Media Event at Casa de NariqoKaren Hughes, Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs
March 15, 2006
UNDER SECRETARY HUGHES: (Spanish) "I am very happy to be here en Bogotá. It is my first trip to Bogotá. This morning we had the honor to speak to President Uribe. We talked about the friendship and mutual respect between the U.S. and Colombia. We are friends and neighbors. We share many values: family, faith, democracy, justice, the importance of health and education. We talked about his fight against drug and terrorism. I love Spanish, but I really speak it very little."
(English) "So I will speak in English. But I did learn "un poquito de español cuando fui una pequeña niña" and I lived in Panama for three years. I have just come from a great meeting. I apologize for being late. Our meeting lasted long because we had so many important things to talk about. But I have just come from a great meeting with President Uribe. We talked about the strong friendship and important partnership between the United States and Colombia. We talked about our positive agenda for the region: an agenda of democracy, development, hope and opportunity for people throughout the region. The partnership between the U.S. and Colombia is a partnership for a better life for people here and for people throughout Latin America. We talked about the great progress that has been made here in Colombia. After 40 years of war against terror and drug trafficking, Colombia is clearly winning that war. And the United States is proud to be your partner. Last year, 2005 was a record year for both eradication and seizures of cocaine and heroin. We admire the courage and bravery of the Colombian people in maintaining the institutions of democracy despite the terror and the drug trafficking you have endured. And of course, that was recently reflected in the very successful elections, and we congratulate the people of Colombia on the very successful elections; the free and fair elections that you had here over the weekend. With that, I would be happy to take your questions."
QUESTION: (María Antonia Castiblanco, CM& Newscast) Good morning. Welcome to Colombia. Yesterday President Uribe visited Bolivia and met with President Evo Morales. The message he sent was that he wanted to help in the improvement of US relations with Latin America countries, for example, with Bolivia; for the two countries to come to an agreement on FTA and soybeans. How will that meeting develop? Is the US willing to negotiate with Bolivia, starting with soybeans and go further with an FTA?
UNDER SECRETARY HUGHES: "We welcome President Uribe’s visit to Bolivia yesterday. We spent a great deal time talking about the visit this morning. He said it was a very productive meeting. The United States wants the countries of Latin America to have strong partnership with each other and with us. I was in Chile with Secretary Rice when she met with President Morales and they also had a very positive meeting. We think it’s very important that we work together with countries throughout Latin America. We have a pro-Americas agenda. -- I’m saying Americas with an ‘s’-- America and the countries of Latin America. So, we welcome the President’s outreach and meeting yesterday, and we look forward -- we felt that Secretary Rice’s visit with President Morales was a positive one -- and we look forward to continuing the dialogue."
QUESTION: (Luisa Pulido, RCN Radio) Good morning, Ms. Hughes. Republicans from the House have asked for $100 million dollars to buy 23 planes for Colombia. What are the U.S. plans? Is the proposal feasible?
UNDER SECRETARY HUGHES: "This proposal made by a member of our Congress I think is another signal of the strong support that Colombia has in the U.S. Congress for its war against war and terror. This legislation was just introduced and will obviously have to be discussed and evaluated. I can assure the people of Colombia that the U.S. is committed to continuing high levels of support for your war against terror and against drugs here in Colombia. It is a high priority, and we are proud to be your partners in that effort. Over the past five years the United States of America has contributed approximately three billion dollars to support Colombia’s brave efforts against the terror and dealers who try to inflict violence on your people. And I can assure the people of Colombia that we stand with you and we will continue support at high levels for that effort."
QUESTION: (Cesar García, AP) Good morning. In which way is the U.S. willing to help Colombia to recover art treasures that have arrived illegally in the U.S.?
UNDER SECRETARY HUGHES: "The agreement that we are going to sign today is an agreement that shows the great respect that the people of America have for Colombia’s rich cultural heritage. It covers pre-Columbian and colonial religious icons, and it is an agreement going forward. And we will prevent the illegal importation of those valuable items by ensuring that should someone attempt to illegally bring them to the United States, they will be confiscated and returned to Colombia. It also offers important protections, such as education programs, maintenance programs, preservation programs, to help Colombia preserve this rich part of its heritage. Countries’ cultural heritage is the sum of its joys and its fears, its many successes, its important contributions. One of the joys of my job is I oversee our Cultural Affairs Office. And one of the great privileges of my job is to work in partnership with countries to help preserve their rich heritage. So we are very pleased to be signing this agreement today."