Interview | 1/21/2009 12:00:00 AM
Hillary Clinton, Secretary of State, gives her opinions about Colombia
During her confirmation hearing last week before the Senate, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the following about Colombia when questioned by Republican Senator Richard Lugar.
Hillary Clinton: As you are aware, the Colombian Congress is in the process of addressing the question of re-election. I do not believe it is proper for the United States to attempt to dictate the result of any internal democratic process in the region
Despite the best effort and funding from the U.S, cocaine production continues unabated in Colombia. Please provide your views on the success of failure of Plan Colombia, on funding for alternative development efforts in Colombia, and on military assistance for Plan Colombia.
H.C: The security situation in Colombia has improved, but very significant quantities of illicit narcotics continue to flow in significant quantities from Colombia to the United States. I look forward to working with Congress and our friends and partners in Colombia to ensure that future investments help staunch the flow of illegal drugs and help consolidate security gains to contribute to a durable peace in Colombia. To do so, we must learn from the successes and failures of the past. Continued support for Colombia through the Andean Counterdrug Initiative is important. That assistance must be updated to meet evolving challenges. We must provide meaningful support for Colombia’s democratic, civilian institutions and the rule of law.
As we continue our struggle against the scourge of illegal drugs in our society and throughout the Americas, we must ensure that we are doing what it is necessary here at home to reduce demand, enforce our laws through effective policing, and disrupt the southbound flow of money and weapons that are an essential element of the transnational illicit networks that operate in Colombia and elsewhere in the Americas. It is important that we work together with countries throughout the region to find the best practices that work across the hemisphere and to tailor approaches to fit each country.
Please provide your views on the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with Colombia. Will you oppose the FTA in its current form? What changes need to be included in the current agreement to gain the administration’s support?
H.C: It is important that we not lose sight of the many aspects of the important, dynamic and complex bilateral relationship that the United States and Colombia have when we discuss the U.S –Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement. I look forward to working to maintain the across-the-board vibrancy of the relationship.
With regard to the agreement, it is essential that trade spread the benefits of the globalization., Without adequate labor protections, trade cannot do that. Although levels of violence have dropped, continued violence and impunity in Colombia directed at labor and other civic leaders makes labor protections impossible to guarantee in Colombia today.
Colombia must improve its efforts. I look forward to working with members of this Committee, as well as other members of the Senate and House of Representatives to see what the United States can do to help contribute to an end to further violence and continued impunity directed against labor and other civic leaders in Colombia.
The United States and Colombia have long enjoyed a close, mutually-beneficial relationship. I am confident that through continued cooperation on the full array of bilateral issues, we can maintain and deepen that relationship. Active engagement with Colombia will be an important part of this administration’s approach to hemispheric relations.
What effects would the failure of pending free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea have on relations with those nations? How would successful ratification impact relations with those nations?
H.C: If confirmed, I look forward to working with the United States Trade Representative, the Treasury Secretary, the Secretary of Commerce, and others on the economic team on these issues. All of these nations have expressed a strong desire to see these FTA’s ratified. We will communicate forthrightly with each of them, explaining that our past and present concerns with the FTA’s are discrete and specific and have no bearing on the many collaborative dimensions of our alliance and friendship. We will also work to resolve these concerns to the satisfaction of all parties. Obviously, these nations would be pleased by ratification, but I believe that we have –and can continue to have- productive friendships even without FTA’s in force.