This source is a report on the Senate’s deliberations over the funding of Plan Colombia, followed by a debate between Georgia Senator Paul Coverdell and Minnesota Senator Paul Wellstone over the merits of the plan. This news segment was written by Public Broadcasting Service journalist Kwame Holman and he covers the debate in congress, giving some general context to the bill and then showing arguments for and against it. The bill received widespread bipartisan support, but it also had some critiques from members of both parties. The coverage of this is framed around the war on drugs which is quite different than some of the coverage seen a few years later that focuses more on the terrorism aspect. The source seeks out voices from both sides of the debate showing many arguments that influential bureaucrats and lawmakers made.
In the subsequent debate on the plan, the Senators take opposing sides with Coverdell strongly supporting the bill, and Wellstone taking issue with much of it with PBS journalist Jim Lehrer moderating. Wellstone criticizes the militarization of the plan, while he does support the effort to strengthen Colombia’s democratic institutions, he believes some of the funding of the bill should be more geared towards the demand for cocaine in the U.S. such as better treatment. Coverdell takes the opposite approach, he believes the cocaine problem stems from too much supply and that the Colombian government needs to act with a heavy hand to end the drug trade and weaken the FARC. This source is useful because it provides examples of how the bill was being presented by a popular news channel and the way most politicians argued for the bill. Wellstone’s objections are also useful because they show that there definitely were people who saw problems with this plan, but their concerns were ignored.
SEN. PAUL COVERDELL: No, of course I admire Senator Wellstone’s attempts at treatment, but I would point out in the last eight years treatment budgeting has increased dramatically while interdiction has fallen through the floor, and the result is more drugs are in the United States and they’re cheaper. Therefore, in the last eight years, utilization among our children 9 to 12 is virtually doubled. I would argue that the greatest treatment program in the world is to prevent the individual child from getting caught up in it in the first place.
JIM LEHRER: What about his second issue of….
SEN. PAUL COVERDELL: I just don’t accept… I think the weakest issue the Senator portrays is a military co-opted by radical right. I just don’t believe it. I’ve been there. Many of his colleagues on his side of the aisle have been there; all of these arguments have been aired and have been rejected 80-20, 90-10 in the United States Senate. That is on an issue of this magnitude an overwhelming majority.
JIM LEHRER: Senator Wellstone, what about the point, Senator Coverdell made it, but also Senator Dodd, your Democratic colleague, made it on the floor of the Senate that whether we like it or not is the way Senator Dodd put it, we’re involved in that conflict, that civil war?
SEN. PAUL WELLSTONE: Well, you know, it’s interesting. When I heard Senator Dodd say that, I thought to myself in one way, yes, but here’s the question. Of course we should be helping President Pastrana. I want to. Of course, interdiction to me is you figure out a way of stopping it on the boats, you figure out a way of stopping it on the planes. You’re involved in interdiction. You’re involved in helping the government there and building democratic institutions. How are you going to end this civil war? Do you think you’re going to end it by a military push to the south or do you think you’ll help it by a way of figuring out a way of building democracy in that country? My second point is we are involved because we have the whole problem of addiction in our own country – our states tell us on the ground — maybe 23 million Americans have a problem with substance abuse. Why aren’t we getting treatment to people? Paul says the budget has gone up. Paul, my gosh, look at the all reports this year. 80% of adolescents not receiving any treatment whatsoever — 60% of adults not receiving treatment whatsoever. When Paul says, “I’ve been there and I just don’t believe it” I can just say Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International. 70, 80 different non-government organizations, religious community in Colombia saying don’t support the military in the drive to the south. That’s the issue. Do we want to get involved in a civil war? Do we want Americans on the ground with the Colombia military, a military that has been identified with blatant violation of human rights.
Holman, Kwame, and Jim Lehrer. “The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer.” American Archive of Public Broadcasting, June 22, 2000. https://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_507-js9h41kb5f.
For link refer to 7:04 to 23:04