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ICG Senior Vice President Mark Schneider testifies before the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee: Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, Peace Corps, Narcotics Affairs holds hearing on Future Relations between the United States and Colombia.

SCHNEIDER: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, and as always, it's a pleasure to be here at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and to testify now on the current conflict in Colombia. I'd like to convey some of the findings, conclusions and recommendations of our recent report on the elusive quest for peace in that nation. And I ask the chairman's consent to incorporate the report into the (inaudible) records.
DODD: As I said earlier, all documentation that you think may be worthwhile for the record will be included.
SCHNEIDER: The ICG, as you know, is a multi-national NGO based in Brussels committed to the goals of preventing conflict. And where it exists we're working to contain and hopefully resolve those conflicts. Former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell was the founding chair of this group which came into being following the bombings of Sarajevo and the genocide in Rwanda. Its founders believe that early warning drawn from field based analysis as translated into policy recommendations might help the international community to prevent a repetition of those avoidable disasters.
Mr. Chairman, the ICG report on Colombia that I mentioned concluded -- you mentioned the stake that the United States has in Colombia and the situation there. We concluded that the United States and the international community need to help that nation respond to the threats from insurgents and paramilitary alike for the following reasons. Because the conflict in Colombia already is spilling over its regional borders and posing further dangers to already fragile neighbors. With respect to that, Senator, you mentioned the regional issue and I just would note that in our recommendations we made several recommendations with respect how to link the other neighbors to the effort to respond to the threat from insurgents and paramilitary in Colombia.
Also because Colombia still remains the major source of drugs, both cocaine and heroin coming into this country. Because the human costs are unacceptable as we've heard today. One and a half to two million people displaced, 3,000 kidnapped, mostly at the hands of the insurgents. And as we know, and as you've listed some of them, lastly, just two days ago, the governor of Antioquia. Between 1,000 and 2,500 men, women and children killed in massacres. The vast majority, the work of the paramilitary.
An equal number assassinated, including labor union organizations, journalists, local and indigenous leaders, human rights advocates and just generally people in Colombia. Four hundred credible reports of torture, 6,000 children forced into the armies on either side.
And finally, we have a stake because the conflict threatens the democracy. Democracy with flaws, but a democracy in one where the people are willing to brave death threats and bombs to vote as they did last month in the congressional elections.
For those reasons, it deserves support, although it also must make progress on mending shortcomings in its judicial system, closing gaps in social and economic inequities and most crucially, openly and clearly rejecting collusion with the paramilitary. Much more needs to be done in this area and presumably that is why the administration is not yet certified the human rights conditions in the fiscal year 2002 appropriation bill. ICG found in the report that the conflict itself has changed. It is no longer what we used to think of as a classic, ideological guerrilla war, but a foul mixing bowl for drugs, weapons, money laundering, criminals and terrorists. The guerrilla groups also shifted dramatically since the end of the cold war, losing popular sympathy and drawing their financing from drugs, kidnapping and extortion. Their rhetoric remains ideological, but there has been little substantive agenda behind it. And for four years they failed to use the opportunity that President Pastrana gave them to negotiate a settlement of the conflict.
It also should be noted that their paramilitary enemies are probably even more dependent on drug money, earning some 70 percent of their income from that source. Given those concerns, ICG has focused its recommendation on four specific areas that relate to the questions that you were asking earlier.
First, protecting Colombian citizens against the insurgents and the paramilitary, reenergizing the peace process, combating the drug trade and extending police and judicial institutions as well as basic social services to the rural areas. Protecting Colombian civilians from insurgents and paramilitaries requires a better and stronger military and police. There's simply no question.
But as you noted, Mr. Chairman, Colombia must do more to finance its own defense and end the draft evasion that appears to benefit the wealthy. Most immediately, they must replicate its massive protective effort during the congressional elections to ensure the safety and security of candidates and voters during the May balloting. ICG also recommended specific actions to address the rising power of the paramilitary. For Colombia, we suggest they should create special police and prosecutorial units to go after the leadership of the AUC like the successful strike forces that ultimately dismantled the Cali and Medellin Cartels in the early 1990's.
Colombia also should do more to prosecute military officers who assist the paramilitary and to prosecute all those who finance them. We believe that the United States has a special role in this area. Yes, we conclude that there is justification to extend additional military aid to the government in Colombia and to approve the dual use of U.S. trained forces currently permitted only to fight drug trafficking as the Bush administration has requested.
But only after the Colombian military makes significant further progress in ensuring accountability for human rights violations and in severing all links with the paramilitaries. The existing conditionality, the Leahy Amendment, the Byrd Amendment, Section 567 of the last year's appropriation bill.
The existing conditionality which seeks to promote those ends should apply to the new funds and to the new authority. It will help Colombia in furthering the professionalization of its own military and police. It will strengthen those inside the Colombian government and military who are seeking to build internal safeguards against human rights abuses and break the links to the paramilitary. And it will increase the U.S. government's leverage for those same objectives. ICG also recommends ways to reenergize the peace process in the future because we believe there will need to be a future peace process.
Initially, we recommend that President Pastrana pursue the talks in Cuba aimed at a verifiable cease-fire with ELN if at all possible, before a new president takes office.
You mentioned that, Senator. And let me just note in that regard that while there is currently a group of five international ambassadors who form a group of friends, at one of their last meetings, they and the government both requested that the United States become more actively engaged in that process. And I think that one of our recommendations that the United States examine how, in fact, it can do that.
As for negotiations with the FARC, we believe that it first must recognize that it can neither win in military victory nor continue forever to strike fear throughout Colombia. And as its military capacity diminishes, the FARC, then, would have no alternative other than engage in substantive negotiations. We recommend that the next president also remedy one of the flaws of the past negotiations with the FARC, the absence of third party mediation. The next administration should invite the U.N. secretary general to play a much stronger role, appointing a special representative in establishing a good offices mission in Colombia at the earliest useful moment.
At some point clearly, international monitors will likely be required to verify cease-fire. We also think that the U.S. has to consider how it will engage with those future negotiations. Mr. Chairman, our report, as I mentioned, also recognizes the importance of the drug issue. Our recommendations -- and I should say that these are preliminary. We're going to be doing a separate report on the issue of counter narcotics efforts in Colombia. But we also share the concern expressed by Colombia's president and other international leaders that there's a need to review and rethink the elements of the current strategy, given the increase in cultivation over the past several years.
And I know that, again, you've heard the administration is looking at some of those elements of the strategy itself. We think we should also engage the hemispheric community in that effort, perhaps through the OAS and (inaudible). But we endorse President Pastrana's call for a hemispheric summit on that subject like the one that took place in Cartagena in 1990 to help produce a new common strategy that goes beyond the bilateral. Finally, there's a fourth issue that when one looks at the conflict, one has to consider. And that's how to strengthen Colombia's institutions and their ability to deliver services into rural Colombia. At this point, we believe that Colombia needs to consider and we, as the international community, need to consider how to help it introduce legitimate police and justice sector forces into rural areas. And pursue economic and social development for 80 percent of the rural population estimated by the World Bank to be living in poverty. You mentioned that there's one of the major gaps of the presence of the state in rural Colombia. That's before the conflict and that continues today. One way that we can begin and Colombia can begin that process is to look at former combat areas like the former demilitarized zone and then to take an emergency economic, political and social recovery program in those areas to demonstrate the capacity of the state to respond to the needs of the people. More also needs to be done building on what AID, ICRC, UNHCR are doing to help displaced persons. And they're talking about almost two million people currently.
Finally, let me just note that Colombia's government and its new president face a significant military challenge in containing the FARC. They face an equal law enforcement challenge in confronting the paramilitary. And they face the political challenge of leading a nation to address both of those threats while initiating the democratic reforms that Colombia requires, and ultimately bringing Colombia the peace its people so deeply desire and deserve. And the United States should help Colombia achieve those goals. Thank you.

(OTHER WITNESS TESTIMONY)

CHAFEE: Thank you very much, gentlemen. There's a vote on, once again and so the chairman has gone to do his constitutional duty and I'll pinch hit. And certainly chilling testimony from both of you about the circumstances in Colombia. And it seems as though that the prospects for progress seem so bleak from listening to your testimony, the integration of the -- the alleged integration of the military with the AUC and where we go from there. But as we look ahead, once again, to the elections, I might ask, have you, either, both of you or either of you studied the position of the candidates? And will the political influence of the paramilitaries be altered in any way by the outcome of these elections on May 26th, I believe? Mr. Schneider?
SCHNEIDER: We put out a report just about a week or so ago that looked at the March 10th parliamentary elections in terms of the balance. And we noted the comment made by the paramilitary leader, but to be understood that that in no way is substantiated. What we found is that in general, there was not a focus on the human rights or paramilitary issue in the elections. It was much more of a local politics kind of effort. The balance, however, clearly went in the direction of those candidates that were supported by - the more conservative candidates for the president did very well. Those -- and then several independent candidates who you would describe as on the left, including the former head of the N19 was one of the highest vote getters for the senate on a national. So it's hard to make a clear judgment there was a massive shift. In the polling for president, there's no question that the more conservative candidate has been consistently higher than the other two. Some between the last polls, around 51 percent and it got as high as 58, 59 percent. And in general, all the candidates have taken a position clearly emphasizing the need to confront the FARC militarily. And at the same time, in terms of their public statements, I think that most of them have said when asked specifically that they clearly recognize the threat from the paramilitary.
CHAFEE: And has the paramilitaries, Castano in particular, given any indication of being involved in the political process as these presidential elections come forward?
SCHNEIDER: They alleged -- I mean, the paramilitary clearly alleges that they are pressuring candidates to -- who they will then have influence over. There's also demonstration of influence from drug money that we expressed concern about. I think that it's also accurate to say that the presidential candidates, while they have been very strong in terms of the terrorism issue, that there's probably been a greater degree of focus by some of them on the paramilitary issue than by others. No one that I have heard has in any way attempted to down play the threat posed by the paramilitary.
CHAFEE: Before we go, Mr. Vivanco, in your testimony earlier, Mr. Schneider, you suggested that the U.N. secretary general should be involved and appoint a special representative and establish offices in Colombia. Is there, is there an entity to deal with if the United Nations were to get involved with? Or are these organizations so elusive that that would not be productive?
SCHNEIDER: We suggested two things. (inaudible)
CHAFEE: An organized entity, obviously (inaudible) entity, but one that would ...
SCHNEIDER: We are clearly in terms of the ELN process if it moves further towards a cease-fire, the U.N. involvement would be very helpful in terms of helping to define how you would manage a cease-fire, verify it, et cetera, monitor it. And at some point, we would hope that the same situation after there has been a clear evidence that the FARC has, I think, been confronted militarily, at some point, we would hope that there'd be an opportunity to restart negotiations. And at that point, the U.N.'s presence would be quite helpful. Also it should be noted that since the -- any kind of future negotiations would take place outside the country. No one is talking about reestablishing a demilitarized zone inside Colombia. And so in that context, the U.N. could play a significant role.
CHAFEE: Very good.
Mr. Vivanco, also going back to the elections, maybe you could comment on those and what you see coming forward. And are the, particularly the paramilitaries, the AUC, are they going to be influencing these elections? Is there any indication they want to be involved in the democratic process?
VIVANCO: Senator Chafee, the political environment in Colombia today, given the failure of the peace process and the recalcitrant attitude of the leftists guerrilla, the FARC, in particular and their record of, you know, kidnappings and killings, it's very much -- the environment is a kind of in favor of a military solution to this problem. There is a serious security concern in Colombia in every region and some, you know, fear from paramilitary groups and, you know, from the FARC. And so, but, you know, that means that the leading presidential candidates, their discourse is quite similar in terms of they're very, very tough in criticizing the peace efforts in which President Pastrana engaged. And they announced that they are committed to, you know, some sort of military solution for Colombia.
But to try to address your question more directly, I have, I have heard that one of the leading presidential candidates, Mr. Orasio Serpa (ph), the leader of the liberal party in Colombia has alleged that Mr. Iriva (ph) who is at the top of the, of the poles has been receiving active support from paramilitary organizations in Colombia. So that is at least the perception of Mr. Orasio Serpa (ph) and his supporters.
In addition, as I said during my testimony, the Carlos Castano himself and some other leaders of paramilitary organizations has publicly acknowledged that they have been involved in the process of congressional election. And they claim that they have the sympathy and the support of local representatives in the -- I mean, deputies in members of congress today in Colombia by around 30 percent or 35 percent of them.
CHAFEE: So to point that out, if the leader in the polls, Iriva (ph) is elected and, just for the sake of argument, there are connections to the AUC, not that we take that as fact. It's an allegation from the other candidate.
But just for the sake of argument, how's that play out in the future of Colombia? What happens next if Iriva (ph) wins and is inaugurated? SCHNEIDER: Makes it even more important that the kind of conditioning that we've been discussing is established in order to ensure that the United States is clearly going to be focused on this issue in its dialogue with the new president and with the new administration and in order to ensure that we don't become complicit in any direct – either the continuation or the extension of the relationship between the military and the paramilitary.
CHAFEE: Mr. Vivanco, you allege that these groups, though, are similar to a mafia, just criminal enterprises. Yet, there seems to be some indication that Carlo Castano does want to get involved in the, in the democratic process. Am I accurate in that? He's written, though, some kind of a biography. Or is that right? An autobiography?
VIVANCO: I think -- yes. Sure.
CHAFEE: He makes TV appearances.
VIVANCO: Sure. Senator Chafee, I think he, I think Carlos Castano and his group has a better sense of PR. In other words, they try to project the image of, quote, "a reasonable", you know, group. And they, unlike the guerrillas -- the guerrillas, you know, the FARC in particular they don't pay any attention to what the public in Colombia and the international community might think about their record, their actions. These are, you know, Marxist guerrillas that are still in the '60's and the logic that they apply is extremely ideological. So they know better what is in the best interest of the peasants and the population of Colombia. On the other hand, the leaders of paramilitary groups, and particularly Castano is, I would say, very savvy in the way that he sent messages to, you know, using the media and to, you know, to Colombians. But still, I do believe that the methodology of repression of both groups are quite similar.
CHAFEE: In your testimony, you said that he takes credit for the attack on the supreme court. How does that play into positive public relations? What was, what was -- how did he defend that if he's taking credit for it?
VIVANCO: He acknowledge direct participation in killings of presidential candidates in the past. He'll revindicate (ph) his actions. And but he gives you an explanation. He, you know, he tried to justify his atrocities as reaction to the atrocities committed by the other side. And he -- that is his logic. I mean, he's still a criminal. He's not, you know, - but his technique has been to tell the Colombian public that the only way to effectively deal with leftist guerrillas is by his way. You know? And he has shown some concrete results like, you know, the vast areas of Colombia under his control. But I will argue that those who live under the control of paramilitary organizations live under control of a mafia. That you have to pay for security. You have to -- they live under systematic extortion and fear.
CHAFEE: And also in your testimony, you say that the AUC is responsible for killings in the patriotic union movement of a political party. If they don't have a -- what does Carlos Castano say about being involved in a democratic effort if even that party in which they're trying to be involved in they're assassinating members of it? How do those two reconcile themselves?
VIVANCO: I'm not sure whether, you know, they want to eventually become -- I mean, the AUC wants to become a formal political party in Colombia and to engage in politics as the, as the other parties in Colombia. But what I, what I -- my point is that the AUC leadership and particularly Castano is quite open with the media and he has no remorse, no problem to, you know, recognize responsibility for past killings and assassinations. He actually -- he believes that help him with the Colombian people, you know, in terms of raising more sympathy for – and support for his actions. But I don't, I don't, I don't know whether his intention is to, you know, to become himself fully involved in the political process one day and to participate in elections and that sort of thing.
CHAFEE: And that is more true of the ELN. They are making more positive steps towards moving in that direction. Is that accurate?
SCHNEIDER: I mean, they've been engaged in negotiations most recently and indicated at least some willingness to move toward a cease-fire with the assumption that that would then lead to a negotiation over substantive issues that would include their demobilization and political involvement. But it is not by any means something that's going to happen tomorrow. And they've raised some additional demands, apparently, recently that make it appear that they may be attempting to stretch the process out until a new president takes office.
CHAFEE: And of these three groups, we most frequently talk about, all of whom are on the terrorists list, am I correct? The AUC on the right and the two ELN, the FARC on the left. Are they equally dependent on the narco trafficking revenues?
SCHNEIDER: Well, you heard the stati stic that we've received because the AUC asserts it themselves and the U.S. government has repeated it. So presumably the administration believes that it's accurate. Seventy percent of the income of the AUC comes from drugs. In the case of the FARC, it's probably the second. In addition to the money that they receive from drugs, which is a significant several hundred million dollars, they obviously also receive significant amount of money from kidnappings and from other extortion. The ELN apparently receives less from drugs and more from kidnappings and more from extortion of the oil companies.
VIVANCO: Oil companies, right.
CHAFEE: So ELN less so.
SCHNEIDER: Less so in terms of the drug activity.
VIVANCO: That's right.
CHAFEE: I see. Well, that's all the questions I have. I see the clock is run out on my vote. I think I'll call a recess and if I can implore on you to have some patience for the chairman will return. And I'm sure he'll have some good questions and engage in some dialogue.

Thank you, gentlemen, very much.
SCHNEIDER: Thank you, Senator.
VIVANCO: Thank you.
DODD: It's a tag team we got here.
Thank you very much, Linc. Well, thank you both again. And I -- if I ask any questions that my colleague from Rhode Island has already asked, you can just --either you can tell me or I presume our good staff here will say that question has already been addressed. Let me, if I can -- you've said -- you've answered a couple of questions that I had in my -- I was going to raise to you. The question of whether or not in your view there can be a military victory here. And (inaudible) you've both indicated that's not likely to be the case. I don't presume either one of you would say it's impossible because I don't believe that to be the case either. You can end up -- and if you end up with a million displaced people and hundreds of thousands of civilians are leaving Colombia every year. And I'm told it's hard to get a seat on a flight out of Bogota. There are literally hundreds and hundreds of Colombian children now attending schools in the United States rather than be living in their own communities. You heard Senator Chafee talk about his family and how they literally have locked themselves, 80 year old people, in their home fearful to go out because of the potential consequences to them. You've got, at least, if the numbers are accurate, Human Rights Watch says almost 4,000 kidnappings a year. That's at least 10, 15 a day occurring. I'm told it's a, it's a regular basis that you have people even of modest means now. We're not just talking about a -- when you talk about 4,000 a year, you've obviously gone far beyond that small percentage of affluence and you've reached down into the middle classes and below. So that this has now created a reign of terror in the country. You combine the forces of ELN, the FARC, that AUC, you're talking now in the neighborhood of 25, 35, excuse me, 30,000 people who are engaged in this business of kidnapping, assassinations, narco trafficking and the like. It's just, it seems that we're looking at the complete shredding of civil society here in this oldest continuing democracy in the hemisphere, in Latin America, excuse me. I hear what -- Mark and I have talked about this already. We've had -- I'm very impressed with the report that's been prepared by ICG. But you heard Mark Grossman say earlier that to prioritize the issues for them would be security first. You can't talk about why they're not totally unrelated, the idea that you're going to be able to restore democratic institutions and democratic processes, economic vitality, all of the other related issues in the absence of people feeling secure. There's nothing more fundamental. It's why in this country, I suppose, that if we had to allocate resources to just one area of the budget alone, the one that would probably trump all others would be defense, if it came down to that in terms of where people would place their priorities.
How do you address the issue, then, if -- first of all, do you agree with that assessment? If you had to -- (inaudible) I'll ask you the same question. In that litany of priorities that our policy ought to be directed to, human rights and democracy and economic vitality and security and the like, do you agree with his prioritization of those issues? And secondly, how do you address the underlying question that if we condition entirely the support for the military on an improved human rights record here, which I don't disagree with, but if you do that, do you not, then, give -- it seems to me, the AUC and the FARC sort of veto power over the aid, in a sense? I mean, you now have turned to an extent that they can just perpetuate human rights violations here. And even though they mount, how do you -- if you, if you subscribe to the notion that the AUC basically doesn't operate effectively without the imprimatur, implicit or explicit of the military, and if they continue to watch human rights violations and you condition the aid to them on that particular question, then does it not give, in fact, the AUC and the FARC indirectly the ability to sort of determine whether or not U.S. support is going to forthcoming and to the extent we're going to be able to deal with the security issue? And if you complete the syllogism here, the logic of it that then the ranks of the AUC expand because people look to somebody, anybody that will protect me and my family against these things. And I'm willing to hire the vigilantes, in effect, to do it if my government can't do it for me. How do you address that? I'm not being -- maybe I'm not articulating that as well as others might, but that's sort of the quandary that I think a lot of people are asking who don't disagree with your conclusions about what's going on on the ground. But in terms of your formulation of how we ought to provide assistance to this government, which no one else is going to provide. I mean, I don't know of anyone else. You know -- is there a European government that's going to help? An Asian government? Is some of the Latin American government going to step up to the plate and provide military assistance, helicopters? So if we don't, and we condition it on this, are we not abandoning a country that's under siege from no one I see here upon the opposition side, whether it's the ELN or the FARC or AUC that seems to be much more interested in anything but narco business and sustaining themselves as sort of a mafia, to use the word that you have here. You called them mafia. I subscribe to that. So no one's going to step in and help this poor country from the mafia unless we do it. How do you get around that question?
SCHNEIDER: Let me start by taking that term. If you have a town where you've got two mafia gangs operating, you go after them both. You strengthen your security and you go after them both. You don't allow yourself with one of the mafias to deal with the other. Or else you undermine the whole legitimacy of your own capacity to operate as an institution, as a democratic institution. And I think what we're saying is that security, in response to security threats in the case of Colombia requires that you also, at the same time, go after the AUC, maintain the human rights conditionality. And I think that the answer for -- historically, is that it's been done. And the classic example was going down to Salvador and saying that you -- when vice president then went down, supported with Congressional legislation that was going to cut off aid if it didn't happen, you're going to have disband the death squads, period. And only after that happened did you begin to see a change in the process. A very high level, clear, this is unacceptable.
And in this particular case, I think that that's what we're saying is that yes, provide them with the authority to use the equipment, et cetera, not only in counter narcotics, but it has to be while they are also taking action with respect to human rights and cutting off the relations with the paramilitary. And we believe they can do that. The other is that you don't, in terms of how do you, how do you begin to deal with questions of strengthening law enforcement or the judicial system and economic development when you don't have full security. You may not have full security nationwide, but you may be able to clear them out in a particular area and then provide an economic package in that area. And that's what I was, we were, I was suggesting in the demilitarized zone, in fact, that in an area where you can direct your military forces to clear out both the FARC and the AUC, to then respond with something positive.
But the broader question, I think that the statement today, yes, security is crucial and we'd like to see the Colombian government in terms of their tax levies and their allocation of funding demonstrate the higher priority. You know the percentages as well as I do. Clearly they have not dedicated the level of resources to their own military and police that the threat would indicate that they should. But I think that the answer to your question is that we cannot say use the weapons, we're not going to be concerned about the relationship with the paramilitary. I think it undermines the effort in the long-term, undermines their democracy in the long-term, clearly undermines our own.
DODD: You raised the El Salvador issue, which you -- a cause very involved in. In fact, you authored the legislation that conditioned -- in fact, Jose Napoleon Duarte, the President of El Salvador was here in the country the very day the amendment was offered on the floor of the United States Senate. And he agreed in fact, with the conditionalities that we placed on ilitary aid at the time. They're the sources of funding for the FMLM, if you will, in that particular time were either a pretty much an indigenous thing. May have been some that were coming from Castro, some training and so forth.
But I don't recall any suggestion that they were being funded by narco trafficking. And so it was a -- there was, there was support for them, but nothing that quite equals, I gather anyway, the level of financial backing that the FARC and the AUC get as a result of their narco business. Do you agree with that?
SCHNEIDER: Absolutely. No question about it.
DODD: So you know, I guess I'm getting -- what I'm trying to get at here is how do we, when you're dealing with two organizations that are, that are, that are getting almost an equal amount of funding, it seems, from -- in fact, the irony in all of this is the United States is funding both sides of this conflict. One through, you know, private donations through our, through the illicit drug trafficking and use in this country, and the other through taxpayer money. It may only one of the unique situations in the world where we're actually underwriting the cost of all of this conflict through our habits on consumption and as a result of our commitment to try and support civil society. My concern here is -- in fact, there are people, I gather, who move between the FARC and the AUC. This is whoever offers better deals, financially. It's almost like the draft or an -- and you have free agency in here. People move back and forth based on what either side is willing to offer in pay. That's what this has come to, this idea of any kind of great social motivation seems to have disappeared almost entirely. And so you end up with the resources, financial resources from Europe, the United States, but mostly from the United States underwriting this. So I'm -- why don't you respond to this, Jose, if you would?
VIVANCO: Mr. Chairman, if I may, I would like to comment on your first question. There is no question based on our research but also based on the research done by United Nations, the OAS, the entire human rights commission and so on and so forth, and even the State Department report that there is a great deal of dependency on the paramilitaries by the Colombian military.
In other words, the military in some areas, not across the country, but in some areas where the paramilitaries have, you know, very, very strong presence and virtually control territory and population, the military rely on the paramilitaries to keep the zone, the area under control. And in our view, in our experience, based on our experience, the little amount of progress that has been done in terms of human rights in Colombia and in particularly in terms of attempts to break those ties between military and paramilitary organizations has been done, has been done under international pressure and specifically under U.S. pressure. We have no real hope that the Colombians will be able to address this issue of links with these criminal organizations by themselves.
We do acknowledge that the discourse, the public position of the, of the Colombian leadership is perfectly compatible with international human rights standards. I have met several times with General Tapias (ph) and he is, he is lying, his public position, his discourse is, I would say, impeccable on these, on these, on these issues. But we, unfortunately we are able to argue and to demonstrate is that in the field those links, that relationship is stronger and closer than ever.
DODD: Yes.
VIVANCO: And so this is a very, very serious and I would say very complex, very difficult issue for the military to deal with.
DODD: Yes.
VIVANCO: There is one precedent that shows a very interesting degree of progress which is the ability of the Colombian police to improve its record and to break some links with paramilitary organizations. The Colombian police have been able to make some, you know, I would say, serious progress. It's nothing -- it's not clean from human rights abuses or from, you know, relationship with human right -- with paramilitary organizations, but their policy, their line, you know, their internal -- the way that they deal with these kind of problems is very, very different that the way that the army and the navy in Colombia has been, you know, reacting ...
DODD: Yes.
VIVANCO: ... to charges that they are working with paramilitary organizations. I will say that some of the credit should be given to General Rosa Jose Serano for taking that line and for discharging more than 12,000 members of the police on grounds of corruption, narco trafficking and human rights abuses. But the -- I don't think we should underestimate that that practice, that change was possible as a result of U.S. engagement and U.S. conditionality, U.S., you know, foreign policy conditionality and the pressure from this Senate to improve the record and to effectively deal with those one who, you know, engage in abuses. DODD: And I appreciate your comments. And I know, by the way, you're going to -- I gather you've got to catch a plane.
VIVANCO: In a -- sometime. Yes. DODD: Right. Well, let me just move on to a couple of other subject matters here. But let me ...
SCHNEIDER: Senator, could I just -- one little other point on that?
DODD: Yes, certainly.
SCHNEIDER: Both when I was in the government and now in talking to current government, there's no question that the conditionality is used by those who are trying to push the policy in the right direction. And without it, they would be weaker in terms of getting the policy right.
DODD: Yes. Well, let me, I mean, make the case here. I mean, I don't -- you're talking about whether the language is included in the bill or not included in the language of this here, it is certainly a fact that if in, if in -- there is a growing connection, if, in fact, more evidence is forthcoming that there is a systemic problem here related between the military forces and the AUC, then I would just predict flat out what's going to happen here.
DODD: And that is that, of course, the Congress of the United States, the American people will walk away from this with a great sense of disappointment in many ways because of what the outcomes may be. But I would predict that would be the result. And so I, again, hope if hearings have any value beyond extracting sort of brief statements or clearer statements of policy, and can also serve as a means of communication, then let me just predict that if, in fact, we end up with a growing evidence here of connections between the Colombian military and the AUC, then there will be an overwhelming reaction to that. There's a reluctance anyway on the part of the American people to be involved in these kinds of matters. This is a hard sell under the best of circumstances. And when you give anyone an argument to step away from it, particularly one that involves brutality where we're seen as underwriting that, sustaining it, subsidizing it, then people will retreat from it. And I predict that would happen here.
So I'm hopeful that those in positions of authority including those who will emerge victorious in the upcoming elections here clearly that for those of us up here who are very anxious to be helpful and constructive and to build the kind of international support, particularly regional support for a sustainable effort here need to know that this is a very, very important issue. And to not deal with it is to place all of this in jeopardy. And I hope they understand that. Let me ask you about the peace process itself. And I have, having again, been involved in the Central American effort where we went from – I didn't think the Contadora effort when we were dealing with Nicaragua and El Salvador was going to be very effective because it was -- if you need to go, Jose, ...
VIVANCO: I have to, unfortunately. DODD: ... we'll leave the questions and we'll have you submit something in writing. But ... VIVANCO: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
DODD: Thank you for being here today.
VIVANCO: Actually I have to fly to Colombia this afternoon. So, ...
DODD: All right. Be careful. VIVANCO: Thank you. DODD: Mark, let me ask you this. I mean, I always felt that when we moved from the Contadora process which was sort of a friends' group that involved Mexico and Brazil and other nations in the hemisphere and shrunk that down to the Central American countries very directly, the ones most directly affected, it changed the dynamic considerably. We were involved, obviously, but we were not a participant in those meetings in Escepulas (ph) that ultimately produced the framework onto the leadership of President Arias (ph) of Costa Rica along with others in the region who supported him. And that brought about, along with other factors, a resolution. In this case here, there's been a suggestion that somehow we ought to be involved in this peace process rather directly. I am uneasy about that. That I would much prefer to see an ambient (ph) approach to this where we play a supporting role rather than a principle role. Tell me the pros and cons of both approaches and which one you –you seem to indicate that more direct U.S. involvement was necessary. SCHNEIDER: I think that will be -- there are two things. One, if you take the ELN process separately from the FARC. The ELN process now is one which is focused on how do you get a verifiable cease-fire. And from there then in that context of the cease-fire then move beyond that for substantive negotiations on what would ultimately would be a settlement and a demobilization of the (inaudible). They're, as you know, as you mentioned, they're in Cuba and in one of their recent sessions one of the conclusions was that they asked the United States to become part of that group of facilitators. And it seems to me that there are two things that are quite important. One is that the parties on both sides understand that the United States will be a supporter of the ultimate settlement helping, if there's -- helping to finance, helping to convince others to carry out what's needed with respect to the monitoring of the process. And the second is, to be very frank, given our relationship with the Colombian military and our assistance to the Colombian government, the insurgent ELN will be much more convinced that their safety and security will be protected if we are part of that process. If they think that -- if they're satisfied that we are close to, if not part of, the negotiating process that resulted in agreement that -- on which they're going to rely to essentially, at some point, give up their arms. And as we know what's happened to past insurgents in Colombia, once they give up their arms, they were, obviously, ma ny of them were killed. And so that role is very important. Whether we have to be there at the table today is another question. It seems to me that we're capable of finding a mechanism in which we are linked to the negotiations. And I think that we should examine what those might be. DODD: (inaudible) SCHNEIDER: Whether it's ...
DODD: Why would you negotiate if you're the FARC? Why do you care?
SCHNEIDER: No. No.
DODD: You've got a great business going here.
SCHNEIDER: We're talking about the ELN.
DODD: All right, but I'm going to move to the FARC.
SCHNEIDER: On the FARC, on the FARC ...
DODD: Why would you even bother? You've got a great deal going here. Forty years around, living in the woods ... SCHNEIDER: First ...
DODD: You've got a billion dollars or more a year coming from the narco business.
SCHNEIDER: You had (inaudible)
DODD: Things are looking pretty good.
SCHNEIDER: You had it good when you had the DMZ. I think it's not quite so good now. But I think the answer is that until the FARC, in fact, feel threatened militarily, until they see that their, that they cannot achieve a maintenance of their income and a maintenance of their institutional structure, by doing something other than carrying out these terrorist acts and acting as a pretty brutal insurgency, until there is a military threat, then I think the negotiations are unlikely to be successful. I think that the issue is to be prepared to have a more effective negotiating structure when that moment comes, not wait and say, well, at some point when we're -- it seems clear that they're ready to accept, let's say, a cease-fire. They've never been willing to accept a verifiable cease-fire.
DODD: Yes.
SCHNEIDER: And if three months from now they say, yes, we are. Well, somebody should be prepared with what does that mean? And what do you do next? And all I'm saying is that -- what we're recommending is that that process needs to begin so that you're ready when that negotiating possibility exists. But we're also saying right now that the first step in achieving substantive negotiations is ensuring that the FARC doesn't believe that they have a military avenue to achieve their goals and to maintain themselves as they are.
DODD: Yes. Let me ask you the question I asked Secretary Grossman. And first of all, let me ask the question that forms the premise. And that is there seems to be deafening silence from some of our very good friends in the region who are here. You know, they want, they wanted me to support the Indian trade agreement. They want me to support all these things and to provide foreign aid and step up to the plate. Here we've got 95 percent of cocaine and heroin pouring out of this country, killing kids and families in this country here, a lot of that responsibility falls on us to try and deal with it here at home. But obviously, part of the solution rests as well in trying to deal with it on the ground in Colombia. Why aren't my friends here who are asking me for help all the time and I want to help and care about? Why aren't they more involved in helping us come up with some answers here? And is that necessary, in your view, to a successful conclusion of this, of this effort?
SCHNEIDER: Yes. I am -- one of the things that we recommended, in fact, was that the United States should work closely with the neighboring countries, the Andean countries and Panama in attempting to formulate policies for improved security. Intelligence sharing, mutual controls on contraband, assistance to refugees and also some, in the places where you have population centers, mainly in Ecuador and some in Peru, then some integrated border development activities. Yes, we think that there should be more. And we think that the, that the regional (inaudible) countries should be brought into the process of discussion what some of the steps ought to be. And I wouldn't just focus it on the security, drug issue. But in general, it seems to me that ...
DODD: Yes. I don't disagree with that. But it does -- I mean, I don't get a sense that there's an effort being made here ...
SCHNEIDER: Part of the, part of the reason is that, to be very frank, I think those countries want to keep away from it because they're afraid. They're afraid that if they become active in terms of support for the Colombian government, active militarily, that they'll be threatened more by the FARC. They'll give a reason for the FARC to go after some of them. And the AUC as well. I suspect that that may be a factor.
DODD: Yes. Well, those are very helpful observations. And the – I raised the issue earlier about the ...
SCHNEIDER: By the way, Senator, let me just say one other thing in terms of our allies.
DODD: Yes.
SCHNEIDER: The Europeans, as you know, are stepping up in terms of doing more on the aid for displaced persons and looking at the --some economic and social activities with respect to peace laboratories. One of the questions that I would ask is whether -- why you and others should not become more engaged on the justice side as well? In other countries, as we know around the world, they have. It seems to me that we might be able to engage them in this area as well.
DODD: Well, you're right. And, of course, one only has to look back to their lack of appetite to get involved in the Bosnian situation which was far closer to home, geographically. And this one here, they've been involved, but more as critics then offering, in my view anyway, constructive efforts here to -- if they don't want to get involved in the military issues here, but only on the economic development side of the question, their participation has been rather anemic and rather disappointing. That's another set of questions. I mean, I -- there's a limited ability to what neighboring countries can do in the region. I think, though, border security is one of them. And certainly helping contain this. And the obvious answer to the question you pose or at least the observation you made that if, in fact, for whatever reason successful in Colombia, this shows up someplace else. And you could be next. And so it seems to me it's that old, that old statement made by the Protestant minister in Nazi Germany when he said when they went after the Jews, I wasn't a Jew, so what difference did it make. And when they went after the Gypsies, that I wasn't a Gypsy. When they went after the homosexuals and down the line. And finally they came after me and I looked around and there was no one there. In a sense, this scourge poses a risk for everybody. And ...
SCHNEIDER: Absolutely.
DODD: ... if you sort of pretend it's not affecting you and you stay away from it and fear that it might show up, I can almost predict it will to some degree. And so I hope we can get more participation and support from the European community as well. Well, I'll have some additional questions we may submit for the record. But I want to thank you again for your report. I think it's an excellent job. I think the points that you've made about the human rights issue is extremely valid.
And again, I want to state as I did at the outset, I repeat the statistics about what the civil society has suffered in Colombia from members of the press and the judiciary executive branch, congressional branches, candidates for office, mayors, small towns. My admiration for their courage to stand to be a mayor in a small town in Colombia where there's going to be no notoriety for doing so, but merely because you believe democracy is the way people ought to be able to live their lives. And when you merely offer yourself up to try and deal with the problems of your town you become a target for assassination and kidnapping is something we cannot ignore. And to -- and so I want to be involved in this and I want to be supportive. And I know you do as well.

With that, I want to thank my colleagues who were able to make it by here this morning for this hearing. We'll leave the record open. This is an ongoing discussion. There'll be more hearings and more debate about this issue as we move forward. But I think this morning's hearing has been helpful, and I thank all of our witnesses. Committee will stand adjourned.



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"President Uribe's Colombian challenge"
Comment by Mark L. Schneider in The Observer

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ICG Senior Vice President Mark Schneider testifies before the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee: Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, Peace Corps, Narcotics Affairs holds hearing on Future Relations between the United States and Colombia.
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