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Last Updated:2/6/02
Excerpt from State Department briefing on 2003 budget request, February 4, 2002

Briefing on FY 2003 International Affairs Budget

Joseph W. Bowab and James L. Millette, Bureau of Resource Management; William Taylor, Coordinator of Assistance to Europe and Central Asia; and Curt Struble, Bureau of Western Hemisphere
On-the-Record Briefing on the President's FY 2002 International Affairs Budget
Washington, DC
February 4, 2002

...

QUESTION: I know you mentioned the (inaudible) in Colombia, and that's the reason why your budget increases $98 million for a new (inaudible). Could you be more specific about that new dimension on the war on drugs in Colombia?

MR. STRUBLE: My name is Curt Struble and I'm from the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs. I will take that question. We have a long-term, broad-based approach to Colombia that emphasizes helping the Government of Colombia to establish rule of law, administration of justice, protect human rights, to develop economically and socially, and then to combat narcotics and terrorism.

The $98 million in foreign military financing is not for counter-narcotics. That's the reason why it's separate from the counter-narcotics budget item that goes through our Bureau for International Narcotics Affairs. Instead, this money is to assist units of the Colombian armed forces that are responsible for protecting a critical piece of infrastructure, the Cano Limon pipeline. The Cano Limon pipeline last year was attacked 166 times, shutting it down for 243 days. This has had a very significant impact on Colombian exports, on the ability of the Government of Colombia to generate the funds and resources that is needed for economic growth and social development.

QUESTION: According with this, it means that the US Government is going to support the Colombian Government to fight against the guerillas?

MR. STRUBEL: No. What it means is that the US Government is going to support Colombian military units for a specific mission and objective. We do that now. We have, for example, through our anti-terrorism assistance program assistance that goes to both the Colombian police and the Colombian armed forces directed against kidnapping. And most kidnappings in Colombia are done by the FARC and the ELN. So we also have counter-narcotics brigades that operate in areas where the FARC and the AUC are active.

QUESTION: Is this equipment or training, or can you specify what the --

MR. STRUBEL: Right. It's for equipment and training.

QUESTION: Was that amount separate from the 731?

MR. STRUBEL: That's correct.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Can you address this? Some of your critics are saying that this is crossing over a line; it's moving from being involved in a war on drugs which directly involves the United States, and being involved in a counter-insurgency effort that really has to do with the civil war.

MR. STRUBEL: Well, I think those critics perhaps haven't been fully attentive to the broad range of objectives that we have had in Colombia, and I have outlined those for you. And I see this as being entirely consistent with that.

QUESTION: Just to follow up on that, is this in line with last year's renaming of it an Andean Initiative? Is this a sign that there's going to be fuller engagement now in the overall problem?

MR. STRUBEL: No, I mean, last year's renaming -- last year's establishment of an Andean Initiative was intended to recognize that the counter-narcotics problem requires a regional approach. But as I said, this is not part of our counter-narcotics program. So I wouldn't associate the two.

As of February 6, 2002, this document was also available online at http://www.state.gov/m/rm/rls/rm/2002/7788.htm

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