|Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Joint Press Availability With Colombian President Andres Pastrana
Presidential Guest House
Cartagena, Colombia, January 15, 2000
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State, January 18, 2000
PRESIDENT PASTRANA: Let me begin by thanking the U.S. Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, for visiting us in Colombia. Madame Secretary your tireless and principled work in the name of freedom and human democracy and human decency has earned you the unqualified respect of millions of people around the world and we are deeply honored that you have come here today. Your presence symbolizes much more than the amity between our two nations. It demonstrates our unity of purpose, our shared commitment to confront one of the greatest plagues of our time: illegal drugs, as well as our mutual determination to uphold democracy and economic growth and prosperity and to strive for lasting peace.
As you all know, Secretary Albright is here following the announcement by President Clinton that his administration has recommended increased U.S. assistance to Colombia in support of Plan Colombia. As a nation we are indeed heartened by this news. The single greatest threat Colombia faces, and has faced bravely and at a great sacrifice for a generation now, is fueled by illegal drugs. More than anything else, it fuels the insurgency, feeds violence and delinquency, breeds insecurity and fear and threatens our democratic institutions. We have made enormous strides... (inaudible) ...and most recently working side by side with the United States authorities in the success of Operation Milenio. Yet, we can and will do more as a consumer and producer nation with respect to supply, demand and interdiction at all levels. From destroying laboratories, shooting down money laundering and contraband schemes and treating problems of addiction. Future generations deserve nothing less.
At the same time I am equally pleased that the United States assistance package also supports the Colombian peace process, the economic development, the defense of human rights and the need for alternative development. The United States clearly understands what my administration has stated all along: that to be successful counter narcotics has to be more than eradication and arrests. That there are social and economic dimensions to this crisis which must be addressed. And finally, we also welcome the recognition that it is much more than a regional or bilateral issue and that the nations of Europe, Asia and Africa must work with us more closely. To truly succeed, we need the active participation of the entire global community. And the fact the United States agrees with us here bodes well for the prospect to further internationalize our common case.
Madame Secretary we are grateful for your pledged support and the support of the United States Government and we remain sincerely hopeful that together we will be able to make an enduring, positive difference in the world. Thank you very much.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Thank you very much Mr. President for your kind words and your incredible hospitality. I am truly delighted to be here in this beautiful and historic city of heroes.
Last summer I wrote an article for the United States press calling attention to the difficult and vital test to democracy Colombia's people faced. And I noted then what all of you know very well: that this is a test that Colombians themselves must pass. But I pledged the United States would do all that we could to help. I am pleased to say that we are honoring that pledge. President Clinton and I will work closely with our Congress to secure passage of the funding package that we announced on Tuesday. That package will provide substantial support for President Pastrana's plan to achieve peace, promote prosperity, protect human rights and fight crime. We are also asking the rest of the international community to join in this effort. With our strong support the IMF has approved a new $2.7 billion program. We are endorsing Bogota's request for nearly $3 billion in loans from the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank. And we are encouraging other donors to come forward.
Neither criminals nor conflict respect national borders. Accordingly we are also stepping up our support for counter narcotics and alternative development programs for Colombia's neighbors. It's not enough to drive drug criminals out of Colombia. Our goal is to drive them out of business, once and for all. We are also determined to protect the rights of many United States citizens who work and travel across the hemisphere. The kidnappers who have targeted so many Colombians have also abducted scores of U.S. citizens, including four whose cases are still unresolved. As I told President Pastrana, these cases remain one of our top priorities.
One of the world's greatest novels, authored by a man with whom I was honored to have dinner last night, is entitled "One Hundred Years of Solitude." Today, as the new century begins, Colombia does not stand alone. The United States and the international community recognize the courageous struggle of the Colombian people and we are determined to help you overcome the evils brought about by the drug trade. I vow, on behalf of President Clinton, and in very close partnership with President Pastrana, to seek one hundred years of peace, democracy and rising prosperity for both our nations. Thank you again, Mr. President, for your great personal hospitality and for the wonderful things that you are doing for your country.
QUESTION: (Inaudible to President Pastrana)... that you are looking for aid from around the world. Can you tell us if there are any other countries that will be willing to help and how much more help do you think you need?
PRESIDENT PASTRANA: (speaking in Spanish - not translated)
QUESTION: I would like to know whether the support which you are offering to the Plan Colombia is pursuing a national security strategy for the United States in the new century.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Let me explain it this way. Speaking as a North American, I believe that it is in our national interests to have a hemisphere in which there are democracies, where human rights is practice, where we are free of drugs, where the economies work, and we have excellent trade relationships. Those are the goals of a North American. But I think they are also goals that benefit the people throughout the hemisphere. Because people in every country wish to have human rights, democratic institutions, an economy that brings them work and benefits, and to be drug free. So it is part of our national strategy that we have a hemisphere that works. But I think that what is most important and that what is evident as a result of the statements that President Pastrana has made and the issues that we have been talking about since I have been here and my colleagues who have been here previously, we have no difference. Because this idea of Plan Colombia is a Colombian plan for the people of Colombia proposed by the President who was elected by people who want this kind of plan and who support it. So this is one of those very important moments in international relations and foreign policy when the plans of one country or the strategy of one country is fully in synchronization and in harmony with the national plans of another. This is when things work, when countries can deal with the same goals in the same way.
QUESTION: What is the principal recommendation that the U.S. government will make now that you have learned more about our country in the meetings you have held with different (Colombian) institutions. And what seems to you to be the major concern about the Plan Colombia?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well I think that all parts of it are of great importance. And when Plan Colombia was put forward what we found impressive about it was its comprehensiveness and its integration. So obviously, it is very important to get rid of narco-trafficking because it is undermining the well being of the people of Colombia and undermining democratic institutions. It is important to have the peace process go forward because that is sucking away also the strength of Colombia. It is important to have the economy functioning, democratic institutions and the government throughout Colombia, and to make sure that there are alternative economic opportunities. And under all this and throughout all this there has to be the thread of respect for human rights. So what I believe is important now is for us to go back to Congress and get the support. For us, along with President Pastrana, to try to get international wider support for it, and for the President and his team and the people of Colombia to role up their sleeves and get to work at the various parts of it. The dream is there, and the determination is there, and now the details have to be put into place and the work must begin.
QUESTION: What are the possibilities, Madame Secretary, for the Plan Colombia in the U.S. Congress? And what are the possible obstacles?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well let me say that none of us can ever totally predict the workings of anybody's democratic system. Congress clearly has the partnership role with us in getting this assistance. But we already know that there are many Members of Congress, of both parties, who support the idea of this assistance, who support various parts of it or all of it. We have a lot of work ahead of us. But as I have said, President Clinton is very determined about this assistance package, as I am. We are going to be working very closely, along with Ambassador Moreno, on this subject and we will be working very hard. Nothing is ever easy when you are asking for money. But I can tell you that we have the determination to make this work. And based on the very detailed reports and discussions that I have had with President Pastrana and his team, I believe that I go back to the United States armed, well armed, to be able to defend the package and to tell people that this government is on its way to dealing with the issues that are a part of Plan Colombia.
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