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Last Updated:1/19/05
Excerpts from transcript, nomination hearing of Secretary of State-Designate Condoleezza Rice, January 18, 2005

SEN. NORM COLEMAN (R-MN): I also want to echo the comments of some of my colleagues about Latin America. And we've talked about that and we had a chance to visit -- need to increase American involvement. I do want to make one comment about Venezuela. It's clear that Chavez won an election. There are a number of us who want to engage; we want to engage more. But I also think it's fair to say that in our business, actions matter and words matter. And the rhetoric from Chavez has to change.

MS. RICE: Right.

SEN. COLEMAN: You can't be, you know, proclaiming sympathy with folks who are killing Americans in Iraq. You can't be -- my colleague and friend from Connecticut noted that Lula -- President Lula had said some things, but he said them 20 years ago. Chavez said them last week, last month.

SEN. DODD: It wasn't 20 years ago. I hear you, but I mean --

SEN. COLEMAN: But in any case, but there are -- and I think it's fair, there are a number of us, we need to figure out a way to engage, but there's got to be a two-way street here, and words matter, actions matter.

My question for you is about Colombia. After decades of terror, we're seeing killings down. President Uribe is doing -- I think providing outstanding leadership. Folks are actually able to travel on the roads, which they weren't able to do before. The economy is responding positively to some of the increased security.

Clearly, Plan Colombia is working, but Plan Colombia expires at the end of this fiscal year. Our president, I'm pleased that one of his first trips right after election was to Latin America and visited Colombia. I have two questions for you. One, if you can reflect on the situation in Colombia and discuss the future of Plan Colombia; where are we going? And then the second issue is that one of the things Uribe is doing with the Colombian military is that they are disarming -- one of the largest demilitarizations of a paramilitary group probably in history. Because of limitations put on us in the foreign operations bill, this is going on without the participation of the U.S. government. And I would appreciate your reflections on what you believe to be the proper role of the United States in this effort to demilitarize a paramilitary group.

MS. RICE: Well, thank you very much, Senator. First of all, on Colombia, I think that Colombia has outstanding leadership in President Uribe. And what he has done is to mobilize Colombian society, the Colombian people, to take on the terrorism, the narcoterrorism in a new and renewed fashion. And he went to the people in a democratic way and he said here's what we have to do and here are the resources that we have to put behind it. And he's starting to have a lot of success. It's a very tough environment but he's also taking very tough policies toward the FARC. And we have very good cooperation on that piece of it.

I think that many of the aspects of Plan Colombia that dealt with alternative livelihoods, that dealt with dealing with the crop, all of those have worked to improve the circumstances in Colombia to the point that now it is possible for President Uribe to have this very tough policy. And it's always a struggle, but it's beginning to work. And we just need to support this democratically elected president who went to his people and said we've got to defeat the narcoterrorists, and he's doing it.

The dismantlement or the disarming of militias, including the AUC, is an important part of this revitalization of Colombia and dealing with its past problems. Obviously, there are some things that we can't do. We have gotten a little bit of flexibility to help some in some of the efforts that he needed toward the FARC, and that was much appreciated.

I would like to -- we would like to be in a position to do whatever we need to do to help h him and to have him tell us what that is.

And I'm sure that in the demilitarization we could do more. But the one thing that we've made clear is that while the AUC needs to be demobilized, demilitarized, and while he's talked about reconciliation with certain aspects, not with blood on their hands. And that's been a very important admonition to this government. But Colombia is becoming -- I won't declare yet, but is becoming a success story because you've had very determined leadership, and I think we've been a good partner for President Uribe.

SEN. COLEMAN: I mean, I think the challenge is the -- you can't do what -- you can't give a free pass to folks with blood on their hands. But we need to somehow have an ability to continue forward --

MS. RICE: That's right.

SEN. COLEMAN: -- with getting guns out of the hands of narcoterrorists. So --

MS. RICE: It's the most important thing that they must do next.

SEN. COLEMAN: I would hope that we would be able to have a more assertive role in that, and perhaps some guidance from State down the road.

Just to follow up in terms of what we can do to support President Uribe, what do you see as the next phase? With the expiration, then, of Plan Colombia, but with obviously still great needs, still security concerns, what is our role in the next two, three, five years for Colombia?

MS. RICE: Well, I think there's no doubt that we are going to have to explore with Colombia its economic development. It is a country that has potential but has really been -- a lot of the potential has been held back by the terrible security situation produced by narcotrafficking. And as the narcotrafficking situation is brought under control, we obviously will want to be a partner with Colombia in how they build a vibrant democracy. Part of that is that they have asked us to discuss with them what we might be doing in the area of free trade. I think that's something that we will want to explore with them. Obviously, it has to be seen in the context of what we're trying to do with the Free Trade Area of the Americas. But we've not been shy to go ahead and look at what we might be able to do bilaterally in trade. And I know that trade is an area that Colombia is extremely interested in.

SEN. COLEMAN: One of the areas where we've been successful is cutting down on the hectares of cocaine -- coca that's being grown there, and spraying has worked in Colombia.

MS. RICE: Yes.

SEN. COLEMAN: When we met with Allawi in -- excuse me, Karzai in Afghanistan, I know in Afghanistan there are concerns about spraying. The good news there is that we're hearing that their folks are actually voluntarily stopping poppy growing. I -- we're still waiting to get confirmation of that, but we've had a number of those -- of reports --

MS. RICE: Right.

SEN. COLEMAN: -- and I think the climate may be more fertile for other things to grow there.

But I would hope that we would at least give evidence to the Afghanis (sic) about spraying and that it can be done with environmental concerns being met and that it can be effective, if some of the other things that they're doing don't work to the degree that we think they should.

MS. RICE: I agree, Senator. In fact, we asked the Colombians and they agreed to talk to the Afghans about their experience.

But Afghanistan -- we're exploring, or pursuing with Afghanistan a kind of five-pillared approach to the counternarcotics problem, which really is now, I think, in many ways the most urgent issue in Afghanistan: first of all, to look at eradication -- to look at eradication both aerial and manual. At this point manual is all that we can do, but we'll see whether aerial is needed and what we can do in that regard. We are working on alternative livelihoods. We're working on legal reform and police training so that we can help with that. Prosecutions of people need to take place. And then there's a very big public affairs campaign.

Karzai made the point to us that he needed, after many years of no democratic contact with the society, to de-legitimize in the eyes of the people the growing of poppy and he has been very aggressive on that. He has appointed a minister for counternarcotics. He went to the people and said this is a stain on Afghanistan that we have this. And so there's a lot of work to do, but I think we have a government that's dedicated to the counternarcotics fight. And we'll see what role aerial spraying has to play.

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