For the better part of two weeks, I have been attempting to elicit a real answer regarding a Wall Street Journal article by Mary Anastasia O-Grady regarding FARC, the hostages, Rep. Jim McGovern and Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Yesterday, I received an answer from Rep. McGovern’s Press Secretary, Michael Mershon:
It’s important to remember that what INTERPOL determined is that there was no evidence of any tampering of the FARC computers by the Colombian military once the military took possession of those computers. Which is very good news. What INTERPOL did NOT determine, of course, was whether any of the statements in those computers were somehow empirically true. Which, of course, they could not, as we made very clear in our letter to the Wall Street Journal.
As to the Journal column in question which attacked Colombian-based human rights groups for their alleged ties to the FARC (therefore suggesting that the FARC would easily be convinced to turn the hostages over to these groups), we were disappointed to see that one of the Colombian military members involved in the hostage rescue was wearing the insignia of the International Committee of the Red Cross during the mission, in apparent violation of the Geneva Conventions. We were pleased to see that President Uribe has apologized for that error.
As to the specific questions you have asked:
Rep. McGovern met with Sen. Cordoba during the time she was the official mediator (appointed by President Uribe) for a potential humanitarian exchange of the hostages. She also met with high-level U.S. State Department officials during this period.
Rep. McGovern never said that Sen. Obama would win the election. At the time, he was a strong supporter of Sen. Clinton.
Rep. McGovern never ‘ensured’ the end of military aid to Colombia. He doesn’t believe that would be a proper policy position to take. He has argued, and will continue to argue, that a higher percentage of our aid should be used for the building of civilian and judicial institutions in Colombia; for economic redevelopment; and for assistance to the hundreds of thousands of Colombians who have been internally displaced by the conflict.
I have attached a copy of Rep. McGovern’s floor statement from yesterday’s debate on an amendment offered by House Republican Whip Roy Blunt to the intelligence authorization bill. It lays out a lot of his thinking about the way forward, and I hope you find it useful.
I’d be happy to respond by e-mail to any other specific questions you may have.
Michael Mershon, Press Secretary
U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA)
I rise in support of this rule, and in support of the Blunt amendment on Colombia.
Mr. Speaker, I can’t describe the joy and excitement I felt on July 2nd when I knew the rescue operation had been successful and that Marc Gonsalves, Keith Stansell, Thomas Howes, Ingrid Betancourt, and eleven Colombians were finally free, after years of torment and brutality suffered at the hands of the FARC.
I immediately wrote President Uribe, congratulating him on the successful rescue.
I also told President Uribe and members of Colombian families that I remain committed to working for the release of the rest of the hostages.
Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent to enter a copy of that letter into the Record.
Mr. Speaker, I know I speak for all my colleagues when I say I want to see an end to the conflict in Colombia. I want to see the dismantling of all paramilitary, FARC, ELN and other armed groups in Colombia. Clearly, this is in the best interest of the Colombian people, as well as the United States.
I want to see the Colombian military and security forces break their ties to armed groups, drug lords, and criminals, and to fully respect the rights of all Colombian citizens.
The Blunt amendment notes how “intelligence and other cooperation by the U.S.” contributed to weakening all of Colombia’s illegal armed actors – the paramilitaries, the FARC and the ELN. It states that such assistance should continue to capitalize on recent successes.
I couldn’t agree more, Mr. Speaker.
According to an analysis by the Center for International Policy, what is most interesting about the hostage rescue operation – and other recent successes – is how different it is from what has FAILED in the past, namely massive and expensive military offensives, fumigation, and racking up civilian body counts.
The rescue highlights what has worked – the intelligence and cooperation that the gentleman of Missouri encourages us to continue:
· A greater intelligence focus aimed at the top leadership of the FARC and the captors of the hostages;
· A public relations campaign making it clear to the guerrilla rank-and-file that those who desert and surrender to the government will NOT be tortured or disappear as in the past, but instead, will get job training, a stipend, and the promise of a new life; and
· An increased presence by security forces in population centers and on main roads aimed at protecting civilians rather than treating them as suspects.
Most interesting about these strategies is that, with the exception of the costs of increased manpower and protective presence, they are relatively inexpensive. These efforts, which have proven so effective, make up only a sliver of Colombia’s defense budget and only a sliver of U.S. assistance. Planners of future aid packages to Colombia should take note.
Intelligence and encouragement of desertion work – these relatively cheap but vastly improved capabilities made the bloodless rescue mission possible. It’s hard to imagine the Colombian military of even just two years ago pulling off an operation like this. But today we celebrate the freedom of 15 Colombians and Americans.
Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent to enter into the Record a letter sent by Senator Richard Lugar to President Uribe urging him to use seize this moment and open up negotiations with the FARC and the ELN to end the conflict and release the hundreds of Colombians who remain in captivity. Thus, indeed, will Colombia finally defeat the guerrillas and, hopefully, reunite the remaining hostages with their families and loved ones. And I remain committed to this cause.
Mr. Speaker, I have many deep concerns about the human rights situation in Colombia and some of the aid we send. But the Blunt amendment is not an endorsement of the “same old, same old” – it is a recognition of something that has worked.
I urge all my colleagues to support the Blunt amendment.