07 March 2003
U.S. is Committed to Helping Colombia Defeat Narcoterrorism, Says Diplomat
(State Dept. official outlines progress, calls for regional effort)
By Scott Miller
Washington File Staff Writer
Washington -- The United States supports Colombia's efforts to defend
its democracy and defeat narcoterrorism, says Under Secretary of State
for Political Affairs Marc Grossman.
In a March 5 press conference in Bogotá, Grossman expressed U.S.
solidarity with Colombia and said, "I come to Colombia because
Colombia matters to the United States." Together, the two countries
"are producing results in our joint efforts against drug trafficking,
in our efforts to promote peace, in our efforts to promote justice and
human rights, and in our efforts, jointly, to bring more prosperity to
the Colombian people," he added.
The State Department official cited a February 27 press release issued
by the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy announcing that
Colombia's coca cultivation declined 15 percent in 2002 as evidence of
the progress of joint counternarcotics efforts.
Grossman pointed out that U.S.-funded airplanes used to eradicate
illicit drug crops sprayed pesticides over 122,000 hectares of coca
and 3,300 hectares of opium poppy in 2002. He also indicated that even
more spraying is envisioned for 2003.
In addition to progress in coca eradication efforts, the under
secretary said that alternative-development programs in Colombia are
also producing results in providing economic alternatives to coca
cultivation. He noted that these programs support almost 12,000
hectares of licit crops in coca-growing regions, aiding almost 17,000
The U.S. congressional passage of the enhanced Andean Trade
Preferences Act (ATPA) in 2002 should not only significantly boost the
Colombian economy, but should also provide additional economic
opportunities for Colombians, Grossman said. He noted that the
Colombian government estimates that the renewal and expansion of the
ATPA will create 100,000 to 150,000 new jobs in that nation's textile
sector and will generate about $200 million a year in exports by the
end of 2004.
Just as joint counternarcotics initiatives are making progress, so too
are joint efforts to combat terrorism, according to Grossman. He said
that the United States is providing $5 million in assistance to train
and equip the Colombian presidential and other security details; $25
million to train Colombian units to prevent and resolve kidnappings;
and $93 million to train and equip a human-rights-vetted Colombian
unit to protect the Cano-Limon oil pipeline. To highlight the success
of these programs, Grossman observed that the number of attacks on
that pipeline have been dramatically reduced from 170 in 2001 to 41 in
2002, and only 6 attacks have occurred thus far in 2003.
Over the course of his visit to Colombia, Grossman met with the
nation's foreign affairs minister, defense minister, and peace
commissioner, as well as Colombian President Alvaro Uribe. Grossman
said during his meeting with Uribe, he conveyed U.S. appreciation for
Colombian assistance in locating three American citizens taken hostage
by the illegal armed group known as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of
Colombia (FARC). The Americans were seized after their plane was
forced to make a crash landing on February 13.
Grossman condemned FARC's actions, adding that he and Uribe agreed
that Colombia and the United States need to work together to end the
"evil" of kidnapping in Colombia.
The under secretary said that recent bombings in Colombia which
claimed the lives of 53 innocent civilians -- and injured 192 more --
serve to underline the true terrorist nature of FARC. He noted that on
February 12, the Organization of American States (OAS) approved a
strong resolution condemning the February 7 terrorist attack against
the El Nogal club. The club was hosting a wedding reception, a little
girl's ballet recital, and a children's party at the time of the
Grossman pointed out that the OAS resolution highlights the nexus
between terrorism and narcotics and is "the first formal hemispheric
consensus condemning the terrorist threat posed by Colombia's illegal
He said the United States supports Colombia's efforts to convene a
regional summit of defense and foreign affairs ministers scheduled for
March 11-12, 2003, to formulate a regional response to the regional
problem Colombia's terrorist organizations represent.
"This is not a problem just for Colombia," Grossman explained. "The
FARC and other illegal armed groups are also a threat to the
sovereignty of your [Colombia's] neighbors. It is their borders, too,
that are being violated."
Grossman said he hopes the summit will not only increase awareness
among Colombia's neighbors that they too face a threat, but also that
a regional plan will be drafted to address this shared problem.
(The Washington File is a product of the Office of International
Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site:
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