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Last Updated:10/12/01
Testimony of Curt Struble, deputy assistant secretary of State for Western Hemipshere Affairs, October 10, 2001

Statement

By

Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs

Deputy Assistant Secretary Curt Struble

In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11, the countries of the Americas have responded strongly and positively against international terrorism and in solidarity with the United States, and have supported our efforts to construct an international counterterrorism coalition. Indeed, the outpouring of support, sympathy and outrage by our Western Hemisphere neighbors has been especially gratifying to those of us who have worked in the hemisphere for any length of time. These horrific events have underscored the values and humanity we hold in common, reminding us that the people of this Hemisphere hold a special feeling for the U.S.; cherish democracy and the free exchange of ideas; and share our respect for the sanctity of human life and our outrage at the callous, wanton cruelty of those who would seek to destroy it all.

As Ambassador Noriega has made clear, the political response of the hemisphere’s governments and foreign ministers in the OAS and within the Rio Treaty context has been gratifying and vitally important as the U.S. shapes its response to terrorism. Some countries which have experienced terrorist acts in their own territory in the past, empathized automatically. At the same time, the deeply-felt humanity of the responses has been particularly poignant. In the statements and actions of leaders and individuals there has uniformly been a sense that they not only understood our pain and grief but that they shared in our loss. Indeed, many did literally share our suffering. Thirty of the Hemisphere’s thirty-four nations lost citizens in the events of September 11, a tragic testimony of the degree to which our fates are linked. Among those nations directly affected, El Salvador counts 122 dead and missing, the Dominican Republic 42, and Ecuador 31.

The Western Hemisphere, perhaps more than any region in the world, has benefited from the free flow of trade, people and ideas, and the US has been a natural focus of that flow. What we have discovered in the past two weeks is that that flow, in addition to creating a natural commonality of interest, has also fostered bonds that go far deeper.

A mound of flowers as high as the embassy gate in Ottawa; flags at half mast throughout the hemisphere; a simple heart-rending ceremony by Ecuador’s firefighters honoring their fallen comrades in New York City; a day of remembrance for the September 11 victims at the rebuilt AMIA Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires -- rebuilt following the 1994 terrorist attack that killed 86 Argentines. All of these gestures speak to the shared bonds within our hemisphere and transcend the daily press of events that often seem to divide us. Cuba alone failed to join the hemispheric chorus of sympathy and support, choosing instead to criticize the United States and say we brought the attacks upon ourselves.

In the days immediately following the attack, there was a sense among our neighbors in the hemisphere that they could not offer help, condolences and support fast enough to mollify their own feelings of sympathy and outrage. Offers of rescue assistance, medical teams, plasma and military support flowed in so quickly that managing them and responding was difficult. President De la Rua offered Argentina’s world-class military peacekeepers to lessen such commitments by our armed forces at a time we need to husband our strength. Expressions of sentiment followed as quickly: a flood of letters from presidents and prime ministers; 100,000 people at a memorial service on Parliament Hill in Ottawa; a group of school children with a wreath and a handmade card in La Paz. In Jamaica, tossing protocol concerns aside, both the Governor-General and the Prime Minister paid unprecedented calls upon the embassy in Kingston to offer their condolences and to express their support. The people of Canada opened their homes to welcome the hundreds of air travelers whose flights were diverted on that tragic day. In Brasilia, the President and Foreign Minister spent an hour at our Embassy mingling with staff to provide encouragement in a dark hour.

The governments of Bolivia and Ecuador held memorial services attended by Presidents Quiroga and Noboa. The government of Paraguay declared a 48-hour period of mourning. Several countries cancelled national day ceremonies. In Rio de Janeiro the memorial service at the local Anglican Church was attended by the religious leader of the Islamic Center in Sao Paulo, who flew to Rio simply to attend the ceremony and to demonstrate “…our solidarity with the American people, declaring our vehement repudiation of all types of terrorism, perfidy and extremism.” President Fox of Mexico met with President Bush on October 4 to reaffirm Mexican support for the United States. President Toledo of Peru made an unplanned visit to the OAS Special General Assembly on the morning of September 11 to express Peru’s outrage at the terrorist attacks and express solidarity with the assembled foreign ministers of the hemisphere.

Moreover, these expressions of solidarity and sympathy are being matched by concrete actions by the nations of the Hemisphere, underlining the President’s statement that the campaign against terrorism has to be global and that every country in the world has a role to play. Countries from the Bahamas to Argentina to Canada have taken concrete steps to freeze accounts linked to Osama bin Ladin and his associates as called for in UN Security Council Resolutions 1333 and 1373. Governments have beefed up security measures: Panama enhancing security to assure the protection of the Panama Canal and Venezuela providing additional protection for our diplomatic residences and schools used by Americans in Caracas. We are in close contact with authorities from Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay to share intelligence about possible terrorist activities in the tri-border area of those countries. The countries of Central America are looking at ways to improve border security and improve the sharing of information about migrants. Colombia is offering to share with its regional neighbors its technical expertise in areas such as money laundering gained in close partnership with the U.S. in the past. More needs to be done to monitor and suppress money laundering and alien smuggling, criminal activities that also provide resources and logistic support for terrorist. We are urging all the countries of the hemisphere to sign and ratify the 12 international conventions that deal with counterterrorism and to implement fully the terms of UNSC 1333 and 1373 with respect to blocking terrorists’ access to funds.

Events in Washington, at the extraordinary convocation of OAS foreign ministers on September 21, were an important measure of our support within the hemisphere. The invocation of the Rio Treaty that same day and the expressions of solidarity were critical as we energize world condemnation of terrorism. However, the real measures of the tragedy of September 11, and the degree to which those events have drawn the hemisphere together, have played out in churches, squares and plazas throughout the hemisphere as the Americas grieved the loss of 6,000 of their fellows. And our hemispheric commitment to confront terrorism will be demonstrated by the concrete measures we take as sovereign governments and as a community of governments to arm ourselves against this worldwide threat.

As of October 12, 2001, this document was also available online at http://www.house.gov/international_relations/stru1010.htm

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