International Organizations United States. Congress. House. Committee on Forei.

U.S. relations with Colombia : joint hearing before the Subcommittees on International Security, International Organizations, and Human Rights and the Western Hemisphere of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, House of Representatives, One Hundred Third Congress, second session, August 3, 1994 online

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Online LibraryInternational Organizations United States. Congress. House. Committee on ForeiU.S. relations with Colombia : joint hearing before the Subcommittees on International Security, International Organizations, and Human Rights and the Western Hemisphere of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, House of Representatives, One Hundred Third Congress, second session, August 3, 1994 → online text (page 4 of 9)
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sion of U.S. assistance to their programs.

We believe that the statutory fix that has now been proposed, the
bill that is now before the Congress, would allow the U.S. Govern-
ment to resume the aid that it has previously been providing de-
spite the continuance of Colombia and Peru of shootdown as part
of their interdiction programs. Yes, we think the fix is complete.

Mr. Smith. One final statement and question. It is unfortunate,
Ambassador Gelbard and Ambassador Skol, that, having opposed
this change which occurred, you have to stand here and take the
heat for those who promoted this change which has resulted in this
very, very unfortunate situation.

I do have a follow-up question. Suppose the legislative fix does
not occur in this session of Congress. Again, this is not beyond the
realm of possibility as authorization bills, unlike appropriations
bills, are not always absolutely necessary. This is an unlikely sce-
nario in this case, but if it should happen — what would the admin-
istration do in that scenario? If we miss the legislative window, we
would be talking about many months without sharing this very,
very vital information.

Ms. Roseborough. In that circumstance, I assume that the
State Department would continue its efforts to strike interim
agreements with Colombia and Peru to, for the moment, suspend
a portion of their interdiction program that would require the di-
rect shootdown of those aircraft so that we can continue to provide
the aid until such time as our domestic law allows us to continue
to provide it under their expanded programs.

Mr. Smith. Were there any attorneys who analyzed this and took
a contrary view? Contrary to the majority view of the administra-
tion, did any of the Justice Department attorneys come to a dif-


ferent conclusion regarding the 1984 act, and suggest it did not

Ms. Roseborough. I am not aware of any Justice Depart-

Mr. Smith. So it was a unanimous decision of the Justice Depart-

Mr. Gelbard. It was not just the Justice Department. It was the
attorneys of some five departments of government.

Mr. Smith. Thank you. I yield back the balance of my time.

Mr. Torricelli. Mr. Menendez.

Mr. Menendez. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Mr. Chairman, I apologize to the panel. I was chairing a Com-
mittee of the Whole in the House. But I have taken the opportunity
to read your testimony. And I wanted to get to this hearing because
I have serious concerns.

Before I address those concerns, let me just say that back in my
district in New Jersey I have the great pleasure of representing
many people of Colombian descent, who work hard, play by the
rules, have made enormous contributions to our community and
throughout our district. Some of them are my best friends and
some are my greatest neighbors. But I am seriously concerned
about the allegations Mr. Lantos referred to and Ambassador Skol
responded to with reference to the President-elect's alleged receipt
of campaign contributions in excess of $3 million from

And I want to ask you, Ambassador Gelbard, I see in the testi-
mony you presented that on June 29 you had a meeting with the
President-elect in New York, and you referred to that in your testi-
mony. Or was that

Mr. Skol. I did, Congressman.

Mr. Menendez. I have this under the statement by Robert
Gelbard. It is on page 2 at the top. It says, on June 29, Ambas-
sador Skol and Arcos met — is that not your testimony?

Mr. Gelbard. I said that they met. On June 29 I was actually
in Poland.

Mr. Menendez. You were in Poland.

Mr. Gelbard. Yes, sir, with the Director of the FBI.

Mr. Menendez. We have narcotrafficking problems there?

Mr. Gelbard. Actually I am afraid they do.

Mr. Menendez. Well, my question then comes to a press report
that is from the Washington Post of June 25 where it says, "The
Herald quoted two top U.S. officials as saying the administration
independently confirmed the charges. It said Robert Gelbard, Chief
of the State Department's Office of International Narcotics Mat-
ters, confronted Samper, that 8 months ago" — this is now dated
June 25, 1994, which means we are talking about November of
1993 — "with U.S. intelligence, that Samper received millions of dol-
lars from the cartel."

Is that an accurate account?

Mr. Gelbard. I did meet with President-elect Samper. I believe
it was actually in October of last year. And I did discuss with him
our concerns that, as I said before you came, Congressman, we had
reports that there were drug trafficker campaign contributions
being made to the Samper campaign.


And we discussed this in some detail, and we said — I said to him
that we believed that these were serious charges and serious re-
ports. As I mentioned earlier in my testimony today, President-
elect Samper, at that time candidate Samper, said that he thought
there was no way this could be the case. He vigorously denied it.

He said that they had systems built into the campaign which he
was certain of, which would prevent such contributions from taking
place, and at that time he told me that they had just dismissed two
members of his campaign staff for indeed taking trafficker cam-
paign funds.

I told him nevertheless that we were extremely seriously con-
cerned about this. We believed the reports to be credible. And I
strongly warned him against this. And as Ambassador Skol and I
each said earlier today, we have felt that the totality of the evi-
dence, of the reports that we have received of the involvement of
drug traffickers in the campaign, could cause a reasonable person
to believe this is the case. There is no smoking gun. And Samper
has indeed called for an investigation.

We hope and expect this will be an independent, serious inves-
tigation of the entire campaign.

Mr. MENENDEZ. Let me ask you, Ambassador, is this information
that you had your conversation with the President-elect Samper
about, was it prior to the allegations of the journalist with the
tape-recording with the cartel?

Mr. Gelbard. Yes, it was.

Mr. Menendez. So it was not based upon those statements that
were publicly made. It was based on other independent evidence?

Mr. Gelbard. Yes, it was, Congressman. But I can't really get
into that in this forum.

Mr. Menendez. But without getting into — I won't push you on
that for the moment — but without getting into the independent evi-
dence, it was sufficient enough for you to raise these concerns with
Mr. Samper; is that correct?

Mr. Gelbard. Yes, Congressman.

Mr. Menendez. You would not have raised those questions pure-
ly on some suppositions or you would have had to have significant
enough, strong, independent evidence for you to very — in a very
diplomatically serious situation — raise such concerns?

Mr. Gelbard. These are issues of such seriousness that I cer-
tainly, nor would any other officials, have raised this without seri-
ous reason for concern.

Mr. MENENDEZ. Is that part of the concern, the independent in-
formation that you received from U.S. intelligence that also — there
is another report from the Los Angeles Times of July 25 that refers
to Major General Dario Octavio Vargas Silva not being received by
the Chief of the Drug Enforcement Administration, Thomas Con-
stantine, because they had serious concerns about the Major Gen-
eral believing that he was corrupt. Does that flow from that same
information or from other information, do you know?

Mr. Gelbard. I don't think it is appropriate for me to respond
for the Drug Enforcement Administration. But as I said in the pre-
vious hearing on this subject, I don't think it would be appropriate
to discuss information of that nature in an open hearing.


Mr. MENENDEZ. Understanding that, I still haven't asked what
you that information is. I have just categorized it as to its serious-

My question would be independent — OK, you can't answer for the
DEA. Was there information — and this goes to another line of ques-
tioning that I have, which is, I share with the Chairman our con-
cern about cooperating with the Colombian Government and hav-
ing joint efforts. But one shares intelligence when they believe that
they are sharing that intelligence with another country who shares
common ground, and for which the security of that intelligence can
be assured, or to a high degree of probability.

And in that respect, I am concerned about our ability to be shar-
ing security or our desire of sharing information with those sources
that we might not believe to be secure.

And in that respect, in your position, and the State Department
in this sphere, independently that you can't answer for the DEA,
do we have concerns, have we raised concerns about Major General
Octavio Vargas Silva?

Mr. Gelbard. Let me just say that I understand why you would
feel and I would feel, any of us would, that if we are to have sen-
sitive programs with any country, we have to feel confidence that
the people with whom we are dealing are indeed honest, serious,
qualified officials. In my oral statement I mentioned the fact that
in the discussions we have had with the appointed — some of the
appointed cabinet-level officials of the Samper government, we
have indeed discussed these types of issues.

In fact, over the last several years, during the Gaviria govern-
ment, we have had unprecedented cooperation involving the provi-
sion and sharing of extremely sensitive information which has pro-
duced extraordinary benefits to both our governments and our peo-

And we look forward and expect that we will be able to continue
sharing those — that kind of information so that the Cali cartel and
other groups can be dismantled. And this we expect will be done
by working with honest, qualified officials.

Mr. Menendez. I appreciate your answer.

Now let me go back to my question. My question is, have you or
Ambassador Skol or anyone at the State Department to your
knowledge raised questions about sharing information with Major
General Octavio Vargas Silva?

Mr. Skol. Congressman, that goes into what we know or what
we don't know, and intelligence sources. I personally could not feel
that is an appropriate specific theme to be discussing in this ses-

Mr. Menendez. Is that your response?

Mr. Gelbard. Yes, sir.

Mr. Menendez. Even though I am not asking you what the infor-
mation is, you are willing to tell me that you had a conversation
to raise very serious questions about potentially alleged drug
money with the President elect of Colombia. Yet you won't tell me
that you have concerns, if you have them, with an officer of the Co-
lombian — the equivalent of our DEA. Is that what you are telling


Mr. Gelbard. Well, we have had concerns about a number of of-
ficials in the government, but as Ambassador Skol says, I really
think it would be inappropriate to get into the issue of individuals
in this forum.

Mr. Menendez. Let me ask you another line of questioning. I am
going to ask the Chairman that if it is possible, I am not quite sure
of the rules, but if it is possible, at a certain point that we hold
a hearing within the purviews of being able to get some of these
answers in the proper forum, because I think they go to the heart
of the concerns that the Chair has, and I think the ranking mem-
ber has.

I would like to get the answers. I want to know what I am deal-
ing with here. And when I have to cast votes on serious questions
of — Mr. Lantos talked about NAFTA extension, we are talking
about our intelligence, sharing our intelligence, and I want to do
that, but I want to be as secure as I possibly can that I am sharing
intelligence with people who have common goals and that we can
be somewhat secure that those purposes are going to be met.

Let me ask you this. The question is President-elect Samper's let-
ter to Chairman Hamilton which I believe we also have received a
very similar copy of. He says, nevertheless, referring to these accu-
sations, "I have called for a special investigation to carefully exam-
ine all of these issues and apply necessary actions to protect the
integrity of my government."

What is the process of this investigation, and do we have con-
fidence in the ability of whatever that process is to render a deci-
sion that we would rely upon?

Mr. Skol. As Ambassador Gelbard said previously, Congress-
man, the most appropriate forum for an investigation would seem
to be the independent fiscal. Fortunately there will be a new fiscal
sworn in very shortly. Everything we know about him shows that
he is independent and untainted. And that would be the kind of in-
vestigation that President-elect Samper appears to be calling for.
It would be the kind of investigation presumably that would un-
earth the truth and that would ultimately satisfy you and us and
the Colombians as to what happened, if in fact they can get to the
bottom of it in a difficult kind of investigation.

Mr. Menendez, So let me just get this straight. Has President-
elect Samper said that this is the entity that he wants to conduct
an investigation?

Mr. Skol. To my knowledge, he has not specifically said who
would conduct the investigation.

Mr. Menendez. I see. But if he were to say that if he has got —
we would have confidence in that entity?

Mr. Skol. That is the institution of the Colombian system that
would be independent of the government, the administration, and
would appear to be the appropriate entity that conducts such an
investigation. And as much as we know about the person who has
been appointed to that position, we suspect that he is the kind of
person who could bring this about.

Mr. Menendez. Let me lastly ask you, in that same letter where
the President-elect refers to an elite investigation corps will be cre-
ated to confront corruption and send the cartel's political cronies to
jail, we will submit to Congress a very strict anticorruption law, it

84-496 0-95-3


goes on to talk about new laws to strike the laws against money

That paragraph to me further concerns me in the context of what
systems — and I admire the admission that we need an elite inves-
tigation corps separate and apart, I gather, from the independent
prosecutor, I guess that is what the President-elect is talking
about — maybe you can shed light on that; a new anticorruption
law, further laws in other aspects as it relates to money launder-

In essence, it concerns me that what we have is a system per-
meated with a very serious concern by the nation's leading citizen
about what it is in terms of corrupt practices within the govern-

Again, us sharing information in this process throughout this
network of government officials, what are our concerns? Have we
specifically identified concerns?

Mr. Skol. Legislation in Colombia, for example, against money
laundering has oeen identified as insufficient, and we agree very
much with the notion that there should be new, tough antimoney-
laundering legislation.

The same letter proposes an inter-American convention on money
laundering. We have no details thus far on just what that would
entail. But it sounds like a relatively good idea.

In terms going back to the general question of sharing of evi-
dence, sharing of information, sharing of intelligence, we and our
individual agencies are extraordinarily jealous and protective of
sensitive intelligence. We have stopped sharing evidence when
sharing of evidence has not produced the effect that it should. This
was the case with a sad history of noncooperation against drugs by
the past, the about-to-depart fiscal, Mr. de Greiff. We are hoping
for a situation in which we can share evidence and not endanger
witnesses and other sources and methods.

There is a continuing interest in not allowing our information,
our evidence, our intelligence to be misused, to be not used, to be
dissipated, to be wasted. And that kind of vigilance has to go on
all the time.

Because one fact that is clear, that everyone agrees on, everyone,
that the Cali cartel and other traffickers have enormous amounts
of money, and they are trying to bribe the people and institutions
in Colombia and other countries. And they will keep trying.

And it is the responsibility of governments to devise systems and
appoint people who will resist and who will do things institution-
ally that will prevent that from actually happening. And it is our
responsibility to make certain that the people with whom we work,
in Colombia or Peru or any other country, are the kind of people
that we can give funding to.

Congress prohibits funding of people we suspect of narcotics ac-
tivities. Nor will we give evidence or intelligence to individuals, to
institutions that we suspect. But it is a program of constant vigi-

We look at the letter, as you look at the letter, as an opportunity
for we and the new Samper administration to work tomther to con-
tinually make these judgments and make the corr Jon less pos-
sible or impossible.


Mr. Menendez. Mr. Chairman, I will just close by saying I like
flan. I grew up a lot on flan. But I also believe that, you know, you
are taking the road that the proof will be in the pudding of what
happens henceforth. I would like to know before we move hence-
forth, from what foundations are we moving. I don't like to share
the ingredients for my flan unless I know in fact that we are shar-
ing it to make the ultimate goal a reality.

There are some things that can be done to seem as if you are
moving ahead, and that to me is not sufficient. I would like to see
a strong basis. And I would like to see — I don't have the time to
pursue it, but I would like to see some of the detail of what it is
that we are considering real actions as it relates to a proper re-
sponse by the Colombian Government.

Thank you.

Mr. Torricelli. Thank you. I want you to know, not having had
flan, I feel at a great disadvantage at this hearing.

Mr. Menendez. You are really missing out. It is better than
creme brulee.

Mr. Torricelli. Mr. Gilman.

Mr. Gilman. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I want to welcome our panelists to a very important issue as we
take a look at our relationship with Colombia. As you know, Sen-
ator Helms had put in an amendment in the Foreign Operations
authorization, and it was subsequently withdrawn in conference,
but he was talking about limitations and the use of funds for the
Government of Colombia. He said he wanted to limit those based
on a full investigation of accusations of corruption by the narcotics
cartels involving senior officials; the Government of Colombia im-
plementing the local law enforcement steps necessary to eliminate,
to a maximum extent possible, bribery or other public forms of cor-
ruption; reduce illicit drug production and the maximum extent
which was determined to be achievable during the coming year;
significantly disrupt the operations of the narcotics cartel and in-
vestigate all cases in which a senior government official is accused
of or implicated in facilitating or encouraging the production of il-
licit narcotics or other controlled substances.

I assume you are familiar with that amendment and that you
have done some work with regard to to. Have we taken a look at
any of these issues, and were you satisfied that the administration
was assuming the responsibility of trying to examine these issues?

Mr. Gelbard. Congressman, as you are aware, the administra-
tion strongly and very vigorously opposed this amendment.

Mr. Gilman. I know the opposition. What I am asking is, have
we taken a look at any of these issues seriously?

Mr. Gelbard. We have looked at some of these issues, at all of
these issues. I will just say that this goes to the heart of something
we were discussing before vou arrived, Congressman.

The issue of cutting off funds for programs which ultimately ben-
efit us, is something I have never been able to come to grips with.
The kind of programs we are talking about in Colombia are for
counternarcotics purposes. If our goal is to try to prevent cocaine
from being manufactured and transported to the United States and
then we put limitations on our ability to stop the production and
transport of cocaine, I get very confused and frustrated.


I don't question the motives of the amendment by any means,
and we are obviously concerned with the points that were raised.
But we will consistently oppose any legislation which tries to limit
the funding for programs aimed at counternarcotics.

Mr. GlLMAN. You made some very glowing statements about the
new — the incoming President, and we had an opportunity, some of
us, last week to meet with some of the new members of his cabinet.
Of course, the expressions of support to what we are seeking to do
were encouraging.

But, you know, for those of us who have been involved in the
narcotics battle for so many years, and Ambassador Skol and your-
self have been involved, we have been hearing all kinds of glowing
promises in the past.

We are wondering now whether this country that has virtually
been hostage to the narcotics traffickers are going to be able to ful-
fill their promises of turning this around. I welcome your thinking.

How are they better able to accomplish these noble objectives
that they have given, that they have stated to us, based upon past
history of a nation that has been so involved with heavy traffick-
ing, and where the traffickers have had such significant influence
of every facet of that country, including the parliament, including
the highest officials in that country? How better are they going to
be able to achieve the kind of goals that we are seeking than prior

Mr. Gelbard. We have been spending a considerable amount of
time working with the individuals in the new administration. Am-
bassador Skol and my deputy, Chris Arcos, met with President-
elect Samper several weeks ago. As we were discussing, there were
a number of us in the administration as well as in Congress who
met with the ministers designate for foreign affairs, defense, and

Our new Ambassador in Colombia, Myles Frechette, has been
holding extensive discussions already with these people. They come
from the same party as the outgoing Gaviria government with
which we have had superb cooperation. And the work that Presi-
dent Gaviria and his ministers have done in cooperation with us
has produced outstanding results.

Because it is the same party, because the transition is something
we expect to be a lot smoother than if it were to an opposition
party, we would expect that there would be a very strong base on
which to build. In our discussions last week with the ministers des-
ignate, we had very detailed talks about some very precise issues
on which we hope to build much greater cooperation.

A number of these points were raised by various members of this
committee in relation to Samper's letter. For example, money laun-
dering, where there has not been much progress in Colombia in the
past; control over precursor chemicals; and the kind of work we
would hope to do together to dismantle the Cali cartel. We had ex-
tensive conversations regarding judicial action and improving the
programs we can work on together in that area.

So we will now have to see, based on these individuals with
whom we will be working. Some of them are already well-known
to us from the past.


Mr. Gilman. Mr. Ambassador, you said we had good relation-
ships with the prior administration, and you hope to continue.
Have we been successful with the prior administration in our ef-
forts of cutting back on the amount of product coming out of Colom-

Mr. Gelbard. I think there has been a lot of progress in the dis-
mantling of the Medellin cartel, as you are aware. There has been
some progress made against the Cali cartel. And we expect that
building on the cooperation we have developed with them, with the
Government of Colombia, the current government, we will be able
to have very effective results that we would hope for in the near

Mr. Gilman. I am looking at some statistics provided by the Ad-
ministration. Seizures of cocaine in Peru were down 37 percent in
May, and down 66 percent in June. I assume some of that had to
do with the cutoff of the radar, but not all of it can be attributed
to that.

How do we account for the fact that we had good relationships
with that government and yet the seizures go down? Just this past
week we heard about close to a ton of seizure in either Arizona or

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Online LibraryInternational Organizations United States. Congress. House. Committee on ForeiU.S. relations with Colombia : joint hearing before the Subcommittees on International Security, International Organizations, and Human Rights and the Western Hemisphere of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, House of Representatives, One Hundred Third Congress, second session, August 3, 1994 → online text (page 4 of 9)