H.E. MR. ALVARO URIBE VELEZ,
13TH SEPTEMBER 2002, NEW YORK
I salute H.E. Mr. Jan Kavan from the Czech Republic, President of this General Assembly, which I address for the first time.
Not far from this place, on that fateful September 11, two thousand eight hundred and one citizens of the world died. In Colombia, violence causes as many deaths every month.
Forty three million Colombians, peace-loving people, suffer one of the world's worst humanitarian crises.
- Every year, Colombia buries thirty four thousand of its sons that were victims of violence. We have lost 10% of our youth.
- The country registered the highest murder rate in the world: 63 per 100,000 inhabitants.
- During the last five years, we suffered eight thousand acts of collective destruction, more than those recorded for any other cases of violence in the world; two hundred and eighty villages were the object of guerrilla and paramilitary attacks with serious consequences for local civilians and the Armed Forces.
- The terrorist attack during my inaugural ceremony killed twenty-one humble people.
- Two million people, 40% of them children, have been forcibly displaced under pressure from violent groups. This figure is the equivalent of displacing simultaneously entire communities from Washington and Manhattan.
- During the last five years, sixteen thousand five hundred people have been the victims of kidnapping. Yesterday, six children were kidnapped and one of them is still in captivity.
- Death threats have been extended by the same groups to three hundred and ninety mayors -equivalent to over a quarter of all the country's municipal districts-, nine local state governors, and one hundred and seven members of local state Assemblies.
The September 11 terrorist attacks moved the entire world and triggered just and universal condemnation. Today, the moral conscience of humanity should be shaken by, and react to, attacks such as the one perpetrated on Thursday 2 May 2002 by Colombian guerrillas in Bojay;§, a humble village of only 1,000 people. They killed 117 civilians who took refuge in the village's church.
Violence makes our people poorer every day, discourages investments, hampers economic growth, diverts valuable resources and prevents us from overcoming our economic and social backwardness.
- Violence absorbs four points of the country's Gross Domestic Product.
- Hijackings, kidnappings and assaults are daily occurrences on our main highways, including that joining our two largest cities. Imagine a similar situation between Brussels and Paris, or New York and Boston.
Today, Colombians make a great effort to face the problem with policies for public order; state reform aimed at defeating corruption and political chicanery; greater economic growth, and social investment.
The central objective of our Democratic Security policy is to restore the rule of law. The purpose of security is not to persecute real or imagined ideological enemies or to maintain a one-party regime.
Democratic Security is to protect every citizen in a pluralist nation, open to fraternal and creative debate.
Democratic Security is for all Colombians and intended to ensure that peasant farmers are not driven from their land; businessmen are not kidnapped; journalists are not threatened, and missions of bishops, priests, nuns, preachers and educators are respected.
It is also intended to ensure that union leaders freely exercise their actions; political leaders move around without fear; and human rights defenders discharge their duties without threats.
As civil Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, l am committed to observe and respect human rights rigorously. Failure in this regard may lead to a reduction in violence but would never bring reconciliation. Our emergency measures do not restrict human rights but rather demand the observance of rules, for example, with regard to the mobilization of citizens to avoid that in the name of freedom of movement explosives continue to be transported to assassinate people.
We respect controversy. The policy of security that is implemented is not aimed at silencing criticism but rather at confronting violence. This policy will not be reversed. The amount of military and police personnel in Colombia is low: 3.9 per 1,000 inhabitants. New York has forty two thousand policemen while Colombia as a whole has seventy five thousand.
We must strengthen our Armed Forces. We have decreed a wealth tax that will affect high-income businesses and citizens. The additional tax revenue should amount approximately to 1 % of GDP.
As part of the implementation of the Democratic Security policy, our government has called on the solidarity of a million citizens to voluntarily cooperate with the Armed Forces and the Judiciary.
An essential element of a socially oriented constitutional state is citizen support for its legitimate institutions. This expression constitutes the individual's commitment with the community without which the state loses its social nature. We must break citizen fear with guerrillas and paramilitary; create community-based links with democratic institutions. To a large extent, the efficacy and transparency of the Armed Forces depends on citizens' cooperation.
The problem of Colombia is a potential risk to the democratic stability of the region. We require the world's assistance to resolve it. I ask the help of the world because my government made the decision of defeating terror, and ensuring that these four years do not elapse with a new triumph of delinquency, or as a new test to state and society hesitation toward the violents' arrogance.
It is imperative that sources for the financing of terror be eliminated. This is the only path to defeat drugs and kidnappings.
There is concern about weapons of mass destruction in the United Nations forum, and we share this anguish. Please, we must understand that drugs have the capability for mass destruction equivalent to that of the most feared chemical weapon.
We have the determination to defeat it. We require from the international community the same level of commitment. We cannot continue with timid, half way actions and decisions. While we discuss endlessly, more drugs are planted and traded by terrorism. Do not send us your weapons! Destroy your markets for drugs and chemical precursors! Help us with aerial interdiction and drug seizures in the Pacific and the Caribbean!
We need resources to offer our peasants payments to destroy drugs and work toward the restoration of our forests.
Last week, Carlos Enrique Arenas, a 29 year old pilot serving for the Colombian Navy, married, with a 2 year old daughter and a second child on its way, and his copilot, Roberto Enrique Guardo, also married with three young children, disappeared in the ocean. The helicopter they were piloting had an accident after intercepting a speedboat carrying over two tons of cocaine.
Sacrifices such as this one demand the support of all nations to defeat drugs, especially since we have only managed to seize 20% of the drugs that are shipped from our country.
A United Nations resolution orders the seizure of bank accounts, investments and other assets of individuals who commit terrorist acts. That resolution has been dead letter in those countries where the resources that finance terrorist acts in Colombia circulate. My Administration's commitment with security is not in opposition with dialogue. Quite the contrary, we want dialogue. This is why we have requested the good offices of the United Nations through a special adviser of the Secretary General. This is the way to begin a serious peace process that departs from a cessation of violence.
The United Nations Charter tells us that dialogue with those who commit acts of terror is only possible if those acts are suspended.
The pain of thousands of Colombians because of the kidnapping of their loved onesthe list includes former presidential candidate, Ingrid Betancourt; several members of Congress; members of local state assemblies; the Governor of my own local state, a former minister and tireless worker for peace; members of the Armed Forces, and hundreds of ordinary people-demonstrates that we need humanitarian actions that avoid feeding violence and which lead us through the paths of reconciliation.
The world has plenty of analysts of Colombian problems, and of critics of our society and our governments. We require less rhetoric and more action, i.e., real contributions to solve the problem.
We demand effective cooperation because the violence referred to is financed through international drug trade, and is waged with weapons not made in Colombia.
Like other nations, we suffer misery, injustice, low investor confidence, high debt and budgetary deficit.
We have always and will always honor our international financial commitments.
We are making unprecedented efforts to freeze operating expenditures and to increase taxes. But in doing so, we need significant bilateral and multilateral economic support to invest and expand employment. In other words, to begin to pay the social debt.
The struggle against violence triggers economic growth and creates resources for social development, which will also consolidate peace.
A thought: at one point the price of coffee reached over $3/Ib and is currently close to $0.60/Ib. International banks and cooperation agencies should double their commitment and resources in Colombia. Money will not to be used to pay for wasteful expenditures or to salvage bankruptcies, but rather to be invested in the interest of the poor to ensure governability.
The people of Colombia are proud, hard working, democratic and prudent, and their spontaneity has not been stifled by their martyrdom.
The nation has the most solid democratic tradition; a widely recognized long term economic performance; a highly diversified industrial base; a productive structure gradually geared toward international markets, and an enormous potential for small democratic enterprises.
Representatives of the peoples of the world: with your commitment and support, and our determination, Colombia will be freed from the slavery of violence and permit more justice for all.