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11/27/04 - BUSH IN COLOMBIA - 2004-11-29

Cooperation among Latin American governments is reducing the flow of illegal drugs. This is particularly true in Colombia. President George W. Bush visited Colombia after attending the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Chile.

Since 2000, the U.S. has provided around four-billion dollars to Colombia and its neighbors through the Andean Counterdrug Initiative. In addition to fighting narcotics trafficking and terrorism, this aid has supported efforts to strengthen democratic institutions, promote protection of human rights, improve respect for the rule of law, foster economic development, and address humanitarian needs. President Bush pledged to keep U.S. aid flowing to Colombia in its war against narcoterrorists:

"Our two nations share in the struggle against drugs. The drug traffickers who practice violence and intimidation in this country [Colombia] send their addictive and deadly products to the United States. Defeating them is vital to the safety of our peoples and to the stability of this hemisphere."

Colombia is the world's largest producer of cocaine. But since coming to power two years ago, President Alvaro Uribe has launched a massive aerial fumigation program to destroy the coca crop that was grown to manufacture cocaine. He has also launched an aggressive military campaign against terrorists who fund their activities through drug trafficking, kidnapping, and extortion.

The Uribe administration has reduced Colombia's coca crop by thirty-three percent and jailed dangerous drug traffickers. Speaking through an interpreter, President Uribe said Colombia is winning the fight against illegal drugs. He pointed to the U.S.-supported Plan Colombia, which offers farmers alternatives to the coca-growing business:

"President Bush has understood throughout this process in assisting Colombia, how important it is for the legal farming business in Colombia to prosper so that we have opportunities for our farmers."

Colombia still has a long way to go, but, as President Bush says, "This war against narcoterrorism can and will be won, and Colombia is well on its way to that victory."