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Last Updated:11/27/00
Barry McCaffrey, ONDCP director, and Thomas Pickering, under secretary of State, Press Conference, November 20, 2000
NOVEMBER 20, 2000


Let me thank you, Mr. Foreign Minister, for this opportunity to spend much of the day in conversations with your senior officials. Let me also thank Ambassador Anne Patterson for arranging such a productive visit for the U.S. delegation. I was really honored to be able to join Under Secretary Tom Pickering and a U.S. delegation to further advance and underscore the United States' commitment to Plan Colombia. I know I speak for both Tom Pickering and Rand Beers, the three of us, we were enormously honored to be recognized by President Pastrana and the Government of Colombia. We were very proud to be publicly recognized as being supportive of Colombian efforts. We understand only too clearly that the success of Colombia benefits the hemispheric region.

And I also take note we were joined in this effort by a rather complete U.S. delegation. We thank General Pete Pace, the U.S. Southern Command Commander in Chief, for joining us; Deputy Director of USAID Ambassador Hattie Babbitt; NSC Rep Fred Rosa, Bob Brown, my own principal official for International Drug Cooperation; and Mary Lee Warren from the Department of Justice. I appreciated the opportunity to speak to the Diplomatic Academy accompanied by Vice Foreign Minister Clemencia Forero, and to be able to publicly state the U.S.' continued commitment to supporting Colombia. I was very encouraged to have an opportunity to listen to the ideas of PLANTE Director Maria Ines Restrepo and Plan Colombia Director Gonzalo de Francisco. Finally, I personally benefited again from listening carefully to the thinking of Minister of Defense Ramirez, General Tapias and General Gilibert.

Both Secretary Pickering and I have watched the world arena for a lot of years now. It is my professional judgment from watching your own leadership that in the coming five years you will achieve your objective of separating drug money from the FARC, the ELN and the AUC, contributing to the peace process and economic recovery in this huge, beautiful country. We are confident that what you are doing will work. Thanks very much.


Before answering your questions, I would like to add a few words on our visit and our conversations carried out here in Colombia today. First of all, I would like to join General McCaffrey in thanking the President, the Government, and specially the people of Colombia for the honor of receiving the Order of Boyacá today. It's a pleasure for me to visit Colombia frequently, to work with the group here committed to transforming the country, and also to working together with President Pastrana on a very big job, as you all know.

I am also pleased with the work done by the U.S. Embassy here and am honored to participate with them in working to separate insurgency organizations from the drug money, as already explained by General McCaffrey. Ambassador Anne Patterson's leadership is excellent. I am sure she will continue working carefully and vigorously in the following days and months on U.S. support to the people and Government of Colombia in their struggle to overcome current hard times in their country.

I am pleased with the result of our conversations; it's clear that Plan Colombia is being implemented at this moment in various places of the country. I am pleased with the success Plan Colombia has already achieved toward its objectives, but there is more to be done in the future.

The other message in our conversations is that future work will require the same concentration as in the past and I am confident the Colombian people will be victorious in this important struggle.

JESUS ERNEY TORRES, Noticiero de las 7:

I have two questions. To Ambassador Pickering: Colombia awaits good news in regards to the trade preference act on textiles. The nation is anxious to hear positive news in this regard. To General McCaffrey: the FARC have said that following the first bomb that falls as a result of Plan Colombia it will depart the negotiation table. Please comment on this statement.


The issue on textiles is simple. A bill is already in Congress. It has not passed yet. It has important possibilities, in my opinion, of being approved in the future. I am sure that if it would be possible to speed the process in either the current or future Congress, it would enormously benefit the Colombian people.


It's hard to deal with the alleged statement by the FARC. The problem is 520 metric tons of cocaine; the problem is 8 metric tons of heroin. Both are enormously destructive of human life. Both of them bring terrible corruption and violence to bear on democratic institutions, not just in Colombia but in the United States and every other country. In our own nation we have 52,000 dead a year and 110 billion dollars in damages from these illegal drugs. The United States' principal contribution to Plan Colombia will be the reduction of drug use in the United States. We also understand that all of us have a responsibility under international law. Finally, what I see, underscored by my 32 years in uniform and as an American whose daughter is a Captain in the Army and whose son is an infantry major, is that the only authority in the nation of Colombia are your own Police, Armed Forces, Prosecutors, Judges and laws. Our job is to be in respectful support of Colombian leadership.


A question to General McCaffrey: we have recently learned one of the people held in prison in Colombia, John Jairo Velásquez Vásquez, continues to commit crimes. Have you considered putting in a request to extradite him, taking into account he was found to be responsible of drug trafficking? To Undersecretary Pickering: several Colombians are suffering from a difficult situation in the U.S. and the possibility of applying the so-called TPS is being studied. What is the status of this process?


On any specific question about an extradition case, I am not the right authority to ask. These questions can only be addressed by the legal authorities of Colombia and the United States, and each one goes to a case and the rule of law. But it is clear on the part of all of us in the United States, including Attorney General Reno, the enormous respect we have for Colombian authorities who clearly are supporting the 1988 Vienna Convention on Illegal Drugs. It seems to me all of us in the international sphere have a responsibility to say you may not escape justice by hiding in another country, and Colombia, therefore, publicly is committed to the rule of law.


The TPS issue is also in hands of Attorney General Janet Reno. Currently, we are studying those possibilities but it will require a recommendation by Secretary of State Madeline Albright and so far we have not made this type of recommendation.


I have two questions. To General McCaffrey: you give us a large part of the resources, you provide the necessary material to carry out the struggle against drugs. Frankly, what do you expect from the Colombian Government and authorities? What did you tell President Pastrana and the other officials you were expecting from them? To Ambassador Pickering: clearly, whomever is President Clinton's successor in the White House, U.S. support to Plan Colombia will remain. Do you think President Pastrana's successor, whether Horacio Serpa, Noemi Sanin or Alvaro Uribe Velez, is committed to continue with Plan Colombia? What are your thoughts on this point?


First of all, it seems to me this U.S. delegation came here to listen carefully, not to articulate our expectations. Remember there are 40 million of you, a huge nation. When briefing our own authorities I always put the map of Colombia on the United States, or the map of Colombia on the map of Europe. You are sophisticated, hard working people, the overwhelming majority of whom have nothing to do with the drug trade. We have a long history of cooperation. The Colombian Army was with us in Korea. A footnote of history: my father was the Regimental Commander that the Colombian Battalion fought under. It was his view they were the best infantry battalion he saw in combat. Finally, we remind our own people that you are three hours' flight from Miami; your economic success is important to us. So it is our own view that this must be a Colombian strategy to confront the drug issue. It will be your own young men and women in the Police and Armed Forces who will confront this issue. It will be your own authorities that will use alternative economic development in other social programs to confront this issue in the South, and our job will be to provide resources, intelligence, justice department cooperation, and political support in the international community. Those are what I hope are the expectations that the Colombians have of us.


I believe there will be no uncertainty in our future cooperation despite the fact President Clinton is about to finish his term of office. To me, the reality of the situation is clear and that the policy of cooperation between the two countries, the United States and Colombia, will continue. With respect to who will serve the Colombian people two years hence it is a bit complicated. Particularly when two weeks after U.S. elections we don't know for sure who will serve the American people after January 20th. I am confident our cooperation will continue regardless of who's the President.


STEVE DUDLEY, The Washington Post:

This is a question for Secretary Pickering. I was just wondering if you could outline a little bit these successes that you've mentioned already having been accomplished under Plan Colombia. A second part is, can you tell me how realistic the Plan can be in a place like Putumayo, specially with respect to the social programs, keeping in mind that there is supposedly a ten-month deadline for these campesinos to begin eradicating their coca?


I would say, first and foremost, that the major success has been both the development of the Plan and the international cooperation that goes with that. Secondly, the tremendous amount of financing that has already been put in place and that is committed for the future, not only from the United States but from the international financial institutions, and from countries as far afield as Europe and Japan, as well as from Colombia itself. As we discussed just a few minutes ago, which bears on the second part of your question, it is clear, even in the difficult department of Putumayo, there are municipalities and people who clearly want to sign contracts, agreements with the Government to begin the process of alternative development, of social development and manual eradication of coca. My impression is that this can lead to further important success down the road. But I wanted to be careful, and I hope I was, not to claim that these early and initial successes are all that constitutes Plan Colombia. It is much greater than that. Already we have seen large areas of coca and heroin destroyed by aerial spraying. Already we have seen significant progress in interdicting the shipment of intermediate and final drug products, both internally and outside the country. And already we have seen the standing up of a number of very important programs across the country dealing with everything from protection of human rights and judicial reform to promotion of democracy and economic development.


Earlier you mentioned the U.S. was ready to assist Colombia's neighbors with any negative regional effects resulting from Plan Colombia. What negative effects do you fear Plan Colombia might have and what kind of collaboration with Colombia's neighbors do you envision?


When we were in Cartagena, President Clinton had one comment I would borrow. Essentially, he said many of those who hope for the failure of Plan Colombia are driven by a motivation because they profit from it. That certainly does not include Colombia's neighbors. Peru and Bolivia have achieved enormous successes in the last four years; it's almost unbelievable. But they don't want to see it go back the other way. Ecuador has been an island free of the drug menace, comparatively speaking, for many years and does not want to be contaminated by this huge threat. They have huge anxieties and they are justified. The Panamanians, where I served with such affection for so many years, are enormously concerned about this spillover not just into the Darien but also drug smuggling through their nation. Venezuela has been affected with the FARC, ELN going over borders, and kidnapping, with drug precursors entering through their borders as well as weapons; they really don't want this to happen. From the start, I think all of us understood we could not allow Colombia to be isolated. This is not Colombia's problem, it's all of our problem, and there can be no solution unless all of us are part of it. I might remind you that the Europeans and the United States are also suffering a spillover effect from this problem. We should work for you because it serves our self-interest also. Secretary Albright has enormous funds to support Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Venezuela, Panama, the U.S. Coast Guard, this is not just a Colombian Plan, and this is a Regional Plan. It also includes, as many of you are aware, more than 200 million dollars in economic development, humanitarian assistance, and other programs for the region.


General McCaffrey, in case of human rights violations by Colombian Armed Forces during the implementation and execution of Plan Colombia, what attitude will the Government of the United States adopt?


First of all it seems to me we must look at the situation factually. Certainly in the past year, in the past two years, the overwhelming majority of human rights allegations and violations have been committed by the FARC, the ELN, and these terrorist AUCs. It is my own opinion, as a friendly observer of Colombia, the people do have confidence in their Police and Armed Forces, but these (others) are terrorist organizations that operate outside the law.

Clearly, the Colombian people have a right to demand absolute standards from their own Police, and their own Armed Forces. Those who are privileged to wear the uniform of the Police or the Armed Forces must expect to be transparent to the scrutiny of the international press and the international human rights community. I look objectively at the Colombian Armed Forces and Police and I see a senior level commitment to just this notion of the rule of law. I personally see and believe the commitment of President Pastrana, as well as of your own legal authorities and your own Minister of Defense to maintain the rule of law. We see the 388 men expelled from the Armed Forces. It is my own view that Colombia is well served by its men and women in uniform. Where there are errors they must be investigated and, in accordance with Colombian law. I believe that will happen.

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