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Last Updated:2/13/02
Excerpt from State Department briefing, February 11, 2002

State Department Briefing

Philip Reeker, spokesman

Q Yes. Maria Elena Matheus, El Universal. Just to follow up, Secretary Powell referred to documents that link the Venezuelan government, Chavez government, with narcotraffickers, with the FARC. When he was mentioning these documents, was he referring to the public documents or are you analyzing further documents?

MR. REEKER: I think as Secretary Powell himself said in that testimony, with these charges of collusion between the guerrilla groups in Colombia and the Venezuelan military, that we've seen some reports on that. I've read press reports about it as well. But Secretary Powell said it's prudent now to wait for a more complete assessment before we comment on that. So I don't have anything further to add to what he said; that we would be looking at that, making an a assessment of that. And I don't have anything further to add.

...Q There is a letter sent by the Congress on International Relations to Rand Beers, assistant secretary of State for Bureau -- for the Bureau of International Narcotics and -- very long. Okay? (Chuckles.)

MR. REEKER: Mm-hm. My good friend Randy Beers.

Q Okay. They ask him for a clarification on U.S. policy towards the use of counternarcotics assets, especially helicopters, in Colombia to fight terrorism and kidnapping. Apparently, the assets to fight narco-traffic were not initially supposed to be used for -- to fight terrorism. In any case, they welcome this move, if there is such a move.

MR. REEKER: Well, I'm not familiar with the specifics of the letter. I mean, generally our engagement in counternarcotics in Colombia is well-structured under U.S. laws. Our policy of supporting President Pastrana's plan there, our Andean regional initiative, which we have funded, is very important as part our counternarcotics thing.

As you know, the FARC and other organizations -- the ELN -- in Colombia have long been designated as foreign terrorist organizations under our law. And it is a well-known fact that these organizations, the FARC and others, are involved in narcotics trafficking. It's how these terrorists fund much of their activity. And so that has been one of our concerns.

Obviously, fighting narcotics trafficking is also fighting terrorism. It's of great importance to us. Democracy in Colombia is something that we think is important. Human rights is central to that relationship. We continuously engage the government of Colombia in that issue as well.

As you know, Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Marc Grossman just returned -- in fact, I believe today -- from Colombia, where he had a series of meetings about our broad-based strategy to help Colombia's democracy combat the illicit drug trade and promote socioeconomic development and strengthen democratic institutions, as well as protection of human rights, as I mentioned.

So those are all parts of our Colombia policy. I'm not familiar with the specific letter, but certainly we're determined to keep working closely with Colombia and to promote those values.

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