conference by Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Marc Grossman,
Bogota, August 31, 2001
UNDERSECRETARY OF STATE MARC GROSSMAN
AUGUST 31, 2001
Thank you for being
here this morning. Let me introduce myself. I am Marc Grossman, under
secretary of state for political affairs. I am part of a team made up
of people working on the United States government's effort in Colombia.
This is my first
visit to Colombia. I want to thank President Pastrana and the many other
distinguished Colombians I have met for their hospitality and their insights.
I also wish to salute Ambassador Patterson and her mission [personnel].
They do a great job.
have given me a better understanding of the situation in Colombia that
I will convey to Secretary Powell as he prepares for his visit to Colombia.
government is engaged in a struggle that matters to everyone in this hemisphere
because Colombians are fighting to re-establish two things that almost
every citizen of our hemisphere wants: peace and prosperity.
Let me highlight
one other thing before we continue. Drugs are a challenge to society shared
by producing and consuming countries. As President Bush noted last May,
"The most effective way to reduce the supply of drugs in America
is to reduce the demand for drugs in America."
to the United States. When President Pastrana asked us to provide security
and development assistance to support Plan Colombia, with bipartisan support
in the U.S Congress, we provided a $1.3 billion assistance package.
To continue and broaden
the scope of that support, President Bush has proposed a $880 million
Andean Regional Initiative that will help address the regional problems
of instability and poverty, and prevent drug trafficking from moving across
borders from Colombia to its neighbors, Ecuador, Bolivia, Peru, Venezuela,
Brazil and Panama.
We support Plan Colombia
-- Plan Colombia
recognizes that a negotiated settlement is the only way to achieve peace.
-- Plan Colombia
recognizes the effect of drug trafficking; it is the main source of supply
for continued unrest in this country. The FARC, ELN and AUC are all involved
in the drug trade.
-- Plan Colombia
recognizes that jobs and economic opportunity must be created to help
turn turbulence into stability. I visited a hearts-of-palm factory in
-- Plan Colombia
recognizes that without full protection for human rights, no democracy
With all the discussion
there's been on Plan Colombia, it's easy to forget that U.S. assistance
to Plan Colombia is less than a year old. There are positive things to
-- More than 34,000
farm families have already signed manual eradication pacts. The first
tranche of a 5-year $222.5 million USAID agricultural assistance package
is now beginning to arrive to help them make a living with legal crops
instead of drugs.
-- Social and government
reform programs have begun. For example, out of 40 planned Casas de Justicia,
or community legal service centers, 18 are now active.
-- U.S. assistance
has strengthened Colombia's ability to deal with internally displaced
persons and human rights violations. There is a pilot early-warning system
to prevent guerrilla and paramilitary massacres, now being tested in the
field. Satellite human rights units are being established around the country
so police and prosecutors are able to respond rapidly to suspected human
-- In southern Colombia,
the U.S.-trained Counter-Drug Brigade has shut down scores of narcotics
fields and labs -- without a single credible charge of human rights violations
against the soldiers who took part.
-- The combination
of aerial spraying of coca plantations and voluntary, manual eradication
for farmers who sign crop substitution pacts with the government has had
a serious impact on drug production in southern Colombia. Fifty thousand
hectares of coca plantations have been sprayed from the air nationwide
in what we believe is a safe and environmentally sound manner.
-- Let me talk for
a moment about glyphosate. Enormous quantities of glyphosate-based formulations
are safely used worldwide in agriculture each year, including in the United
States, which has some of the strictest environmental regulations in the
world. In Colombia, the government, with U.S. support, carries out a spray
program with stringent guidelines, safeguards and verification measures
to prevent damage to the health of Colombians and the environment.
-- The governments
of the United States and Colombia also would welcome a review of our procedures,
a study of our materials, and any other aspect of the coca eradication
program -- consistent with the need to maintain the security of individuals
in the program -- so long as we are confident that such a review is carried
out by persons who are neutral, credible and scientifically qualified.
Does more need to
be done to implement Plan Colombia? Of course. We need:
-- A stronger push
to modernize and strengthen Colombia's criminal justice system;
-- More alternative
development programs for former small-scale narcotics producers;
-- Increased effectiveness
of government human rights units and programs to counter kidnapping, money
laundering, and corruption; and
-- Additional support
for Colombian programs to rehabilitate child soldiers and protect human
rights and labor union officials who have been targeted for violence.
We are concerned about attacks against civil society by the guerrilla
groups and illegal self-defense groups. The Colombian police and military
face many challenges, but they need to do more to protect these courageous
people who are trying to improve the lives of Colombians.
-- Have the anticipated
35 helicopters arrive in Colombia to increase the mobility and effectiveness
of the government's counter-narcotics battalions.
We also want to work
with Colombia and its neighbors to increase trade to provide a permanent
alternative to harvesting drugs. Key to that will be renewing the Andean
Trade Preferences Act. The Bush Administration will work with Congress
to renew, enhance, and expand ATPA before it expires in December of this
Why are we doing
all this? Because Colombia matters. Colombia is a fellow democracy, the
second most populous country in South America. Colombia is the fifth-largest
export market for the U.S. in Latin America, with two-way trade last year
exceeding $11.1 billion. Colombia exported $3.6 billion worth of oil to
the U.S. last year, making it our seventh-largest supplier. The U.S. has
more than $4.5 billion in direct commercial investment in Colombia. Colombians
deserve the right to live in peace and freedom.
So what happens in
Colombia matters. If we act with resolve and skill, we can fashion an
outcome that benefits everyone: a strong, stable, democratic Andean region
at peace and free from the plague of drugs.
Questions and Answers
Erika Fontalvo. Caracol
TV: The U.N. has recognized that in our country there is a crisis in the
peace process. With the FARC there are no agreements, at least not specific,
and with the ELN the dialogue is completely suspended. That way, there
are no results after three years of negotiation and attempts and efforts
from President Pastrana's Government to obtain results in this process.
Until when can the U.S. guarantee political support to the peace process,
without results in the middle term, and noting that the human right violations
from illegally armed groups, inside and outside the demilitarized zone,
Grossman: Thank you very much for the question. I think, as I said in
my statement, no country could support the peace process more than the
United States of America. That is a point that I made to President Pastrana.
It's a point I made when I had the chance to meet human rights groups
and NGO's last night. And I would say to you that President Pastrana in
his conversation with me was very clear about his desire to get the peace
process moving again, and we very much support that. I had the good fortune
to have dinner the other night with Jan Egeland after he'd spoken to all
of you, and obviously he would have to speak for himself, but I would
say there is not a bit of difference between the way he sees the need
for reestablishment of the peace process in Colombia and what we see.
Peace is crucial to the future development of Colombia and that's why
we support the peace process. Thank you.
El Tiempo: Mr. Grossman, good morning. President Pastrana's Government
has stated difficulties in consolidating Plan Colombia. For example, they
have said that the resources are not being disbursed very fast. You mentioned
now the helicopters that the U.S. Government plans to send to Colombia.
When are the resources coming? What's going to happen with TPS, which
is included in the aid package asked for Colombia? What's going to happen
with the requests of more antidrug bases for the Police? And what's going
to happen with the social component of Plan Colombia, because those in
charge have stated that they still don't have the U.S. resources to carry
out social projects?
Grossman: Thank you very much for that question. I could take probably
the rest of the day to answer all those questions. But let me step back
and try to make three points if I could. First, again as I said in my
statement, the way people talk about Plan Colombia, you'd think we'd been
working on Plan Colombia for fifteen years. In fact, American participation,
American support for Plan Colombia is just over a year old. I think that
we have a good story to tell and I believe, I hope, that there are some
fact sheets that the Embassy has prepared for you today, on the work we
have been doing on Plan Colombia. And I urge you, sir, to take a look
at that. Because, as I said in my statement, I think there are some positive
things to say, and we want to say them, we want to be clear about that.
Second, when you say well, so when is the rest of it coming? As I tried
again to say, there is a huge amount of work yet to do in support of Plan
Colombia, and that is support for counternarcotics, it's support for human
rights, it's support for the justice component, and very importantly as
well, it's support for alternative development. As I said, I had the good
fortune yesterday, with some of my colleagues to visit this hearts of
palm factory, which is the kind of thing that is going to be absolutely
necessary if there's going to be a permanent solution to this problem
of drugs, and so we need to focus on what needs to be done next. Third
thing I would say is that I would hope that you all would be supporters
of the Andean Regional Initiative, because it's the next way to think
about this issue. The Andean Regional Initiative is a proposal for $882
million dollars in front of the Congress, divided between aid for Colombia
and aid for other countries in the Andean region. Divided between support
for counter narcotics and support for all of the other things that are
so important, here in Colombia. So, we have done a lot. There is a lot
more to do and we actually, I believe, have quite a coherent vision of
how to go forward from here.
Martin Hodgson. Christian
Science Monitor: Good morning Mr. Grossman. There has been some suggestion
in recent weeks that the United States might be considering broadening
the focus of its interest in Colombia. A couple of weeks ago Subsecretary
Rodman made some comments suggesting that the interest might not just
be in fighting narcotics, but it might be broadened to the defense of
democracy in Colombia. In what kind of danger is democracy in Colombia?
And is the United States considering broadening its role and its involvement
in the Colombian situation?
Grossman: To be fair I don't think that's what Peter Rodman said at all.
I know he has been widely quoted in saying a number of things, but I don't
think that's what Peter Rodman said. We are here to support Plan Colombia
and we are here to support a stable and democratic Andean region, and
that's what we are doing. And I think that, as I tried to answer to the
gentleman before, if we can focus on the job that we've been given and
the job that our Congress has given us, which is to focus to on counternarcotics
efforts, to focus on human rights, social development, alternative development,
will be making a big contribution here. What we want is a stable, successful
Colombia. To me, anyway, the only way that you could meet that definition
is by being a democracy.
Martin Hodgson. Christian
Science Monitor: ... and this democracy's under threat...
Grossman: No I don't think so. What's under threat here I think I already
said, Colombians who are being abused. They are being abused by narcotics
trafficking, they are being abused by the illegal groups. I think our
support here is extremely important to the success of Colombia.
Fernardo Ramos. CNN
en español: Mr. Grossman, good morning. Many of you have said that
the U.S. government insists on a negotiated solution to Colombia's conflict.
However, some voices in the U.S. have expressed concern over the abuses
made by the FARC. Have you made any recommendation to President Pastrana's
Government to put an end to abuses in the demilitarized zone?
Grossman: I did not make any recommendations to President Pastrana. What
I did was agree with President Pastrana that there was a need to restart
the peace process. I would say to you sir, and you may not agree with
me, but let me make this proposition to you, that it is possible to hold
two thoughts in your mind at the same time. It is possible to recognize
there is a need for a peace process in Colombia, it's also possible to
recognize that the FARC, in my view and I think in the view of many Colombians,
has abused Colombians, has abused the international community. So I don't
think these are contradictory things. These are two things that are part
of the situation here. But as I said, my job in my meeting with President
Pastrana was to be very clear that we supported his desire to restart
AP TV Hi. I would like to ask in particular about the demilitarized zone.
Several weeks ago three members, supposed members of the Irish Republican
Army, were caught there. And are now undergoing investigation, ultimately
leading to trial. What is the position of the United States, clearly,
about the demilitarized zone? What is the position of the Bush Administration
about the abuses that are being committed there at the moment?
Grossman: Well, I'll be as clear as we can. First, the establishment and
continuation of such a zone is purely, wholly, totally and solely a matter
for the Colombian Government. I take no position on that whatsoever. That
is a matter for Colombians to decide. Second, in terms of these alleged
people from the IRA, I think the State Department's spokesman has spoken
to this on a number of occasions. This is a very disturbing development
if this is true. And the allegations that these people were here in Colombia
teaching other people how to make bombs and weapons is a serious one.
I think we have been very clear about that from the podium at the State
Department. Third, as I tried to answer the gentleman's question before,
again from the Department we've been very clear that it's got to be of
concern to people in Colombia, to people in the international community
about what goes on with the FARC and ELN and the AUC. So I can't be any
more clearer that that.
Robert Willis. Bloomberg
News. Good morning, Mr. Grossman. What's the operative number for hectares
of coca under cultivation now that you and the Colombian Government are
working with, following the eradication, or fumigation, of about 55,000
between December and June this year? Where does fumigation stand now?
I've heard it's been stopped but I've also heard it's continuing on a
smaller scale. Thirdly, the drug czar's office here in Colombia, back
in July, came out with some figures that showed that at the end of 99
there had actually been a 160,000 hectares under cultivation, instead
of the 103,000 hectares that had earlier been estimated. How do you view
those new figures? What do they say about the effort?
Grossman: Let me try to answer those questions. First, in terms of the
number I have, coca cultivation at ... 136,200 hectares. Second, in terms
of aerial spraying. Aerial spraying continues. In fact we had the good
fortune yesterday to visit Putumayo. We had a chance to visit and take
a look at the airplanes and some of the work that they are doing. And
I must say I was very impressed by the pilots, by the care that they take,
by the technology that they have to make sure that this aerial eradication,
that the spraying, is done properly. So, it continues. Your third question
about the disparities in numbers I think this is just probably hard. I'll
give you the number I have, and other people have to speak for themselves.
One of the things that we were going to offer to you, if it is of interest
to you, is that Rand Beers, the Assistant Secretary for International
Narcotics and Law Enforcement might just be prepared to stay behind here
for a few minutes after I take off and have to meet my obligation at the
Embassy, to talk in a little bit more detail on this and he'd be glad
to that on the record.
Fox News: Mr. Grossman, the U.S. State Department admitted last week,
publicly, that glyphosate together with some additives does cause mild
eye irritation and skin rashes. There is review underway to investigate
these claims of other worse illnesses. So first, what other alternatives
have been discussed to fumigation if they do show that these herbicides
do cause long-term health effects? Second, do you think that the U.S.
Government would tolerate for U.S. farmers to have mild eye irritation,
mild skin irritation in the name of doing away with drug crops?
Grossman: Let me first of all say that I think that our aerial eradication
campaign is sensible, it is safe, it is well documented to be safe, and
we are not ashamed of it, and we are actually quite proud of it. We believe
that the facts in this case are very much on our side. The embassy here
I think has done a tremendous job in trying to answer all of these questions.
They have hired, for example, Colombia's most prominent toxicologist to
go and review any of these complaints. And I think, as Ambassador Beers
will tell you, if you are in contact with the glyphosate in high enough
concentrations it does cause skin irritation, but the way we spray it
and the levels with we spray it are so low that we don't believe actually
that this is a problem either in the short term or in the long term. But
as I said in my statement, and I think this is an important thing, we
and the government of Colombia would be very glad to have a third party
come and review this whole business, as long as that third part is neutral
... and we think it can do a job. And I want to say one other thing, and
that is that we say all these things about spraying not because we are
trying to be defensive about it, but because there is a public concern
about it in Colombia, and that's fair. Colombia is a democracy, America
is a democracy. This is exactly the kind of issue that ought to be talked
about in public. We think the facts are on our side, we think we have
a good story to tell, and that's why we are not sorry to tell it, we are
not ashamed to tell, and we would like to tell it to anybody who will
listen to it. Anyway, I really thank you all very much for your time.
I very much appreciate the chance to talk to you and if you wish I'd be
glad to turn you over for a few minutes to Assistant Secretary Beers.
Thank you very much.
As of September 4,
2001, this document was also available online at http://usinfo.state.gov/cgi-bin/washfile/display.pl?p=/products/washfile/geog/