Jul 03

CIP Intern Gareth Smail attended last Thursday’s House committee hearing on U.S. corporations’ dealings with armed groups in Colombia. Here are his notes.

Though these notes are pretty detailed, here are some general observations that apply overall:

  • None of the representatives, even the Democrats, used language similar to that in the Appropriations Committee’s report on the Foreign Operations bill, which expresses “grave concerns” over the current Plan Colombia assistance package and calls for the U.S. government to rethink security-oriented aid. Instead, the subcommittee members generally thanked President Uribe for progress and refused to criticize his security policy.
  • Despite this consensus, the subcommittee members still managed to find room for partisan bickering. Both Democrats and Republicans balked at the “double standards” of the other side. Human rights abuses could barely be mentioned without a quip about Venezuela or Cuba. Toward the end, Chairman Rep. Bill Delahunt (D-Massachusetts) tried to back Rep. Connie Mack (R-Florida) into saying he would support the extradition of U.S. executives to Colombia.
  • Mr. Kovalik, Mr. Guzman, and Mr. Ramirez had difficulty getting their messages across. Mr. Guzman and Mr. Ramirez relied on a translator and were unable to express their arguments against the questioning the subcommittee’s Republicans. Rep. Dan Burton (R-Indiana) undercut Mr. Kovalik by holding up a picture of him with a poster of Che Guevara in his office. The subcommittee members were more attentive to the testimony of Ms. McFarland and Ambassador Reich.
  • In the end, the specific cases of Drummond and Chiquita were left unresolved. With just a few exceptions, both sides (and particularly the Republicans) used this debate to focus on the general relationship between U.S. corporations and security abroad, instead of these cases’ specific policy implications.

Hearing notes
Rayburn 2172

Hearing of the International Organizations, Human Rights, and Oversight Subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs: “The problems of U.S. companies in Colombia.”

Opening Statements
Chairman Rep. Bill Delahunt (D-Massachusetts):

  • This meeting is to hear evidence regarding allegations that Chiquita Banana and Drummond Coal participated in terrorist activities in Colombia.
    • Chiquita Banana and Drummond Coal will be invited to represent themselves before the subcommittee at a later date. Continue reading »