN: And what sort of missionary work was he doing?
RICH: All of us were there just trying to help the people, translating.
Actually, the first job that Mark and I were still involved in was
learning their language to be able to communicate to them in their
heart language and then involved in teaching them the scriptures.
They had been translating and translating other scripture portions
into their language. And there to help the people. That's what we
were really there.
GILMAN: Have -- and I address this to all three of the wives. Have
you received any information at all since they were taken away?
RICH: We -- in the first year after they were taken, we heard -- not
us personally, but the crisis committee, heard off and on. They came
up over the two-way radio and made demands, the ransom demand
and we heard our husbands' voice in Spanish, saying that they were
alive and they were OK. But that was within the first year and since
GILMAN: Where were you when you had that information?
RICH: The information came in Panama and was recorded off of the
two-way radio, so we heard it on a cassette tape and we were living
here in the United States. As soon as the ransom demand was made,
the ninth day after our husbands wereight that they took our
GILMAN: And who was it from the -- your organization that
negotiated with them?
RICH: Mr. Germann was part of the crisis management committee
that was formed shortly after our husbands were taken and he was
involved in some of what went on.
GILMAN: Mr. Germann, did you have direct negotiations with them?
GERMANN: Yes, Mr. Chairman.
GILMAN: And where did that take place?
GERMANN: At the time of the capture, they took a radio, which also
had the frequency that the missionaries communicated regularly on.
So, it was easy for them to appear a few days later to say that they
were responsible for having the three men. They wanted to speak
with someone who had the authority to address the issue of their
GILMAN: And did they identify themselves?
GERMANN: They never did, neither during the taking of the
missionaries nor during this entire process, which lasted about a
GILMAN: And did you recall what their demand was?
GERMANN: They demanded $5 million.
GILMAN: And how and when was that supposed to be paid?
GERMANN: They never stated exactly where or how that was to be
paid. They never varied either from the demand of that amount
ofwhere they were located at all?
GERMANN: No, they didn't, though it was possible to ascertain that
they were communicating to us from the northern part of Colombia.
GILMAN: Did you ask for any police help in the negotiation?
GERMANN: To my knowledge, every single conversation that I had
with the captors, I was accompanied by a professional FBI negotiator.
I don't think that I had any conversations without an FBI negotiator
GILMAN: And were those discussions taped?
GERMANN: That would be information that you could probably obtain
from FBI. Yes.
GILMAN: And was there any attempt to triangulate where the
messages were coming from?
GERMANN: Those type of efforts were taken by other agents. We
weren't responsible for that type of endeavor.
GILMAN: Was our Federal Bureau of Investigation involved, you
GERMANN: Yes, they were. Yes.
GILMAN: And who was the agent working on this?
GERMANN: We had several over the course of that year. They were
sent from the Miami bureau.
GILMAN: And when was the last of the conversations?
GERMANN: The 16th of January, 1994.
GERMANN: Yes, sir.
GILMAN: How did they happen to break off?
GERMANN: It made no sense to us because at that conversation, they
left the impression that they would be right back. And so, we've
waited by that radio until April of 1994, expecting them to return.
The last communication was not really one of the more hostile
engaging conversations, so there is a possibility that there was some
interference by some people that made a contact with the captors,
entered into a negotiation, and we had no knowledge of it. But they
came to us some months later and said that they were indeed
negotiating. It's a...
GILMAN: Negotiating about...
GERMANN: For the release of the men.
GILMAN: Who was doing that?
GERMANN: It was an individual from Europe who had a contract with
the United Nations to mine sweeping. A disturbing development for
us, because we realized that we were now in a delicate situation to
try to explain to them that the people you've been talking to were
indeed not in contact with the family and in no way were authorized.
They came to us and asked us for $2.5 million in order to reach this
settlement that they had been discussing with FARC.
GILMAN: And what date was that?
GERMANN: That was in 1994.
GILMAN: Was there any further discussion after that?
GERMANN: Not directly with them. No, sir.
GILMAN: Well, was there any discussion with anyone after 94?
GERMANN: We knocked on hundreds and thousands of doors seeking
support and help in the release of these three men. Considerable
effort was spent in Colombia, making trips up into the area of Udaba
(ph), where we believe the men were being held, contacting officials
in that area, trying to gain some link to the people that held our men.
We have more recently, in 1997, sought support on international
levels to see if other countries couldn't aid us in this effort to gain
GILMAN: You heard the message. It concluded legislative business
for the day.
Dr. Hargrove, when you were in captivity, did you see any narcotics
trafficking taking place with any of your captors?
HARGROVE: I didn't see actual trafficking, but I was in two camps
that I'm almost certain were actually drug laboratories.
GILMAN: How did you know that?
HARGROVE: Well, for one thing, the first six months, the guerrillas --
there were seven guerrillas, later 10 -- they would just hang around
the camp all day. They weren't doing anything. They didn't do any
training or anything.
Then we moved to another camp and something changed. They
would go off every day and leave just two or three to guard me, and
come back. Then we went back to the camp that we had left, and
things changed completely. One part of it -- by then, I was out of
chains and I could walk around in an area about like a football field.
One area off to this side, they said I wasn't to even look there and
they started -- they build two buildings that I could barely see
through the forest that were covered with black plastic. And it was
by a stream, leading into a river down below.
And I was almost sure that these were drug laboratories. Then, one
day one of the guerrillas -- they were playing a game. And one of the
fellows, he disappeared, and he came back, bringing a barrel, an
orange-colored, 25-gallon barrel that he set up to play this game on.
Well, later, the other guerrillas came in and they said, you know,
where did that come from? I said that Munyo (ph) brought it. And
they were very upset. That barrel disappeared rigs guy's face. One
time, I -- just by accident, I came face to face with him, and
everybody stood in front, like that, and I caught on pretty quick that
it might not be healthy for me to try to get a good look at this guy. I
always felt that he was running the drug laboratories.
GILMAN: So, you never saw any direct evidence except seeing this
barrel and maybe a building in the area? Besides that, you never saw
any direct evidence of narcotrafficking?
HARGROVE: No, I never saw direct evidence of narcotrafficking. In
my opinion, it was obvious they were doing it.
GILMAN: And were there any dishe peasants who were growing coca
and opium poppies because the people needed the money and so
they -- that they were neutral on it, is what they told me.
GILMAN: In other words, they weren't harming the peasants who
HARGROVE: They didn't say, we are in the narcotrafficking business,
GILMAN: While you were being held, were you aware of any other
people being held as hostages?
HARGROVE: I knew that other hostages were being held.
GILMAN: How did you know that?
HARGROVE: Well, I heard about Uncie (ph), a Colombian political
congresswoman who had been kidnaped and released. I heard about
the two New Tribes missionaries being -- who were killed. And I was
told, by the way, that the Colombian army had killed them so it could
be blamed on FARC.
They always told me, by the way, that they were protecting me, that
if the Colombian army found me, then the Colombian army would kill
me and so that they could blame it on FARC.
I personally would have preferred to take my chances with the
GILMAN: What year were you held?
HARGROVE: From September '94 through August '95.
GILMAN: And you heard about the missionaries being held, you say?
HARGROVE: Yes, being killed.
GILMAN: When did you hear that?
HARGROVE: I think it was June or July. It was while I was still being
GERMANN: Mr. Chairman, we had two New Tribes missionaries that
were killed in Colombia almost three years ago.
HARGROVE: That's the ones that I'm referring to.
GILMAN: Mrs. Rich, did you want to add any more information?
RICH: I guess I would just like to thank you all for the opportunity of
being here and ask for continued interest and support on the things
that we feel are really important right now. And I believe that there
are many people here on this committee who are very interested,
and we are very thankful for that.
And I am looking forward to going back and telling my girls that I
had an opportunity to tell a lot of people about their dad, and that
they will work hard to get him back.
GILMAN: How many children do you have, Mrs. Rich?
RICH: I have two girls. They are 6 and 7 now. They were 2-1/2 and
11 months old.
GILMAN: And do our other missionary wives have children, too?
RICH: Nancy and Dave have two grown children who are married
now, and Rich and Patty Tenenoff have three. And their oldest is now
13 and their youngest 6.
GILMAN: Since 1994, have you had any further contact by any of the
captors with regard to your husbands?
RICH: We have not had any direct contact with the captors, but we
have heard via other people, private contacts between the guerrilla
group in different countries and NGO's, non-government
organizations, that have been told by FARC that our husbands are
alive and that they are OK, as recently as December.
GILMAN: December of this past -- this past December?
RICH: Yes. Yes.
GILMAN: And which group told you that?
RICH: I honestly don't know which one. I'm sorry. I just know that
there have been several claims made that our husbands are still
alive, and there have been a few made that they have been killed,
but none have been able to be followed up or substantiated at all.
GILMAN: Has the international committee of Red Cross helped you in
RICH: They have had letters and pictures from us since the beginning
of this that they have never been able to deliver for us, so they have
really not been able to help us at all in getting any messages to or
from our husbands. We've not been able to send them any letters or
get any letters back from them. We feel like that's something -- in
almost every other Ahostage case that we've heard about, they've
been able to at least get letters out or receive some kind of
information, at least.
GILMAN: Has Amnesty International been able to help you?
RICH: In the first years, they were not very helpful. But recently,
when we went to Venezuela for the Iberian-American human rights
summit, they did sign on to a statement declaring this as an
unhumanitarian thing to do, as holding our husbands.
GILMAN: Dr. Hargrove, were you released upon payment of a
HARGROVE: Was I released after payment of ransom?
HARGROVE: Yes. It was paid twice.
GILMAN: How much was the ransom?
GILMAN: How much was the ransom that you paid?
HARGROVE: I'd rather not say that here in public, but the common
rule of negotiation that professionals use is, they wind up usually
paying 10 percent -- about 10 percent of what the initial demand
was. My ransom was considerably less than 10 percent. The initial
demand was $6 million.
GILMAN: What work were you doing at the time you were seized?
HARGROVE: I was the head of communication and publications at the
International Center for Tropical Agriculture. But I was in charge of
the scientific publication, the public awareness to try to make people
aware of the need for international agricultural research, and the
visitors' services. I'm an agricultural editor and an agricultural
journalist by profession, and I ran that operation for this
GILMAN: Were you able to communicate with your family at all
while you were held hostage?
HARGROVE: Oh, no. Except for the proof of life video that was made to
give, and twice when they had me -- they made me write letters,
you know, to my family, that were all part of the ransom demand.
But that's all. I never got any word, any communication from my
family at all. They got two letters and one video from me over the
year. Each time, you know, it was a big thing. They came up and
GILMAN: And who negotiated on your behalf?
HARGROVE: Well, my family, essentially. My wife, my two sons, our
next-door neighbors, who were Germans, with their two children.
Then, along with two professional negotiators that were hired from
GILMAN: What year were you released?
HARGROVE: I was released in 1995.
GILMAN: How long were you held?
HARGROVE: Eleven months.
GILMAN: Did they inflict any torture on you in any manner, or any
pressure on you?
HARGROVE: Well, I was never physically tortured, but I would
consider being locked in a box this wide, this long, this wide, 6 feet
high, no windows, for as long as about 48 hours at a time, pretty bad
treatment. Because as I said, I was on a -- after I got out, then they
would let meNew Tribes Mission. These are probably some of the
longest-held American hostages in the history of our nation. And
they should not be ignored because they were not wealthy, they are
not well-positioned, they are not government officials. But we should
care about them, and we should do everything we can to secure their
release and bring their situation to the attention of every
international organization and country.
So, I want to thank you again, Mr. Chairman. Unless our witnesses
have any comments, again, I'd just say thank you from the bottom of
GILMAN: Well, thank you, Mr. Mica, for assisting us in arranging for
the witnesses to be with us. And I want to thank Dr. Hargrove and
Dan Germann and Tania Rich and Mrs. Mankins, Mrs. Tenenoff for
being -- making yourselves available to us so that we could explore
And we will keep this issue before us in the Congress and we will try
to do our best to help you seek the release of your loved ones.
Thank you very much. The hearing stands adjourned.
???? - Indicates Speaker Unkown
- Could not make out what was being said. off mike - Indicates Could
not make out what was being said. ++++++++
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