PRESS CONFERENCE BY PRESIDENT OF COLOMBIA
Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York
6 February 2007
Democratic security and the fight against illicit drugs, as well as Colombia’s achievements in controlling crime had been among the subjects discussed today during the meeting between United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the President of Colombia, Alvaro Uribe, President Uribe told correspondents at the first Headquarters press conference by a Head of State after the new Secretary-General assumed office in January.
President Uribe said that, during “a very constructive meeting” with the Secretary-General today, he had reiterated his Government’s commitment to the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals and expressed gratitude for the assistance of various United Nations agencies to Colombia, as well as the Organization’s support for the Government’s anti-narcotic strategy. Despite important achievements in the fight against illicit drugs, which provided financing for terrorist groups in Colombia, much remained to be done.
The Secretary-General and the President had also spoken about human rights, he said. In answer to the Secretary-General’s question, President Uribe had agreed to an extension of the agreement on the presence of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Colombia. For the first time, recent reports on the situation in the country had reflected positive changes in Colombia. Among the country’s major advances was a recently adopted law -- endorsed by UNICEF -- on protection of children from mistreatment, crime and early labour.
Also discussed was the spraying and manual eradication of narcotic crops, he said. The country was pursuing an ambitious project in that regard, which involved 50,000 hectares of land this year and was supported by many countries in the world. The United Nations also supported a programme to preserve rain forests in the Amazon area, under which Government subsidies would be provided to over 50,000 farmer families, who agreed to refrain from planting narcotic crops. The project also aimed at stopping the destruction of the country’s virgin forests, which represented the lungs of mankind.
Another matter that came up during the meeting was the situation of displaced persons. In that regard, the Government intended to take every possible step to be able to say to the world: “We have put an end to displacement”. Towards that end, the budget resources dedicated to the care of the internally displaced persons had increased tenfold. Some 18,000 displaced persons had returned to their places of origin.
President Uribe also said that Colombia’s package of laws relating to demobilization of armed groups -- the so-called Justice and Peace Law, which he described as “a law of peace without impunity, a law of peace with truth, a law of peace with compensation for the victims” -- was now in full implementation. One of the important issues related to the reintegration of some 40,000 demobilized persons, who had abandoned major terrorist groups. The purpose was to make every possible effort to reintegrate them in society.
A correspondent said that, on the spraying of coca crops by Colombia, the Government of Ecuador had stated that it was ready to take that case to an international court. Asked to comment, President Uribe recalled that he had stated in the past that Latin American countries needed to seek unity, but that unity could be achieved only on the basis of respect for diversity. He hoped that the issue would be solved, once the two countries and the Organization of American States had formed a tripartite commission and once a study had been conducted on the effects of the defoliant. While Colombia had to destroy drugs in its own territory, it respected the territory of its neighbours and understood that it could not conduct the spraying there.
In reply to a question about Cuba, he said that Cuban Government had helped Colombia in reaching a peace agreement with one of its guerrilla groups. As long as relations between the two countries remained constructive, they made a contribution to understanding throughout the entire region.
Asked about the resignation of Colombia’s Finance Minister, Alberto Carrasquilla, he said that the Minister had done an excellent job, and he had not wanted him to resign. Following his resignation, however, the country would stay the course. Economic growth was not the main aim of the Government, whose main goal related to the eradication of poverty, creation of equality and pursuit of social justice. However, the Government understood the importance of private investors’ confidence, which was key for the economy to prosper and for the State to collect taxes in order to overcome poverty and build better social conditions. He hoped that Colombia would become one of the major destinations for world investors.
Responding to a question about his hopes for the signing of a free trade treaty between Colombia and the United States, President Uribe said that such an agreement was a practical necessity. An increase in exports to the United States could have a major impact on the country’s economy. Such a treaty would also attract investments to Colombia, which, in turn, would create new jobs with social security and help to overcome poverty.
To a question about the murders of Yolanda Izquierdo, leader of the People’s Housing Organization, and victims’ representative from Cordoba Freddy Abel Espitia, he said that it was important to take into account that, when his Government had come to power, there were 66 homicides for every 100,000 inhabitants. Now, those rates had fallen to 37 for 100,000. Of course, the level was still very high, but the trend was positive. His Government had improved the effectiveness of protection provided for people. Among other things, rewards had been offered for solving the crime. To guarantee the effectiveness of the law, the Government also guaranteed reparations for the victims.
At the opening of the press conference, President Uribe also paid tribute to Senator Luis Guillermo Velez Trujillo, who died today, calling him “one of the Colombian citizens who had worked the most for the good of the nation”. The President said he would try to shorten his agenda tomorrow morning, so he could return to his country to be with Senator Velez Trujillo’s family during the funeral services.
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For information media • not an official record
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