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Last Updated:3/20/00
Gen. Barry McCaffrey, director, White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, El Dorado Airport, Bogota, Colombia, February 22, 2000
PRESS CONFERENCE
ONDCP DIRECTOR BARRY MCCAFFREY
FEBRUARY 22, 2000

EL DORADO AIRPORT, BOGOTA

GENERAL MCCAFFREY

I am here because Colombia and the United States confront a common threat. In the U.S. we have fifty-two thousand deaths a year because of illegal drugs. In Colombia you suffer the highest rate of homicides in the world. Illegal armed groups in the countryside spread terror and violence and in the cities people are scared because of kidnappings and bombs.

My mission is to advance in Plan Colombia, which is a shared solution proposed by the Colombian Government. I am honored to be here. I thank these distinguished representatives of Colombia for greeting me. I have enormous respect for the armed forces of Colombia and the responsibility they bear for your people.

My purpose here is to listen. To hear the views of President Pastrana, Defense Minister Ramírez, PLANTE director Restrepo, Minister of Justice González, Fiscal General Gómez, the service chiefs and the chief of the CNP. I will also have a chance to listen very carefully to the views of the human rights community. I will listen very closely to those Colombian authorities charged with alternative economic development. And I will have an opportunity to share our thinking on the notion of drug treatment and drug prevention at the University.

Finally, very briefly, I will have an opportunity to look at some of the work that the police and the armed forces are doing in the field. The Colombian Government clearly has very heavy responsibilities: to confront the economic problems, to enable the peace process, to confront these international criminal organizations at work here in Colombia, and to continue building democratic institutions. My job is simple, it is to act in respectful support of Colombian leadership. President Clinton and our government have assembled a 1.6 billion-dollar package of support, which we are now explaining to our Congress. This package includes 270 million dollars for alternative economic development, it recognizes that this must be a regional solution-which includes at a minimum Bolivia and Perú. It includes support for judicial system development, for human rights and, most importantly, these are not American ideas, they are Colombian ideas. In assembling this package of support we based our actions on Plan Colombia. I thank you for these opportunities to lay out these initial ideas and I will look forward to talking to you two days ahead. Thank you.

DIANA RODRIGUEZ (El Espectador)
Good evening General McCaffrey. How will the U.S. government guarantee that it will not be more and more involved in the internal conflict in Colombia?

GENERAL MCCAFFREY
Your point is a good one. The intent of this package is to support Colombian democracy and the struggle against the drug traffickers and also support Colombia's regional partners. The execution of this program is in the hands of Colombian leadership. It is essential that the Americans understand that this is Colombian sovereignty at stake and it must be Colombian strategy that guides their actions.

ALEXANDER CAMACHO (RCN Radio)
The FARC has asked the European Union to oversee the package, to make sure that the U.S. doesn't get into the internal conflict. The second part is doesn't the U.S. have a double morality because they are always working against the source countries but the U.S. is the largest cultivator of marihuana?

GENERAL MCCAFFREY
I think that the whole notion of supervision of the package has to remain in Colombian democratic leadership hands. There is only one elected leadership. They are accountable to the people and to history and so, unambiguously, we will stand behind Colombian leadership. Tomorrow night I'll have an opportunity to talk to some of the Colombian intellectuals about the U.S. demand reduction process. I think you will be interested in some of my oversight. Let me just offer one observation: the United States is not the dominant drug consuming nation on the world. As an example, we probably use 2 or 3% of the world's heroin. Our problem is we have too much money and so U.S. and European money is part of the problem fueling international crime. But we do recognize reduction of demand as a crucial responsibility of the United States. Cocaine use in the United States is down by 70% since 1985. These drugs are now looking for new markets. That is our common problem. Meanwhile, in the United States we are now a drug-producing nation, metanphetamines, MDMA, this is the future of drug abuse in the global community. It's another argument for seeing it as a multinational responsibility. Thank you for that question.

SANDRA VERGARA (RCN Televisión)
Mister Pickering talked about the importance of protecting human rights and how we wouldn't want the aid to go to units of the Army or the Police that violate human rights. Would there be a problem if they prove that Army officials have been involved in human rights violations?

GENERAL MCCAFFREY
There is no question in my own mind that President Pastrana and his civilian leadership are adamant about instituting the rule of law. There is no question in my own mind of the sincerity and commitment of General Tapias, General Serrano and the senior leadership to protecting human rights. It is clear, just from watching your own political process, that the Colombian people have confidence in the armed forces and the police. But I think all of us should welcome the careful scrutiny of the international human rights community as this strategy continues. There must be transparency, there must be accountability and I am sure there will be.

ORLANDO RESTREPO (El Tiempo)
General McCaffrey good evening. General, Mr. Klaus Nyholm, director of the UN anti -narcotics program stated that Plan Colombia and the U.S. policy towards Latin America has more sticks than carrots. Don't you think that Plan Colombia could increase the arms race in Colombia? U.S. arms aid to Colombia could be an incentive for guerrilla groups to be part of that arms race too?

GENERAL MCCAFFREY
I think it is important for all of us to recognize that President Pastrana has talked about a 7.5 billion-dollar effort. In addition, it appears that the Colombian Government is on the edge of securing more than 4.6 billion dollars in international financial assistance. Plan Colombia has five major components, and clearly all are important. There can be no military victory, there must be a coherent strategy which includes peace, the economy, democratic institutions and support for the police and the armed forces. I think that this is the concept we are now trying to achieve. I look forward to talking to some of you perhaps tomorrow or on Thursday and thank you for this chance to talk to you.

Thank you.

As of March 13, 2000, this document is also available at http://www.usia.gov/regional/ar/colombia/mac1.htm

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