State Department Noon Briefing


MONDAY, DECEMBER 4, 2000 12:40 P.M.

Q: On Colombia, we have some reports that the US is looking to expand
Plan Colombia beyond the region. I know Under Secretary Pickering
spoke a little bit about the need for it, but if you could talk about
any US plans to expand the program?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, I don't have anything additional to what Under
Secretary Pickering said about a week ago in terms of numbers. But it
is certainly quite clear that it has been our intention - and we have
stated it, I think, many times - that we want to find ways to
strengthen the capabilities of all the nations in the region so that
they can repel the violent and corrosive effects of illicit narcotics

We are already involved in extensive counter-narcotics cooperation
with countries throughout the hemisphere. Narco-trafficking, itself,
is a transnational business, and if we are going to fight it, it is
not tied to boundaries or sovereignty, we have to have a program that
addressed it as a regional issue. And that has been our policy all

Neighbors in the hemisphere are struggling with the political and
economic difficulties that are created by narco-trafficking, so we
have through bilateral assistance programs tried to help them and
strengthen their abilities to deal with the spillover effects, as well
as to deal with the problem in Colombia itself where it exists.

The budget this year - the Plan Colombia supplemental package--
included about 180 million specifically for those other countries, in
addition to other ongoing cooperation. Our efforts in the region in
the past have been highly successful, particularly in Peru and
Bolivia. They achieved 60 to 70 percent reductions in coca
cultivation, but the issue of spillover again is real, and that is why
it applies continuously to the region.

The elements that we do in the region, two varieties. First is
consolidating the counter-narcotics gains that we have made in places
such as Peru and Bolivia, and then trying to anticipate the next steps
of the trafficking industry as we increase the pressure on Colombia

This was a topic of discussion in many of the Secretary's bilateral
meetings with people from the region when she talked to them down in
Mexico City on Friday. And, in fact, we found, I think, first of all,
general support for Plan Colombia and a strong willingness and
interest in addressing this issue on a regional basis, since that's
the way it has to be done.

Q: (Inaudible) - of Colombia, neighbors - specifically, for example,
Brazil - and now they have been very critical of the approach that
Plan Colombia has because of the military component of the Plan. Do
you get new kind of reaction from those countries, specifically

MR. BOUCHER: Well, I think, first of all, that's a misreading of their
past reactions but, second of all, to say that the Secretary had quite
a few discussions with people from the region. There was agreement and
understanding that the problem needs to be addressed; there was
support for President Pastrana's efforts to address these problems
through Plan Colombia and our assistance; and there was also support
for addressing the problem on a regional basis, including in
neighbors. So I don't think the way you characterized it is what we
actually heard from people.

Q: I'm confused because a lot of the countries have been quite
critical. So which countries did you hear support from, and did you
hear support with reservations?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, once again, I mean, this came up during the
Secretary's trip to South America where people said, oh, my God, look
how critical President Cardoso is, and then he said, no, I'm not. Flat
out. I think he wrote a letter to the newspaper that had said he was
quite critical of it. So maybe it was the foreign minister at the

She had meetings with a whole number of people, and her support for
the efforts that President Pastrana is making and support for Plan
Colombia. So I just think it's a red herring to go say that, oh,
everybody is critical, because they're not.

Q: If I could, Richard, you've talked about this and you mentioned it
briefly earlier that there may need to be some type of - well, that
there will need to be more aid to neighboring countries to help
prevent the spillover. Do we have any kind of numbers yet, and has
Congress been consulted? Are they prepared to provide the kind of aid
that would be necessary?

MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't have new numbers beyond what we have in our
supplemental, which is $180 million specifically for the other
countries, in addition to the ongoing cooperation that we've had
before. We have ongoing counter-narcotics cooperation with these
countries, but as part of the Plan Colombia supplemental we're asking
for that additional $180 million.

Q: Could you address some of the criticisms that say that this is
another Viet-nam and we're getting embroiled in a regional conflict
that we might not be able to get out of?

MR. BOUCHER: We've done it before; we'll do it again. This is not
another Viet-nam. Clearly the issue of drugs where you have 70 percent
of the cocaine coming into the United States is coming out of
Colombia, the issue of drugs is something that needs to be addressed,
and we are addressing the drug problem.

The fact is, given the information on the ties between
narco-traffickers and military forces, and you've seen the information
-- we issued a statement last week about the ties between the FARC and
the narco-traffickers that was based on information that the Mexican
and Colombian Governments have recently exposed - once again pointing
to the strong links between narco-traffickers and guerilla forces.

The fact is that some of the narco-traffickers get military-type
protection, either themselves or through others, and therefore the
people who go after them have to be more than just police forces.
These are Colombian groups that are going after them. They are
carefully selected and trained, and they are there in support of
police operations. And that is the way it will continue. It's not
Viet-nam; it's not like Viet-nam.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:15 P.M.)