WASHINGTON, DC—Representative Eliot L. Engel, the leading Democrat on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and a former chair of the Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, today delivered the following statement at a subcommittee hearing on the peace process in Colombia:

“Thank you very much, Chairman Duncan. Thank you for calling the hearing.

“Mr. Sires, thank you very much for your courtesy. And I listened as I came in. Some of your observations, Mr. Chairman, about the trip we took together to Colombia and Peru several months ago. And these trips are always eye-opening.

“In my previous life, I served as the chairman of this Subcommittee and I think of all the work I’ve done, this is the most gratifying. There is so much that needs to be done, so much where our presence is necessary, and so much when it comes to Colombia.

“Progress that has been made, and I’ve been to Colombia many, many, many, many times, and each time I go I always feel an exhilarating feeling because when you look at Colombia on the verge of really becoming a failed state not that long ago, the United States has had no better partner and ally in South America than Colombia. And in the 1990s, they teetered on the edge of being a failed state. And over the last decade, the progress made in Colombia has just been unbelievable.

“A couple of statistics, between 2002 and 2014, Colombia saw a 90 percent decrease in kidnappings and a 54 percent reduction in homicides. And it was partnership here in Washington that helped with that process. When the Clinton administration and the Republican-controlled Congress got behind Plan Colombia in the late 1990s, there were clear goals: weaken the FARC to the point that they would sit down at the negotiating table, and close the chapter on the longest ongoing armed conflict in the Western Hemisphere.

“That’s precisely what’s happening now and I want to thank Special Envoy Aronson for supporting the Colombian government during these ongoing negotiations. Very, very important and I commend all your good work. And, Mr. Secretary as well, we appreciate all people that just do so much.

“The Western Hemisphere is our hemisphere and I have long thought that we don’t give it the attention it deserves, mainly because we always seem to have pressing problems elsewhere in the world but we should really remember that things that happen here have a direct effect on us in the same hemisphere.

“So, our work is obviously not over and now more than ever the United States must continue to stand with Colombia. We have supported the Colombian government through years of war, and I believe we must support the country in peace just as in war. And if a peace agreement is reached, we in Congress need to do our part to provide Colombia with the assistance it needs. So I thank you for allowing me the opportunity to join today.”


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