of State Colin Powell interview with El Tiempo (Colombia), December
DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Office of the Spokesman
December 3, 2002
Secretary Of State
Colin L. Powell
By Sergio Gomez Maseri of El Tiempo
December 2, 2002
MR. MASERI: -- your
basic interest on the trip to Colombia and especially one which was mentioned
by the spokesman last week about Colombia being the president of the Security
Council now in December, which is a crucial month and especially because
Iraq is there.
What would you expect
from Colombia as president of the Security Council this month?
December could be a very important month in the Security Council as the
Iraqi declaration comes in, and I expect Colombia would be an active chair,
would do an excellent job in making sure that the Council deliberates
with utmost seriousness on the elements of the declaration.
Colombia was very
helpful in the work that we conducted over the past two months to get
the Iraqi resolution, and I stayed in close touch with my Colombian colleagues
and I'm confident that would be the case for the month ahead.
Chairing the Security
Council is an important responsibility, but I think it's something that
Colombia has demonstrated it can do and do well. And all we would ask
is Colombia not to show favor to any side, but to do what is required,
especially with respect to Iraq, under 1441 to evaluate, along with other
Security Council members, and as head of the Council, Iraqi compliance
MR. MASERI: In terms
of the visit, Mr. Secretary, two times: one canceled; one other time was
planned but never took place. What's the message you want to take to Colombia
in this opportunity?
It's a message of solidarity. It's a message of support for President
Uribe. I feel very badly that twice I've had to postpone a trip to Colombia.
The first time everybody understands. It was the day of 11 September when
I was heading to Colombia later that very same day when I had to come
home. And then there was another emergency the next time I planned to
So this time I am
coming. I am coming because I want to show the United States' support
for President Uribe, his administration, for the new national security
strategy and for our joint efforts to find narco-trafficking and narco-terrorism
and those terrorist elements within Colombian society who are trying to
destroy the dream of the Colombian people to have a democracy that gives
them a society that is safe, a society that is developing in a way that
will make Colombia a contributing member of the international community.
I also want to visit
for the purpose of gaining an assessment of the situation so that I am
better able to come back to the United States and present Colombia's case
within the administration, but also on Capitol Hill; as we get ready for
hearings next year I defend the funds we'll be requesting for that part
of the world, and especially for Colombia to support Plan Colombia.
MR. MASERI: You mentioned
those terrorist elements that are threatening Colombia. One of those terrorist
elements, the paramilitary forces, has announced their intentions to go
through negotiations with the government. They already have a unilateral
cease-fire that is taking place. President Uribe has acknowledged that
the contacts are taking place.
What do you think
about that first contact?
Well, it's certainly encouraging. Any time you see that kind of a cease-fire
announcement, it's encouraging that maybe those elements in AUC have decided
that this is not the way to go, this does not help our country, this does
not help our people, this gives us a bad human rights reputation in the
world and we should stop it. But now it remains to be seen whether it
is a true cease-fire and whether it leads to a process that will end the
difficulties that have existed with AUC. And I will be interested to hear
President Uribe's response to what he has heard.
MR. MASERI: In terms
of the fact they are a Foreign Terrorist Organization, according to the
State Department, what them or any other organization have to do in order
to eventually be removed from that list and be --
Well, what they have now done does not get them off the terrorist list.
It is merely a statement of a cease-fire.
We will see whether
or not they fully renounce and reject these kinds of extralegal, unconstitutional
actions and whether they are prepared to be integrated into a society
that is based on democracy, and respect for human rights, and the rights
of individual men and women, and the rule of law. And if that turns out
to be the case at the end of the process and the Colombian Government
believes that they have been integrated into society, then we would take
all that into account.
We only keep on our
list those organizations that have been participating in terrorist activity.
MR. MASERI: In terms
of the US has been very aggressive pursuing, this year especially, leaders
from those organizations. In the case of the AUC, Carlos Castano is in
extradition request and also an indictment here. Do you think that fact
that the US is pursuing that organization should become an obstacle for
those contacts that have been taking place between both government and
I can't really speak to that. It's up to President Uribe to decide who
he, you know, wishes to have contact with as a way of moving forward.
But the leader remains indicted under US law and we would like to bring
him to justice, and the AUC will remain a terrorist organization until
it demonstrates that it is no longer a terrorist organization.
MR. MASERI: Mr. Secretary,
two recent actions from the US that involve militaries in Colombia, one,
the position of the recommendation of Ambassador Patterson to decertify
the unit that has been involved in human rights, and the other one the
decision to remove the visa from not a general, an almirante which has
nexus with narcotics.
What's the message
there in those two actions? I mean --
In the case of the general, there are specific issues that are under the
purview of the Justice Department that caused the visa to be lifted. And
in the case of the First Command, I think you're referring to --
MR. MASERI: Yeah.
Their Combat Command, the incident that caused us concern is still under
review and investigation.
The message, though,
is that people have to be held accountable for their actions, especially
if the actions are seen to violate universally accepted standards of human
rights and how you operate with a democratic system. And so we will always
continue to uphold these principles and the rule of law, and bringing
people to justice, I think, is an essential element of the democratic
system. And Colombia has suffered from elements within it -- the AUC,
the FARC and ELN -- who have been trying to damage Colombia's democracy,
and narco-traffickers who are undercutting Colombian democracy are hurting
people who would like to be living in a country where democracy flourishes,
where economic development is taking place, where the rule of law applies
to all. These kinds of activities are seen as totally undemocratic, totally
unconstitutional, and have to be dealt with and have to be fought and
people have to be brought to account.
And I think that's
one of the things that the Colombian people were expecting from President
Uribe and he seems to be leading in that direction.
MR. MASERI: The position
of the decertification of that unit has already been --
To my knowledge. I can make a check on it, but I don't think the unit
has yet been decertified. But I'll let Ambassador Boucher be precise.
MR. MASERI: Okay.
The recommendations were made, but then I think we went back to get more
information. So I don't know if the actual decision has been made so let
me not answer and Richard will get you the answer.
MR. MASERI: Going
to the program, the interdiction flight program has been delayed for the
last one-year and a half. What's the status on that? Do you have any --
All of the retraining is underway now and when the retraining has been
accomplished and we have taken the issue back to the President for his
certification, then we will start it again. I don't want to give a specific
date because I might be wrong. I am anxious to get it started as soon
as possible. I've been pressing my staff for the longest time to get this
But we had to be
very careful because we want to make sure that the air bridge denial program
is run in a way that makes sure that innocent people are safe flying in
the airways, and for that reason we had to go through retraining, recertification,
making sure we knew what we were doing, putting in place the right procedures
and processes so we didn't have a repeat of what happened a few years
And for that same
reason -- I mean, it applies both to Colombia and to Peru -- we're working
hard, but I want to get it started again.
MR. BOUCHER: I hate
to cut this off. Can we do one more question?
We've got a swearing-in.
MR. MASERI: Yeah.
There's a big movement of Colombians here and US citizens also here that
have been requesting the State Department to grant eventually a TPS or
Temporary Protection Status for millions of Colombians that are already
here. You know this.
Yeah, it continues to be under review. It's really a judgment that the
Attorney General makes, with the advice and participation of the Secretary
of State. But I don't have an answer for you now except to say it continues
to be under review and I'm not expecting a decision in the immediate future.
I think that's the
right -- that's where we have it at the moment, Richard. We understand
the need for such status and we know that a number of nations who would
like to have that status accorded to them also present their cases to
us. But we have to use that authority as it currently exists with some
discretion so that it isn't seen as a way of getting around our other
immigration policies. So we'll have it under review.
We are anxious to
do everything we can to help Colombia at this time. That's why we are
pressing forward with our requests for money in the Congress. That's why
we have gotten authority so that we can do more for Colombia with respect
to intelligence, with respect to the kind of support that we can give
to different parts of the Colombian Government. Colombia is threatened.
Its democracy is threatened. And I'm pleased that President Uribe is leading
in a way that will deal with these challenges and the United States wants
to show its support of the president and his administration, which is
why I'm taking this trip.
MR. MASERI: Thank
As of December 4,
2002, this document was also available online at http://usinfo.state.gov/admin/011/lef207.htm