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Joint News Conference Following the Drug Summit in Cartagena, Colombia

February 15, 1990

President Barco Vargas of Colombia. The multilateral agreement we have just signed opened a new era in this struggle against drugs. It is the first time that we developed a common scheme for common action. In -- [inaudible] -- we have agreed upon a very clearcut goal to be followed, and it has been agreed that it is necessary to adopt commercial measures to strengthen our economies, with the purpose of confronting the drug problem in all its scope and extension. I am also very pleased because the progress attained here today coincides with an integral policy that I have defended on behalf of the Colombian Government. This summit meeting undoubtedly has been a success. I would like to thank each and every one of my fellow Presidents for having expressed themselves so openly throughout our discussions.

Before beginning the dialog, I wish to say that it is not true, the rumors of certain negotiations with drug traffickers. That is completely untrue and false. The government policy has not changed. It is very clear that drug traffickers must put an end to their illegal activities and submit themselves to the Colombian legal and justice systems. You all know that the Colombian laws will not be negotiated. Thank you very much.

Q. Mr. President, the United States recently halted its plans to deploy naval forces in international waters off Colombia to help trap drug trafficking aircraft. Are you now willing for these operations to resume, and if not, can you tell us why?

President Barco Vargas. The answer is a very clear one. There is territorial maritime area in which -- or which belongs to, and cannot be altered by, nor crossed without permission from Colombia. There are other areas which in order to board or to cross a vessel they must request permission from Colombian authority. That permit is authorized. They will grant that permit. But this has certain legal implications which implies that a vessel in these international waters cannot be attacked.

Q. Sir, my question was U.S. naval forces in international waters off Colombia -- are you now willing for those operations to take place?

President Barco Vargas. No, it's not necessary. We don't need them. Colombian territorial waters are being patrolled by us and controlled by us. Muchas gracias [Thank you very much].

Q. President Bush, with all this security system that has been established, you showed that there is sort of a lack of trust regarding the Colombian authorities; perhaps you thought that we were not able to preserve your life and the people that came with you. So, now we would like to know: Will we also have lack of trust regarding the cartel of drug users in the United States and people who are being bribed in the United States? Are you willing to fight against those cartels in the United States? It seems that your commitment is not as real as our President's commitment in this struggle against drug traffic.

President Bush. In the first place, I don't think I'd be here if I didn't have any lack of trust in President Barco. I wouldn't be here if I didn't strongly support his efforts to fight drugs. And I wouldn't be here if the best security experts in our country felt that there was undue risk. So, I'm here, and that should answer the first part of your question.

Secondly, fighting any cartel in the United States that has -- you want me to start over? Starting from scratch. The question related to my lack of belief in security here. I wouldn't be here if I had any such lack of belief. I am here. I have great respect for what President Barco is doing in the war on drugs. And I hope that my coming here, as with President Garcia and President Paz, demonstrates a solidarity of support for him. And the security arrangements have been very good. And I will say that there's been a lot of speculation about that in our country that's probably compelled you to ask the question.

Secondly, I don't know what cartel you're talking about, but I owe it to the children of America, the United States -- and I owe it after this cooperative meeting to these three Presidents -- to guarantee them that we will do everything we can to cut out the demand for narcotics in the United States. And that means going after any cartel, any individual, any lawbreaker of any kind who is violating the laws of the United States or, indeed, international law, when it comes to narcotics.

Q. Mr. President Jaime Paz, one of the means of putting an end to the scourge of drug trafficking is through the substitution of coca leaf plantations in a country such as my own. Nonetheless, the coca growers have shown and expressed their concern because of the destiny of trading the products that could substitute the coca leaf plantation and crops. They would like to see a fixed market with fair prices for their new products. Have you reached some type of agreement with the President of the United States of America so that this country will invest in buying the products that will substitute the coca plantations?

President Paz Zamora of Bolivia. Mr. journalist, regarding the point you have just touched, allow me before answering your question in a very specific manner to share with you an impression I had after having finished discussions in the meeting. Regarding the conception of the fight against drug trafficking, in Cartagena, we have begun some type of perestroika, even though I wouldn't say that I am acting as Gorbachev here. But we have given way to a great perestroika because we have reassessed and readdressed many things at the level of what used to be the idea we had not very long ago regarding how we should confront and broach this problem.

And I feel that all of us have changed. This has been a process that has become a reality here in Cartagena because the Presidents of the countries attending this meeting have begun to understand the true scope of this problem and the way to confront it also. And it is within this context that I would like for you to know -- and you will see this in the document that we have signed here in Cartagena -- you are going to see that the third part of the document deals with the need to have some type of alternate development vis-a-vis the problems posed by the surplus cultivation of coca leaves.

Therefore, we have expressed a concept that is very clear. It is not a mechanical substitution of a hectare of coca leaf for a hectare of cacao but rather of a concept related to the economy of the coca. But we have to develop a alternate development scheme that will bring about some type of alternate economy. And supposedly, it will be an economy with the ability to insert itself efficiently and in a competitive manner in the international market.

Therefore, questions such as the one you have just addressed will probably be reduced to a couple of -- [inaudible] -- or three, as can be the case of coffee and sugar at this specific point in time, for they do have fixed quotas in the American market. But the objective, the purpose, is to have an alternate development that will produce in my country an alternate economy, an alternative to the coca economy. But it must be an efficient and competitive economy that must not be subsidized by the international market. That, therefore, means that it must be some type of collaboration, some type of investment, in order to be able to substitute this alternate economy and lead us to have a sound and competitive economy in the international markets. So, it's a different way of approaching the problem in the terms in which we used to do a few months ago.

Q. Mr. President Garcia, your responsibility as President of a large amount of producer of the coca leaf is a total responsibility, vis-a-vis a country that is -- [inaudible] -- have depended for a long time on this crop. And second, you have a responsibility vis-a-vis the welfare of human beings, because you have said that narco-traffic is a crime against humanity. So, within the context that you yourself find in this summit meeting, are you being loyal to these two -- [inaudible]

President Garcia Perez of Peru. I think that this meeting is of the utmost importance. And using the title of an old friend: We are searching for lost time. And after much time, we are reinserting and reformulating here in a very loyal manner the problem of drug traffic and the illegal production of coca. And I do believe -- [inaudible] -- that we are starting with a new chapter not only in terms of -- [inaudible] -- but also in terms of the relations between the United States of America and Latin America.

With the documents that are signed, there is a whole reformulation and reinterpretation as to how we struggle with the drug traffic, a comprehensive and economic -- [inaudible]. And for the first time, it has been acknowledged that drug traffic is an economic aspect of our relations and that the struggle against drug traffic implies we compensate the overall disturbances and disorders that this struggle might produce in our economies. It also acknowledges that the substitution of crops has to be supported by a -- [inaudible] -- of countries. [Inaudible] -- responsibility as producers, we commit ourselves to the struggle both at the productive level and in terms of humanization.

And we hope that where it is most important -- [inaudible] -- is that for the first time we have come together with the President of the United States, and at a multilateral level, to discuss and debate one of the many problems that we are confronting in Latin America and which unite our hemisphere. And just as we are -- [inaudible] -- Bolivia, Colombia, and Peru -- [inaudible] -- in order to deal with a problem that has been considered to be a security problem in the United States, I think that this is the first chapter of a multilateral approach to the problems of Latin America and its relations with the United States. And I do hope, Mr. President, that we will have the occasion to hold multilateral meetings to discuss problems such as foreign debt or in the commercial relations of our countries in the future. I think a new chapter of multilateral relations between Latin America and the United States -- and we are overcoming past stages at a bilateral level which have made the solutions -- [inaudible].

In answering your question, I feel very certain that we are recovering at a time -- [inaudible] -- because we have -- [inaudible] -- participation and because we are assuming our responsibilities, and as we discussed this morning, we are assuming a commitment of struggling, despite the fact that we are developing countries. And the United States of America -- that its contribution and its aid is not an aid but rather an investment for its future -- [inaudible] -- economic disaster occurring in the United States in view of the problem of drug use and abuse. And I think that in Cartagena every possible step has been taken. [Inaudible] -- we make slow, gradual -- [inaudible] -- in discussion of this issue, but what is important is that we have taken this to a multilateral level.

Q. Mr. President, in your welcoming remarks this morning, you mentioned that the problem of drugs is a problem of the world community. It mainly affects South and North America and Europe. From diplomatic sources in Europe, I've got the information that in an early stage European countries wanted to take part in this summit but have been blocked away. Why was it not possible that any European country could take part in this summit meeting?

President Barco Vargas. The answer to your question of why the European countries did not participate in this meeting is due, first, to the fact that that opportunity was never raised; and it was not logical for us to meet a series of concerns that are different. Whenever Europe wishes to talk with us, the Latin Americans, it will be indeed a great pleasure for us to agree to a meeting with the Europeans.

Q. President Paz Zamora, in Colombia, there are important leaders who consider that the repression against the drug cartels have failed and who encourage a dialog with drug traffickers. Which is your opinion regarding this position? Would you be willing to attempt a dialog in Bolivia?

President Paz Zamora. As a result of my political vocation and ideology, I personally am willing and happy to have a dialog with everyone. But specifically, in the case we are discussing at this point, undoubtedly, we have come together here to Cartagena on the basis that the four heads of state and four countries agree and accept what is necessary now is to confront drug traffic as a threat against humanity. So, within the context of this meeting, I would say that if you think about, possibly -- the dialog is not something that is possible. We have come together in order to coordinate a joint comprehensive effort in order to struggle against drug traffic, which is considered to be a scourge against humanity.

Q. Mr. President Bush, we're seeing all kinds of military and material assistance to South American countries against drug cartels. Would you agree it's a kind of intervention of internal affairs to other countries? Why don't you invite more of these other countries to form any kind of independent, international organization to provide those kinds of assistance, rather than single, direct involvement?

President Bush. No, I don't agree with the gentleman at all. He asked whether I agree or not that this is some intervention in the affairs of these countries. And I think that's absurd on the face of it. And you've heard the welcome given this summit by President Garcia saluting the multilateralism. You heard President Barco call it this morning an unprecedented agreement -- no, this is President Paz -- an unprecedented agreement achieved in record time. And President Barco -- this meeting is the dawn of a new era in the war against drugs.

So, how anybody could suggest it was an intervention in the internal affairs is ridiculous. What we're trying to do is cooperate starting through this multilateral forum, this important summit of four nations. And then, I am pledged to work bilaterally with each of the countries because the problems are different here. But now, in terms of other countries around the world, I hope the United States will always be concerned about the problems of others and try to assist. And we are assisting. But this meeting should not be characterized as some intervention in the affairs of this country when I, along with two other Presidents, accepted the very gracious invitation -- I might thank you for the hospitality -- from the President of Colombia.

Q. President of Peru, Alan Garcia, our President, has asserted that this is the beginning of a new era; President Paz Zamora, who said that this is sort of a perestroika. You have said that this is a significant event because it is the first multilateral meeting on this level. When you go back to Peru, what will you be telling the people of your country in terms of a practical and real result in terms of the favored solution of their problem? And what could you say to the people of South America -- that they will be witnessing this exchange and that it will not be relevant -- [inaudible]?

President Garcia Perez. Thank you very much for your question. Personally, I would like to -- [inaudible] -- the problems of -- [inaudible] -- at a multilateral level. And most probably, I and President Bush will continue doing this on topics such as foreign debt and in our -- [inaudible] -- but certainly in responding directly to this.

We are doing a reformulation, a reinterpretation, of the struggle against drug traffic which calls for restriction in supply and demand, and substitution crops, and police control -- this is true. But it also predisposes the huge amounts of economic resources as an investment for the future. President Bush -- [inaudible] -- this problem of deciding on alternative crops -- how much will it cost now and how will the -- [inaudible]. As they say in the United States: "Where is the hamburger?" I think that -- [inaudible] -- before it was a military -- [inaudible] -- and where will these resources liberated by disarmaments, where are they going -- [inaudible]?

And in defense, I have confidence -- this is why I'm here. I think that this has been a desired effect in terms of confidence and -- this one -- in terms of we shall all make in terms of solving problems. And this is what I will be telling my country. We will start by solving the problems when you understand these problems, and the next step is to make investments to allocate resources for these problems. But what is seen here is the concept. Basically, what I started to say earlier, we have new relations between Latin America and the United States, and we hope that's forever.

Note: The joint news conference began at 4:31 p.m. at the Guest House near the Naval Academy in Cartagena.

George Bush, Joint News Conference Following the Drug Summit in Cartagena, Colombia Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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