COLOMBIA; Congressional Record Vol. 160, No. 111
(Senate - July 16, 2014)

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[Pages S4546-S4547]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]




                                COLOMBIA

  Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President, on June 15, 2014, President Juan Manuel 
Santos was elected to a second term as Colombia's President. This is 
not only a tribute to President Santos, who had staked his presidency 
on a courageous and risky peace initiative with the FARC who have waged 
a 30-year guerrilla war against the government, but also to the 
Colombian people.
  There was every reason to believe that if President Santos' opponent, 
Oscar Ivan Zuluaga, had won the election the peace negotiations would 
have been abandoned. Mr. Zuluaga had the strong backing of former 
President Uribe, whose aggressive leadership style and emphasis on 
security contributed to significant battlefield advances against the 
FARC, but his administration was plagued by scandal and human rights 
abuses. He has been a vociferous critic of President Santos and the 
peace negotiations. Instead, the Colombian people wisely recognized 
that the path to a more prosperous, secure country is through a peace 
process that addresses the underlying causes of the armed conflict, not 
an open-ended civil war fueled by cocaine that has already claimed 
countless innocent lives, uprooted millions of people, and impeded 
foreign investment.
  I know from my own conversations with Members of Congress that 
President Santos has the support of people here of both parties. Since 
2000, the Congress has supported billions of dollars in aid for social 
and economic development, counternarcotics, military, and humanitarian 
programs in Colombia. While there have been disagreements in some 
areas, particularly the slow pace of Colombia's justice system in 
holding accountable members of the security forces and paramilitaries 
who have been implicated in massacres of civilians and other human 
rights crimes, our support for Colombia has remained strong.
  Colombia's greatest resource is its remarkable people. It is no 
wonder that Colombia, despite its many challenges, has remained a 
vibrant democracy while the governments of neighboring Venezuela and 
Ecuador have been dominated by messianic leaders who have 
systematically dismantled the institutions of democracy and a free 
press.
  But another of Colombia's unique features is its biological and 
cultural diversity. The country is not only home to more species of 
flora and fauna than practically any other country in the world, it is 
also inhabited by a multitude of indigenous groups who speak many 
languages and live in various stages of isolation.
  Many of us have visited Cartagena and Bogota, but I suspect few 
people here are aware that Colombia boasts one of the hemisphere's most 
extensive systems of national parks. They range from Caribbean islands 
and coral reefs, to glacier-covered mountain peaks, semi-arid desert, 
and tropical rainforest with dramatic rock outcroppings and cascading 
waterfalls. The variety of Colombia's species of birds alone dwarfs 
that of most countries.
  I mention this to pay tribute to President Santos who has been a 
strong supporter of Colombia's national parks and indigenous reserves,

[[Page S4547]]

and Julia Miranda who has ably led the National Park Service with 
tireless energy and unwavering commitment for a decade.
  I also want to commend President Santos for his decision last week to 
protect the Estrella Fluvial de Infrida under the Ramsar Convention on 
Wetlands. This is one of the most important reserves of fresh water in 
the world, covering an area larger than Florida's Everglades. It is 
home to 415 of Colombia's bird species and 470 fish species, so this 
designation will play a crucial role in protecting Colombia's 
biodiversity for future generations.
  Coupled with last year's doubling in size of the extraordinary 
Chiribiquete National Park, these steps to protect Colombia's natural 
environment will be even more important if a peace agreement is signed 
that ushers in a period of greater security. While Colombia's oil and 
coal reserves are finite and their extraction can cause lasting social 
and environmental harm, Colombia's national parks offer limitless eco-
tourism potential that over the long term can bring far greater 
benefits to the country.

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