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View All Transcripts: Ask the Ambassador | Ask the State Department

Welcome to "Ask the Ambassador" -- an online interactive forum where you can submit questions to U.S. Ambassadors around the world.

I am pleased to take part in this web-based discussion of U.S.-Colombian relations. On August 7 Alvaro Uribe was inaugurated for an unprecedented second term as President of Colombia. We congratulate him and look forward to working with his administration over the next four years as we continue to work with Colombia in its successful battle against narcotics trafficking and terrorism. Colombia has made great strides in combating the production and export of illegal narcotics, has successfully demobilized a large portion of the paramilitary forces, and is taking back areas previously under the control of guerrilla forces. Colombia's economy has made impressive gains in the past five years, and we have recently reached an agreement on the text of a free trade agreement which we believe will be of great benefit to both our economies.

William B. Wood, U.S. Ambassador to Colombia
William B. Wood
U.S. Ambassador to Colombia

Daniel from Saginaw, Michigan writes:

President Uribe used his first term to disarm most of the paramilitary groups and bring them back into the fold of Colombian life.

First, does he see his second term as the time to crush the leftist insurgent rebels? And, when I say crush, I mean destroy with the use of the military. We, U.S. citizens, know very well that terrorists can not be negotiated with.

Second, will President Uribe put a greater urgency on this task given the recent pressures coming from Hugo Chavez to push South America further towards extreme left political chaos?

Third, and most important, does President Uribe believe he has majority backing from his citizens to put an end to the leftist rebel groups?

Thank you, Ambassador Wood, for all of your work helping to promote a country that has demonstrated a desire for democracy and capitalism. Colombia should be an example of what democracy stands for and how it works.

Ambassador Wood:

Daniel, thank you for your interesting questions. President Uribe won re-election by a 62% majority and to me this would indicate approval of his policies. I believe that he will continue his quest for peace and security for Colombia and the goal has always been to end the terrorist threat to his citizens as soon as possible.

Martin from Scotland writes:

Given Columbia's proximity to the United States, do you believe that international terrorism could originate there and should be of greater concern to the U.S.? How is U.S. foreign policy shaped by domestic, Columbian terror acts and the possibility of export to the region and beyond?

Ambassador Wood:

Martin, as you well know international terrorism could originate anywhere, but U.S. foreign policy is not shaped by domestic Colombian acts of terror. The goal of U.S. policy is to end drug trafficking and potential terror threats in the hemisphere.

Ashley from Winona, Minnesota writes:

Ambassador Wood, as you are seasoned veteran of the foreign service and have served in numerous areas around the world, what advice would you give to university students who are looking into following your footsteps.

Ashley also writes:

Various organizations, such as the Pies Descalzos Foundation, have been reporting on the problem of forced displacement within Colombia. The numbers these organizations are claiming are staggering. 11,000 children being enlisted by illegal armed groups; 800,00 children are victims of violence and forced displacement and more than 2,000,000 Colombian children do not attend school. What is the United States position on such matters in Colombia and what are we doing to help alleviate the problem?

Ambassador Wood:

Ashley, if you want to join the Foreign Service, study international affairs, political science, economics or American history, keep up with current events by reading a good newspaper everyday and take the Foreign Service Exam.

The U.S. Government has given $27 million this year in aid to displaced people in Colombia and this aid includes special programs for children that helps to feed them and to reintroduce them into a safe and secure learning environment.

Eric from Santa Fe, New Mexico writes:

Dear Ambassador Wood: How would you characterize the effect of Hugo Chavez's policies and rhetoric upon US/ Columbian bilateral relations as it concerns cooperative economic and security arrangements (anti-narcotics, counter terrorism, free trade, etc.)? Best Regards.

Ambassador Wood:

Eric, our work and agenda with Colombia is fortunately not based on who's who or what happens in Venezuela. We work with a democratic and developing Colombia as a model to those thought to go Chavez's way. Basically, we will work with those who want to work with us.

Jamie from Dallas, TX writes:

My husband has been offered an expat position in Bogota, Colombia. We have three children our oldest is 4 and we have twins who are 13 months, all girls. I will be visiting next week, but I have serious concerns about moving my young family to Colombia. My husband has traveled there a lot and feels that it is "safe". I on the other hand view Colombia as a dangerous place, probably due to the media and just growing up in Texas and Oklahoma, I have been pretty sheltered. My question is, in your opinion is it fairly safe for a young family to live in Colombia as expats?

Ambassador Wood:

Jamie, there currently are about 25,000 American citizens who enjoy living and working in Colombia.

Bogota is a large and beautiful city and as with any big city there is crime and at times heavy traffic, but most who live here find it comfortable and pleasant.

Jacob from Washington, DC writes:

At the moment, have there been any confirmed ties between Islamic extremist/terrorist groups and Columbia revolutionaries such as FARC or in the Columbian narco-trade market? If so, what available evidence is there that any links exist? Thank you.

Ambassador Wood:

Jacob, so far we have found no evidence of such ties, but we continue to look and be alert.

T.J. from Baldwin, Maryland writes:

I am working on a merit badge for Boy Scouts, Citizenship in the World. One question I need to answer is, Describe the role of an Ambassador in Conducting foreign relations? I was looking on your web site for a basic answer. When I saw the opportunity to ask you directly, I figured I would take advantage of it.

Ambassador Wood:

T.J., as Ambassador of the United States to Colombia, I am the President's personal representative in this country and I am Chief of Mission (or Embassy) which includes 25 different agencies of the United States Government. I am responsible for all the activities and programs of all 25 agencies. Here in Colombia, I am also the Chief Spokesperson for U.S. Government policy, and I am the chief policy advisor on Colombian affairs for the U.S. Government.

Jacki from Chapel Hill, North Carolina writes:

Sir, in your opinion and noting the steps that were undertaken to constitutionally prepare for President Uribe's reelection, do you believe that Mr. Uribe's landmark victory was more an indication of the popularity of his anti-gang, anti-terror, anti-drug policies in Colombia or a result of the staunch financial support given to Colombian anti-drug programs by the U.S. as a measure of support for his administration (with the potential for less aid should a more leftist element have won the presidency)?

Ambassador Wood:

Jacki, I would say that President Uribe's re-election was probably due to both factors, but I think that Colombians responded more to President Uribe's honesty and hard-work.

Eric from San Francisco, California writes:

What significance does Alvaro Uribe's inauguration as president of Colombia have for the South American region as a whole -- economically, politically, militarily?

Has Uribe been successful in providing economic opportunities to the Colombian people as they look for alternative methods of sustaining themselves other than through narcotics and illegal means?

Thank you for your time Ambassador.

Ambassador Wood:

Eric, I believe that President Uribe's re-election shows that good government can get good popular support. The U.S. Government is assisting the Colombian Government with a number of economic projects dealing with alternative crops and we are having good success with these programs.

Martin from Providence, Rhode Island writes:

Dear Ambassador Wood: Do you feel that the current travel warnings to Colombia are accurate?

Ambassador Wood:

Martin, yes, our travel advisories are accurate and are periodically revised to reflect current conditions.


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