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Last Updated:7/21/03
Excerpt from State Department Daily Briefing, July 1, 2003
QUESTION: Is the U.S. going to suspend the military aid to Colombia due to the fact that they didn't sign the immunity?

MR. BOUCHER: The President made his decisions yesterday, signed the package for transmission to Capitol Hill, on the American Servicemembers' Protection Act, and that includes some waivers for countries that have signed Article 98 agreements with us but not ratified them. There is a four-month waiver for countries who signed before May 1st and haven't yet ratified, a six-month waiver for countries who signed after May 1st and haven't yet ratified. In many cases, ratification means working things through parliament, which takes some time in some places.

There are other countries, some 35 of them, that have not signed Article 98 agreements and therefore don't qualify for a waiver, and so Colombia is one of those countries. But as I think I said yesterday, this is an ongoing issue that we're going to have to deal with, and we're going to keep pressing countries to sign Article 98 agreements with us.

Much of our assistance to Colombia, the great bulk of our assistance to Colombia, is, indeed, counter-drug money and therefore not affected. It's not military assistance, among the military assistance programs that are affected by this law.

In addition, I think of some over a hundred million, a hundred million or more, in military financing that we have for Colombia, I think all but about 5 million has been expended. So there is probably about 5 million of our assistance to Colombia that's been suspended because of the Act right now.

But as we proceed with this, we'll look at individual programs, as well, and decide whether they need waivers. But our hope is to continue to work with governments to secure and ratify Article 98 agreements that protect American servicemembers from arbitrary or political prosecution by the International Court.

...

MR. BOUCHER: I said that money that has been spent, money that's been allocated, remains allocated. Money that has not been allocated is not going to be allocated. So it depends on the individual country and how much of the money has been expended. We were asked a moment ago about Colombia, and out of $100 million or more in military financing for Colombia, there's $5 million left this year that's not been allocated. That money is caught.

...

QUESTION: Yes, I'm still confused about Colombia, first of all, because, you know, it receives lots of help from the United States. So you're saying that for this fiscal year, still, I mean, there are $5 million that they won't receive that? What's going to happen for next year? Then the Colombian president is saying that they have already a treaty of 1962 which is kind of the same thing that the United States wants, so that that should work. Does that work?

MR. BOUCHER: It's an issue that we have been discussing with the Government of Colombia. The Secretary has talked to Foreign Minister Barco about it very recently -- oh, in Santiago, Chile, which was not even a month ago now. So it's something that we have discussed repeatedly and will continue to discuss with the Government of Colombia to try to work things out. The Colombians and the United States do have an existing agreement that has some relationship to this, but we need to provide the kind of exemption that an Article 98 agreement would provide. That's our view.

But what's going to happen next year, that depends on the state of affairs, whether we can conclude agreements with Colombia and other governments. It depends on the kind of assistance programs we might be contemplating. As always, much of the U.S. assistance for Colombia has been in the form of anti-narcotics efforts, and those are not covered by these restrictions. So it will depend on the kind of program that we design for Colombia next year, as well as where we are in terms of Article 98 agreements.

QUESTION: But they would have to sign that if they want to receive military help? I mean, there's no other option? There's no getting away from it?

MR. BOUCHER: There are limited possibilities for waivers in the law, but how the President should decide to exercise those I just can't tell you at this point.

QUESTION: Richard, may I see if I understand it? Because I also don't understand what would happen next year. Does the President's act today mean it is impossible for Colombia to receive additional military assistance from the United States, point blank? In other words, if Congress --

MR. BOUCHER: Unless -- well --

QUESTION: Unless?

MR. BOUCHER: Unless -- see, that the -- again, there are still some authorities in this law to exercise specific waivers for specific programs. So, you know, speculating on what kind of program we'll have next year, how much of that money might be affected, if there are aspects of the program we might want to waive, I think it's a little too early to do that now, particularly given that we continue to pursue with Colombia and others agreements under Article 98.

So if we succeed in getting the non-surrender agreements with various governments, we may not face that question come October 1st. If we do get to October 1st, it will depend on the kind of program that we're implementing in that year.

QUESTION: But I'm trying to understand it. It may be that I am just confused about this. Is it conceivable that Congress could appropriate additional military assistance for Colombia, and that that would go forward absent, you know, an Article 98 agreement, or absent a waiver, or, no, that's simply impossible?

MR. BOUCHER: It's not simply impossible but the authority, because there is some additional waiver authority, it could be applied to a particular program. But that hasn't been done at this point.

QUESTION: The 1st of October, what is that deadline? Could you explain that?

MR. BOUCHER: That's the start of our new fiscal year. So there is another pot of money that has to be analyzed according to these criteria.

QUESTION: Oh, okay.

As of July 21, 2003, this document was also available online at http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/dpb/2003/22159.htm
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