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Tales of Colombia    Plan Colombia    Key Players    Timeline    Issues

TRANSCRIPT: Pastrana discusses Colombian drug war

Columbian President Andres Pastrana in conversation with CNN Chief International Correspondent Christiane Amanpour, during the Millennium Summit in New York

The main topic was Colombia's fight against drugs and the ongoing peace talks with two of the country's guerrilla groups.

CNN's Christiane Amanpour talks with Colombian President Andres Pastrana

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AMANPOUR: Mr. President, President Clinton has recently visited you and brought with him a massive aid package. The American people who are actually spending this money want to know why you think throwing more money at this problem is going to solve what are very profound, profound problems.

PASTRANA: We are putting a lot of money in with the United States. We are investing $1.3 billion a year avoiding drugs to go into the United States and to go into Europe.

So for the first time we have what we call Plan Colombia. It is an integrated policy, in which we look at both sides of drugs. How can we eradicate, looking at the policing aspect, the military aspect, and how can we invest in our peasants, in our people. So we are putting $1.3 billion a year in Colombia and we are such a poor country. We are investing a lot, avoiding drugs to be in the streets of the United States, avoiding drugs to be in the streets of Europe, and that's why we are asking the United States and we are asking Europe, through what we are calling the theory of co-responsibility.

Now is not the problem of pointing out "It's your problem or it's my problem." It's our problem. And we have one common enemy: narcotrafficking.

AMANPOUR: Why do you think, though, I mean, most of the aid that is coming to you from the U.S. is military aid. Why do you think more military aid, more high tech, or do you think that that can win the narco war in the absence of a peace deal?

PASTRANA: I see the other face. For the first time, of the ($1.3 billion), 79 percent is going to the military, helicopters basically. But for the first time we will have about between $230 million and $250 million to be invested. For the first time, social investment from the United States.

AMANPOUR: But do you think you can stop the drug flow out of Colombia in the absence of a proper peace deal?

PASTRANA: Oh, yes. I think you have to be aware that we have been in internal conflict for 40 years. The problem is that in the last years, about five or seven years, maybe a little bit more, now the insurgent groups are financing by drug money, or the vigilantes are financed with drug money. And the guerrillas have said we don't have anything to do with narcotrafficking, we want to work with alternative development.

You remember, there was a first contact between the FARC organization and the United States, with the State Department, in a meeting that they had in Costa Rica. Because when I met Marulanda, the leader of the FARC, in the jungles of Colombia I asked him: "Are you willing to go to the United States and you, yourself, leader of the FARC, are you willing to tell the United States that you are committed in the eradication of illicit crops?"

He said: "Yes, we will send someone." And that was the first meeting between the FARC and the State Department. Unfortunately it was publicly and then we had to change the strategy.

AMANPOUR: But the FARC is making more money than ever now, so what they said to you is kind of irrelevant. They are making more money than ever from the drug flow and you mentioned the United States.

The United States feels that you, Mr. President, have often mishandled negotiations with the FARC and have been bamboozled, hoodwinked, whatever you like to say.

PASTRANA: No, that's not true. I don't think the United States has said that, I will give you one example ...

AMANPOUR: And the people of Colombia feel that basically the FARC wields more power than you do.

PASTRANA: Wait till you see examples: United States ... Vietnam. It took one year to determine the size of the table, if it was going to be circular or rectangular. In that year, more Americans died than in the rest of the war.

In one year, in the same year, in Colombia, now we are sitting at the table of negotiation. We never had a negotiation with the FARC. Now we have an agenda, a 12-point agenda. Next week we're going to sit down to see if we can agree on a cease-fire and cease of hostilities. With the ELN on the other side we are starting a process of dialogue and we hope that we can start a negotiation process.

I was talking today with some friends, for example: Cyprus, 25 years negotiating; Ireland, 24 years negotiating; Palestinians and Israelis, 25 years negotiating.

We have been in one year, I think we have advanced more in one year in Colombia than in many years in Salvador and Guatemala. I think that is not fair to this country that we are not committed. We hope to have facts of peace with the guerrillas, showing the people of Colombia, bringing back confidence to this process that they are committed in these peace processes.

AMANPOUR: I thought they rejected a cease-fire.

PASTRANA: No, no. In two weeks we are going to start ... in two weeks we are going to start conversations with the FARC.

AMANPOUR: And you think they'll agree to a cease-fire?

PASTRANA: We'll start conversations. We could agree on that. I think that could be a very good first step, but on the other hand I think we should advance in the table of negotiations. For example, I think we could agree, we could start agreeing, in some issues on the economy. That, basically, is the one we are starting right now with the FARC.

AMANPOUR: And you have that much good faith in them because a lot of your own people are just dismayed that you give them so much credit or the goodwill to consider them worthy negotiators.

PASTRANA: In peace you have to give, in peace you have to show ... it is not my government that is giving, it is the Colombian people. We have shown the FARC and the world that we want peace and we are committed. I'm talking from the people of Colombia, from the president of Colombia. That's why we are asking the FARC: "You should show the world that you also are committed, show facts, we want real things so that we could bring back confidence to the process.

AMANPOUR: The United States has given you a lot of advice and a lot of help on how to fight the drug war from the supply side.

PASTRANA: We need the world to know that Colombia alone cannot win the war on drugs. We need the help of the U.S. We need the help of the Europeans. We need the help of the Asians and we are working with them in this integrated plan.

Also we have problems, for example, in Colombia. I have said for many years that one of the problems of Colombia is that we thought we were only an export country for drugs. We are now a consuming country so we have also internal problems.

AMANPOUR: But with the demand in the U.S. and Europe do you think laws should be made to make it less profitable?

PASTRANA: President Clinton said in Cartegena the other day that they are really committed in fighting demand. We need, and I think the world needs, to control demand, otherwise someone else is going to sell the drugs. That's why, for the first time, we are integrating all our efforts in fighting this common enemy that is narcotrafficking.

You have to be aware that narcotrafficking is the largest business in the world today, over $500 billion a year. So we are confronting the largest criminal organization in the world.

AMANPOUR: A lot of Colombians and a lot of observers want to know what are your plans beyond investing money into fighting the drug war from the supply side and where is the investment in the economy, in crop substitution, in all sorts of things you're going to need in rebuilding.

PASTRANA: Colombia has a $7.5 billion plan. The U.S. is putting $1.5 billion, we Colombians are putting in $4.5 billion. Seventy-five percent of Plan Colombia is social investment and I think it is the first time that the Colombian government has invested so much in these areas that basically are abandoned, the state has no presence in these areas. So 75 percent of Plan Colombia will be social investment and that is why I have said Plan Colombia is a plan for peace and not a plan for war.

AMANPOUR: You sound very optimistic but about a decade ago the ex-president, the former president George Bush came to Colombia with promises and help and met pledges similar to the one you are making and by all indicators everything is worse in the last decade. Why do you think, why should anybody think it is going to get better now?

PASTRANA: Because I think the scenario is completely different. Now the U.S. is more involved in controlling demand. Europeans are more involved also in the business in trying to fight narcotrafficking. Latin America is more committed. Not only Colombia, but in Peru, Bolivia, what happened in these countries with good experiences, excellent experiences.

I think now the world has the consciousness that there is one common enemy that we need to fight. And I think that is why the scenario is completely different, even in the case of Colombia, now the whole establishment, the whole government, army, air force, the police, it's going after narcotrafficking. So I think the results are good results in the fight inside the country because we have established a real relationship and fighting inside Colombia against narcotrafficking with the whole institution engaged in this war.

AMANPOUR: Mr. President thank you very much for joining us.

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