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Homeland Security

Washington File

06 May 2003

Colombia Praised as Strong Opponent of Terrorism, Illicit Drugs

(Commerce Dept.'s Don Evans hails U.S.-Colombian ties) (780)
By Eric Green
Washington File Staff Writer
Washington -- The United States has reiterated its appreciation to the
government of Colombia for that Andean nation's strong support of the
global fight against illicit drugs and terrorism.
U.S. Secretary of Commerce Don Evans said in a statement released May
2 after meeting in Washington that day with Colombian President Alvaro
Uribe that "both terrorism and the drug trade have the same effect --
they threaten stability and stifle hope for the future."
In hailing the "strong relationship" between the United States and
Colombia, Evans said: "Improving our commercial and trading
relationship will help establish a strong foundation for our two
economies to flourish. While there is still much work to do, we are
committed to helping the people of Colombia realize their economic
Evans said he had discussed with Uribe ways to improve the trade and
investment climate in Colombia. Central to those discussions were
trade benefits conferred by the 2002 Andean Trade Promotion and Drug
Eradication Act. Evans also said he had stressed the importance of
Colombia's participation and leadership in the ongoing negotiations to
establish the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), stretching from
Canada to Chile.
Following his White House meeting the day before with the Colombian
leader, President Bush also praised Uribe for his determination to
fight terrorism and drug trafficking. Bush said the United States
would continue standing as a "strong friend and supporter" of the
Colombian people "as they take on difficult tasks."
Bush said he was "absolutely confident" that the FTAA would boost the
capacity of the Colombian economy to grow. The FTAA, he said, "is the
most hopeful trade agreement there is" for improving the lives of the
800 million people in the Western Hemisphere.
Expressing his appreciation for Uribe as a "man who is absolutely
committed to fighting terror," Bush added: "He has got a
straightforward, strong vision about what has to happen to people who
are willing to kill innocent people. And they must be dealt with
For his part, Uribe said "we have only one determination: to defeat
terrorists in Colombia." He said his country has the "obligation to
defeat terrorists, and the duty" to give young people in Colombia who
have "mistakenly followed the ringleaders" of terror organizations the
opportunity "to live in our community with the respect of our
constitution." Uribe stressed that "for those who choose this option,
we are ready to give them a new opportunity."
Meanwhile, in another action related to Colombia, U.S. Senator Harry
Reid (Democrat of Nevada) introduced legislation May 5 to make
nationals of Colombia eligible for temporary protected status (TPS) in
the United States. The U.S. Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration
Services says TPS may be granted to aliens in the United States who
are temporarily unable to return to their homeland because of ongoing
armed conflict, environmental disasters, or other extraordinary and
temporary conditions.
Reid's bill, which was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee,
says Colombians in the United States should qualify for the protected
status because of an "escalation" in Colombia's 38-year civil war,
resulting in the deaths of tens of thousands of civilians and
Reid's legislation, known as "The Colombian Temporary Protected Status
Act of 2003," said violence in Colombia has now spread from rural
regions into the country's urban areas, with cities such as Medellin
experiencing an average of 13 killings a day. The bill estimated that
between 1.5 million and two million people in Colombia have been
forced to leave their homes, creating a situation that now ranks as
the world's third-largest internal refugee crisis.
In an interview with a Colombian newspaper in December 2002, U.S.
Secretary of State Colin Powell said that the matter of granting TPS
to Colombians in the United States remained "under review." Powell
said granting TPS is a judgment made by the U.S. Attorney General,
with the advice and participation of the Secretary of State.
Powell said a number of nations would like to have TPS accorded to
their citizens. But he cautioned that "we have to use that authority,
as it currently exists, with some discretion so that it isn't seen as
a way of getting around our other immigration policies." He added that
the United States was "anxious to do everything we can" to help the
Colombian government fight narco-terrorism.
Colombia is "threatened, its democracy is threatened," Powell said.
"I'm pleased that President Uribe is leading [the] way that will deal
with these challenges."
(The Washington File is a product of the Office of International
Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site:

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