New York, 30 September 2003

Original: Spanish Check against delivery

Mr. President:

Let me congratulate you for your election as President of this Assembly, and wish you all the success in your performance.

Despite the anxiety we face as a result of the terrorism that affects so many countries in the world, we come to reiterate our commitment to fight until we leave behind such a scourge. Colombia reaffirms its faith in multilateralism as the most effective system to seek peace, security, human, economic and social development. The United Nations is irreplaceable, even though for the good of the humanity it requires constant updating of its structure and procedures to increase it efficiency against terrorism.

The United Nations recently suffered the tragedy of terrorism with the death of Sergio Viera de Melo, an indefatigable defender of life. We deeply regret the loss of those who sacrifice their lives in the hope of putting an end to terrorism. And our commitment to reciprocity increases as a consequence of all the solidarity that that the United Nations have with Colombia.

A year ago, I presented to all of you my Democratic Security Policy, which was developed to free Colombian people from terrorism. The policy establishes the basic lines of action to protect the rights of all citizens, regardless of their social income, their political ideals or religious beliefs. This policy will protect business leaders, labor union leaders, politicians, and those who oppose the government's beliefs. The basis of this policy lies in the dream of a pluralist nation that lives in permanent constructive debate, fraternal and without hatred.

In Colombia, there has been a lack of State presence in an area that spans approximately 1,200,000 square kilometers, of which about 400,000 square kilometers are jungle. The lack of State presence has been substituted by terrorist organizations.

A year ago of a total of 1,100 municipalities, 170 did not have Police presence. Today, the Police is present in 151 municipalities and we hope to have Police in all municipalities within a few weeks. However, there are hundreds of small towns that demand the presence of the State. We now have soldiers and navy infantries, called "soldiers for the people", in 432 municipalities. This program allows the soldiers to fulfill their military service in the towns in which they were born. The results thus far have been positive and after their active duty in the Public Force, we hope to rely on these soldiers as law enforcement leaders.

These efforts, together with others that we have undertaken in similar areas, must continue so that the government can rid the country of terrorism.

I want to share with you, Mr. Secretary General, and the General Assembly, some of the results my administration has accomplished during the first nine months of this year:

The number of homicides decreased 22%, compared to the same period of time last year, in which there were 21,253 homicides.

The number of kidnappings declined 34.7%, which means that this year, 1,485 people were kidnapped. The number of victims of illegal road blocks decreased 49% and the number of rescue operations of kidnapped people increased to 22.8%. However, what country can feel at peace with itself with 1,485 kidnappings in nine months?

The number of massacres and victims of massacres has decreased to 35% and 41% respectively. We can claim victory only when we completely eliminate these attacks. Each terrorist act brings pain to my Nation, as did the car bomb, which members of the FARC exploded in Club El Nogal, or the boat bomb that was put by the same group in the Puerto Rico, the truck bomb in a very modest town called Chita, that all together killed 47 people and wounded 233. And only a few hours ago, in Florencia, another bomb left 12 dead and 46 people wounded.

The assassination of union members has declined from 120 to 36. The murderers in several of these cases are in jail right now, due to our determination to protect the population.

60 teachers were assassinated in 2002. This year 24 cases have been reported.

The assassination of journalists has decreased from 9 to 5.

The decrease in overall crime is significant, but as you may have noted, the levels are staggering. No country can feel safe under such circumstances.

I reaffirm our eagerness and commitment to protect, in particular, our teachers, union leaders and journalists.

I admit with sorrow that the murder of indigenous people has increased from 72 to 75 cases. The illegal self-defense groups are responsible for 33 of those cases and the different guerrilla groups are responsible for the remainder.

During the first semester of 2003, 73,586 cases of forced displacement were reported. This represents a decrease of 66%. The reduction in numbers demonstrates that we are successfully helping people return to their towns.

I reaffirm our commitment to fight to protect the indigenous communities and stop forced displacement.

In August 2002, 246 mayors were exiled from their municipalities because they were threatened by violent groups. Now 191 have returned to their municipalities thanks to increased improvement in security.

The advances in the protection of our citizens encourage us to continue with valor in this determination.

From August 7, 2002 to August 7, 2003, 2,544 members of illegal self-defense groups were captured, which represents an increase of 146%. The number of members of illegal groups killed in combat by the armed forces increased to 38.7%. The number of guerrillas captured increased by 126.3%, and the guerrillas killed in combat increased 78%.

Because of my unblemished democratic conviction, I reaffirm our commitment to Human Rights.

We have extended the permanence of the United Nation's Commissioner in Bogota. We agree with many of his recommendations. We do not doubt that we have to work towards its application and we will discuss those cases where we have disagreements.

We require that our soldiers and policemen be effective and respect human rights. We stimulate and care for our armed forces as we demonstrated recently with the improvement introduced in the social security system. We will not hesitate to put in jail those who infringe the law.

The sacrifice of our soldiers and policemen has been significant. This year, as a consequence of the antipersonnel mines, 109 soldiers have been assassinated and 334 have been wounded, many of them completely mutilated.

If we request international support, it is because we are open to international observation. We respect the Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs) that proceed seriously. We respect their criticism and constructive suggestions. Those organizations contribute to the improvement of democratic conditions. That is why we share the report by Human Rights Watch about the recruitment of children by the terrorist groups. However, we reserve the right to disagree with those false reports that distort our efforts to consolidate a democratic security concept.

As the United Nations has recognized, we have advanced significantly in the destruction of illicit drugs. We have eradicated 70% of illicit crops and we will not stop until we rid our country from the scourge of illegal drugs. We have authorized the extradition of 94 people for narco-trafficking crimes.

We have hired 5,400 families as forest rangers, as part of our goal to recruit 50,000 families. They receive economic aid to replace illicit crops, with the purpose of replanting and taking care of the forests.

To confiscate the illicit enrichment we now have a more effective law that expedites the procedure and has led to an increase in the number of sentences from 5 to 68.

In Colombia's current situation, terrorism, illicit drugs, violence and insecurity are the same thing. We implore the commitment of the international community to defeat drugs completely. We implore to the world not to harbor the Colombian terrorists and to help us confiscate their goods and open the doors only to help if there is a peace process.

Our country is a democracy. We want to overcome terrorism and be able to look to the international community with the certainty that we have fully in complied with national and international law.

In order to fight against impunity, we incorporated the accusatory penal system and the oral procedure that will be inaugurated in 2005.

At the present time, we are conducting a Constitutional change to allow the armed forces to proceed with specialized groups, in terrorism cases, to make captures, raids, and phone interceptions.

These actions will be conducted with democratic safeguards so that an attorney will intervene quickly. The attorney's office and Congress will be informed. The proposed measures are infinitely less as compared to current laws in democracies that do not have the high levels of terrorism in Colombia.

My Government found that there are around 30,000 people that belong to illegal terrorist organizations as is clear from the nature of their actions. As we look at this figure it is clear that we must continue with a policy of extending the rule of law as well as maintaining a firm determination to seek a negotiated solution based on a previous cease of hostilities.

I thank the General Secretary's efforts during the last year to find paths of peace with the FARC. The Colombian Government supports the good offices that up to now, have been unsuccessful because the violent groups lack the will to cooperate. The FARC have kidnapped hundreds of Colombians and some foreign citizens, and most of them are kept in concentration camps that remind us of the nazis. Secretary General, Kofi Annan, I reaffirm my commitment to define with you a solution to this painful situation in terms adjusted to the law, and in ways that do not increase the violence.

Since the last government, with the support of Cuba on one side, and several governments on the other, we explored ways to negotiate a peace process with the ELN. We have made numerous efforts, but up to now, everything has been useless. The leaders of that group that are in jail are being held in the best possible conditions. On June 30, with the help of a Facilitating Commission, I offered -to examine an ELN prisoners release in exchange for the groups commitment to cease all armed activities and to help achieve peace. I did not have a positive answer but I will continue to insist.

The ELN recently kidnapped seven foreign citizens. That group should release them under the promise that they made a couple of weeks ago to stop hostilities during the current electoral process.

Also, since the last Government, we have sought a peace process with the illegal self-defense groups under the mediation of the Catholic Church. The condition is the same: cease of hostilities. Groups of these organizations representing 10,000 or more people have expressed their intentions to demobilize. The government is advancing in this process.

During my administration, 2,215 members of terrorist groups have demobilized. 70% of them belong to the FARC, 18% to the ELN and 12% to the illegal self-defense groups.

To reintegrate members of these different groups into civilian life, Colombia needs a judicial framework that realistically defines how to achieve justice, repair damage to the victims and the community and to ensure peace. The alternate sentence project presented by the Government for Congressional consideration proposes a legal and transparent procedure that allow us to advance towards a negotiated peace solution with the illegal self-defense groups, the FARC and the ELN.

I understand the concern raised by offering alternative sentences for grave crimes. But in a context of 30,000 terrorists, it must be understood that a definitive peace is the best justice for a nation in which several generations have never lived a single day without the occurrence of a terrorist act.

The draft has caused national and international controversy. We are looking for the broadest possible consensus. Therefore, we invite everybody to examine the different options and to achieve the best final text. To defeat terrorism we do not have dilemmas. However, there are moments that call for adjusting the justice and peace equation in order to reach a consolidated peace.

We partake of what has been expressed by the Secretary Annan in the Security Council last week when he proposed the necessity of defining a balance between the need for justice and the need to save innocent lives.

To protect our communities, we need to pursue forcefully all terrorists and not to miss the opportunity to get peace agreements, made in good faith.

The Colombian problem is an international threat. If Colombia does not destroy the illegal drugs, the illegal drugs will destroy the Amazon basin. If Colombia does not stop terrorism, it will bring difficulties to the democracies of the region. The President of Ecuador, Lucio Gutierrez, and the Rio Group have understood this and unanimously adopted the proposal that the United Nations continue to make efforts towards a negotiation with the Colombian terrorists or, if this is not possible, to seek other alternatives to solve the problem. Rule of law involves a social commitment. Poverty and inequalities have become worse due to terrorism. We are advancing, with scarce resources, to apply the 7 tools for equality: revolution in education, expanded social protection, return to an economy based on the principle of solidarity, a social management of land, public services expansion, the construction of an owners country, and the improvement of the quality of the urban life.

Some examples of that social policy are the following: we have created 500.000 new school places, but we still have 1.500.000 children that do not have access to basic education. The micro credit project has increased by 50%, but we still are far away from having an owners country. The social task is arduous but with our determination we will overcome all the obstacles to build a just society. Security is the first of the human rights of poor people who need our policy to be successful. We must provide peace, confidence, investment, employment and equity.

Despite many tragedies, Colombia has a vigorous democracy. This October 25th, Colombians will decide on a referendum, which proposes to defeat corruption and strengthen social investment.

The following day, October 26th, the people will elect 30 Governors among 133 candidates; 914 Majors among 3,441 candidates; 398 State Congressmen among 373 lists composed of 2,723 candidates; around 9,000 Municipal Council Members among 6,105 lists composed of 56,590 candidates; and Members of the Local Administration Boards among 3,156 lists composed of 13,387 candidates. \

We live today in a plural and enthusiastic democracy, despite the defiance of terrorism.

Mr. President:

It would be a real tragedy if the civilized world does not combine its energies to defeat terrorism, and if it does not support those democracies that fight against it. We need the unity of all the democratic people to defeat terror.

Thank you.