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President Clinton Welcomes Colombian President Pastrana To The White House

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The Briefing Room

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release October 28, 1998


The South Grounds

9:50 A.M. EST

PRESIDENT CLINTON: President Pastrana, Mrs. Pastrana,members of the Colombia delegation, I am proud to welcome you to theUnited States and to the White House.

Two months ago when Andres Pastrana stood in historicBolivar Plaza, the people of Colombia inaugurated not just a newPresident, but a new spirit of hope. Hope for change; hope forreconciliation; hope for the fulfillment of his citizens' mostprofound dreams.

President Pastrana was inspired to public service by hisfather, who was Colombia's President a generation ago, and by theenduring spirit of the liberator, Bolivar. He was already workingfor the public good while still a teenager, backpacking across thecountry to collect money for the poor and raising funds for youngburn victims.

Now, Mr. President, as Colombia's leader, you have madeit your mission to renew your country for all your citizens, torevive the economy, to lead in the global fight against narcotics, tobring relief and progress to people caught in the cross-fire ofviolence among rebels, paramilitaries, and drug traffickers -- tobring peace.

Colombia is the last site of major civil strife in ourhemisphere. In recent years the violence and suffering have grown;the struggle has become intertwined with the deadly drug trade. Theconflict has claimed the lives of many dedicated public servants. Ithas forced Colombians to flee their homes and made it difficult forothers to run their businesses and farms.

Mr. President, we admire your courage and determinationto end the violence, to heal the wounds of the past, to build abetter future. We call on the insurgents and paramilitaries torespond to your bold initiative for peace by ending terrorism,hostage taking, and support for drug traffickers.

All around the world today men and women who havesuffered too long from the poison of hatred are choosing the path ofpeace -- in Ireland, in Bosnia, in Southern Africa and CentralAmerica, now with renewed hope in the Middle East, and just this weekwith the agreement to end their longstanding conflict in Peru andEcuador. With your leadership, Mr. President, peace can come toColombia, too.

As you embark on your mission to build an honorable andenduring peace, count on the United States as a friend and partner.Count on us, too, as you work to bring prosperity to all Colombians.We will work together to create jobs and improve opportunities forboth our peoples. We already are your largest trading partner andforeign investor. But there is much more we can do together, and aspart of the extraordinary process of integration now taking place allacross our hemisphere.

We will work together, and with our other friendsthroughout the Americas, to uphold human rights, root out corruption,fight crime, advance education and health care, overcome poverty, andprotect our common environment. We will work together to combatillegal drugs. We have worked together, but we must do more. Forboth our peoples have suffered greatly from the drug trade and itsbrutality. The battle against drugs is a common battle. It mustunite our people, not divide them.

Colombians deserve normal lives. They deserve to livefree in their homes with their families, to enjoy the phenomenalrichness of their culture, the vallenato music, the paintings andsculptures of Botero, the fantastic writings of Gabriel GarciaMarquez.

Mr. President, we in the United States watched withpride as you took the oath of office in August, wearing the suit ofclothes your father had worn when he was inaugurated President ofColombia 28 years ago. You said then, "This is not my day, but theday of all Colombians. Change begins today."

This is a new beginning for Colombia. It is also a newopportunity to strengthen the bonds between our peoples. So let usbegin today. Again, Mr. President, welcome and welcome back to theWhite House. (Applause.)

PRESIDENT PASTRANA: Mr. President, Mrs. Clinton, Mr.Vice President, Madam Secretary of State, Minister of Foreign Affairsof Colombia, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, Nora.

Mr. President, thank you for your generous welcome andfor your invitation to visit this great nation, which is thebirthplace of liberty for all the Americas.

As I prepared for this trip, I thought back, Mr.President, of sitting in Bogota and watching your first inaugurationas a hopeful world watched on international television. I rememberyour eloquent words on that day: "We have heard the trumpet. Wehave changed the guard. We must answer the call."

Now that day of change has come to Colombia, I come hereto inaugurate a new era in relations between Colombia and the UnitedStates -- an alliance for free trade, an alliance against drugs, analliance of hope and high purpose as we enter the 21st century.

Across a range of issues, we seek a renewed partnershipbetween our nations, and I say "renewed" because I am mindful ofother times we stood together in early years. After the UnitedStates was attacked, at the beginning of World War II, Colombia wasthe first of all Latin America countries to break relations with theAxis powers. Colombia was the only country in Latin America to sendtroops to fight side by side with yours during the Korean War. Therewere a thousand young Colombians there, and two-thirds becamecasualties.

In our own day and generation we have stood together inthe war on drugs, and here the casualty list grows longer -- judgesand politicians, journalists and policemen and, of course, theinnocent bystander. Colombia has lost literally thousands in thiswar, a veritable Vietnam memorial worth of martyrs. We must neverforget to honor the bravery and integrity. We must never retreatfrom the crusade for which they gave their lives.

Today the people of Colombia are marching for peace. Inour presidential election an unprecedented total of 12 million voterscast their ballots for a peaceful change. We have seen and we havedrawn resolve from the coming of peace in Ireland and the peace inthe Middle East -- in both which, Mr. President, you have played anindispensable role.

Let me invoke the grateful words of our greatest writer,one of the epic poets of the human spirit, Gabriel Garcia Marquez.When he received the Nobel Prize, he called for solidarity with ourdreams and concrete acts of legitimate support. So we act now toachieve the dreams of peace, to end the fear and the killing and thecorruption, and begin a new era of social and economic justice.

We approach peace with an open heart and a clear-headedrealism. We have begun a process of peace, not to cede any of ourterritory and not ever to concede any sanctuary to drugs, but to dealwith the causes of the conflict and restore the rule of law and thepromise of progress everywhere in our country.

Let there be no doubt: Thousands of my countrymen andwomen have given their lives in the fight against drug trafficking.The only peace treaty acceptable to me and the Colombian nation isone that strengthens our ability to rid Colombia of cocaineproduction.

We seek both to negotiate and to strengthen our armedforces. We need an army to preserve the peace and an army to protectdemocracy and an army that defends human rights and the rule of thelaw. We believe that in the end there is no such thing as democracywithout respect for human rights.

We act as well to achieve the dream of economic justice,to build a modern economy with education for our children and goodjobs for our workers. We seek to do this not in isolation, but as apart of the new global economy, with new structures for a stability,with more open trade and investment. Here, too, Mr. President, youhave been an unwavering voice for the future, for a hemisphericeconomic community. We in Colombia are ready to move ahead with youon a regional and hemispheric basis.

We must also act now together to achieve our commondream of a drug-free society in a drug-free hemisphere. We must andwill continue to eradicate and interdict. And we must do more. Wealso need crop substitution programs and economic development, or theplague, no matter how often we stamp it out, will return.

We are prepared to enter into a new partnership tocombat drugs, a partnership for a drug-free hemisphere, so thateradication in one country will not lead to cultivation in another;so the demand for drugs will not continue to induce an illegal,dangerous, endless, and deadly traffic that threatens too manyfamilies and both our societies.

Finally, in pursuing all these great purposes, we nowenter a new era in relations between Colombia and the United States.We will not always agree. No two sovereign nations ever do. But onthe central concerns, we can and should stand together. We seek andwelcome your support, and we offer ours.

Mr. President, you are admired in my country and acrossthe hemisphere. I look forward to our discussions here. I lookforward to building the strongest bonds of friendship with Colombiaand the United States. The world needs your leadership; the causesof peace need it.

Mrs. Clinton also has our admiration for her ownhistoric leadership. Especially after her role at the Vital VoicesConference in Montevideo, she's not only the First Lady of yourcountry, but the First Lady of our hemisphere. (Applause.)

I look forward to the discussions ahead of us. I do notunderestimate the challenges ahead of Colombia. But we are a greatpeople, mindful of a proud and noble heritage; a democracy nearly twocenturies old, tested and tempered in adversity, looking now to a newera in our land and in relations between our two great nations.Today, here in this capital, I pledge the commitment of Colombia toour common causes of freedom -- freedom of markets, freedom fromwant, freedom from drugs, freedom from violence and the fulfillmentof fundamental human rights.

Thank you, Mr. President, and may God bless our work andour countries. (Applause.)

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