Press StatementMarc Grossman, Under Secretary for Political Affairs
August 14, 2002
Under Secretary Grossman: First of all, let me apologize for keeping you waiting. President Uribe had a long agenda; we had a long agenda. Weíve just completed an extremely productive meeting, which as you know better than anybody, has gone an hour over time.
I think before I take questions, if you donít mind Iíd just like to read a short statement to you which summarizes where things stand from the perspective of the United States, and I hope that ambassador Moreno would agree, also for the government of Colombia.
Let me first start up with two thank-yous. I want to thank the government of Colombia, and the people of Colombia. As on all of my visits here, they have been very gracious and very hospitable and Iím very, very thankful for that.
I also want to take the opportunity to pay special tribute to Ambassador Patterson and the men and women of her Embassy, and her mission here in Colombia, who do a magnificent job of representing the United States of America in this country.
As I said, we have just completed an excellent meeting with President Uribe; other members of the Colombian government who where there were the Vice President, the Foreign Minister, the Defense Minister, the Finance Minister, the Interior and Justice Minister. Iíd like to thank them for the time that they spend with me today. And Iíll have the opportunity this afternoon to meet with a group of Colombian business leaders, and also a group of human rights, civil society leaders, and leaders of non-governmental organizations.
Just as Colombians demonstrated their commitment to democracy last May, and again last week when President Uribe became President of Colombia, let me reiterate for you that the United States is committed to working with Colombia to help Colombia strengthen Colombia's democratic institutions, protect human rights and promote economic development. President Bush said last week that the United States stands with the people of Colombia in their struggle against terror, and supports President Uribe's efforts to bring these murderers to justice. You've heard me say this before, but I think it is as true or truer today than ever: Colombia matters to the United States.
You have a new President who wants strong relations with America as we work together to provide security, economic opportunities, and the rule of law for all Colombians. As the President and his ministers just told us, it will be Colombians who will take the lead in resolving Colombiaís internal problems. President Uribe has pledged a greater Colombian commitment to these efforts, including boosting spending on security and mounting a comprehensive counternarcotics campaign that protects the rights of Colombians who have borne the brunt of violence by narco-terrorists.
I had the opportunity to report to President Uribe on the new authorities that the United States Congress has voted, which recognize that Colombia's terrorist groups and narcotraffickers are inseparable and that they are responsible for the vast majority of human rights violations in this country. The FARC, the ELN, the AUC are involved in every aspect of the illicit drug trade, and their efforts to undermine governmentís authority create a climate in which drug trafficking, kidnapping and other illegal activities thrive. United States support for counter-terrorism and a new infrastructure protection plan will help the Government of Colombia assert state authority throughout the country.
I think it is worth remembering that the United States has supported Plan Colombia, which in itself was in integrated, comprehensive strategy to promote security, combat drugs, advance human rights, and bring prosperity to the Colombian people -and we did that with the bipartisan support of our Congress. We have in President Bushís administration added to the $1.3 billion in initial support, $380 million in FY02 money and proposed $439 million in FY03. And you all know that the supplemental request that was recently signed by the President had an additional almost $40 million for Colombia.
We are also committed -as I told the President- to creating economic opportunity for Colombia's people. When I visited in February, we all talked about the question of ATPA and whether it would ever be renewed, and Iím pleased to report to you as youíve already seen that President Bush signed legislation renewing the Andean Trade Preferences Act on August 6th. We are already back in business in a vast majority of cases with ATPA. And I find it very interesting that the Colombian Ministry of Foreign Trade believes that between 1992 and 1999 the ATPA program created more than 140,000 jobs.
You can imagine that President Uribe and his cabinet and our team also talked about the question of narcotics and drug-trafficking and narco-terrorism. And I think one of the most important parts of that discussion was the commitment on both sides to tell the truth: the disaster that drug-trafficking and narco-terrorism has been for Colombia. And, as President Bush always says when he talks about the drug problem, the truth of the matter is that we share responsibility because we consume a vast amount of the drugs in the United States. We also agreed that to combat this drug abuse and this growing of drugs there needs to be spraying and there needs to be alternative development -two parts of the same policy.
We have made our decision to support Colombia. Colombians have sacrificed a lot in these past years, but President Uribe calls on Colombians to sacrifice more to protect their democracy. We support the call for new resources for security, for reforming public sector institutions, and building respect for human rights and the rule of law. It will also mean bringing together all the elements of national power into an integrated national strategy to combat narco-terrorism, and to bring prosperity to Colombians, and to protect human rights, democracy and the rule of law. The new Uribe administration and the Colombian people have begun this hard work and I have every confidence that they will succeed, and our job is to support them.
Iíll be glad to take any questions.
Andres Mompotes (El Tiempo): What actions are you going to take to make sure that the resources of Plan Colombia are used only in a legitimate way?
Under Secretary Grossman: First of all let me say that we continue to support Plan Colombia and to fund Plan Colombia. I think it is also worth remembering that although we have been talking about Plan Colombia for what seems like years, we have actually only been implementing our support for Plan Colombia for fourteen or fifteen months. And I asked the other day if someone could give me a list of all the accomplishments of Plan Colombia. Helicopters have been delivered; a counter-narcotics brigade has been trained; twenty houses of justice has been established; thousands of hectares have been sprayed; 11,000 families are working with AID in voluntary eradication efforts; 5,000 hectares, both in poppy and in coca have been voluntarily eradicated; 2,000 Colombians who are threaten by violence Ėjournalists, labor leaders- have been assisted by our efforts; we have helped almost 330,000 people displaced by narco-terrorist violence. Iíd say to you sir that I think Plan Colombia money has been spent very responsibly and we are beginning to get substantial results from it.
Jenny GonzŠlez (Dallas Morning News): Can you comment on air interdiction efforts on Colombia, Peru and Venezuela?
Under Secretary Grossman: Well, I think firstly we should do one thing at a time, and that is we still have a job to do and that is to get back into the air bridge denial business after the terrible tragedy in Peru last year. As the Director of the National Drug Control Policy, Mr. Walters said, either yesterday or today, we will try to get back into this business as soon as possibly can. We are focused now on training air crews from Peru and Colombia to restart this program. Because this is such an important issue, and we want to do everything to avoid another tragedy, ultimately President Bush will make this decision. We are going to work with Peru and Colombia and then see where we go from there.
Carlos Arturo Paez (RCN Channel): Ambassador Patterson mentioned yesterday increased monitoring of money laundering by the guerrilla. Is there evidence of funds belonging to the guerrilla in the U.S. banking system?
Under Secretary Grossman: Since yesterday? (Laughter)
Let me say sir that that is a very important question, and it was a large part of the conversation we just had with President Uribe and his ministers. I will divide this into two parts. We certainly want to do everything we can to support Colombia to defeat money laundering, and to find accounts that are misused. I support completely what Ambassador Patterson had to say and we committed to President Uribe to work on that. We also talked about the very important point of combating terrorism by stopping terroristís finances. UN Security Council Resolution 1373, which Colombia has strongly supported, says that all countries around the world have to cooperate with each other in terms of information and intelligence to go after terrorist accounts. I was very pleased that in the conversation we just had we focused not only on questions that were important to Colombia in Colombia but also on Colombian and U.S. responsibility to implement and enforce Resolution 1373.
Susana Abad (El Comercio-Peru): What is the United States position on the International Criminal Court and how does this affect aerial surveillance in the Region?
Under Secretary Grossman: As you know we have serious reservations and problems with the ICC. We believe that the prosecutor of the ICC has no limits placed upon him or her, not even the control of the United Nations Security Council, and we think thatís too bad. We have said though that we will respect the decision of any country, like Colombia, to sign the ICC and to support the ICC. All we ask in return is that countries that sign the ICC and support the ICC respect our decision not to. This treaty has an article in it called article 98. It allows countries that have signed and countries that have not signed the treaty to work together to create a bilateral agreement to protect the citizens of both countries. We have proposed to the Government of Colombia that they sign with us what is called an article 98 agreement, and that is to protect American service men and women and official Americans serving in Colombia from what we worry would be political prosecutions by this Court. That is our position on the ICC and article 98.
If we do our work properly on interdiction, I donít see how the one thing would be connected to the other -unless, of course, this political prosecutor took this as a prime example of what the United States should not be doing around the world. That would be a perfect example of why we did not sign the ICC.
Follow-up question: In the case of civilian deaths, such as occurred in Peru, who would have legal responsibility?
Under Secretary Grossman: In this case, Peru took the responsibility for this terrible tragedy, and rightly so.
Gerardo Aristizabal ( CMI Newscast): How willing is President Uribe to sign a article 98 agreement?
Under Secretary Grossman: It would be for him to answer that question. We have proposed this to him and his Government. I assume that like in our Government there will be meetings of various agencies and the Colombian Government will decide what they wish to do. But just to be clear, we have not asked only Colombia to sign one of these agreements; we have asked every country in the world to sign one. We did this because during the UN debate on Bosnia many Security Council members, including I believe Colombia, asked us not to solve this problem on the basis of the Bosnia Resolution, but instead to sign article 98 agreements with countries around the world. We took that advice and that is exactly what we are doing.
Vanessa Arrington (AP): What is your opinion of the new war tax and itís effect on future U.S. assistance?
Under Secretary Grossman: One of the most important things in the last four or five months in the conversations between Colombia and the U.S. has been our request Ėour suggestion- that Colombia put more money into their Defense. So the fact that on Sunday the President of Colombia has imposed this tax that will bring in $800 million to a billion dollars is something we certainly support. And I couldnít speculate about it would affect our levels of assistance in the future. But, what I can say is that it will make the assistance we are giving today more effective. And it will capture the attention of those in Congress who support Colombia and recognize more is being done here.
Robert Willis (Bloomberg): You mentioned the U.S. is supporting Colombia in the national security plan. Can you tell what elements this might include and whether you have asked the Government of Colombia for such a document and how this might effect aid in the future?
Under Secretary Grossman: Let me answer the aid question the way I answered your colleague. I canít look forward, I canít speculate about future levels of assistance. All I can tell you is what we are doing now.
Also I would say to you that this is not a national security strategy the United States is demanding of Colombia. Itís a national security strategy that President Uribe campaigned on, saying that he needed to draw together all the elements of Colombian national strategy. We are recipients of this and we are readers; we are not dictators of this. That is a very important point. As you write about this and as you ask questions about this (remember that) this is not a national security strategy that the United States is demanding of Colombia. Itís a national security strategy that Colombians are developing for themselves.
What matters and what is new about it is the attempt to bring together all of the elements of national strategy to bring peace and prosperity and democracy and security to Colombia. In my view the days are finished when you could work on democracy on Monday, and security on Tuesday, and the economy on Wednesday, and security on Thursday and Friday, and at the end of the week think you had accomplished anything. These things are all now related. ATPA is related to the drug war; the drug war is related to terrorism; terrorism is related to security. As Colombia develops this plan for defending its own democracy, thatís a national security strategy. And when you ask me will we use this on Capitol Hill to show that Colombia is defending its own democracy I answer to you that I imagine Colombians will use this on Capitol Hill to show they are defending their own democracy and we will support that too.