Media Center



February 12, 2003 - Washington, DC

(As prepared for delivery)

Mr. Chairman, Vice President Santos, Distinguished Delegates:

Once again our Hemisphere – our neighborhood – has been victimized by a cruel act of terror.

On Friday evening, February 7, the Club El Nogal in Bogota, Colombia’s capital city, was in the midst of hosting a wedding reception, a little girl’s ballet recital, and a children’s party when a terrorist bomb exploded. At least 34 lives were snuffed out, with six children among the dead. More than 150 others were injured.

President Bush, speaking on behalf of the United States, offered our deepest condolences to the families of the victims and our sympathy for this horrible tragedy to President Uribe, and the people of Colombia. Today, I wish to personally express these sentiments to you, Mr. Vice President, to the Delegation of Colombia and to all Colombians.

Who would commit such a heartless, barbarous act? And why?

The government of the United States has evidence that indicates that the so-called Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) perpetrated this act of terrorism. The Club El Nogal bombing is believed to be part of an urban terrorism campaign by the FARC, the largest and one of the most dangerous terrorist groups in the Western Hemisphere.

These terrorists, by their very nature, abhor the values and practice of democracy. The goals of terrorism are clear: to spread fear, to weaken the rule of law, to undermine the exercise of our most basic human rights, to demoralize law-abiding citizens, and, ultimately, to destroy the essential institutions of society. The target and intended victim of this vicious cycle is democracy itself.

Like the other two groups in Colombia that have been designated by the United States as “Foreign Terrorist Organizations,” – the National Liberation Army (ELN) and the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), the FARC derives much of its funding from the production and trafficking of illegal drugs. Kidnapping is another lucrative business.

For too many years, these narcoterrorists have unleashed a terrible assault against Colombia – our neighbor and sister republic. Terrorist attacks killed over 3,000 Colombians in 2001. Another 2,856 were kidnapped. Among the kidnap victims were 289 children, the youngest of whom was only three years old. Our information indicates that further acts of this kind are likely. And 51 U.S. citizens living or visiting Colombia have been kidnapped since 1992, and 10 killed, by these narcoterrorists.

Essentially, terrorist acts such as these serve the business interests of the narcoterrorist, who hope that by laying siege to civil society and the state, they can freely operate their illicit and deadly business.

President Uribe and the Colombian people are fighting back – and the United States stands in solidarity with them as they defend their democracy.

Through our Embassy in Bogota, the United States will provide whatever assistance we can upon the request of Colombian authorities so they can bring the perpetrators of this terrorist outrage to justice. And, we will work with Colombia and her neighbors to hold those responsible for aiding, supporting or harboring the perpetrators, organizers, and sponsors of these acts equally accountable for these crimes.

On the day of the bombing, at the request of the Colombian government, we dispatched a six-member team from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms to cooperate closely with Colombian authorities on the crime-scene investigation. The U.S. is committed to helping Colombia in its fight against narcoterrorism through a broad range of law enforcement and counterterrorist assistance and cooperation.

Just last year, our United States Department of Justice obtained indictments against three leaders of the FARC, one of which was the highest-ranking FARC military commander. Also last year, one AUC leader and two members were indicted on five counts of drug trafficking crimes. The U.S. will continue to cooperate closely with law enforcement officials in Colombia and other Latin American nations to bring charges against key members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), two guerrilla groups designated by the State Department as foreign terrorist organizations.

The United States shares Colombia’s vision of a prosperous democracy, free from the scourges of narcotics and terrorism, which respects human rights and the rule of law.
To help Colombia’s democracy achieve these aims, U.S. objectives include programs that will:

· Enhance counterterrorism capability by providing advice, assistance, training and equipment, and intelligence support to the Colombian Armed Forces and the Colombian National Police;

· Continue assistance to combat illicit drugs and terrorism, defend human rights, promote economic, social and alternative development initiatives, reform and strengthen the administration of justice, and assist the internally displaced;

· Substantially reduce the production and trafficking of cocaine and heroin from Colombia by strengthening counter-narcotics programs that: assist with eradication of illegal coca and opium poppy; advise, train, and assist counterdrug organizations and units; dismantle drug trafficking organizations; disrupt the transportation of illegal drugs, precursor and essential chemicals, trafficker supplies, and cash; address major cultivation regions; and respond rapidly to shifts in cultivation regions; and,

· Increase institutional development, professionalization, and enlargement of Colombian security forces to permit the exercise of governmental authority throughout the national territory while ensuring respect for human rights;

The nations of the OAS must – and, we are certain, will – stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Colombia in the struggle against narcoterrorism. Recently in San Salvador, at the meeting of the Inter-American Committee Against Terrorism –CICTE – the member states recognized the serious threat posed to democracy and security in our Hemisphere by the links between terrorism and the illicit trafficking in drugs, arms, and other forms of international organized crime.

This nexus between drugs and terror takes many forms, ranging from facilitation – protection, transportation, and taxation – to direct trafficking by terrorist organizations themselves. Drug traffickers benefit from terrorist military skills, weapons supply, and access to clandestine organizations. Terrorists gain a source of revenue and expertise in the illicit transfer and laundering of money for their operations. Both benefit from a weakened state. Like traffickers and other organized criminal groups, terrorists make use of those countries and areas where government control is weak. Drug traffickers also gain considerable freedom of movement when they operate in conjunction with terrorist groups in isolated rural areas.

We have many tools at our disposal to combat this insidious criminal synergy – including the cooperation required under the Inter-American Convention Against Terrorism. We have the resources of CICTE (the Inter-American Committee Against Terrorism) and CICAD (the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission). Our member states are parties to many conventions and agreements for cooperation in a broad array of law enforcement areas. Member states must work effectively to drain the terrorist swamp to starve terrorist organizations of the corrupt money they utilize to finance their activity by incorporating the CICAD Model Regulations on Money Laundering Control, including the recently adopted amendments on terrorist financing, into their national legislation.

All the while we should take inspiration from the Inter-American Democratic Charter, which the Colombian Delegation played such an important role in bringing to life, as this Hemisphere’s vigorous and proud response to terrorism and lawlessness.

For good reason, the OAS is distinguishing itself as an effective regional organization that is determined to protect the security and promote the well-being of all citizens in our Hemisphere. We should consider the savagery of the El Nogal bombing as an attack on all of us and on everything we stand for. And we must pledge our best collective efforts to support the people and government of Colombia in their struggle to defend democracy.

Mr. Chairman, after the attacks of September 11, 2001, my nation was reminded of the solidarity of the good neighbors represented in this hall. Let us send this same message of solidarity to the good women and men of Colombia: Those who stand up to terrorism in the Americas, will never stand alone.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.