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 You are in: Bureaus/Offices Reporting Directly to the Secretary > Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism > Releases > Remarks > 2003

Statement on Colombian Bilateral Meeting

Ambassador Cofer Black, Coordinator for Counterterrorism
Remarks at a Press Conference
Bogota, Colombia
August 27, 2003

Good afternoon. I've just completed a very intensive and informative two-day schedule of meetings here in Colombia, and I want to thank President Uribe and his administration -- and U.S. Ambassador Bill Wood and staff -- for their efforts to make my visit a productive one.

I had excellent meetings with President Uribe, Vice President Santos, Foreign Minister Barco, Defense Minister Ramirez, Interior Minister Londono, and a number of other officials who lent their valuable insight into the current host of challenges facing Colombia. Today, Minister Ramirez, Amb. Wood, and I inaugurated a new program designed to defeat a particularly cruel terrorist tactic -- kidnapping for ransom. This $25 million-Anti-Kidnapping Initiative -- funded by the State Department -- will train and equip a large number of military and police GAULA units to help them become as effective as possible in resolving hostage situations. An estimated 3,000 kidnap incidents per year afflict Colombian families and also serve to undermine investor confidence. We aim to work with Colombia to take away this favored terrorist financing tool, just as coca and poppy eradication efforts are beginning to strip another longtime source of financing.

As the U.S. Government's Coordinator for Counterterrorism, it often falls to me to call on world capitals to reinforce the long-term political will that is necessary to achieve victory against terrorists. In Bogota, however, my work has been easy. Political will to defeat terrorism radiates throughout President Uribe's administration, and I found myself more often than not listening closely for lessons from the Colombian experience that could be helpful to other members of the international community struggling with vicious domestic terrorist campaigns.

Indeed, Colombians have been struggling with terrorist violence for nearly four decades. They know firsthand how terrorists seek to undermine our security and sense of well-being, to sabotage our economic and social development, and even to steal our children from us in order to perpetuate a seemingly endless cycle of car bombs, assassinations, and kidnappings -- all in the guise of some bankrupt cause that was supposed to improve the lot of the average Colombian. The Colombian people have long recognized that these groups stand for nothing but indiscriminate violence.

My mission here has been to reinforce my government's policy to support Colombia's efforts to counter each of the threats posed by the narcoterrorists. We stand with Colombia in its struggle, as Colombia has stood with us since September 11. I believe this cycle of violence will have an end if a sustained effort is made by the entire nation. After my discussions here, I note a positive trajectory in the conflict, but lasting victory will only be achieved through a steadfast application of pressure across every front that can be opened. Just as the international coalition against terror is moving diplomatically, financially, militarily, judicially, and through intelligence against al-Qaeda and other groups of global reach, so must the government and people of Colombia pursue the FARC, AUC, and ELN.

The security situation may indeed get worse before it gets better, but the alternative is another 40 years of low-intensity conflict, frustrated development, and generations of children lost to terrorist organizations bent on destruction rather than advancement. Colombia has clearly made its choice. With resolute efforts and support from the United States and other allies, Colombia can emerge from the tunnel as an example of courage and perseverance for other violence-wracked nations. Thank you. I would be pleased to take a few questions.

 


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