Remarks by the President in Video Address to the People of Colombia (8/29/00)
                              THE WHITE HOUSE

                       Office of the Press Secretary
                              (Cairo, Egpyt)
For Immediate Release                  August 29, 2000

                         REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT

          THE PRESIDENT:  Muy buenas noches.  Tomorrow morning I will
travel to your country to bring a message of friendship and solidarity from
the people of the United States to the people of Colombia, and a message of
support for President Pastrana and for Plan Colombia.

          I will be joined on my trip by the Speaker of our House of
Representatives, Dennis Hastert, and other distinguished members of our
Congress.  We come from different political parties, but we have a common
commitment to support our friend, Colombia.  As you struggle, with courage,
to make peace, to build your economy, to fight drugs, and to deepen
democracy, the United States will be on your side.

          Some of the earliest stirrings of liberty in Latin America came
in Colombia, as the proud people of Cartagena, of Cali, of Bogota rose up
one after the other to fight for independence.  Now, nearly two centuries
later, Colombia's democracy is under attack.  Profits from the drug trade
fund civil conflict.  Powerful forces make their own law, and you face
danger every day, whether you're sending your children to school, taking
your family on vacation, or returning to your village to visit your mother
or your father.

          The literary genius you call Gabo, your Nobel Laureate, painted a
portrait of this struggle in his book, "News of a Kidnapping."  He
presented me with a copy, and his book has touched my heart.  Now I know
why he said writing it was the saddest, most difficult task of his life.
And yet, all across Colombia there are daily profiles in courage -- mayors,
judges, journalists, prosecutors, politicians, policemen, soldiers, and
citizens like you -- all have stood up to defend your democracy.
          Colombia's journalists risk their lives daily to report the news
so that powerful people feel the pressure of public opinion.  Their courage
is matched by the bravery of peace activists and human rights defenders; by
reform-minded military leaders whose forces are bound by law, but who must
do battle with thugs who subvert the law.  There is also uncommon courage
among the Colombian National Police.  They face mortal danger every moment,
as they battle against drug traffickers.

          Tomorrow in Cartagena I will meet with members of the police and
the military and also with widows of their fallen comrades.  The people of
Colombia are well-known for their resilience, their ability to adapt.  But,
my friends, enough is enough.  We now see millions rising up, declaring no
mas, and marching for peace, for justice, for the quiet miracle of a normal

          That desire for peace and justice led to the election of
President Pastrana.  In the United States, we see in President Pastrana a
man who has risked his life to take on the drug traffickers; who was
kidnapped by the Medellin, but who kept speaking out.  As President, he has
continued to risk his life to help heal his country.  He has built support
across party lines for a new approach in Colombia.  The United States
supports President Pastrana, supports Plan Colombia, and supports the
people of Colombia.

          Let me be clear about the role of the United States.  First, it
is not for us to propose a plan.  We are supporting the Colombian plan.
You are leading; we are providing assistance as a friend and a neighbor.

          Second, this is a plan about making life better for people.  Our
assistance includes a tenfold increase in our support for economic
development, good governance, judicial reform, and human rights.  Economic
development is essential.  The farmers who grow coca and poppy must have a
way to make an honest living if they are to rejoin the national economy.
Our assistance will help offer farmers credit and identify new products and
new markets.

          We will also help to build schoolrooms, water systems and roads
for people who have lost their homes and their communities.  Our assistance
will do more to protect human rights.  As President Pastrana said at the
White House, there is no such thing as democracy without respect for human
rights. Today's world has no place and no patience for any group that
attacks defenseless citizens or resorts to kidnapping and extortion.  Those
who seek legitimacy in Colombian society must meet the standards of those
who confer legitimacy, the good and decent people of Colombia.

          Our package provides human rights training for the Colombian
military and police, and denies U.S. assistance to any units of the
Colombian security forces involved in human rights abuses or linked to
abuses by paramilitary forces.  It will fund human rights programs, help
protect human rights workers, help reform the judicial system and improve
prosecution and punishment.

          Of course, Plan Colombia will also bolster our common efforts to
fight drugs and the traffickers who terrorize both our countries.  But
please do not misunderstand our purpose.  We have no military objective.
We do not believe your conflict has a military solution.  We support the
peace process.  Our approach is both pro-peace and anti-drug.

          The concern over illegal drugs is deeply felt around the world.
In my own country, every year more than 50,000 people lose their lives and
many more ruin their lives because of drug abuse.  Still the devastation of
illegal drugs in Colombia is worse.  Drug trafficking and civil conflict
have led together to more than 2,500 kidnappings last year; 35,000
Colombians have been killed, and a million more made homeless in the past
decade alone.

          Drug trafficking is a plague both our nations suffer, and neither
nation can solve on its own.  Our assistance will help train and equip
Colombia's counterdrug battalions to protect the National Police as they
eradicate illicit drug crops and destroy drug labs.  We will help the
Colombian military improve their ability to intercept traffickers before
they leave Colombia.  We will target illegal airstrips, money-laundering
and criminal organizations.

          This approach can succeed.  Over the last five years, the
governments of Peru and Bolivia, working with U.S. support, have reduced
coca cultivation by more than half in their own countries, and cultivation
fell by almost one-fifth in the region as a whole.

          Of course, supply is only one side of the problem.  The other is
demand.  I want the people of Colombia to know that the United States is
working hard to reduce demand here, and cocaine use in our country has
dropped dramatically over the last 15 years.  We must continue our efforts
to cut demand, and we will help Colombia fight the problems aggravated by
our demand.

          We can, and we must, do this together.  As we begin the new
century, Colombia must face not 100 years of solitude, but 100 years of
partnership for peace and prosperity.

          Last year I met some of the most talented and adorable children
in the world, from the village of Valledupar.  Ten of them, some as young
as six years old, came thousands of miles with their accordions and their
drums, their bright-colored scarves and their beautiful voices, to perform
for us here at the White House.  They sang "El Mejoral."  They sang "La
Gota Fria."  Everyone who heard them was touched.  Those precious children
come from humble families.  They live surrounded by violence.  They don't
want to grow up to be narco traffickers, to be guerrillas, to be
paramilitaries.  They want to be kings of Vallenato.  And we should help
them live their dreams.

          Thousands of courageous Colombians have given their lives to give
us all this chance.  Now is the moment to make their sacrifice matter.  It
will take vision; it will take courage; it will take desire.  You have all
three.  In the midst of great difficulty, be strong of heart.  En surcos de
dolores, el bien germina ya.

          Viva Colombia.  Que Dios los bendiga.


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