Taken from US Embassy in Colombia site

U.S. Assistance to Colombia

Remarks at Special Briefing
Washington, DC
March 12, 2001

 MR. HUNTER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Pleased to welcome you here to our briefing room this afternoon. We have a distinguished panel to speak with you today on US assistance to Colombia, starting with Bill Brownfield, the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs. He'll be followed by George Wachtenheim, who is our Mission Director for the USAID Mission in Colombia. After him, we'll hear from Ambassador Jim Mack, the Deputy Assistant Secretary from our Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs; and, finally, from Paul Vaky, who is here representing the Department of Justice and their Office of Overseas Prosecutorial Development Assistance and Training.

A number of you, I know, were in the briefing we had just a short time ago on the budget, and several of you raised our assistance to Colombia. Our panel today should be able to give you a fuller sense of what has been ongoing and what some of the results to date have been from those programs.

So I am pleased now to turn over the podium to Bill Brownfield from our Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs.

MR. BROWNFIELD: Thank you, Chuck. Two quick opening comments. First, this is my first presentation in the newly renovated press briefing room. I am inspired beyond all belief. It doesn't surprise me at all that you all -- the quality of your work has improved enormously since coming into this new building -- new room.

Secondly, we were talking before we came in here, and to the best of my knowledge, this is the first attempt on our part to give you a systematic briefing on Plan Colombia and United States support for the Colombia initiative since noon on the 20th of January of this year, when the Administration of George W. Bush came to office. This is partly a matter of chance and coincidence, which is to say we had George Wachtenheim, the USAID Mission Director from Bogota with us today; partly, as well however, a simple acceptance of the fact that it has taken a certain amount of time to get the new Administration senior officials in place who would manage the Colombia program.

Our basic approach on support for Colombia and Plan Colombia has not changed since then-President Clinton sent forward to Congress in January of last year our proposal for a supplemental to support Colombia. And the approach goes as follows -- and those of you who have heard it several hundred times, I apologize in advance -- Plan Colombia is a Colombian plan developed by the Colombian Government to address Colombian issues in Colombia. The United States Government is supporting Plan Colombia through a five-part process.

One is a push into Southern Colombia; second is support for narcotics interdiction efforts; third is support for the Colombian National Police; fourth is support for developmental and particularly alternative development programs and approaches; fifth is support for justice and other social sector reform. A sixth element, which does not directly affect Colombia itself, is our support for issues outside of Colombia, forward-operating locations, as well as several other countries that are affected by what happens in Colombia.

That has not changed. That is still our thrust, and our approach. What has changed in the last couple of months are some of the questions or issues which you and your equally erudite and excellent colleagues have been raising about Colombia and US support for Colombia in the last two to three months. I wonder if you would bear with me while I ask those questions and help you answer them before turning the podium over to George Wachtenheim.

First, is the United States Government opposing the peace process in Colombia? Answer: no. The United States Government's position on the peace process in Colombia has been magnificently consistent since President Pastrana came to office in 1998. And it is: one, we support President Pastrana's peace process in Colombia; two, we endorse and call upon others, both inside Colombia and outside Colombia, to support it as well; three, we, the United States Government, can not engage in direct conversation with the FARC until such time as they provide an accounting for the American citizens who have disappeared in Colombia, apparently related to the FARC.

A second set of questions. Isn't it true that large numbers of other potential donors, as well as other countries in the region, are opposing US policy and support for Colombia? Answer: No. The Europeans in particular, and other potential donors, have in fact made open and public commitments of support for Colombia. The name Plan Colombia clearly seems to cause some governments, constituencies, communities, some concern. From our perspective here in Washington, we don't care whether it is called Plan Colombia or Fred or Tom; the point is, will donors support the objectives that the government of President Pastrana has laid out in his plan? The governments of the European Union, for example, have committed, at this point, about $300 million in support for the same objectives which can be found in Plan Colombia. We support, endorse, and encourage that. We hope when we meet again, probably in Brussels at the end of April in a donors coordination meeting, we will see and hear even greater progress in that regard.

Other countries in the region. Every country that borders on or is affected by what is happening in Colombia -- that would include, for those of you who have not looked at your maps recently, Venezuela, Brazil, Peru, Ecuador and Panama -- have all indicated a concern about what is happening in Colombia, a concern that it would drift across Colombian borders into their countries, and a desire for a coordinated and comprehensive approach to these issues.

How we get there obviously is a matter for discussion among governments and within governments, but obviously every government that is potentially affected by what is happening inside Colombia has expressed both a concern about and a willingness to engage with the Government of Colombia, as well as other potential donors, to address those problems.

If I might move slightly into some of INL's territory, just to annoy Ambassador Mack in advance, question number three: Is the spraying operations, particularly in Putumayo and Plan Colombia in general, undercutting the peace process? We obviously would argue no. In fact, what we would argue is that Plan Colombia, and the spray operations in particular, are providing an additional card to President Pastrana and the Colombia Government to use in the peace process. If there is one thing that history has perhaps taught us over the last 500 to 5,000 years is that peace negotiations work better when there is a carrot-and-a-stick approach, which is to say it is more than just give, give, give; there is a potential risk, or at least an element, a potentially negative element, that is offered if, in fact, progress is not made in the peace process. And, in fact, judging by the fairly public protestations by the FARC, by the ELN -- and might I add by the AUC paramilitaries -- there is no question whatsoever in our mind that spraying, and the impact of spraying, is having a direct and immediate impact on something very important to them, and that is their funding.

Fourth, and the argument that we have heard most recently within the last two to three years, are the contractors that the United States Government uses in Colombia serving in some way as substitutes for United States military involvement in Colombia. Answer: No. And Ambassador Mack will be able to offer you much greater detail on this, if you wish. But the basis of our answer is the contractors, hired by United States Government agencies to work in Colombia, are doing exactly the same missions that they have been doing for the last ten to 15 years, both in Colombia and elsewhere in the region. Nothing has changed, except in some cases, the actual equipment that they are servicing, maintaining, or using.

Fifth and finally, and then I propose to turn the podium over to Mr. Wachtenheim, will Plan Colombia work, will US support for Colombia work outside of a regional approach? At last an answer in which I am prepared to say, this is an excellent question. In fact, the answer to that question is no; you cannot deal with Colombia in isolation; you cannot deal with Colombia as though it is the sole country in South America or in the Western Hemisphere. Colombia must be dealt with -- if I might paraphrase the public words of the Secretary of State and the President of the United States, something we in the State Department are always comfortable doing -- we need a more regional approach to address the issues, the crises that are emanating from Colombia today. And it is very much our hope that in the weeks and, at most, next couple of months to come, we will be in a position to talk in much greater detail as to exactly what our proposed approach would be.

Those are my opening thoughts. May I turn the mike over ever so briefly to George Wachtenheim, who is the AID mission director in Bogota.

MR. WACHTENHEIM: Okay, thank you. I'd like to spend the next few minutes describing and putting into some context the social development part of the US Government's contribution to Plan Colombia.

It doesn't always get as much attention as I believe it deserves, yet it is an essential part of Colombia's efforts to achieve peace, strengthen democracy, and deal with the drug problem. The social program is part of a balanced, comprehensive strategy that responds to the wide range of problems that faces Colombia, and these problems cannot be addressed in isolation, but really must be addressed in a comprehensive fashion.

The problems of drugs and violence will not be solved on a sustained basis unless the fundamental root causes of these problems are also addressed; unless democratic institutions in Colombia become stronger, more responsive, more inclusive and more transparent; unless the state presence in rural areas is better able to provide jobs and services to the rural poor and give them a stake in the future and improve the quality of life; and unless the justice system becomes more accessible to the majority of Colombians, becomes more efficient, and reduces impunity; and unless the human rights environment improves; and unless the problem of widespread corruption is solved; and unless legal employment opportunities are created to absorb the more than 20 percent of the population that is unemployed; and unless the million or so internally displaced Colombians are provided with assistance, Colombia's problems will persist.

This is what the USAID program, social development program, is all about. These are tough social issues, and they are going to take time, and they are going to take a sustained commitment and continued US Government assistance.

The $120 million that USAID manages makes the Colombia program one of the largest in the world that AID manages. We are, however, projecting the need to provide about $100 million a year over the next five years to carry out the programs that we have recently started.

As you know, the program really only started this past October when the funding became available, and we are pleased with the progress to date. The social development program is focused on three areas, three sectors. First, alternative development. This is a concept that does work. I spent three years working in Bolivia, four years as an AID director in Peru, and in both of those countries, a three-pronged strategy of effective law enforcement, interdiction, and alternative development was successful in dramatically reducing the coca cultivation in both of those countries. Alternative development does work, and it is an important essential element in that strategy.

In Colombia, alternative development focuses on farmers who own three hectares or less of coca, and estimates in Colombia are that about one-third of the 136,000 hectares or so of coca under cultivation are owned by small farmers. So that is a lot of coca, and it's a lot of farm families, and a lot of people who rely on coca for their livelihood.

The concept is that groups of small farmers, communities, farmer associations, sign agreements, sign pacts with the government, agreeing to voluntarily eradicate 100 percent of their coca crop, usually over a 12-month period, in exchange for a package of benefits both at the farmer level and at the community level, the farmer level to help get them involved in legal income-producing alternatives, and at the community level basically infrastructure such as schools, health clinics, public water systems, rural roads.

It's important to note that there is nothing as economically profitable as coca. The incentive to get out of coca on a voluntary basis is not economic; it's the stick that Bill Brownfield mentioned. There has to be a credible threat and a risk of continuing to stay in coca. And in Colombia we're seeing that that risk is credible, and farmers, just in the past two or three months, are lining up to sign these agreements. We now have two pacts in place, totaling about 1,500 farmers, who have committed themselves to eradicating about 2,500 hectares of coca over the next 12 months, in exchange for these packages of benefits. There are four more agreements that the government is currently negotiating and expects to sign over the next month or so.

The target that we have in AID over the five-year period is to work on the voluntary eradication of about 30,000 hectares of coca and about 3,000 hectares of opium poppy. We've started in the Department of Putumayo, which presents a particularly challenging atmosphere. Compared to the coca areas in Peru and Bolivia, the climate is harsher, the soils are poorer, the access to markets is more difficult, the infrastructure is not as good, and of course the security situation presents an additional complication for legitimate agricultural activity. However, as I said, in spite of that, the turnout of farmers who are voluntarily offering to agree to sign these pacts and eradicate has really been quite promising.

The second major area that we're working in is strengthening democracy, and that includes a number of components. It includes administration of justice, which is basically to help make the justice system work, make it more efficient, more transparent, more accessible. Part of that program, our Casas de Justicia that you may have heard of, Justice Centers, that provide one-stop shopping for alternative dispute resolution, basically in the poorer barrios of the major cities. There are now 15 of these centers located around the country, and each of them responds to about 150 cases every day. The demand for these services is tremendous. Services are free of charge and usually problems are solved within two months. We hope to have about 30 of them functioning by the end of the year.

We are also helping the Colombians move to a more modern, efficient judicial system, a system of aural orality and an accusatorial system. And to date, we have opened two model courts where that program is being demonstrated. And how it works -- this is a system that is similar to what have in the United States. By the end of the year, we hope to have 12 of these model courts functioning around the country.

We have a program that is designed to help improve the human rights situation, activities that are designed to help prevent massacres, an early warning system working with the human rights ombudsman and channeling information up the line to the authorities to the military so that when information on an impending massacre is obtained, something can be done beforehand as opposed to going in after the fact and carrying out investigations. This is a very important human rights activity.

We also have a program designed to help protect human rights workers, workers with NGOs, journalists, labor leaders. And that program is just getting underway. Again, it's a very important part of the human rights strategy.

We have a program designed to help strengthen local governments in the rural areas. This has been one of the greatest vacuums in the country, and that is the lack of state presence in the rural areas. We are working with mayors, training mayors, training council members, city council members, in identifying projects, setting priorities, monitoring projects, handling financial resources in a more accountable, transparent way. It is going to be a very important part of bringing democracy to rural areas.

We have a program of anti-corruption. Corruption in Colombia is a very serious problem, and we are helping the state strengthen its ability to investigate and prosecute corrupt practices and officials.

Finally, the third major area that we are working on is support for the internally displaced. Colombia has either the third or fourth largest internally displaced population in the world. The numbers are not terribly accurate, but estimates range anywhere from about 800,000 people to well over a million. We have right now a program in place that, just in the first few months, is already reaching about 50,000 internally displaced people. And that number will continue to increase.

So we are very pleased with the pace of implementation. There are going to be problems. It's not going to be easy, and it's going to take a sustained, long-term view on reforming institutions, strengthening institutions, and bringing about the kind of change in the social side that we're after through the AID program.

Let me end by saying that, again, this must be viewed as the Colombian program, responding to Colombian priorities and Colombian problems, and they are the ones that are going to have to make this work. And ultimately, our role is one of facilitating the process and we'll be working along with them over the next several years in this effort.

AMBASSADOR MACK: Good afternoon. My name is Jim Mack. I'm going to talk about -- not the carrots, which is what George Wachtenheim was talking about, but the stick. I'm going to talk about eradication. Before I do that, I do want to mention that our annual coca crop estimates for Colombia, which we received a few weeks ago, show that an estimated 11 percent increase in the size of Colombia's coca crop. It went from 122,500 hectares to approximately 136,200. I want to note, at the same time, by the way, that the crop estimates for Bolivia and for Peru were substantially reduced during the same period.

An increase in Colombia is definitely a disappointment, but it is the smallest such increase in several years. It may indicate the explosion of coca in Colombia in recent years is finally peaking. The report also indicates that the increase generally occurred in areas away from areas where the Colombian Government had focused its eradication efforts over the past year.

These crop estimates did not factor in the major eradication effort that began just before Christmas, and continued through the beginning of February. Those efforts would have had little visible impact obviously by the end of the calendar year of 2000. They do represent the real beginning in the eradication sense of Plan Colombia, and we do look forward to seeing their impact on the next crop estimate, that is at the end of next year -- at the end of this year, I should say.

The Plan Colombia-related expansion of the aerial eradiation program is specifically intended to provide the Colombian National Police with the capacity to apply eradication pressure in more places simultaneously than previously possible. This is to counter what often is referred to in Colombia and within the region as the "Balloon Effect", and to begin to cap -- and begin to reduce, I should say, the coca cultivation in the country in the year ahead.

As you know, about $750 million of our assistance out of the $1.3 billion emergency supplemental to Colombia and the region is in fact for items such as training and equipment to Colombia Army counter-narcotics battalions, provision of helicopters, communications equipment, infrastructure, weapons and other equipment.

Most of the high-profile items being procured are -- the most high-profile items being procured are the 14 UH-160 Blackhawks for the Army's counter-narcotics battalions, and two UH-60 Blackhawks for the Colombia National Police.

In addition to that, a contract for all the 16 helicopters was signed on December 15th; deliveries of three aircraft per month are scheduled to begin in July of this year. The 33 UH-1-N helicopters provided for by the supplemental, and in order to provide interim lift to the counter-narcotics battalions while the UH-60s were coming on stream, these have all been delivered, and just about all of them are now in service in Colombia.

Work has begun to supply the Colombian National Police with nine additional Huey-2 aircraft helicopters. This is an upgraded version of the UH-1-H. Kits have been purchased that will enable this upgrade to take place, and we expect that the first four aircraft will be delivered by late summer -- the summer of 2001.

US Southern Command and the Government of Colombia recently completed consultations to determine the optimum configuration for 25 Huey-2s for the counter-narcotics battalions. That is in addition to the 14 Blackhawks that I have just mentioned.

We expect delivery of these to commence in early 2002. There are some issues that have to be dealt with, which is the training of crew and maintenance folks. That is a whole other problem that we are working to resolve so that as the helicopters arrive, the crews to fly them and maintenance folks to maintain them will be arriving at the same time.

A contract for five additional spray planes was signed just in February of this year, and includes an option for four more. Delivery of those aircraft to the Colombia National Police is expected to begin this summer. We are also currently refurbishing and modifying three OV-10 aircraft to further supplement the spray fleet. Those planes are expected to begin rolling down into Colombia late this summer.

Plan Colombia-related aerial spray operations commenced on the 19th of December in the southern Department of Caqueta. Very shortly they moved into the southernmost department in Colombia, which is Putumayo, and as of the 5th of February, data from the on-board monitoring systems of the spray aircraft indicate that about 25,000 hectares -- that's about 62,000 acres -- had been sprayed with glyphosate herbicide in the two departments, but primarily in Putumayo.

We still don't know the exact number of hectares that was actually killed. We are beginning to do follow-on studies that involve photographic runs, as well as ground-truthing, and in the next couple of weeks and by early May should be able to give you an exact figure of how successful the spray campaign in Putumayo was.

The early eradication is but one element of Plan Colombia, and is being conducted in conjunction with the increased alternative development program that George Wachtenheim mentioned, as well as interdiction inside Colombia and in the region.

At that point, I would like to turn the podium over to Paul Vaky, who is with the Department of Justice, and he is going to talk about our program to reform -- help the Colombians reform their justice system.

Thank you.

MR. VAKY: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. My name is Paul Vaky. I'm with the Department of Justice Criminal Division. As the last speaker, I will try to be as brief as I can. For an attorney, that's difficult, but I will try.

I'm going to summarize a statement, the full text of which I understand is in your press kit. As you have heard, the United States Government's involvement in Plan Colombia is multi-faceted. The Department of Justice, in coordination with the Department of Treasury, is adding an additional element to the US assistance package, that of developing the Colombian justice sector, with a particular emphasis on enhancing Colombian law enforcement capability, and combating not only major narcotics trafficking organizations, but also the human rights crimes and kidnappings, which are serious concerns in Colombia.

This US interagency effort, which involves most of the federal law enforcement agencies of both the Departments of Justice and Treasury, consists of 12 interrelated project areas, ranging from the development of human rights task forces, to attacking organized financial crimes, to joint criminal investigations of major narcotics organizations, to training and technical assistance for Colombian law enforcement agencies and prosecutors.

The US agencies involved include: DEA, FBI, US Marshall Service, Bureau of Prisons, US Customs Service, IRS, Secret Service, ATF, the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice, United States Attorney’s Offices, and the Office of Enforcement of the Department of Treasury.

This effort will be coordinated in Bogota by a senior Assistant United States Attorney assigned to the Embassy. This federal prosecutor, working with other Assistant United States Attorneys and US law enforcement agency country attaches assigned to the Embassy, as well as other US law enforcement personnel on temporary assignment.

They will work closely with their Colombian counterparts, which include the Ministry of Justice, the Prosecutor General’s Office, the Attorney General’s Office, the DAS, CTI, the National Police, the Direccion Nacional Estupefacientes, Colombian Customs, Navy and Coast Guard.

The goal of this coordinated law enforcement effort is to strengthen the Colombian justice sector institutions and their capabilities, as well as facilitate the development of a more effective criminal justice system. The rule of law is a cornerstone for sustainable democracy and is particularly important for Colombia at this time. The strengthening and enhancing of the rule of law is critical to Colombia in addressing its problems, from the corrupting influence and activities of criminal organizations, most notably those involved in drug trafficking, to human rights abuses, to the personal security of Colombia's citizens.

If you would bear with me, I would like to briefly summarize the 12 programs. First, the establishment of human rights task forces specializing in investigation and prosecution of alleged human rights violations. The goal of this project is to develop Colombia law enforcement, forensic, investigative and prosecution capabilities involved in serious felonies committed with political overtones.

Assistance in reforming the criminal codes and related statutes to support the Government of Colombia's development of a more effective criminal justice system. Assistance to the Colombian Prosecutor General’s Office in developing Colombia prosecutors to improve their capabilities in investigations and prosecutions. The development of the Colombia National Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Task Force, Anti-Corruption Task Force, and an effective system for managing and disposing of seized and forfeited assets. Assistance to the Government of Colombia in developing enhancing programs to combat organized financial crimes, including the black market peso exchange, counterfeiting US currency, and support for a recently developed Colombian Financial Intelligence Unit, which has been modeled after the US counterpart, Financial Crimes Enforcement Network.

Assistance to enhance the Colombians' capability in kidnapping investigations and prosecutions. Assistance to the Government of Colombia to expand and support a recently established unified law enforcement academy. Assistance to the Government of Colombia in developing and enhancing existing programs for witness and judicial security programs, especially those related to human rights cases. Assistance to the Government of Colombia in the development of a comprehensive maritime enforcement and port security program. Expansion of the US-Colombia cooperative initiative to investigate, prosecute and arrest transnational narcotics traffickers and money launderers. And assistance to the Government of Colombia to enhance its training of correctional personnel and implement provisions for prison security. And finally, assistance to the Government of Colombia in providing training and technical assistance to its Customs Police affiliated with Colombian Customs Service.

Most of these projects expand upon programs or law enforcement relations that existed prior to Plan Colombia, but they represent a significant coordinated effort not only by the US agencies but also by their Colombian counterparts.

Thank you.

MR. HUNTER: I would like to thank all the briefers and note, as Paul mentioned, that at the conclusion of the briefing we'll have for all of you folders that will contain some further background information and make sure that will amplify on some of the information that the briefers have shared with you so far.

At this point, I would like to open the floor for your questions, starting with Mr. Gedda.

QUESTION: I have a question for Mr. Brownfield. It's a question which he obviously chose not to ask himself. (Laughter.)

I'm not sure whether you're the most appropriate one for this one, but there are four Colombian governors in town, and I talked to one of them today. And there is a lot of concern about spraying. They claim that the spraying is wiping out the coca but also legal crops, including corn, and it also is having an impact on the health of the people in these regions as well as the animals.

Do you have a comment, please?

MR. BROWNFIELD: George, you're partly right. In terms of the details of the question, more appropriately would go to Jim Mack rather than to me, but I will answer it anyway because it helps me make my larger point.

You are correct. You talked to one of them, but there are four governors, largely from the southern Colombia area, which had the most impact on it from the eradication and spray campaign. And they have publicly made those two charges, which I would like to address one by one.

One, that the spraying affects licit and legal crops, as well as illicit crops. The answer to that is, if a campesino plants a row of coca and then a row of a legal crop and a row of coca and a row of a legal crop, and so on, ad infinitum, he is presumably doing it, one, with full knowledge of what he is doing and, two, to protect the illegal crop by one of two means, either by concealing it or by forcing the government authority to have to decide whether to destroy the legal crop along with the illegal crop.

In those sorts of situations, or in similar situations where you have an illegal field surrounded by a legal field, the answer will be yes, it is quite possible that legal crops have been sprayed at the same time that illegal crops have been. In those situations, there in fact is little remedy for the affected grower, because the presumption is he or she did it intentionally for the purpose of protecting the illegal crop.

There are also situations in which the spray aircraft have in fact erroneously sprayed legal crops, thinking that they were spraying illegal coca or opium poppy, and in those situations, there is a legal means of redress available to the cultivator. Is it working well? A good number of people would argue that it isn't; I think that is part of the challenge for the Government of Colombia, as well as those who support them, to make that system work better, because obviously, spraying works only to the extent that those who suffer innocently are able to get compensation, just as those who are not innocent are not able to get compensation.

Second issue: glyphosate, the principle chemical used for spray purposes, has a serious health effect. I will just answer this one, Jim, even though you easily could do this. Glyphosate is the most widely used herbicide on the planet earth. For all I know, it may also be the most widely used herbicide in any other planet in the solar system, or in the alpha quadrant. I cannot be specific on that point; I can on this particular planet. It is used very widely in the United States of America; it is used very widely in Europe; it is used very widely in Colombia.

Approximately 10 percent of all the glyphosate that is used in Colombia is used to eradicate illicit coca and opium poppy. The other 90 percent is used for normal agricultural purposes. Is this a dangerous chemical? We obviously do not think so. Is there any serious scientific evidence that it has an impact on human beings? We don't think so, or we would not be cooperating with the Government of Colombia in using it for spray and eradication purposes.

Having said that, we have agreed with Members of the United States Congress and their staffs to do yet another study of this, to determine in light of the very most recent spraying in southern Colombia whether it has had some health impact on human beings.

QUESTION: This question is also for Mr. Brownfield.


QUESTION: You might have addressed this before I came in. I came in in the middle of your statement, and I'm sorry. But what was the kind of shining moment that made you say, oh, well, we really have to treat this more as a regional plan? I mean, I know that there was some portion given in the original supplemental for Plan Colombia, but it seems that you're talking about a much more robust kind of comprehensive plan, and was it that these countries were coming to you and saying, documenting that they needed help, or did you just wake up one day and -- is this a preemptive measure? What was it?

MR. BROWNFIELD: The United States Government wakes up every day ready to do the best possible things it can for the people of this country and this world. Let me, however, be a bit more responsive to the question.

First, no, this is not something that we discovered, or that we discovered within the last several days, weeks, or months. We have realized from the very beginning -- and the very beginning, at least in our sense, takes us back to about the summer of 1999, when we, within the United States Government, began to focus on the Colombia crises, both drugs and peace and security and economic, as a serious issue that would have a great deal of impact on us in the United States as well as on the international community at large.

We started with Colombia, I would argue for two basic reasons. One, that was the central focus of the problem, which is to say, while all the countries in the region are affected by what is happening in Colombia, the core of the problem is inside Colombia. You have to start someplace; that seemed like a rather logical place to start.

Second, we within the Executive Branch of the United States Government had to deal with the practical situation of our Government and of our legislative and political process, and that suggests to us that we had to have a starting point in terms of educating and convincing the American people of various communities and constituents therein, and the legislature which represents them nationally -- and that's the United States Congress -- as to what the starting point is before we move on to a stage two, which would be a larger, more regional approach.

So my short and simple answer would be, we have had this sense all along; we don't believe we have been misleading, dissembling, or even understating, as we have talked publicly about it. We are, however, moving to stage two in what should be a two or three-stage process that should last a number of years, as former Under Secretary Tom Pickering, former Commander-in-Chief of Southern Command Charles Wilhelm, or former Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, General Barry McCaffrey, stated publicly and clearly to Congress in the course of last year as we moved this bill, this process forward.

QUESTION: The budget figures that we were given about an hour ago show a $948 million for international narcotics control and law enforcement for the 2002 fiscal year, which we were also told includes all of the Andean Initiative. Since that is considerably less than your appropriation last year for Plan Colombia, does this indicate the program is shrinking?

MR. BROWNFIELD: You will suck me into this budget discussion to this extent, and to no further extent, because neither I nor any of the other officials lined up here in this row of chairs are going to talk about the President's final detailed budget, amended budget, that will be presented to Congress on or about the 3rd of April until the President has submitted it to Congress.

However, if I could at least give you kind of the elements of what will become an answer to you on or about the 3rd of April. An Andean regional initiative from a budgetary perspective would include several different categories of funding. Part of it -- in fact, I suspect a big part of it, as you have already mentioned, will be the international narcotics control, the INL budget from the State Department's Function 150 account. Other parts of it, however, would include ESF, development assistance, which is managed by USAID; child survival and disease, CS&D, which is managed by USAID; the public diplomacy budget, which is managed by the State Department's various offices of public diplomacy affairs. That will be the entire package that should eventually constitute an Andean regional approach and an Andean regional initiative.

Some of the number that you have mentioned in terms of the INL number, in fact, does not involve the Andes. I believe that is their total, global figure. At the end of this process, I am confident that the President of the United States will submit to Congress an amended budget that will be a robust, serious and credible regional approach to the Andean issues.

QUESTION: Just to go back to the governors who were here, Mr. Mack was talking about "ground-truthing", I think he called it, giving you an accurate assessment in the next few weeks. The governor of Putumayo says that in Putumayo, upwards of 30,000 hectares have been sprayed, of which he says 15,000 -- or half -- in fact were licit crops.

Do you believe he is mistaken, and even if those crops were under the circumstances that you have outlined, plant interspersed with illicit crops or close to illicit crops, since the actual alternative development funds have only been arriving in the last couple of weeks in very minimal amounts, several months after the contracts were signed, is this a way really to convince the campesinos in Colombia that sticking with this program is the right thing for them to do?

MR. BROWNFIELD: Excuse me, I'll turn over to Jim Mack, kind of the ground-truthing process and how it is done. I will say by way of introduction, however, that neither the governor of Putumayo nor I believe anyone else in this government or in his government at this time has a good fix in terms of what the actual kill percentage or ratio has been in the December-January spraying in southern Colombia, and the reason is it is too soon to know. Scientifically, no one -- neither us nor him nor anyone else -- has a good serious number for that right now.

Jim, do you want to talk through in any greater detail the process and how it is done?

AMBASSADOR MACK: I would be astounded if that 15,000 hectare figure of spraying of licit crops were true. It's just inconceivable to me. Unless we're talking about crops that are intercropped with coca, and if that is the case, then the Government of Colombia's position is they are legitimate targets for eradication. But I don't believe that's the case either, by the way.

Ground-truthing -- there are two ways to go about it, and we will go about it the two ways. As the police, sometimes with our assistance, we will overfly it, we will photograph the area. Some of the photograph is a regular optical photograph, some is a multi-spectral photography, which will tell between colors that are emitted by a coca plant as opposed to a kumquat. And then there will be a sampling -- a ground-truthing, where actually a person will most likely get off a helicopter and check a field that has been sprayed and see what the proportion of the area sprayed was killed, and what actually was killed.

So by putting together a good representative sample, together with aerial photography of the entire area, you get a pretty good idea of the effectiveness of the spray.

QUESTION: All of you have mentioned or said -- stressed that this is a Colombian plan, and that it's their plan, and we are just helping them, and yet each of you has outlined a dizzying array of US Government programs that seem to do virtually everything that the local and national Colombian Government should be doing themselves.

So my question is, one, what is it exactly that the Colombians are doing themselves for Plan Colombia, other than attempting to fight the rebels and giving away large chunks of their country to them?

And the second thing is on the volunteer farmers, farmers volunteering for their crop substitution. It doesn't sound to me like this is -- "volunteer" seems kind of euphemistic for -- I mean, they're being threatened out of existence, aren't they? I mean, obviously they're being threatened with the law, saying that you're growing illegal crops, but if you're going to, in essence, bomb them with pesticides out of existence, how exactly do you call them volunteers?

MR. BROWNFIELD: I would never have used the word "volunteer," but let me take your questions in the order in which you offered them.

First, what is the Government of Colombia doing? The Government of Colombia budgeted Plan Colombia out -- you've heard this before, you'll hear it one more time, actually, you'll probably hear it several hundred more times, but today you'll hear it one more time -- at $7.5 billion over a three-year period beginning in the year 1999. What they have done is they have found their own internal sources of funding to the tune of $4 billion to support that, over half.

QUESTION: I'm talking about money, though.

MR. BROWNFIELD: Well, the money is going somewhere. They're not paying us. They're not paying any other member of the international community. So that suggests to you half of the answer to your question, which is they're putting in about 60 percent of the funding, and therefore they are doing at least 60 percent directly funded by themselves of Plan Colombia.

QUESTION: Okay, well, tell me this, then. How much of that money that they're putting in is actually going to support programs that you guys are actually doing?

MR. BROWNFIELD: The programs which we are doing is fairly limited. As you know, we are probably guilty of speaking in shorthand in terms of describing programs as here is what we are doing, suggesting that it is, in fact, the United States Government and employees of the United States Government on the ground who are doing it.

For the most part, we are supporting or funding efforts by the Colombia Government, elements of the Colombia Government, NGOs and other institutions, that are in Colombia to do these specific programs on the ground, the sorts of programs having to do with eradication and counter-narcotics, which Jim Mack described, the sorts of programs having to do with alternative development and other economic development issues that George Wachtenheim described, or the sorts of programs having to do with justice reform and justice sector issues that Paul Vaky described.

Now, for the most part, these in fact are being done by Colombia Government employees, agencies, offices, ministries, with the support -- which may be training, it may be education, it may be funding, it may be equipment -- from the United States Government. So while this sounds simplistic, I would say in essence the answer to your question is the Government of Colombia is doing all of Plan Colombia; it's just some parts of it are being either funded or supported by other international partners.

Voluntary campesinos. A word that I would never use. For the most part, most of those who were sprayed, most of the land that was sprayed in the December/January/February time frame in Putumayo, around here, which of course you cannot see since you cannot see through the podium, were, by our estimation, what we call industrial-sized coca plantations or coca-cultivated areas. Industrial size, meaning too large to be managed by a single campesino or campesino family as part of a long-term, multi-generational presence on a specific piece of land. These were fairly large in size. The original spray area was an area dominated, for the most part, by the AUC paramilitary institution. The final area sprayed was an area -- "dominated" is not the word I'm looking for -- in which there was a regular and known presence by the FARC.

Small campesinos undoubtedly were sprayed. I'm sure they were interspersed among the larger industrial zones. That walks me back to where I was with my earlier statement in terms of the campesino who is intentionally hiding, concealing or trying to protect illicit cultivation of coca or opium poppy isn't going to get a tremendous amount of support or concern or commiseration if he is sprayed. The campesino who is in fact accidentally sprayed on his licit area, or, alternatively, who has signed up for an alternative development project, and of that there are, George, what, about 1,400 total families who have signed up? If any of those are sprayed, which, to the best of our knowledge has not happened, not even once, then that particular campesino would in fact have a right to redress, partly perhaps even funded by the United States Government.

MR. HUNTER: The briefers have been generous with their time. We'll take one last question.

QUESTION: Thanks. During the election campaign last year, there were several statements which gave the impression that the Bush Administration might take a closer look at the demand side of the drugs war. And I wondered whether you had seen any signs -- and I certainly didn't hear any today but of course that's not really your field -- but in your work, whether you had seen any signs that there has been any shift of emphasis in that direction.

MR. BROWNFIELD: I'll take a little nibble at this since I don't see Ambassador Mack leaping to the microphone, as would be more appropriate for the representative of the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs. I will say we, too, did read the transcripts and hear the confirmation hearings by the Secretary of State, then-designate, Colin Powell and the Secretary of Defense, then-designate, Donald Rumsfeld, both of whom made the logical point with which everyone who works for the State Department in this room agrees completely, and that is there will be no final or definitive solution to the drug problem until you have addressed the demand issue.

Now, it's a bit early for me to offer you any significant change or adjustment by a new Administration, an Administration, which, I would remind you, has been in office for some 50 days or so, who currently does not, at this point, for example, even have a new Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

I can therefore parrot back some of the things that you have no doubt heard ad nauseam in past years about how much of the total US Government drugs budget, if you will, is both domestic, which is the overwhelming majority, and is focused on the demand side, if demand means education, treatment, rehabilitation, as well as, if I could throw in domestic law enforcement, you're talking about the overwhelming majority of the total national budget.

The amount of the budget that is directed or focused on external supply reduction, in fact, comes out to a figure that I believe is somewhere less than 10 percent of the total budget.

MR. HUNTER: Let's do one question in Spanish.

QUESTION: It's about the support in Latin America to Plan Colombia. Today, there is an interview with the leader of the paramilitary groups in The Washington Post, and he mentioned that in Venezuela the president of that country is giving protection to the FARC, and also allowing them to cultivate coca in Venezuelan territory. That seems to me a different -- or contradicts the idea I heard you telling that Venezuela, Brazil, Peru and all the countries give the support to Plan Colombia.

First of all, what is your opinion or reaction to that interview? And, second, how can you tell us that those countries have given you support when officials from Brazil, for example, here in Washington tell us the contrary of what you say?

MR. BROWNFIELD: I'm sure you must have misunderstood them.


MR. BROWNFIELD: The first question was the reaction to the interview, I believe published in this morning's Washington Post, the story about Carlos Castano, the head of the AUC paramilitary organization in Colombia.

Our position on the paramilitaries in Colombia is fairly simple: We believe that they are engaged in systematic and egregious abuses of human rights in Colombia; we believe that the Government of Colombia, as well as all parts of Colombian society, should make a greater effort to bring that institution under control, to bring them within the application of the laws of the Republic of Colombia, as well as minimum international standards of human, civil and political rights.

Now, at the end of the day, the AUC is a Colombian institution that will have to be addressed by the Government of Colombia. But there are certain lines which, if crossed, do bring the international community, through whatever system you wish to talk about -- the United Nations, the Human Rights Commission, the International Court of Justice, the Inter-American Human Rights Court -- brings them and their issues into play.

Your second question as to how you could have so misunderstood the representatives of other governments as to think that they were in some way suggesting that my earlier presentation was incorrect, I would merely make the following point: And that is, the governments of the region do not all see the Colombian issue in precisely the same way. And if I implied that, let me walk away from that implication right now.

What I did say, and what I repeat, is that all of the governments of the region, including that of Venezuela, see the urgency, the seriousness and the importance of the crises, the problems, that are affecting Colombia today, whether they are drugs or security, movement of populations across national boundaries, economic crises and impact on neighboring countries. They all see these as serious problems. And in fact, our public as well as private message to all the governments of the region is that this is a regional problem, a regional issue, and it has to be addressed through regional consultation, cooperation, communication. That's the message that we have delivered and that I believe is at least generally accepted by all those governments affected in the region.

QUESTION: With all the information you have, it is true that the Government of Venezuela is allowing the FARC to cultivate coca in their territory?

MR. BROWNFIELD: That's a third question. You were clearly -- you're violating the two-question rule. I will say that I read the same interview in this morning's Washington Post that you did. I do not regard Carlos Castano as a particularly credible source on this or, in fact, most other issues that he might care to expound upon.

We have seen evidence, which we have shared with the Government of Venezuela, of coca cultivation in Venezuela. We have had past experience where we have worked with the Government of Venezuela to address and attempt to eradicate areas where coca has been found to be growing. And we would be willing to do so again if that were in fact the mutual desire of the governments involved.

MR. HUNTER: Thank you.

Released on March 12, 2001