|Thomas Pickering, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs|
Address, National Association of Industrialists (ANDI)
Cartagena, Colombia, August 10, 2000
Thank you very much, Mr. President. I am delighted to be here today with you for many reasons, not least of which is the beauty of this city, one of the oldest in the hemisphere, a city that, justly, has been declared a world heritage site by the United Nations. I am especially grateful to the Asociacion Nacional de Industriales and its membership for the opportunity to participate in this important meeting. This is my second visit to Cartagena in recent months, and I feel fortunate to be back once again in "la ciudad heroica." I am pleased that my colleague, Governor Buddy McKay, President Clinton's Special Envoy to Latin America, is here today. I understand that he will be giving a speech on the U.S.-Colombian bilateral trade relationship and on efforts toward multilateral integration, and that many of you will have an opportunity to meet with him. Governor McKay, I promise not to steal any of your thunder! I am also delighted that Barry McCaffrey, the Director of the President's Office of National Drug Control Policy, General Charles Wilhelm, Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Southern Command, and senior officials of AID, Defense, Justice, and the State Department's Bureaus of Democracy and Human Rights and Refugees and Migration are also joining us for an important meeting with President Pastrana here today.
Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to personally thank Ambassador Kamman for his outstanding contributions to U.S.-Colombian relations during his 3-year tenure as U.S. Ambassador to Colombia. As many of you may know, Ambassador Kamman will soon leave Colombia to return to the U.S. and retire after four decades of distinguished diplomatic service, not only as U.S. Ambassador to Colombia, but also as our ambassador to Bolivia and Chile, and in other key positions in our embassies in Moscow and Havana. Our collective presence here today -- and the remarkable progress made in our bilateral relations -- owe a great deal to the extraordinary efforts of Ambassador Kamman, a master linguist, consummate strategist, and among the finest diplomats the United States has been privileged to call its own. Please join me in thanking him: Ambassador Kamman.
Colombia is a nation with a rich history of democracy and a diversified economy. Yet your country faces profound challenges now, including rampant narcotics trafficking and other criminal activity, a civil conflict now in its fourth decade, grave human rights violations, and a painful economic recession. These problems, of course, are inter-related. The poor economy leads to high unemployment, a ready pool of discontented individuals for guerrillas, drug lords and paramilitaries to recruit from, while the violence associated with the insurgents and paramilitaries -- essentially, the absence of peace -- decrease investor confidence, worsening the economy. Narcotics trafficking feeds the coffers of the guerrillas and paramilitaries, strengthening them in their assault on your democratic institutions. The only permanent solution is a permanent peace. Let me state unequivocally: the government of the United States supports fully the ongoing efforts to achieve peace in Colombia through the negotiating process that President Pastrana has initiated. We agree with his assessment that a solution to the country's civil conflict is essential to the solution of all the other problems facing Colombia.
You cannot address these inter-related problems individually. A comprehensive plan is needed to address all of them simultaneously. The government of Colombia has wisely realized that it must pursue a vigorous peace process, escalate counternarcotics efforts and implement an economic development strategy, while at the same time strengthening the democratic pillars of Colombian society and improving respect for human rights.
Under the leadership of President Pastrana, the government of Colombia has produced a plan to achieve all these things -- the effort known as "Plan Colombia," a Plan for Peace, Prosperity, and Strengthening of the State.
I want to convey the United States' appreciation of the difficulties that you are enduring, and emphasize to you our support for your government, your institutions, and your country. The U.S. government has made an extraordinary commitment to help Colombia in this time of crisis, with the U.S. Congress approving and President Clinton signing into law on July 13th a major U.S. assistance package of more than $1.3 billion over the next 2 years. This assistance is a very comprehensive package. It will help Colombia as it deals with the threat of narcotics trafficking, and includes substantial funding for alternative development assistance and voluntary eradication of illicit crops. It also provides significant assistance to internally displaced persons, support for environmental protection programs, resources for local governance and improvement of governing capacity, and programs to help improve the administration of justice and to protect human rights. While they have received less media attention than the programs to assist the Colombian Armed Forces and the Colombian National Police, these investments in social development comprise an essential element in the support package that the United States Congress has made available to Colombia, and are among my government's highest priorities. Most importantly, these programs in social development are crucial to bringing peace, security and prosperity to Colombia. If there are any doubts, let me assure you that the coming visit of President Clinton to Colombia will also demonstrate again, clearly and succinctly, our support for all of these important goals.
Respect for human rights is vitally important to the people of Colombia, as it is for the people of the United States. Colombia has made important strides in this regard, but more remains to be done. There can be no tolerance for those who violate human rights or who collaborate with or condone such violations. All human rights transgressors -- "vengan de donde vengan" -- from wherever they come, whether guerrillas, paramilitaries, individual security force members operating independently against orders, or narcotics traffickers, and those individuals who support and protect them, must be brought to justice. Violations need to be investigated impartially, and those responsible should be prosecuted and sentenced to the fullest extent of the law. This is simple justice. Until public opinion, both international and domestic, sees that Colombia is dedicated to protecting human rights regardless of who the violators may be, the stature of your government will be diminished -- even in the eyes of Colombia's most ardent supporters, a group that includes me.
Economic development is another key aspect of the equation. A robust economy is vital to the success of the plan. Those caught up in narcotics must have viable alternatives to make a living, and there must be jobs available for the unemployed and underemployed, including many guerrillas and paramilitaries we all hope can be eventually reinserted into the national economy.
Since ANDI was founded in Medellin in 1944 as a non-profit organization, your Association's primary objective has been to defend and promote the political, economic and social principles of free enterprise, based on "la dignidad de la persona humana, en la democracia politica, en la justicia social, en la propiedad privada y en la libertad." With branches in eight Colombian cities, in addition to your Medellin headquarters, ANDI is in a position to play an active role in the economic rejuvenation of your country. Your 650 affiliate companies from the financial, agroindustrial, commercial, textiles, services, and food processing sectors act as a liaison between foreign investors, their Colombian partners, and your government.
ANDI embodies the entrepreneurial spirit that made Colombia great, and that will contribute to the economic, political and social rebirth of your country. You are the antithesis of the coca growers, the narcotics traffickers, and all others who work to undermine the democratic foundation and economic prosperity of Colombia. You represent the legitimate aspirations of the Colombian people to earn a decent, honest living while contributing to the common good.
In the past few weeks, considerable misinformation has been circulating regarding supposed plans by the United States to "defoliate" Colombia using "killer fungus" and environmentally dangerous agents. These stories have absolutely no basis in fact. There is no intention to use in Colombia in the program of eradication any method which has not been carefully studied and proven to meet the highest standards of security and safety set by the government of Colombia.
Even more, such stories obscure an important and broadly overlooked point: that narcotics trafficking -- through coca and opium poppy cultivation and processing -- is the real threat to Colombia's natural environment. Several hectares of rain forest are destroyed for every hectare of coca planted. Coca growers and narcotics traffickers generate and dump tons of pesticides, fertilizers and toxic chemical waste into Colombia's soils, streams and rivers. Narcotics trafficking is not only poisoning your youth, it is literally poisoning your country. The U.S. support package for "Plan Colombia," on the other hand, provides funding for environmental programs and alternative economic development which will help conserve the natural resources of this beautiful land.
The support of the Colombian public in general, and of the business community in particular, is vital to the success of any government strategy to address Colombia's problems. While the specifics of the government's "Plan Colombia" approach should be subject to a healthy debate, there should be general recognition that the problems the plan seeks to address need to be resolved urgently, in a comprehensive, integrated strategy, and supported by significant national and international resources. There are elements in this plan that affect every business, institution, constituency, and citizen of Colombia. If it is to succeed, if it is to build the new Colombia for the 21st century, then it must have input and support from all of you. External donors cannot rebuild Colombia -- only Colombians can do that.
All in all, the United States believes "Plan Colombia" is a balanced package, designed to bring together the efforts of the government and citizens of Colombia and the assistance of international donors interested in seeing peace and prosperity return to your country. Your government's commitment of substantial new resources to "Plan Colombia" demonstrates that it fully comprehends the complexity and scope of the problem, and the need to move forward with a vigorous, integrated strategy. Already, Colombia's friends are coming to its assistance. In addition to the United States, the International Financial Institutions, the United Nations, Spain, the United Kingdom, Japan and Norway have also made pledges of assistance. We anticipate more support from other donors later this year, and in particular are working closely with the European Union to that end, including in an important meeting in Bogota next month.
So, Colombia is not in this alone. From my country's point of view, there is a partnership between our two nations, our two peoples. The United States' support for Colombia will not change with the election of a new president. Indeed, "Plan Colombia" has broad-based bipartisan support in the U.S. Congress. We see President Pastrana's integrated strategy as the best hope for resolving the difficult challenges which confront your nation and all of its citizens. We hope that the Colombian people will themselves band together in solidarity to deal with this crisis.
I bring you the support and best wishes of the American people. I assure you that we will work with your government to build a stronger network of international support. But in the final analysis, the success or failure of "Plan Colombia" depends on you. You must make the commitment to ensure that your society will not tolerate abuses of human rights. You must commit your resources to alternatives to coca and opium poppy production, investing in infrastructure, and building municipal governments that provide an alternative to drugs, guerrillas, or paramilitaries. You must provide the emergency relief for hundreds of thousands driven from their homes.
Although many of you -- and certainly I -- will have long since retired, I hope that 25 years from now Colombia is able to realize the dream so eloquently articulated by ANDI in its Vision del Pais:
|"En el ano 2025, Colombia es un pais de oportunidades, pacifico, tolerante, democratico y pluralista, que garantize la seguridad y la justicia a sus ciudadanos, quienes son respetuosos de las leyes y comparten principios eticos, con una poblacion educada y comprometida, que ha satisfecho sus necesidades basicas; una socieded que ha alcanzado un alto nivel de desarrollo, basado en la competitividad de sus organizaciones, la equidad, el empleo y la preservacion del Ambiente."|
| Those are the right aspirations. Let us
all work together to make those words a reality by helping build a
strong, democratic and economically prosperous Colombia that is again
a leader in this hemisphere.
[end of document]