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The President's News Conference Following the Drug Summit in Cartagena, Colombia

February 15, 1990

The President. We depart Cartagena having forged an unprecedented alliance against the drug trade. This afternoon, my colleagues, President Barco [of Colombia] and President Garcia [of Peru], President Paz Zamora [of Bolivia], and I signed the Document of Cartagena which sets forth the principles of this alliance.

In signing the document we've committed ourselves to the first common, comprehensive international drug-control strategy. We, in fact, created the first antidrug cartel. The document, which creates a flexible framework under which the four of us will coordinate our activities, covers the major issues of economic assistance; demand reduction; expanded law enforcement and interdiction activities; the involvement of military resources, where possible, appropriate; and the control of precursor chemicals, automatic weapons, and other key components of the narcotics trade; the pursuit of profits and sharing of seized assets; and a commitment on the part of all of us to continue together regularly to coordinate our activities.

In addition to signing this Document of Cartagena, we begin the process of executing bilateral agreements in support of the document today. Secretary of State Baker executed the agreements with Peru on tax information exchange, public awareness, and extradition, and with Bolivia on public awareness and the export of defense articles. Director [of National Drug Control Policy] Bennett executed a bilateral agreement with Bolivia on the control of precursor chemicals. Equally important, the four of us today had an opportunity to discuss in total candor the problem that illegal drug trafficking and use presents to each of our societies.

I also had the opportunity to review with my colleagues the greatly expanded counternarcotics activities of the U.S. Government. The $2.2 billion, 5-year program to which the United States is committed to support our partners in this struggle was discussed in some detail. In addition, I had the opportunity to explain our plans to expand to $7.5 billion inside the United States on treatment, prevention, and criminal justice support.

I believe they were impressed with the major increase in resources, which we've committed to reducing demand in our country. I must say, I also listened very carefully to the challenges that each of the three countries face, and have come away with the new ideas worthy of consideration with a better personal understanding and appreciation of the problems that my allies face in this struggle.

And I cannot leave this beautiful country, Colombia, without once again emphasizing that President Barco and all of his citizens who joined him in this brave fight against drug trafficking are an inspiration to me and an inspiration to the American people. I came here today to make the point as clear as I could that they do not and will not stand alone; they will have the steady and sustained support of the United States. We want to try to help them in the multilateral institutions, help President Barco in asset sharing and opening up markets as best we can. I want to thank him and his many colleagues for the most hospitable arrangements that we encountered here in Barranquilla and over in Cartagena. It was a great pleasure to be here -- albeit, very, very briefly.

So, thank you, again, President Barco. And I offer you my profound appreciation for your steadfast efforts in the fight against narcotics. I'll take just a few questions because we're scooting on.

Q. Mr. President, how long do you think it will take to replace the coca plant? And how much will it cost?

The President. Well, I know we did not go into the replacement costs. And I expect any program that tries to shake their economy, to move it out of planting, which is very difficult for those governments to control, is going to take some time. And I can't give you a time estimate on that.

Q. Mr. President, are you surprised that the narco-terrorists didn't strike today, that there was no attack on you or any bombing in this country just to register displeasure with your visit?

The President. Well, you know, I got a question at the press conference over there on security; and I want to thank not only the security people here but our own security people, Secret Service and others, who are concerned with the security of the President. And I am not surprised.

Q. Mr. President, I gather you chose not to raise today that rather ticklish question of a U.S. Navy radar net somewhere off the coast here. Why not, sir?

The President. Well, there was no discussion of a radar net. There is so much misunderstanding over what was intended in the first place that it's not timely to do that. However, there was discussion of interdiction and my reasserting to those countries, all three of them, my intention to interdict narcotics coming into this country [United States]. But the stories on the U.S. task force were so distorted that I felt it was better to keep talking in general terms about our military interdiction efforts rather than asking for support from any one of the three countries.

Q. Sir, do you feel that now, after this meeting, that your understanding with these leaders may have been enhanced to the point where you might soon be able to raise that topic again?

The President. Well, it depends in what way, yes, in the first place, I'd feel the understanding is enhanced. And it was a frank meeting -- I mean, very frank with us on things that maybe they wanted me to do more of, or disagreed with. But I think that the idea of working cooperatively for interdiction is very important. You heard President Barco's answer there at Cartagena on that question. So, we're not going to push. We're not going to do something of that nature without a cooperative effort. But there are efforts in terms of interdiction on the high seas that the United States will continue to do.

Q. Mr. President, you acknowledged in the document today that the U.S. has a responsibility to help these economies wean themselves from the drug trade. Do you see that responsibility as job for job and dollar for dollar?

The President. No. But I see us making every effort we can to help them because they do have some severe problems. And I mention now trying to help Colombia, for example, in the multilateral agencies, for example. There's a lot of ways to try to help, but I don't think it is a job-for-job kind of approach. I don't think we can do that. I don't think there's a way the United States can do it or that any of the individual leaders can do it. We had a long discussion about the supply and demand of cocaine, how market prices affect what the farmers do in Peru or Bolivia. So, it isn't a job-for-job question.

Q. Mr. President, any successful interdiction strategy would require increased military-to-military cooperation. Is the U.S. already installing a ground radar system in Peru -- I mean, in Bolivia or Colombia -- I'm sorry -- or in any way helping the Colombians now to install a ground radar system?

The President. No, but I'd have to defer that question to somebody here. I know nothing of it. But I know there was a report that was written up that proved to be totally inaccurate, because I was just told there was a report saying there was some 200 people building a ground radar station. But I simply don't know of it. If there is, I'd be surprised, frankly.

Q. Do you know to what extent the U.S. and Colombia are, in fact, cooperating militarily now, in terms of interdiction efforts?

The President. Yes, I know that.

Q. Can you share that with us?

The President. No.

Q. Why not, sir?

The President. Because I don't feel like it, and because some of the things we do with Colombia -- if I shared it with you, maybe the drug narco-traffickers would find out about it, and I don't want to do that.

Q. Mr. President, the declaration calls for you to go to Congress for more money over the next several years. Does that go beyond the $2.2 billion, and if so, how much?

The President. Well, we're going to stay with this figure right now, but I expect the effort will continue to grow.

Q. Mr. President, perhaps -- for the sake of our children -- perhaps the United States wait too long to take this stand on the drug summit. And what is the timetable from now on?

The President. Well, you raised a very good point. And I think it has been too long before countries get together and try to work on this problem. But we're remedying that. The good news is -- and I shared a dramatic graph with the Presidents -- that we are making progress at home. One of the things that President Barco impressed on me some time ago was the need to do something about demand, and I believe we're making headway. I'm not happy with it, but we're making headway in the United States on that question.

Q. Mr. President, in addition to the good will, to paraphrase President Garcia, "Where's the beef?" What are these Presidents taking home to their own countries about the war on drugs?

The President. Read the communique, and I think you'll see.

Last one.

Q. Mr. President, how can we expect the Bolivians and Peruvians not to grow coca if we block their exports of flowers, citrus, sugar?

The President. I don't know if you heard the question. The question is: How can we expect them not to grow coca if we have other trade problems? And you mentioned sugar and flowers. I think the leaders here recognize that growing coca for the international drug market is immoral and wrong. And I think they believe that, and so they need assistance. If we have a flower problem, and we do -- I think we take 80 percent to 90 percent of the cut flowers from Colombia -- we've got to try to help on it. I don't know that we can solve it.

Coffee is a major problem for Brazil and the other countries -- I mean, for Colombia and also Brazil and the other countries with whom met -- please, just 1 minute; I'm not going to get to you, I don't think, because this may be the last one. And so, we have to work with them very cooperatively in trying to get a coffee agreement. But what I did get from these people -- and I think I knew it ahead of time, but had it reinforced -- was that these economies are hurting because of the kinds of export problems they are encountering. I have a problem and tried to explain it to them -- that consumers in the United States, the largest market for coffee, don't necessarily want to pay higher prices for it. And the same for flowers.

So, what we did on the flowers is explain the procedures that the Commerce Department -- and say that we would try to help in negotiating that. But the point is: It shouldn't be linked to whether people condone the growing of a crop that is illegal and that they're trying to stop, as a matter of fact.

Q. What about sugar, Mr. President? Will you address that?

Q. Europe and Japan in future negotiations.

The President. You're the guy. Yes. We're going to talk about that at the G - 7 [economic summit] in Houston, just as we did in Paris last year. It's a very important agenda item for the G - 7. And the more they get involved -- because they're user countries -- the better it'll be. So, I'll give a full report to the G - 7 and other European countries on this ice-breaking meeting here. And you can be sure it'll be on the agenda at the G - 7 summit in Houston.

Listen, thank you all very much. It's been a long day.

Note: The President's 37th news conference began at 6:10 p.m. at Ernesto Cortissoz Airport in Barranquilla, Colombia.

George Bush, The President's 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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