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States to be in their country as a stabilizing force against corruption and against the terrorist gangs. In the south, we have a Gallup poll on the screen right now indicating that 80 percent of the Panamanian people want to have some kind of presence, American military presence, in Panama.
Take a look at it. That is not Dana Rohrabacher's poll. That is a poll of the Panamanian people. Even with 80 percent of the Panamanian people on their side, our government couldn't negotiate an agreement with the Panamanian Government to fulfill the desire of the Panamanian people and to fulfill the security needs of both of our countries. That is why I am calling into question the actual integrity of that process and the validity of the statements being made by our own State Department.
Mr. Chairman, I don't think your amendment goes far enough. I have accepted postponement of marking up my own resolution which deals with the long-term threat to American security interests in Panama related to the Chinese control of both ports on the end of the Canal and the corrupt process that took place that resulted in a Communist Chinese warlord, a billionaire who is very close, a part and parcel of the Chinese leadership in Beijing, now having control of both ends of the Panama Canal. I postponed my resolution.
Your resolution is far less aggressive than my own, and yours is focused on the threat that the drug lords in Colombia are
Mr. GEJDENSON. Will the gentleman yield for a second?
Mr. GEJDENSON. I want to say, I know the gentleman is earnest in his beliefs, but I am not sure he is the ultimate judge of sense and nonsense. But my question would be, if the elected Government of Panama doesn't wish to agree with the Administration on a lease, the lease you are talking about I think the American companies want a couple and the Chinese company wants one but if the elected government doesn't want to lease us space and 80 percent of the people of Panama do want to lease us space, how do we resolve that? Do we negotiate directly with the people?
Mr. ROHRABACHER. This is not about that. Eighty percent of the Panamanian people aren't talking about the lease arrangement for those port facilities. They are talking about an American military presence in their country that enforces stability. Because they understand the Communist Chinese are down there in force, they understand that drug lords and the gangsters are down there in force and that they have been through this drill before and we had to send American troops down there at a great cost of their lives and our lives.
Mr. GEJDENSON. I agree with you that the Panamanians would be better off with an American presence there, but their elected leadership has to make that decision.
Mr. ROHRABACHER. Reclaiming my time, that is exactly why I am suggesting to you that this Administration is practicing wink diplomacy in establishing a public position that we can talk about here when, behind the scenes, they are telling the Panamanians exactly the opposite.
This type of thing has happened before. It is easy to recognize. It happens when you have polls like this that are right in front of us that show that there is some kind of an incomprehensible dichotomy between what an overwhelming number of the people want and when their government is doing something against their own interests. What usually happens is that there are some people in our State Department or other branches of our government giving them behind-the-curtain messages and whispers that are different than the public stances we have taken.
I am sorry for doubting the integrity of the way our State Department and this Administration is acting on this issue, but when
went down there it became clear that there are forces at work that are not going to be to the benefit of the United States and certainly not to the security interests of what the Panamanian people have for their own country.
I strongly support the Chairman's motion. I postponed consideration of my own motion, although it is parallel in many areas to what the Chairman is trying to accomplish here. This is now something that I think will lack support on the floor. I think the Chairman's motion will receive widespread support once it gets to the floor of the House.
Chairman GILMAN. Thank you, Mr. Rohrabacher.
Mr. Chairman, I am afraid I have to oppose this legislation both on substantive and procedural grounds. I was intrigued by the statements from our colleague from California that, based on a poll taken in some other country, that it warrants the presence of Ù.S. troops. I wondered if he would join me and others who would want to take a Gallup poll of the whole world, which would automatically trigger us sending a U.S. presence, as he put it, to any country that had 80 percent of the people or more that wanted us. Because I assure you there are a lot of places that would feel more secure with a U.S. presence.
Mr. Chairman, this is a giveaway for which we get absolutely nothing. On the substance, the bill is supposed to induce Panama to agree to a future U.S. presence on our former military bases there. I have seen no indication from the Government of Panama and neither has anybody that I know of, including the Administration, that the Panamanians are at all interested in negotiating with us for a further U.S. presence there.
Almost 3 years ago, we had a tentative deal for a multilateral counternarcotics center in Panama, but the Panamanians broke the deal because they believed the political climate was not conducive. To my knowledge, nothing has changed in the political climate in Panama; and I don't think this bill will induce them to come back to the table.
If you are concerned about our ability to maintain surveillance of the region for purposes of drug interdiction, this bill really doesn't help you. To replace our presence in Panama from which we used to do this surveillance, the Administration has negotiated agreements with Ecuador, Curacao, Aruba, and El Salvador to establish forward, operating locations in each country. If you recall, Mr. Chairman, we, together, visited with a CODEL that you led to the region and were briefed extensively on how much more effective that was going to be.
With the approval of the President's supplemental request, we can get each of these locations up and running at their full capacity, which I am told by U.S. Southern Command will be greater than the surveillance coverage that we had previously from Panama. In any event, completion of the necessary work on the FOLS will occur much more quickly than any agreement we might be able to reach with Panama if this bill were to become law, which is a problem in and of itself.
Last, Mr. Chairman, I also find the procedure worthy to object to. The Western Hemisphere Subcommittee hasn't held any hearings on this bill and has not marked up this bill; and, in fact, as near as I can tell, and I am the Ranking Member, I don't think the Subcommittee Chairman has waived jurisdiction.
Beyond this, it doesn't seem to me that the Ways and Means Committee, which has jurisdiction over the trade provisions in the bill, has any intention of reporting it.
So I think that considering this bill today is an enormous waste of the Committee's time. For those reasons, Mr. Chairman, I would urge the Members to vote no on the legislation.
Chairman GILMAN. Mr. Bereuter. Will the gentleman yield for a moment?
Mr. BEREUTER. Yes, I yield.
Chairman GILMAN. To respond to Mr. Ackerman's contention that if we were to take on this new project back in Panama that we would have a less of our capability than ever before, I would like to read from Commander in Chief General Wilhelm's letter to us dated June 8, 2000, reading just a portion of it, in which he says: Until funds are available and the work on the airfields is complete—he is talking about the new potential airfields that the Administration is talking about-we estimate our capability will continue to be approximately one-third of what it was in Panama.
We are concerned about the loss of this space. We are concerned about the opportunity to interdict the drugs that are coming out of Latin America, coming out of the Caribbean, coming out of Colombia, and this was a very important base to us for those operations. That is why we introduced this measure.
With regard to trade, that we leave entirely up to the Ways and Means Committee.
Mr. ACKERMAN. Will the Chairman yield?
I would just remind the Chairman and the Committee that the funding for the airfields is already as far as the conference committee and is much more likely to be approved in a rapid way and certainly much more quickly than any agreement that can ever possibly, if at all, be reached with Panama over this.
Mr. BEREUTER. Reclaiming my time. I would like to express my support of the legislation. I don't have the doubts or concerns or views of Mr. Rohrabacher with respect to the State Department, but I do believe that Pan-American relations have suffered some substantial deterioration that are in part caused by actions in this government a long, long time ago. I believe that the Chairman's incentives, inducements in this legislation are worth offering.
Certainly most of the benefits that would be accrued potentially come from the Ways and Means Committee jurisdiction. What we would add in the way of inducements are not substantial, but it seems to me that we have to express our sense of view. And if it is the will of the Congress that we proceed in this area, then we are doing what an authorizing committee should be doing, and we are not simply bowing to the State Department because they happen to say they don't see any opportunity for this to succeed.
We need to be more active as an authorizing committee. I think the Chairman has given us a very interesting and, as far as I am concerned, a sufficiently positive piece of legislation, that we ought to approve it.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. ROTHMAN. I thank the Chairman. I move to strike the last word.
Chairman GILMAN. You don't need to strike the last word. You are recognized.
Mr. ROTHMAN. Thank you, sir.
I would like to inquire of whomever has this information, have there been hearings on this subject such that a member of the general committee here might know the nature and extent of the narcotics or terrorist threats that are the subject of this bill?
Chairman GILMAN. Mr. Rothman, we had a hearing last summer and Ambassador McNamara was before us. We had an extensive review of the situation at that time.
If the gentleman would yield a moment
Chairman GILMAN (continuing). I am going to ask that that chart be run up again on our viewing screen here.
I am reading now. The drug control assets DOD contributes to reducing the illegal drug supply have declined. It is a GAO report, dated December 1999. At the bottom of that chart there is a paragraph that reads, according to the Southern Command commander, significant deficiencies in the availability of required assets," impede the command's ability to react quickly and effectively to changes in drug traffickers' patterns throughout the region.
What the chart shows, the black lines—the black graph-are the number of flights that have been requested by the Southern Command; and the white bar shows the number of flights that were actually able to be provided by DOD. You will note that, in 1999, they had a number of DOD flights that were available despite the black bar, the number of requests. And that is the year we left Panama.
I thank you for yielding.
Mr. ROTHMAN. Thank you, as I was delighted to yield to my friend, the Chairman.
Let me see if I understand this. A year ago, Mr. Chairman, 1 year ago, there were hearings at which I believe the nature of those hearings was the status of the negotiations about something other than providing a military presence by the United States in Panama. In other words, last summer there were no hearings about having a military presence in Panama. They were with regards to other things? Is that right, Mr. Chairman?
Chairman GILMAN. At that time, it was a hearing on the general situation in Panama and the negotiations that were under way at that time with regard to our bases.
Mr. ROTHMAN. But since last summer, we have had no hearings about the nature of any increased threats in the region. I, for one, am for a very active, outreaching military
Chairman GILMAN. If the gentleman would yield, my staff informs me that the Government Reform Committee had a review just this last month, Congressman Mica's Subcommittee on Crime and Narcotics.
Mr. ROTHMAN. Are they a subcommittee of this Committee, sir?
Chairman GILMAN. No, they are a subcommittee of the Government Reform Committee. He chairs a task force on narcotics.
Mr. ROTHMAN. Reclaiming my time, Mr. Chairman, there would be no way, unless, of course, the minutes or summaries of those Government Reform hearings were provided to Members of this group, which I don't believe they were.
Chairman GILMAN. If the gentleman would yield, we can make those available, if you desire.
Mr. ROTHMAN. If you can do it before we vote, that would certainly be appropriate. Because I can't imagine us on this Committee voting to commit U.S. forces in another country, voting to commit a certain level of trade relations with another country, among other provisions of this bill, without knowing the results of the hearings. It is just mind-boggling.
I, for one, am for a very strong outreach of our military. I don't believe in isolationism. When my colleagues in the Congress, including my dear colleagues on the other side of the aisle, a number of them, constantly say we are too far extended in the world, we are not America's police officers. I always say, well, we have to stand up for freedom and for ourselves around the world.
But to me there is no rational basis that has been provided to this Committee in terms of testimony or evidence upon which we can make a rational judgment as to whether or not to pass this bill. And I say that mindful of the notion that usually, whether it be a Democratic President or a Republican President, it is not my recollection that the Congress in advance tells the President what negotiating strategy the President must employ with such specificity in terms of the quids and the pros—or pro quos, however it goes, that the President is going to have to give in exchange for what will be given to us by another country.
In my 4 years here, I think it is somewhat unprecedented. Not only that, I think it is a bad deal. If, in fact, 80 percent of the people of that nation want America's troops, doesn't that mean, then, that we can be less generous in what we need to offer them to induce them to take our troops? If 80 percent of their people want us there, why are we being so generous now in advance without any negotiations having taken effect?
Mr. ROHRABACHER. Will the gentleman yield for a question?