Press Conference by President Clinton, President Pastrana of Colombia, Speaker Dennis Hastert, and Senator Joseph Biden (8/30/00)
                                THE WHITE HOUSE

                         Office of the Press Secretary
                             (Cartagena, Colombia)
                 For Immediate Release    August 30, 2000

                        PRESIDENT PASTRANA OF COLOMBIA,
                         HOUSE SPEAKER DENNIS HASTERT,
                            AND SENATOR JOSEPH BIDEN

                               Casa de Huespedes
                                   Cartagena, Colombia

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
Gentlemen, we are very honored with your presence.

     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

     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 country.

     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

     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 of Staff.

     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 this struggle.

     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 Colombia.

     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.  (Applause.)

     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 of it.

     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 Colombians.

     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 inner cities.

     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.

     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.

     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 imagine that.

     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 to succeed.

     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 for them.

     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.  (Applause.)

     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 it.

     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 we started.

     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

     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 succeed.

     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 our support.

     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 development.

     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 forces.

     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 his policy.

     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 they realistic?

     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 rights.

     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, human rights.

     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 start.

     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 not right.

     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)

President and First Lady | Vice President and Mrs. Gore
Record of Progress | The Briefing Room
Gateway to Government | Contacting the White House | White House for Kids
White House History | White House Tours | Help
Privacy Statement


Site Map

Graphic Version

T H E   W H I T E   H O U S E