Bush, President Pastrana Discuss Trade, Terrorism
April 18, 2002
9:50 A.M. EDT
BUSH: Before the President and I will answer a couple of questions
from both the U.S. side and the Colombian side, I do want to welcome my friend,
Andres Pastrana, back to the White House.
Pastrana is a -- has taken on a huge task in his country. One is to defend
democracy and the institutions of democracy, and he's done a great job at that.
Secondly, is to fight -- is to fight narco trafficking. He has led a valiant
effort at eradicating coca fields, standing strong against the narco
traffickers. And, as well, he fights terrorism in his country. He fights
well-organized, well-funded groups that are out to destroy democracy in
Colombia. And he has been strong in his support for democracy not only in his
own country, but in the region.
We had a good discussion
about a variety of issues about how to change the focus of our strategy from
counter-narcotics to include counter-terrorism. I explained to him that a
supplemental I sent up to the United States Congress would do just that. As
well, we talked about the need to get the Andean trade preference act passed out
of United States Senate, to reconcile if there's any differences with the House
of Representatives and to my desk as quickly as possible.
I am a strong supporter of
trade with the Andean -- with our Andean friends. The President knows firsthand
how important that trade is, not only for commercial reasons, but also as a way
to help fight against narco trafficking, provide opportunities for people in his
This is a good friend and
it's my honor to welcome him back to the White House. Mr. President.
PASTRANA: Thank you very much, President Bush. Once again, thank you
for having us here in the Oval Office. I think you've said everything.
The only thing that I wanted
to say, first of all, thank you for your help, for your leadership in helping
Colombia and helping the world. At the end, we are fighting a common enemy that
is narco trafficking and narco terrorism. We have full support of President Bush
and the government, first in trying to, as you said, Mr. President, in change of
authorities the use of the military equipment sent by the United States to
Colombia to be used against also narco terrorism, not only against narco
Secondly, as you said, you
have been a big supporter of ATPA, the Andean preference act is fundamental for
us. It's commerce. As we said, we don't want aid, we want commerce. And that's
what we need in Colombia also as one of the big components of the social side of
Plan Colombia, that is social investment and social investment is jobs, better
jobs and well-paid jobs.
So I think that with the
help of the government, but the most important, with the help of the U.S.
Congress we will have ATPA before the end of May, and that's going to be
fundamental to continue our fight on drugs.
So thank you very much, Mr.
President, for all your help.
BUSH: De la AP, Señor Fournier.
I think that's you, Ron.
Mr. President, if I could ask you about another Latin American issue. Your
administration was slow to condemn the Venezuelan coup. How does that square
with your war on terrorism rhetoric, that America will always stand up for
BUSH: My administration was very clear when there were troubles on
the streets in Venezuela, that we support democracy and did not support any
extraconstitutional action. My administration spoke with a very clear voice
about our strong support of democracy.
It is very important for
President Chavez to do what he said he was going to do, to address the reasons
why there was so much turmoil on the streets. And it's very important for him to
embrace those institutions which are fundamental to democracy, including freedom
of press, and freedom for the ability for the opposition to speak out.
And if there are lessons to
be learned, it's important that he learn them.
Mr. President, do you have a
comment on that?
PASTRANA: Yes. First of all, I think there's no doubt in Latin
America of the support and promotion of President Bush on democracy in the
region. I think that's something that nobody could put in doubt of your support
in promotion of democracy in the whole region.
As you said, what we're
expecting is that President Chavez said in his speech that he's going to be a --
try to look for a reconciliation inside Venezuela, that he is going to correct
many mistakes. And we hope that what he's going to correct is toward
strengthening democracy; respect, as you said Mr. President, civil laws; give
guarantees to the opposition; the freedom of the press; respect of human rights.
And that's what all Latin America are supporting and what we want in the case of
In our case, for example, I
think one of the mistakes was regarding the presence of the guerilla groups in
Venezuela. Yesterday, unfortunately, Mr. President, the media, national and
international, we had information that Mexico closed the office of the narco
terrorist group in Mexico. And the first information is that they could be in
So that's why today, Mr.
President, I'm sending a letter through my Minister of Foreign Affairs to the
Minister of Foreign Affairs of Venezuela, asking if there is the FARC, these
members of the FARC are present in Venezuela or not; that we need that
information. We approved a very clear resolution in the Group Rio meeting in
Costa Rica last week, supporting what you promote in the Security Council, ban
any presence of terrorists in any countries. And that's what we want to do in
Mr. President, how do you respond to the reaction of Canada and Mexico to
participate with troops in the Northern Command that was announced yesterday by
Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld? Do you think Mexico and Canada will in the future
participate with troops in the Northern Command?
BUSH: Well, I think that the restructuring of our command structure
really represents that we're in a new world and that we face new threats. Our
relationship with Canada and Mexico will not change as a result of
restructuring. It's a better way for us to organize against an enemy that is
wiling to strike at America and our neighborhood. And that's what this reflects.
It reflects the ability to coordinate a possible response against an enemy
And these are killers.
They're cold-blooded killers. And they've hit us before, and they want to hit us
again. And so the unified command structure now is going to reflect the true
threats that we face.
We used to not face these
threats in the past. We thought two oceans would keep us safe. We thought,
there's no way that an enemy could possibly strike America again after Pearl
Harbor. And were we wrong. We were really wrong.
And so that --
Mr. President --
BUSH: Excuse me for a second, please. And so therefore, it is very
important for us to make sure that we prepare our military, as well as our
respective homeland securities, against attack. So not only are we looking at
how -- for a new command structure for military, we're also working very closely
with Canada, e tambien Mexico -- on making sure that our border is more secure,
on making sure that we've got better intelligence sharing, on making sure that
cooperation at all levels is as good as it can possibly be.
And it is as good as it can
possibly be. I'm real pleased with the efforts we're making with our neighbors.
Mr. President, do you believe, as President Pastrana said, that Colombian
guerrillas are operating from Venezuelan territory? Is there anything that the
United States can do to help him fight that?
And you mentioned freedom of
the press when you were talking about things President Chavez should do. What
other specific things do you think he should do following this coup?
BUSH: Well, first, the reason I mentioned freedom of the press is
because when things got hot in Venezuela, he shut the press down. I want you all
-- I've never thought about doing that, no matter how, what kind of questions
these guys ask here.
Mr. President, I've always
believed in a free press. I don't care how tough the questions are -- or, as
significantly, how they editorialize in their news stories. But nevertheless --
because I respect the press, and so should President Chavez. It's essential he
And so there's a good
example of what I'm talking about. When the pressure gets on, leaders should not
compromise those institutions that are so important for democracy. The right for
opponents to speak out is essential. There is -- one of the things that is
essential is that people be given the liberty of expressing their opinion
without fear of reprisal.
The first part of your
question was whether or not FARC is utilizing Venezuela to strike our friend.
I'll let our friend speak to that. He's a man who has to live with this problem.
We discussed this very issue. I am -- and by the way, it's not just FARC basing
in Venezuela to strike Colombia, it's as well FARC striking Venezuelan ranchers
that aren't protected by the Venezuelan government.
But why don't you speak to
that, Mr. President?
PASTRANA: Thank you, Mr. President. I think that, as you remember
some weeks ago, there was -- announced that FARC was using the Venezuelan
territory to attack the Colombian militaries. And these were, as you remember,
two or three days before all the crises in Venezuela. The chief commander of the
army, General Vasquez, personally said to President Chavez that FARC was using
Venezuelan territory to attack Colombia.
So that's why we had a
meeting last week, the 10th of April, between the Foreign Minister of Colombia
and the Foreign Minister of Venezuela, because we are asking questions and we
want answers of what was happening. And we proposed the creation of a
bi-national commission between Colombia and Venezuela to study all these reports
that were putting on the press and on the media by journalists of Colombia and
Venezuela, of the presence of the FARC on Venezuelan territory.
That's why we sent the
letter yesterday asking the Venezuelan government if it's true that members of
the FARC that were turned away from Mexico -- the office of the FARC was closed
in Mexico -- we were asking, and we want answers, if these guys are or not in
Venezuela. That's what we're expecting of the answer of the Foreign Minister of
Mr. President, what will be your message, then, for countries -- in this case,
Venezuela, or other countries -- that might open their doors to so-called
BUSH: Well, we've spent a lot of time talking about -- these aren't
"so-called" terrorists, these are terrorists, in Colombia. And the
reason they're terrorists is because they're using murder to try to achieve
political ends. They tried to blow up the recent -- recently tried to blow up
the man running for President. They've captured people. They're after Andres.
And so my message is that we
will work with you to rout out terror. We've put FARC, AUC, on our terrorist
list. We've called them for what they are. These are killers, who use killing
and intimidation to foster political means. And we want to join, with Plan
Colombia's billions of dollars, to not only fight the -- and by fighting narco
trafficking, by the way, we're fighting the funding source for these political
terrorists. And sometimes they're interchangeable.
And we've got to be strong
in the fight against terror. And the United States -- listen, my biggest job now
is to defend our security, and to help our friends defend their security,
against terror. That's what I spend a lot of my time doing. And each area of the
world requires a different response -- that in some parts of the world, we'll do
it militarily; in some parts of the world, we'll help our friends to deal
militarily; in some parts of the world, perhaps, we can rout out terror through
just simply cutting off money; in other parts of the world, diplomacy seems to
have an effect. We're working with our friends in Europe to use their law
enforcement officials to arrest known al Qaeda killers hiding in their country,
We've been at this now for
seven months. Colombia has been at this for a lot longer period of time. And
we're beginning to make a lot of progress. They key to success is not to grow
tired in the fight against terror. And I can assure you I won't. I know this
good President is dedicated to fighting terror.
And it's essential for
Colombia to succeed in this war against terror in order for her people to
realize the vast potential of a great, democratic country. Colombia is an
essential part of a peaceful South America. Colombia has got a fantastic
tradition, a noble tradition of democracy. It's led the way. And I'm confident
that with the right leadership and the right help from America, the kind of
leadership Andres is providing now, that Colombia can succeed. And it's in
everybody's interests that she does succeed.
Listen, thank you all.
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