Media Center



July 24, 2008 - Washington, DC

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. As you and others here in the Council know, the United States takes the fight against terrorism very seriously. We would like to begin this morning by underscoring the importance of support by all OAS member states for the democratically-elected Government of Colombia in its ongoing fight against terrorism and organized crime. This is not a national challenge, but rather a regional challenge which affects all of us as OAS member states.

We also recall that Secretary General Insulza spoke to this issue at the opening of the OAS General Assembly in Medellin, where he noted that the actions of the FARC were offenses under the Inter American Convention against Terrorism. In contrast, Mr. Chairman, the delegate from Nicaragua has repeatedly asserted that the FARC deserves recognition and legitimacy. This action is something which we should view with appropriate concern.

Mr. Chairman, there can be no doubt that the FARC is a terrorist organization, and there should be no attempt to justify its heinous acts including: kidnapping, extortion, murder, attacks against civilians and Colombian security forces, and narcotics trafficking to finance its activities. It has engaged in a decades-long campaign of terrorism against the democratically-elected Government of Colombia.

These actions have been repudiated the world over, through worldwide marches held last February - as well as this past weekend. I joined several of you present today as we marched together here in Washington to demand libertad for those hostages still held by the FARC. In turn, we joined millions of other protesters expressing the same views – in Bogota, Paris, London, Miami, Beijing, Sydney, and New York.

Together, we called upon the FARC to heed the appeal from governments throughout the region and the world - and by countless international organizations - to lay down their arms, cease their terrorist activities, and release immediately all remaining hostages so they may be returned safely to their families.

As member states of the OAS, we should stand with these marchers and with the people and Government of Colombia - not with the FARC. We must work together to confront transnational threats, including terrorism. As Colombia’s friends and partners, we can do no less than recommit ourselves to stand with the people and Government of Colombia as they meet these challenges.

On July 8, the OAS Permanent Council expressed its support for the Colombian Government as it seeks to achieve democratic security for its people. These efforts contribute to the security and stability of the entire region.

Mr. Chairman, the United States is proud to stand with Colombia in its efforts to deal with the threat posed by the FARC and other terrorist groups and organized criminals operating in Colombia. Plan Colombia, which is succeeding, is aimed at enhancing regional security by reducing the threat posed by terrorist groups.

Mr. Chairman, we regret that the representative of Nicaragua has, yet again, sought to misconstrue the policies of the United States. As many of us already know, this is not the first time he has raised this issue – and I would argue, needlessly. Rather than respond to every allegation and insult, it has been the policy of my delegation to deal seriously with the important matters before this body. However, we do believe it is important to clarify the record and make clear our understanding that the outbursts of one individual are not representative of the actual relationship between the United States and Nicaragua.

In fact, we enjoy a constructive relationship with the Government of Nicaragua. Concrete examples of bilateral cooperation include:

• Nicaragua’s participation in a $175 million Compact with the Millennium Challenge Corporation. This is grant money, not loans or credits.

• The delivery of more than $15 million in assistance to Nicaragua to help with the recovery from Hurricane Felix along the Atlantic coast.

• A $10 million OPIC construction program to build low-income housing in Nicaragua.

• Significant debt relief to Nicaragua earlier this year.

• Medical assistance to thousands of Nicaraguan citizens during the visit of the USNS Comfort in 2007.

• Our extensive security relationship with Nicaragua, including through participation in joint military exercises, cooperation against narcotics traffickers operating in the region, working together on de-mining, and strengthening Nicaragua’s maritime capabilities.

• Nicaragua is also one of the biggest beneficiaries of the CAFTA-DR free trade agreement. Of the $282 million in foreign direct investment in Nicaragua in 2006, U.S. investments accounted for $71 million, or nearly double the U.S. investment in 2005.

The point, Mr. Chairman, is that the United States shares a broad range of interests with the Government and people of Nicaragua, including in poverty alleviation, economic growth, and confronting transnational organized crime. As I noted above, we have worked constructively with Nicaragua to advance our common objectives in each of these areas.

All of us understand that it is normal for countries to have differences on the issues before the OAS. This is, after all, the premier multilateral forum in the Hemisphere and provides a venue for member states to seek consensus on the most pressing matters of the day. Working together, in a spirit of collegiality and collaboration, while also respecting differences, we have accomplished much in just the last few months.

By contrast, it would seem counterproductive to use this forum to sow discord and seek unnecessary confrontation, which the Nicaraguan delegate appears to be supporting this morning. I would ask our colleague from Nicaragua to reflect on the nature of his approach here at our Permanent Council, and consider whether it is in keeping with the tradition of this august body.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.