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Last Updated:2/6/02
Excerpt from Secretary of State Colin Powell's testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, February 5, 2002

...

Mr. Chairman, we have also, I think, had some success here in our own hemisphere, from the president's warm relationship with Mexico's President Fox to the Summit of the Americas in Quebec last spring, to the signing of the Inter-American Defense -- Inter-American Democratic Charter in Lima, Peru, to our ongoing efforts to create a Free Trade Area of the Americas. All of this suggests to me that we're moving in the right direction in our own hemisphere, even though there are difficult problems in Argentina, Colombia, Venezuela, and other places that are of concern to us.

We need to keep democracy and market economics on the march in Latin America, and we need to do everything we can to help our friends dispel some of the dark clouds that are there.

Our Andean counter-drug initiative is aimed at fighting the illicit drugs problem while promoting economic development, human rights, and democratic institutions in Colombia and among its Andean neighbors.

...

SEN. HELMS: I'm sure it will too, but this is just reprehensible.

Finally, I'm concerned about the reports from Venezuela last week that President Chavez is consorting with narco-terrorists in Colombia. Physical evidence -- namely, a videotape and a memorandum -- establishes beyond any doubt, I think, that he is supporting the narco-terrorists in Colombia.

Now presuming all that's so, what do you think ought to be in -- the United States' position in the face of Mr. -- President Chavez's continued behavior, both at home and abroad?

An interrelated area, while I'm at it:

While I'm encouraged to see the president's proposal to train Colombians in pipeline security -- and that's a necessity -- how else can we increase help to the Colombian government in their war against the narco-terrorists? That doesn't leave you much time, but I wish you would comment --

SEC. POWELL: Briefly, we have been concerned with some of the actions of Venezuelan President Chavez and his understanding of what a democratic system is all about. And we have not been happy with some of the comments he has made with respect to the campaign against terrorism. He hasn't been as supportive as he might have been. And he drops in some of the strangest countries to visit. And I'm not sure what inspiration he thinks he gets or what benefit he gives to the Venezuelan people from dropping in and visiting some of these despotic regimes. We've expressed our disagreement on some of his policies directly to him, and he understands that it is a serious irritant in our --

SEN. HELMS: What did he say when you --

SEC. POWELL: He's very -- he gets quite defensive. We've had our ambassador go in on a couple of occasions, and he becomes quite defensive. And we have also gone to some of our friends in the region to also suggest to President Chavez that there perhaps are better ways to deal with a campaign against terrorism and better ways to deal with the challenges his country is facing.

With respect to the specific issue on the tape and the support of narco-traffickers, I saw those reports, but I think I'd better wait till I get a complete analysis before I comment on any particular charges.

SEN. HELMS: Okay. I understand.

SEC. POWELL: With respect to the Colombian pipeline, as you know, this is a program that we are supporting, to the tune of $98 million in our budget, because it is a critical pipeline for Colombia, and they do need to find a way to protect it, in order to support their economic development and to keep their economy moving forward.

But our principal focus with the Andean initiative is on counternarcotics and not counterinsurgency.

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