Not all House Democrats seek a range of views on the human rights situation, narcotrafficking, or the complexities of U.S. policy in Colombia. Here is House Majority Leader Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Maryland), speaking today on a visit to Colombia whose agenda consisted almost completely of meetings with Colombian government officials. (Audio here.)
It is hugely disappointing that a prominent member of Congress failed to use this forum even to say a sentence about the importance and legitimacy of non-governmental human rights defenders, journalists, and judges. Though Ãlvaro Uribe frequently subjects these individuals to vicious verbal abuse – including irresponsible accusations of support for terrorism – Mr. Hoyer warmly praised the “respect and protection” that President Uribe purportedly offers them.
Thank you very much, Mr. President. I am pleased, along with Mr. Blunt, to lead this delegation of nine members of the Congress of the United States. We have taken an opportunity over this break in the Congress’ business to visit Mexico, Panama, and Colombia, and we will be going from here to MedellÃn, and then to Brazil.
One of the focuses of our trip has been the critical importance of the partnership between the United States and our friends, to fight those who would undermine the health and security of our countries and of our people with narcotrafficking and terrorism.
The success that Colombia has had under President Uribe has been extraordinary and welcome. Plan Colombia has worked, is working, and we believe needs to continue to work.
We are pleased as well with the progress that has been made on human rights, with the commitment of President Uribe and his cabinet, to focus on making sure that every individual’s rights are respected, and protected. Whether they be friends, or whether they not be allies or friends. That all people deserve respect and protection.
We are also pleased to be joined by our ambassador, Ambassador Brownfield, and most particularly, by the ambassador of Colombia to the United States, Carolina Barco, who is with us as well, who does such an extraordinarily good job in representing the people of Colombia and the Uribe administration.
We obviously, as well, talked about the free-trade agreement that is pending. I am a supporter of that agreement, as is Mr. [Roy] Blunt [R-Missouri]. And we heard from the President, from the Minister of Labor, the Minister of Trade, the Foreign Minister, the Defense Minister, on how very important this agreement is, not only to the economic relationship between Colombia and the United States, but also to the people of Colombia. We will hope to return to the United States and to work with the administration to see this matter move forward.
I’m now very pleased to yield, but before I do that, as I said, we are going to MedellÃn, the city of the President’s birth. MedellÃn, where I have never been, but I am told is a striking example of the success, Mr. President, that you have had in reclaiming a city from narcoterrorists, providing security and safety for people, so the quality of life of your people has been enhanced very substantially. We look forward to that visit.