Remarks Following Discussions With President Belisario Betancur Cuartas of Colombia
President Reagan. President Betancur, it's a pleasure to have you visit us here in Washington. I, in particular, am pleased to have had this opportunity to reciprocate the hospitality that you extended to me during my visit to Bogota in 1982. Your present visit, Mr. President, gives us the opportunity to affirm, once again, the solid ties of friendship and good will between our two countries. As the leaders of free people, we share a commitment to the democratic ideals, which are at the heart of our societies.
Today we have renewed our mutual commitment to promoting democracy in this hemisphere, pursuing peace in Central America, and eliminating the scourge of narcotics trafficking from our societies. We have also explored areas of cooperation which can enhance the economic wellbeing of our peoples.
President Betancur, in trying to bring peace to Central America, you've played a key role in the Contadora process. And the United States fully supports the objectives of the Contadora process.
We join you in seeking a comprehensive and fully verifiable settlement of regional problems. And we, like you, believe peace can be achieved through national reconciliation and democracy. Colombia and El Salvador, for example, have invited talks with their opponents and encouraged them to be part of a truly democratic process. Those who seek democracy in Nicaragua have asked the Sandinistas to engage in talks as a step toward peace and democracy in Nicaragua. We hope that the Sandinistas will take that step toward reconciliation.
Later today I will be talking to the American people in greater detail about this subject. I am glad that President Betancur and I were able to discuss how the United States can best help the Contadora countries achieve all of the agreed-upon objectives for Central America, including national reconciliation in Nicaragua.
Mr. President, we admire your determination to end the strife which has plagued your country. The citizens of Colombia are indeed lucky to have a leader of vision, courage, and compassion. We wish you success and hope that those who have fought with weapons learn to work within the democratic process. It is appropriate that we praise your efforts to foster peace and brotherhood during this holy week.
Mr. President, your personal courage and dedication are also evident in your government's all-out battle against narcotics traffickers. You have my unbounded respect for what you're doing.
The production of illicit narcotics and the peddling of these drugs corrupt our societies, our children, and, with them, our future. The struggle against this unmitigated evil unites all good and decent people. We look forward to Mrs. Betancur's return here later this month to join Nancy and other First Ladies in discussing the problem, especially as it affects our young people.
In the United States, the fight against drug use has a top priority. We're trying to help those on drugs get off, to prevent those not involved from starting. And we're doing our best to smash the trade in illegal drugs. This matter is of vital concern to us both, and in finding solutions to the problem, Colombia and the United States are full partners, as we affirm today in our joint statement on narcotics.
The illegal drug trade, as we both agree, is a cancer. Commercial trade, on the other hand, serves the interests of both our peoples. While Americans enjoy Colombian products such as coffee, cut flowers, and tropical fruits, Colombians benefit from U.S. technology and goods such as heavy machinery, chemicals, and wheat.
At a time when both our governments grapple with trade deficits in a world of many trading partners, let us build on our history of cooperation to develop trade policies which strengthen our economies, give incentive to enterprise, and encourage exchange between our peoples.
I look forward, Mr. President, to working closely with you on these and other significant matters. On behalf of the United States, I extend warm wishes to both you, President Betancur, and to the Colombian people. We bid you farewell. We wish you a safe and happy journey home and a happy Easter.
President Betancur. Mr. President, members of the Cabinet, my visit to the United States, which was planned some months ago at the invitation of President Reagan, comes to an end today in the cordial climate of the White House.
It has been a good opportunity to speak with President Reagan, with Vice President Bush, with Secretary Shultz, and with other members of this administration on several issues—some bilateral, others multilateral-which are of interest to the people of the Americas and, in particular, to our two nations.
Today, at your invitation, we have met in Washington to examine a number of multilateral and bilateral issues: among the first, the Central American crisis, the process of greater democracy in Latin America, the problems stemming from the foreign debt, the strengthening of the international coffee agreement and of multilateral lending institutions, and the international fight against the drug traffic; among the latter, the macroeconomic adjustment program, with self-discipline and economic growth, and the trade relations between Colombia and the United States.
I have also taken advantage of this visit to exchange ideas with distinguished Congressmen, with senior officials from the international financial institutions, with outstanding personalities from the academic world, and important leaders from the U.S. private sector.
Regarding the Central American issue, I was able to bring up my concern with the problems that affect that region. I insisted on the urgency of reactivating the negotiating process of Contadora and of exhausting all efforts of conviction to implement the principles, commitments, and recommendations which are part of the document of objectives of the act of Contadora.
During a recent visit to the Central American region's countries, I was able to see for myself the renewed desire on their part to provide new possibilities for a dialog and, for the countries which are a part of the Contadora group, their determination to offer whatever possibilities there may be in this same respect.
I am pleased to state that in my talks today with President Reagan I have encountered the same constructive spirit and his decision to provide propitious conditions to carry out reconciliation dialogs that will ultimately lead to the full participation of the political and social forces in the democratic process of the countries affected by violence and civil strife.
I am pleased that the U.S. Government at this critical moment is approaching the problems of Central America with an open mind. And I am certain that this attitude will prevail throughout the region.
On the subject of narcotics, we are carrying out a frontal assault in my country in this respect. I refer you to the communique that President Reagan and I have issued, which clearly and categorically expresses the will of both countries to work together to rescue humanity from this scourge.
During the conversations with the authorities of the United States, I underscored the existing link that there is between the external debt and democracy and requested that a new round of negotiations, multilateral negotiations, be held to ease exports from developing countries. I have noted with interest that the United States looks upon the coming economic summit to be held at Bonn as a good occasion to examine this important subject.
In connection to Colombia's autonomous program of macroeconomic adjustment, I wish to place on record the positive support that we have received from the Inter-American Development Bank, from the World Bank, from the International Monetary Fund, as well as from the Government of the United States through its Federal Reserve, and from the Treasury Department. I have personally seen tangible proof of this support while on this visit.
We believe that the time has come, as I said before Congress, for the United States and Latin America to redefine the parameters of their mutual relations. We need what I would call a new treatment—a new understanding, a common doctrine—an alliance for peace, with the determination to go from mere tolerance, that has marked the relations between Latin America and the United States, to the formulation of a new scheme of open, constructive, and fruitful cooperation.
This new treatment, this alliance for peace, will not only improve economic relations in the hemisphere, but it will also mean the adoption of political objectives to defend democracy, which is the great spiritual value of American civilization. This consensus would allow us to strengthen the hemisphere's political institutions, would enhance the likelihood of peace and the possibilities of an enduring economic growth.
Finally, Mr. President and members of the Cabinet, it is not altogether possible in these brief remarks to bring out the significance that I assign to this historic visit to the United States, which has had a very tight schedule, as you know. I have made known to the authorities, candidly and without subterfuges, the totality of my ideas on issues which are of interest to us both.
I have been heard with attention and respect as befits the tradition of freedom and democracy of this great nation. I am pleased to state that it has been so and that I hope that my views and remarks will create a greater climate of understanding between the United States and Latin America-this vast, beautiful, and dynamic subcontinent that cherishes freedom and understands that to maintain and strengthen it, we need justice, and we need development.
Thank you very much, Mr. President.
Note: The President spoke to reporters at 1:25 p.m. at the South Portico of the White House. President Betancur spoke in Spanish, and his remarks were translated by an interpreter. Earlier, the two Presidents met in the Oval Office and then attended a luncheon in the Residence.
Ronald Reagan, Remarks Following Discussions With President Belisario Betancur Cuartas of Colombia Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/259817