Conference, President Clinton, President Pastrana, House Speaker Dennis
Hastert, Sen. Joseph Biden, August 30, 2000
Office of the Press Secretary
(Cartagena, Colombia) ________________________________________________________________________
For Immediate Release August
PRESS CONFERENCE BY PRESIDENT
CLINTON, PRESIDENT PASTRANA OF COLOMBIA, HOUSE SPEAKER DENNIS HASTERT,
AND SENATOR JOSEPH BIDEN
Casa de Huespedes Cartagena,
3:05 P.M. (L)
PRESIDENT PASTRANA: Good
afternoon. On behalf of all Colombians, it is my great privilege to welcome
to Cartagena, President Clinton, who has been Colombia's steadfast friend,
and honors us enormously with his visit today. I would also like to welcome
the distinguished members of his delegation, starting with the Republican
Party, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, a very good friend
of Colombia, Dennis Hastert; and from the Democratic Party, another great
friend of ours, Senator Joseph Biden.
You, Speaker Hastert, are
not foreign to Colombia, given that you have defended our democracy for
many years now and have guided the assistance package through the House.
Colombia is truly fortunate to have you as a friend, sir.
Senator Biden, we're also
very pleased to have you once again here in Cartagena. Your understanding
of the very complex issues of Plan Colombia, from human rights to alternative
development, have been crucial.
Senator Bob Graham and Mike
DeWine are also with us today, two individuals who have led the way in
the U.S.-Colombian relations, providing leadership in both trade and counternarcotics.
They are with their colleague, Senator Lincoln Chafee, who is visiting
Colombia for the first time. Gentlemen, we are very honored with your
However, there is a notable
absence that hurts our hearts of another friend of Colombia -- Paul Coverdell.
His passing last month was a deeply-felt loss, and I cannot imagine how
we would have gotten this far without him. We miss him, but what he did
so bravely will allow us to pursue.
I would also like to welcome
our good friends from the House of Representatives, Congressman Douglas
Bereuter, William Delahunt, Sam Farr, Porter Goss, Ruben Hinojosa, and
Jim Moran. Each in your own way have worked for popular changes for our
I'd also like to welcome
the members of the President's Cabinet -- Secretary of State Madeleine
Albright and Attorney General Janet Reno -- leaders of the highest order
who have visited us here before. You have taken the cause of burden-sharing
in the war on illegal drugs across the globe.
The same is true for General
McCaffrey, who has worked tirelessly through very many complicated details
of our bilateral strategy. And we're also proud to have with us Sandy
Berger, National Security Advisor, and John Podesta, the White House Chief
Two years ago, I traveled
to Washington with the high hopes of forming a new partnership with the
United States. Today, I can affirm that we have accomplished that goal
-- beyond our expectations. Today there exists between our two countries
a much closer commitment than at any other time in our common history.
The United States government
and Congress have offered significant assistance to Plan Colombia, which
is my government strategy for national recovery. This package has been
developed by Colombians, has been planned by Colombians, has been presented
to the rest of the world by Colombians, and is being implemented -- or
will be implemented by Colombia.
The very important resources
support many of the central elements of the plan, including support of
political negotiation, alternative developments for subsistent farmers,
the battle against drugs, the strengthening of justice, humanitarian assistance
and the protection of human rights. The U.S. assistance is a recognition
that the menace of illegal drugs is truly international and, therefore,
requires a concerted global response.
We Colombians must address
the many challenges our nation faces at this moment in history. We know
that the solutions must be our own. Equally important is the understanding
that Colombia's armed conflict must be solved by political means. We have
asked the United States and the international community to provide us
with new tools and additional resources to build the Colombia of the 21st
century. We are grateful for the assistance you have provided.
Many times over the past
decades, Colombians have felt alone in bearing the burden of the international
drug war. Undoubtedly, this is an international presence, and your presence
here today, Mr. President, as a representative of the American people,
is a commitment that leads us to know that we're no longer isolated in
I'm also pleased we have
had the opportunity today to discuss our bilateral economic agenda. Peace
in Colombia is tied to prosperity, to economic growth and new opportunities
for all our people, and this includes expanding bilateral trade.
I believe the time has come
to move towards an agreement that allows better access for Colombian's
products into the U.S. markets. I am convinced that at the end of the
day, trade and investment will do more for Colombia and will be more decisive
instruments in the battle against drugs, given that they will have a sustainable
impact for future generations, and will contribute to a more prosperous
Today is indeed an historic
occasion. It marks a decisive moment in a time when two nations join forces
to attain common objectives. I have no doubt, ladies and gentlemen, that
we have the right policies and that we will be implementing them in the
right way and with the right partners.
Finally, I'd like to say
that Colombia is most fortunate to have friends as President Clinton,
who has earned admiration around the world for his commitment to peace
in Northern Ireland, in the Middle East, Africa, and today here in Colombia.
His legacy as one of his generation's most dedicated peacemakers is assured.
And now it is my privilege
to invite the President of the United States to take over the microphone
and the podium.
Sir, you are acknowledged.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: First,
I want to thank President Pastrana, members of his government and legislative
leaders who have welcomed us so warmly here today. I'd also like to thank
the members of the Colombian media who are responsible for the opportunity
I had last night to address the people of Colombia about the commitment
of the United States for the success of your democracy.
I'm pleased to be here with
all the people the President mentioned -- Speaker of the House, Dennis
Hastert; Senator Joe Biden; other members of Congress and the Cabinet
and the White House. And I want to thank you, Mr. President, for your
reference to Senator Coverdell, who was a friend of Colombia and a friend
of our common efforts.
Together we come here to
say that the United States, executive and Congress, Republican and Democrat,
House and Senate, stand with Colombia in its fight for democracy.
In our meetings I had a chance
to thank President Pastrana for his truly courageous leadership, for a
peaceful, prosperous, democratic country free of narco-trafficking. He
has pursued this vision fearlessly, as has so many others. The 11 widows
of those who gave their lives for the rule of law and human rights and
a better future that we met earlier today are the most eloquent testimony
The United States has a strong
interest in Colombia -- in your economic recovery of the country, in the
conservation of your democracy, in the protection of human rights for
the people of Colombia, and in your pursuit of peace, security, stability,
not only for Colombia, but for the whole region, and, undoubtedly, in
reducing the international drug trade.
Meeting those objectives
for us is what Plan Colombia is all about. It takes aim at all the interwoven
challenges facing Colombia both in the economy and in the civil conflict,
fighting drugs, defending human rights and deepening democracy. And as
President Pastrana said, it is Plan Colombia -- a plan made by the leaders
of Colombia for the people and future of Colombia.
Our support of that plan
includes a tenfold increase for social and economic development to help
farmers grow legal crops, to train security forces to protect human rights,
to help more Colombians find justice by extending access to the courts.
This afternoon, I will visit a new Casa de Justicia here in Cartagena
that does just that. We've also made clear our confidence in President
Pastrana's economic approach, and we're working closely with the international
financial institutions to encourage their support of the Colombian economy.
Our assistance also makes
a substantial investment in Colombia's counter-drug efforts. Drug trafficking
breeds violence, breeds corruption, and drives away the jobs that could
help to heal this country's divisions. It also supplies most of the cocaine
and much of the heroin to the United States. Our assistance will enhance
the ability of Colombian security forces to eradicate illegal crops, destroy
drug labs, stop drug shipments before they leave Colombia.
Let me make one point very
clear: This assistance is for fighting drugs, not waging war. The civil
conflict and the drug trade go hand-in-hand to cause great misery for
the people of Colombia -- 2,500 kidnappings in the last year alone; over
the last 10 years 35,000 Colombian citizens have lost their lives; 1 million
have been made homeless. Our program is anti-drugs and pro-peace.
Forty years of fighting has
brought neither side closer to military victory. The President himself
has said that over and over. Counter-drug battalions will not change that,
and that is not their purpose. Their purpose is to reduce the drug trade
that aggravates every problem Colombia faces, and exports chaos to the
world, including the United States.
I reject the idea that we
must choose between supporting peace or fighting drugs. We can do both;
indeed, to succeed, we must do both. I reaffirmed to the President our
support for the peace process. The people of Colombia have suffered long
enough, especially in the area of human rights. No good cause has ever
been advanced by killing or kidnapping civilians, or by colluding with
those who do. Insurgents and paramilitaries alike must end all human rights
abuses, as must the security forces themselves.
The President is doing his
part to hold the military accountable, and today we discussed his efforts
to accelerate efforts to investigate, prosecute and punish all offenders,
whoever they may be.
What happens in Colombia
will affect its citizens and this entire region for a very long time to
come. There is a lot riding on this President and this Plan Colombia.
We are proud to stand with our friend and our neighbor as it fights for
peace, freedom and democracy, for prosperity, human rights and justice,
and for a drug-free future. All these things should be the right of all
Thank you. (Applause.)
SPEAKER HASTERT: Thank you,
Mr. President, and thank you, President Pastrana. The people of the United
States and the people of Colombia have a great deal in common. There's
the distance of an ocean, but there is a tradition of democracy -- here,
the oldest democracy in the Southern Hemisphere, and in the north, a democracy
who has strived for over 200 years to ensure that people have human rights,
that they can determine their future, that they can work to better themselves
in an economic way.
So why are we here today?
Not only do we share a great heritage of democracy, but we also share
a great burden. In our nation, over 14,000 young people, children, lose
their life every year to either drug use or drug violence. And it happens
in our wealthiest communities and on the street corners of our most devastated
In this country, thousands
of people lose their ability to make a living, to farm their land, to
dream the dreams that they want for their children and their grandchildren,
because narco-traffickers have changed in many ways the promise of democracy.
We think that there's time
for a great partnership between the United States, and Mr. President,
your country, this wonderful democracy called Colombia. We hope that in
the next few years we can work together, because we know it is our responsibility
to cut the demand for drugs. And we know that there is a possibility,
if we work together, that we can find those people who need to depend
and make their living on growing coca or poppy today, can find a better
way of making a living and pass a better future on to their children.
So we have passed in the
Congress the Plan Colombia. The President has taken -- President Clinton
has taken the necessary steps so that we can release monies and we can
get this plan working today. But as any great task, as any huge job that
is before two peoples, we have just begun.
We have to work in our country
to make sure that we can reduce the demand for drugs, that we can work
with your countrymen to make sure that you have the resources to fight
the battle against drug traffickers here in Colombia. And there are those
in this country, and there are those in the United States, that would
be very happy to see us fail. But for the sake of our children and our
grandchildren, we can't afford to let this fail. Our work has begun. We
make a commitment for a long period of time that we will work together
to find success.
I want to congratulate the
people of Colombia, because you're a brave people. I've visited your hospitals
for your policemen and some of your army people several years ago in Bogota.
We visited widows today who are raising children without fathers because
of the tragedies that have happened in this country. And we know of the
victims who are taken hostage and threatened, and have changed their lives.
We can make a better life for the people of Colombia and the people of
the United States.
And, Mr. President, I look
forward to this partnership and working together, and winning this contest.
Thank you very much. Gracias. (Applause.)
SENATOR BIDEN: Mr. President,
it's good to be back. I visited here and was exposed to the hospitality
of you and your family earlier in the year. I came, like other Americans
have come in the Congress, to determine whether or not, for myself, your
Plan Colombia was feasible and, quite frankly, whether or not I would,
in my case, recommend to my colleagues in the Senate that it was a worthwhile
investment for us to play the part -- and we're only playing a part --
in Plan Colombia.
But, Mrs. Pastrana, I didn't
plan on bringing all these people back when I came again. So I apologize
-- a big lunch. (Laughter.) But when I was here last, I was able to swim
in that beautiful pool and no one paid attention. And you're all welcome
to stay for the weekend if you'd like. (Laughter.)
The Speaker indicated an
aspect of this we don't often speak to. Much more is at stake in your
fight here in Colombia than merely whether or not narco-traffickers win
or lose. I like to think of it, I say to my friends in the States, this
way: Can you imagine the hemisphere at peace if Colombia is no longer
a democracy? Can you imagine that circumstance? Can you imagine there
being a healthy hemisphere without there being a healthy Colombia? I cannot
So from a purely foreign
policy standpoint, whatever the cause of the dilemma, I can't fathom the
United States not doing everything within its power to be a good partner
for Colombia. For Colombia's interest is our interest. It's a hemispheric
interest, and it's in the interest of the United States.
We also have the very, very
poignant and devastating problem of drug use in my country, and the fact
that this is the place where the vast majority of heroin and cocaine emanates.
The bad news and the good news is -- the bad news is, it's almost all
concentrated in Colombia now. When I first started working on this issue
as a young senator, this was the processing and transiting forum. The
good news is, in a strange way, it's all located here now, which gives
us a significant opportunity with your Plan Colombia, as I've been educated
to it by both you and General McCaffrey in the United States, to be able
to deal a very crippling blow to the narco-traffickers.
The President said it, as
he always does, absolutely correctly -- Americans, United States citizens,
are prepared to be involved in the war on drugs, they're not prepared
to be involved in what they believe to be a civil disturbance unrelated
to a war on drugs. And that's a very difficult line for you to parse.
And much of what will be judged at home in the United States -- and again,
we're only a small part; this is a $7 billion program, we're $1.3 billion
here, so it's a big part, but we are not the plan, you are the plan --
but the continued support of the United States, rightly or wrongly, will
be judged in large part by how much political consensus is sustained for
congressmen, senators and future presidents to vote this kind of money.
And that will depend in great
part, Mr. President, as you know better than anyone, on the perception
as to whether or not human rights are being honored, whether you are as
equally as dedicated to moving on the FARC as you are on the paramilitaries.
So your job is a very, very difficult one. We're playing a part, along
with Colombia, Europe, Japan, to restore the rule of law and to bolster
this great democracy.
Mr. President, I've been
doing this job a long time. I can't remember many countries where I've
been a small part of a delegation with the Attorney General, the Secretary
of State, the National Security Adviser, the President of the United States,
the Drug Director and this many congressmen and senators of both parties
have shown up. We obviously care deeply and we wish very much for you
One last point that I will
make. If we make a mistake, those of us who have been involved in drug
policy issues in the United States, if we make a mistake, we may lose
an election. All of you sitting here representing Colombia, if you make
a mistake you may lose your life. This is high stakes for you, compared
to what the stakes that we play for in the United States, those of us
who make policy or participate in a small way in making policy. And so,
do not underestimate how much your personal courage and the courage of
your colleagues -- and your families -- how much a part that has played
in the willingness of the United States of America to get as deeply involved
as we are. It is a big, big deal.
We want you to know and the
thousands of Colombians who do heroic things every day to fight this trafficking,
that we do appreciate -- we don't fully understand because we've never
been subject to it -- we do appreciate not only the political commitment
you're making, but the personal commitment.
And, Mrs. Pastrana, I say
to you and the next president and whoever his or her spouse will be, it
is an incredible sacrifice you make. I had the opportunity to spend time
with your son, who, I tell you what, I'd take as my son. He's a hell of
a kid. And I watched as we went into Cartagena, in a social gathering.
I watched how your husband watched. I watched how he watched without trying
to be overbearing about it.
Many of you have literally
risked everything in this fight. The least we can do is to play our part.
We're happy to play our part. And I want to thank our President, President
Clinton, and the Speaker of the House, the third man in line to be President
of the United States, of different political parties -- each of whom have
had a commitment to be involved in this in a way that previous Presidents
and previous Speakers have not. It would not have happened were it not
The journey now begins. We're
in it for the long haul, as long as you are able to, as you've been in
the past, demonstrate at least to my countrymen that human rights is very
high on your agenda. I thank you and compliment you for your efforts.
PRESIDENT PASTRANA: Let us
begin with the round of questions.
Q President Clinton, the
Colombian government has been working in order to obtain tariff benefits
with the United States. Mr. President, with what do you commit yourself
in order to open the way so that Colombia will benefit from benefits which
are granted to other countries? And specifically, will the treaty that
benefits the Colombian textile makers, will it be extended?
PRESIDENT CLINTON: Well,
the short answer is, I hope so. But if I could, let me explain this issue
not only to the Colombian press, but to the American press, because it
hasn't received a lot of attention.
We passed a very important
bill this year to increase our trade with Africa because we thought we
had not done enough. And we have many African Americans in the United
States, as you do have citizens of African descent in Colombia, and all
over the Eastern part of South America. In that bill, we also had legislation
to give more duty-free access to goods from the Caribbean Basin, in the
Caribbean. We did it because when we passed the NAFTA trade agreement
back in 1993, benefitting our trade with Mexico enormously, it had the
unintended consequence of putting a big burden on the Caribbean nations
-- mostly the little island nations. And it took us all this time to correct
Now, we know that this legislation
could have severe unintended consequences on Colombia, in ways that would
undermine the impact of Plan Colombia. So Senator Graham, who is here
on this delegation, and Senator DeWine, and perhaps others who are here,
have sponsored a bill which would, for one year on the textile front,
in effect, treat the Colombian textiles in the same way as those from
the Caribbean island nations, and the Central American nations. And that
would prevent a mass migration of jobs out of Colombia, and it would give
the next President and the new Congress a full year to debate what the
next step in the economic integration of our region should be.
So I will say, I will tell
you the exact same thing I told the President and the government inside
-- we are a couple of months away from an election. The Congress will
not be in session much longer. But I think this should be done, the Speaker
thinks it should be done, and we don't want the Congress to be in a position
of having -- or the administration, either -- of having come up with over
$1 billion in aid that is partly designed to restore the Colombian economy
and to move people out of coca production into legitimate earnings, and
then turn around and take the economic benefits away that were there before
So it's a problem. There
is a narrow legislative fix, which Senator Graham and others, Senator
DeWine and others, have proposed -- which, for the benefit of the American
press, would not increase textile imports into our country over and above
what they will be anyway over the next year, but would keep massive migration
of jobs from Colombia to other places in the Caribbean region from occurring.
That's basically what Senator Graham's trying to do.
So I just -- because it's
so close to the end of the session, I wish I could promise you that this
will happen. I cannot promise you it will happen. All I can tell you is,
I will try, and I hope we can do it.
Q President Clinton, 10 years
ago President Bush visited here with the same purpose as yours. And in
the intervening years, the flow of drugs to the United States illegally
has only increased. What makes you believe this new U.S. aid package,
although it be part of a broader Colombian plan, can reverse that trend
without drawing U.S. troops into a shooting war here?
PRESIDENT CLINTON: Well,
first of all, I think that there's a lot of evidence that the flow of
drugs out of Colombia per se has increased, as Senator Biden said, because
efforts in Bolivia and Peru and several other places have been relatively
successful. But the overall problem in the United States is abating.
Unfortunately, it's getting
worse in some other parts of the world. And I give a lot of credit to
General McCaffrey, to the Attorney General, to the Secretary of State
and others. We have worked very hard on this. And I give a lot of credit
to the Congress, including the majority party in Congress. There's been
an enormous effort over the last five years to intensify our efforts to
reduce demand in the United States and to more effectively deal with supply.
So that's the first thing I would say. We have some evidence that we can
The second thing I would
say is, a condition of this aid is that we are not going to get into a
shooting war. This is not Vietnam; neither is it Yankee imperialism. Those
are the two false charges that have been hurled against Plan Colombia.
You have a perfect right to question whether you think it will work or
whether you think we've properly distributed the resources. But I can
assure you -- a lot of the opposition to this plan is coming from people
who are afraid it will work. So that won't happen.
The third thing you asked
me -- I believe this will work because I think that this President and
this government are willing to take the risks necessary to make it work.
I think that they're working on developing military forces and police
forces that both respect human rights and know they'll be held accountable
for abuses, and are honest and competent enough to be effective in this
battle if the rest of us will give them the resources, support and training
to do it -- on a level that, at least in our experience -- you heard Senator
Biden, he's been in the Senate a long time -- we have never seen this
before at this level in Colombia.
And the fact that the President
understands, that he's willing to do something -- and I hope the people
of Colombia will understand it and be patient with him -- he's trying
to do two things that no one's ever tried to do at once, but without it,
I don't think either problem can be solved. He's trying to fight the narco-trafficking
and find a way to have a diplomatic solution to the civil unrest that
has dogged Colombia for 40 years. It is a massive undertaking.
Anyway, to summarize, I believe
this will work -- number one, because we have some evidence that we can
make a difference in the last five years; number two, because we have
an enormously courageous and I think thoughtful President and plan and
team here committed to it; and number three, there won't be American involvement
in a shooting war because they don't want it and because we don't want
it because what we have to do is to empower them, and then if there are
problems on their borders, to empower their neighbors to solve this with
PRESIDENT PASTRANA: I think
that the situation today is totally different from the situation 10 years
ago, first of all, because we have an integral program to fight against
drug trafficking. This is something we did not have before. And this issue
was approached only from the police standpoint. But today, for the first
time, we are investing in the people.
Plan Colombia, as we have
discussed with President Clinton, is not a plan for war, it's a plan for
peace. It's a social plan. Seventy-five percent of Plan Colombia will
go to social investment, to capacity-building, alternative development.
And this is why, for the first time, what we now see is a comprehensive
policy so as not to work only from one side, but to see how in an integral
way you can better put an end to the drug issue.
This is why, in addition
to Plan Colombia, we're now implementing Impresa Colombia, which means
that all the social resources of the Colombian states of $4 billion-$5
billion that were contributing to Plan Colombia we're going to allocate
it to earmark these resources. They'll be going to the poorest regions
and we'll be investing in infrastructure, alternative development, agricultural
policies, social investment -- particularly in those areas which are now
being affected by violence and civil unrest.
Only a year ago, in Colombia
-- because with the assistance of Speaker Hastert and other Democrat and
Republican senators, the U.S. had given us $230 million for military equipment.
And last year we had the largest U.S. investment in Colombia. Last year
it was $230 million invested in helicopters, and these went to the police.
And today, a large amount will be invested only in the social area. So
this means that $250 million will be invested in the people, in our social
development and the promotion and strengthening of human rights and alternative
And this is why I would like
to highlight that for the first time the United States is investing not
only -- because it's not only military assistance -- and I want to be
very clear -- the U.S. assistance is an assistance to fight against drug
trafficking, and for this reason I say today that we Colombians must feel
very pleased to see that this large amount -- over $250 million --will
be invested in the marginal areas, in the poorest areas in Colombia.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: Could
I just follow up and just make one other point on this -- again, just
because I think it's important that what we do be clearly understood.
We have received some criticism in the United States from people who say,
well, a majority of the money we're giving is for military or law enforcement
purposes. Even though the money we give, about $300 million, for boosting
government capacity and alternative economic development is a tenfold
increase over what we were giving before.
It is true that a majority
of our assistance is for increasing the capacity of the Colombia people
to fight the drug war. But it is important to recognize that that is true
largely because we have a unique ability to give those tools to the Colombian
And I want to reiterate what
President Pastrana said, because this is what he said to me when he asked
us to do this. He said, I promise you three-quarters of the total investment
of the plan will be for non-military, non-law enforcement things -- to
build government capacity, to develop the economic and social capacities
of the country.
And so, the American aid
package needs to be seen in the larger context. And I want to thank --
the United Nations has given money to this, Spain has given money, Norway
has given money, Japan has given money. The international financial institutions
and the government of Colombia is going to contribute a majority of the
$7.5 billion. And anyone within the sound of my voice: We still need another
$1 billion or $1.5 billion, and we would be glad to have some more help.
(Laughter.) Thank you very much.
Q President Clinton, is there
a specific situation in which the U.S. government might consider perhaps
giving Colombia military support to fight the guerrillas?
PRESIDENT CLINTON: Our involvement
is laid out in the terms of Plan Colombia. The President has developed
this plan with his team, and it does not contemplate that. And so, the
answer is, no, that's not authorized by what we did.
What we want to do is to
increase the capacity of the Colombian government to fight the narco-traffickers,
and in so doing, to reduce anyone else's income from illegal drug trade
and increase the leverage that the President has to find a peaceful resolution
of the civil conflict. And that is his policy, not my policy. I'm supporting
PRESIDENT PASTRANA: Once
again, in order to make it very clear, while Andres Pastrana is the President
of Colombia, we will not have a foreign military intervention in Colombia.
Q Mr. President, several
Democratic lawmakers and human rights organizations have criticized you
for waiving six conditions, the majority on human rights, in order to
release the $1.3 billion for this plan. How do you reconcile the waiver
with your policy of protecting human rights around the world? And, President
Pastrana, how long will it take you to meet those conditions, and are
PRESIDENT CLINTON: First
of all, let me say why I did the waiver, and begin by saying I support
strongly human rights and I support the human rights provisions of Plan
Colombia -- or, if you will, the human rights requirements for disbursing
the aid under Plan Colombia. But there is a reason Congress gave me waiver
authority here. Not because they didn't care about human rights, but because
they knew that President Pastrana was committed to human rights. He was
committed to human rights before he was President of Colombia. He was
committed to human rights before he thought of Plan Colombia and before
he ever asked us to help. And I would remind you that he has been the
victim of perhaps the most severe human rights abuse of all.
So the Congress gave me the
waiver authority because they knew there was no way, between the time
that they appropriated the money and we needed to spend it, that he could
meet every criteria in the legislation, but that if I thought he was committed
to doing so and acting in good faith, I could give a waiver so we wouldn't
wait another year.
I don't think anyone seriously
believes that either the guerrillas or the narco-traffickers will be more
careful with human rights than this President. And so creating another
year of vacuum in which innocent people can be crushed I think would be
a terrible mistake.
On the other hand, you heard
what Joe Biden said. If there is to be continued support from the Congress
and the next President, then Colombia must meet the requirements of the
law. And the President said to me repeatedly that -- and he just said
publicly that he was. I think I should let him address that.
PRESIDENT PASTRANA: As I
have told President Clinton and many of my colleagues, journalists, the
issue of human rights is not imposed on us by the U.S. government or by
President Clinton. It is the first commitment of the Colombian government
of President Pastrana to fight against the violation of human rights.
As of the moment when we
proposed Plan Colombia, as I've had the opportunity of telling several
of you, we knew that the eyes of the world would be focusing on our country,
and particularly regarding the issue of human rights.
But we're also asking the
rest of the world to understand the complexity of the problems that we
have in our country. And many times it's difficult for people to understand
that we have the illegal defense groups, or the guerrilla drug-trafficking,
common criminals. But, likewise, I think that we have made a lot of headway.
We have greater awareness on the part of the members of our military forces.
And we are demanding the insurgents and the illegal defense groups to
better understand that they have to cooperate in terms of not violating
human rights. And hopefully, the first agreements to be made in the negotiation
peace talks will be related with international humanitarian law and human
rights, so as to exclude the civil population and minor combatants from
this conflict. Hopefully we'll be able to arrive at this agreement.
And, in addition, we've done
a lot also on our part. We have passed the new criminal code. And issues
which are very sensitive such as forced disappearance, genocide, torture,
will be dealt with by civil courts. And we have reformed the criminal
and military code. We devoted a lot of years to this reform, but today
it's a fact. And finally, the government itself, via the Minister of Defense,
has asked for special powers by Congress so as to reform our military
forces, and these powers will expire in the future weeks. And this will
allow us to get rid of people who are with the military and that might
be linked to any human rights violation issues. And it's going to be very
important, because in the past our laws did not allow us to do this.
And we gave this as a signal
to the rest of the world. The Vice President of Colombia is the person
in charge of this issue of human rights. Never before in Colombia has
the Vice President and the Vice President's office been in charge of this
very important topic in order to promote all our policies regarding human
And I think that many of
the proposals made by Congress in order to give Colombia certification
for the purposes of Plan Colombia will be achieved in the future weeks.
And hopefully, with these reforms that I have mentioned, we'll make headway.
But this is a commitment of our government, and we will support, of course,
PRESIDENT CLINTON: Because
I expect this is my last trip here before the end of my term, there's
one point I did not make in my opening statement that I should have on
behalf of the President and the people of Colombia. I would like to make
a personal plea to the neighbors of Colombia and the leaders of those
neighboring states -- with whom I have worked closely for years, most
of them -- to be strongly supportive of President Pastrana and Plan Colombia.
There have been many reports
that others are reluctant in Latin America to support this for fear that
the Plan Colombia, as it succeeds, will cause the problem to spill over
the borders into other states. Now, let's be candid: If it's successful,
some of that will happen. But we have funds in Plan Colombia, in the American
portion of it, that can be used, a substantial amount of money, to help
other countries deal with these problems at the borders right when they
And I would ask the neighbors
of Colombia to consider the alternative. If you really say Colombia can't
attack this in an aggressive way because there will be some negative consequences
on our border, the logical conclusion is that all the cancer of narco-trafficking
and lawless violence in this entire vast continent should rest on the
shoulders and burden the children of this one nation. And that's just
And so, I understand the
reluctance of the leaders of other countries to embrace this. It's a frightening
prospect to take on this. But this man, more than once, has risked his
life to do it. So I just want to assure the other countries the United
States will not abandon you. We actually have specific provisions in this
bill to provide assistance to neighboring countries that suffer adversely
because of the disruptions. But this is something that the democratic
leaders of this continent should do together, arm in arm, hand in hand.
We will be as supportive as we can, but in the end they'll have to do
it together in order to succeed.
And again, Mr. President,
I thank you, and I want to thank the leaders of our Congress from the
bottom of my heart for doing what I think is a good thing for America
to do. Thank you, sir. (Applause.)
END 3:57 P.M. (L)
As of September 6, 2000, this
document was also available online at http://www.pub.whitehouse.gov/uri-res/I2R?urn:pdi://oma.eop.gov.us/2000/8/31/1.text.1