Among the priorities in today’s world agenda are three main issues which are linked, and specifically affect Colombia: the search for peace, the struggle against terrorism and the fight against drug trafficking.
Many people are not aware of the extent of pain and damage produced by the drug trade, and only become concerned about it when they are affected directly. In Colombia, however, most people have directly or indirectly been victims to violence as a consequence of drug trafficking.
In our country, terrorism, in conjunction with the drug business, has caused the death of children, judges, policemen, soldiers, journalists, politicians, presidential candidates, as well as human rights defenders and innocent civilians.
Drug trafficking has also financed illegal groups that generate violence. Today the paramilitary and the guerilla groups are financed by the drug’s resources.
For this reason, the fight against terrorism and drug trafficking must be carried to the full extent. These are problems which affect the whole world and have to be fought with courage and determination.
Since the early eighties, long before I was president, my inner convictions led me to set a position against drug trafficking and violence. As a result, I experienced adverse and painful consequences, like being kidnapped myself.
So, Dear Friends, today I talk to you not only as former President of my country but as someone who has been a victim of the same misfortune that many of my country’s people have experience.
TERRORISM IN TODAY´S WORLD
After September 11, the fight against terrorism became a main priority of the international agenda. At present, a majority of nations have set plans to fight terrorism, have signed bilateral and multilateral agreements to battle it, and have held international summits about terrorism. Terrorism is no longer an individual country’s concern, but a global concern.
Regrettably, before September 11 the world was not like this. Many Countries didn’t have a clear and straight position about terrorism. Shielded in the mistaken theory that through the protection and tolerance of the groups that made this kind of acts guaranteed the internal security, countries proceeded as if the terrorism threat only concerns to those Nations who suffered it and not to all of them.
Long before September 11, terrorism affected countries such as Colombia directly and more profoundly, with little or no solidarity from other governments, and little or no global awareness or concern.
Terrorism has many faces. It is seen in the September 11 attacks, but also in the bombs that were set in Ireland, Bali, Colombia and Spain, where innocent civilians died. Terrorism is also in the suicide attacks that regularly occur in Israel. And of course, we can’t ignore the numerous homicides of journalists, judges, politicians and trade union leaders, and any other who have condemned the drug dealers offenses. Unfortunately, this is a common occurrence in Colombia.
I would also like to emphasize that the terrorist is not only the one who pulled the firing pin or set the bomb, but also the one who financed the operations, provided arms and explosives, and protected those who carried out the plans.
This is a new style of war, that does not need many men to cause extensive damage, and does not require a complex mobilization troops. On the contrary, it needs few men but abundant amounts of money.
Precisely, one of the elements linked to terrorism is drug trafficking. This activity has always been linked to terrorist acts, not only as a source of financing, but also as its main source of existence.
It is no secret that the large amounts of money that drive the opium market in Afghanistan and the coca market in Colombia, Peru and Bolivia, have served to finance terrorist attacks in which not only millions of people have been affected, but the environment has suffered as well. We need only to remember the March 11 attacks in Madrid, where it was proved that the explosives used by the terrorists were exchanged for an insignificant amount of hashish.
THE DRUG TRAFFIC PROBLEM
To better understand the business of the drug trade, it is necessary to evaluate the size of the world’s market for illegal drugs. Drug trafficking involves not only production of drugs, but also distribution within the consuming markets and money laundering.
I have always sustained that the war on drugs concerns and involves the international community. The war against drugs and against terrorism must be analyzed in the light of the consequences throughout the international community and the mutual responsibility among all Nations.
The illegal drug market, at close to 500 billion dollars , is today the second most profitable business after oil. It generates the movement of enormous amounts of money, especially throughout the consuming countries. Because of this, it is necessary to examine it from the different angles involved: consumption, production, distribution, and money laundering. It is also necessary to analyze it in view of its connections with arms trafficking and the terrorist acts executed in certain countries.
The majority of drug consumers live in countries that are not involved in drug production. The chemicals needed to elaborate drugs are produced mostly in Europe. The drug trafficking routes involve various countries. Most of the cash generated by this international business is laundered and remains in nations other than the ones that produce it.
According to the latest numbers available from studies elaborated by the United Nations, it is calculated that more than 200 million people used illegal drugs in the last year. Of these, 13 million consumed cocaine, close to 150 million consumed cannabis and
its derivatives, 15 million consumed opium, morphine and heroin, and 38 million consumed stimulants. Of these 38 million, 8 million consumed ecstasy, the fashionable drug of the day.
Europe and North America are, without a doubt the largest consumers of these drugs. The geographic dispersion and democratic liberties available to this enormous group of cocaine and opiate consumers makes it difficult to effectively limit consumption, creating the false sense that the fight against consumption is more complex and less efficient than the fight against production. Nonetheless, it is impossible to take on the war on drugs while ignoring the consumption side of the coin. Basic market economics will show that there is no production if there is no corresponding consumption of any given product; likewise, efforts to limit production will be useless if there is no corresponding effort to stem demand.
Regarding the illegal cocaine crops and production, the available information shows a blunt reality: Today the illegal coca leaf crops are found in Colombia, Peru, and Bolivia, where 153.000 hectares are cultivated of which 100.000 are grown in Colombian territory. However due to external factors such as weather, and quality of the leaves, Colombia produces 72% of the cocaine consumed in the world while Peru produces 20% and Bolivia the remaining 8%.
According to estimates from the United States State Department, in order to produce a ton of cocaine, between 200 and 250 hectares of illegal coca crops are necessary. The same State Department calculates that in 2002 Colombia produced 730 metric tons of cocaine.
On the other hand, the largest producer of heroin is Afghanistan, where 76% of the world’s heroin is produced, followed by Myanmar with 18% and Laos with 2%, while Colombia is the biggest producer in the Americas with 1%.
Unfortunately, Colombia has shown significant increases in the cultivation of Poppy crops and in the production of heroin, to the extent that according to United States Government figures, it is believed that Colombia produces 6 metric tons of heroin per year.
But for the illegal drugs to exist, irreplaceable chemical precursors are required: potassium permanganate for cocaine and acetic anhydride for heroin. For example, according to the study elaborated by the DEA, to produce a kilogram of coca base, you need 3 liters of concentrated sulfuric acid, 10 kilograms of lime, 60 to 80 litters of kerosene, 200 grams of permanganate of potassium and 1 litter of concentrate ammonia. To produce cocaine you also require acetone, ether and other acids.
According to reports from the United States State Department, the main producers of these chemical materials are Germany, Argentina, Mexico, United States and Holland, which are also some of the main consumers of cocaine and heroin.
From a different but no less significant angle, we must keep in mind the enormous amounts of money this business moves.
According to a recent study elaborated by the United States State Department, 1 kilogram of cocaine can cost in the streets of Europe around 100 thousand euros. This means that, only in Europe, where the consumption is estimated around 160 metric tons per year, the street market will be about 16 billion euros.
So, while a peasant in Colombia sells a kilogram of coca base for 1 thousand dollars on average, a kilogram of cocaine is sold in the streets of Europe for over 100 times its price.
With terrorism and drug trafficking we have really encountered two monsters, both of them with many heads and with their feet in many Nations.
Let me get into the specific case of Colombia, my country, which I had the honor to govern for 4 years and for which I have fought for my whole life.
In Colombia, we have been the victims of violence as in no other place in the world. Drug trafficking mafias and terrorism have attacked us without mercy. There, airplanes have been blown up full of innocent civilians, bombs have blasted shopping centers full of people, many little towns of poor people have been attacked and destroyed by the guerrillas, and our infrastructure has been constantly hit by terrorist attacks leaving irreparable consequences for the environment and the economy. We have suffered this conflict for 40 years, during which time this violence has devastated our fields and spread terror in our people.
But in Colombia, beyond our problems, there is a country which yearns for peace. It is a country of hard working and honest people who have kept the nation going forward. Colombia has a privileged location, 1000 miles of Caribbean coastline, 600 miles on the Pacific, 3 mountain ranges, and 44 million people. It has 10 % of the world’s total biodiversity and 20% of the world’s bird species. It is the second largest flower exporter in the world, grows the richest coffee in the world, is the 2nd most populated country in South America, and is approximately the same size as Spain, France and Portugal.
Colombia is also the oldest democracy in Latin-America; we have established democratic institutions, and elected our Presidents by popular vote with just one exception in 110 years.
Colombia also has one of the most stable economies of the continent. According to the latest numbers available from studies elaborated by the Interamerican Development Bank, during the last 75 years Colombia has had a growth rate of 3.2% with only one year of recession, 1999. Colombia has never defaulted on any international payment and has never suffered hyperinflation as have most Latin American countries.
However, despite the enormous advantages that Colombia has, it has suffered an internal conflict for almost four decades. It is the only ongoing conflict of its type in the hemisphere despite various efforts to reach an enduring peace, particularly during my government.
The characteristics of the Colombian conflict may be categorized in the following manner:
A. It is a conflict in which three different players take part: guerillas, paramilitaries and drug traffickers, as the financier of the other two.
B. It is not a civil war. It is a war against the civil population. Society is not divided by the conflict. Sovereignty of the Nation is not separated either. It is a conflict in which the armed illegal players have less than the 1% of support from the population.
C. It is not a territorial, ethnic or religious conflict. It is a confrontation whose origins were initiated by political ideas which no longer exist.
D. It is a conflict in which there is no conventional confrontation, but rather irregular acts of a terrorist nature.
E. It is a conflict originating far from the urban cities with tural characteristics, although recent tendencies show its urbanization.
F. It is one of the longest conflicts in the world, but it cannot be catalogues as one of high intensity. On the contrary, compared with other internal conflicts, one can affirm that it is of low intensity. But this doesn’t mean that the rate of violent deaths in Colombia is low. On the contrary, it is one of the highest in the world although most of the homicides are not caused by the conflict itself. Rather, these have direct relation with other criminal acts, specifically drug trafficking.
G. Even though the conflict has a high content of terrorist acts we can’t affirm that it is only of this type.
H. Although the financing of the conflict comes mostly from activities related to the illegal drugs business, we would be mistaken to consider the conflict exclusively motivated for these reasons.
Taking into account these characteristics and the terrorist and narco phenomena, there are points of coincidence of these three themes which require an integral view to understand Colombia’s problem.
THE LINK TO DRUG TRAFFICKING
As described by the National report Human Development by the UN Development program for 2003 says, it isn’t realistic to think that the end of drug trafficking will bring about the end of the conflict or, that the end of the conflict will bring about the end to drug trafficking although, personally, I believe it would be substantially reduced. However, it must be accepted that drug trafficking plays an essential role in the financing of the violence and the conflict.
The Guerrillas main source of revenue is drugs. The figures are terrifying. It is calculated that the FARC obtain between 4 and 5 hundred million dollars per annum from this source. That’s between 1 and 2 million dollars per day to feed the violence they cause.
The case of the illegal “self defense” organizations is no different. From their origins they have been involved with drug trafficking and recently, they have admitted their involvement in these illegal activities.
With this illegally obtained revenue, these groups acquire arms and explosives in the black markets around the world to execute terrorist actions against the authorities or even civilians. These monies are also used to corrupt government and judicial authorities everywhere. As a concrete example, during my government I had the case of 10,000 AK-47 machine guns acquired by FARC with Vladimiro Montesinos, the head of intelligence services of the Peruvian government under President Fujimori as intermediary.
They also purchase explosives in the international markets, especially in bordering countries which lack adequate controls in the sale of these elements. These are used for car bombs or other homemade artifacts with indiscriminate but massive effects or to execute acts against the oil and electrical infrastructure of the nation.
Additionally, these groups buy training services, technologies and explosives techniques such as homemade missiles and gas cylinder bombs from other terrorist organizations, such as the IRA.
THE SOLUTIONS TO THE PROBLEM
With such a complex situation, what can be done to obtain a sound solution?
When I took office as President of Colombia in 1998, I decided to apply an integral strategic solution that would permit to deal with the problems I have described, seeking peace and fighting the drug trafficking.
My first strategy to confront the guerrilla groups was seeking a political and negotiated solution.
This instrument by the hand of an integral strategy to which I will be referring ahead, had as objectives, to seat at the negotiation table the two guerrilla groups, FARC and ELN and by means of political negotiations change their violent activity for a political one.
During my presidential campaign I made a commitment with my Country to personally lead the peace process as I did it. As President elect I went alone to the jungle and among more than 2.000 arms guerrilla men I met with the top leader of the FARC guerrilla group, Manuel Marulanda, to discuss the initiation of a peace process. I sat face to face with a man whom for 40 years has had command over 20.000 guerrilla men and I told him that my Country wanted the peace and was tired of his violence. This was the first time a President met with a guerrilla leader. After I took office, I met Marulanda twice and without any weapon other than being stubborn, I took the risk with the conviction that the political negotiation was the only way to find a solution, and with the certainty that talking personally with the guerrillas would signify the clearest will of the Nation to find a solution to the conflict.
We succeeded in sitting at the negotiation table with the two guerrilla groups, but unfortunately after three years of negotiations, the process was interrupted due to the guerilla obstinacy and persistence to continue their terrorist activity.
Many would ask: Why meet with someone who commits terrorist attacks? I believe that according to our conflict the solution is to be found in a political way, providing there’s an existing will of the guerrilla groups to actually reach the peace or at least a working alternative. I don’t believe in a violent solution through more violence nor in the utilization of other methods to defeat the guerrilla. Colombia must use the legal and democratic procedures to obtain the peace and the first of them is the political negotiation.
We didn’t reach the main objective, but we were able to advance significantly towards the peace and built a road map of negotiation that can be utilize later. We also unveiled the terrorist movements to our Country and the entire world. Without a doubt the offer that we made to the guerrillas dealt them a severe political blow in history.
The second strategy was defined as a priority to recover our Country’s status in the world community, since it is very clear that Colombia’s problems cannot be solved without the International Community support.
The objectives were precise: normalize Colombia’s relations with the world, reach out for political support so we could advance towards the building of peace, obtain the involvement of the Nations in fighting the world’s drugs problem and be able to motivate the International Community without internationalizing the conflict but making them part of the solution with an active participation on the peace process.
For this purpose I decided to lead an aggressive international diplomatic approach, since in the modern world, even with such advancements in communications, there is no better way to handle the relations between countries than through personal contacts between their Presidents.
The results were seen and Colombia not only receives the International Community support in the fight to reach peace, but also has achieved the acceptance of the principle of co- responsibility in the fight against the global drug problem.
The third point of the strategy consisted of reorganizing our armed forces, since the requirements in the military field were poorly covered. In order to accomplish that, an objective was set to properly train our soldiers, provide them better mobility with more transportation elements, provide them the best combat instruments to make possible the change of equation in the military confrontation, restructure intelligence actions and achieve a perfect coordination in the actions of the different forces. At the same time we developed an important strategy of protection of the Human Rights and the application of the International Humanitarian Laws that permits the military forces to be legitimate in the international Community.
In addition, we recognized the need to improve the personal and physical conditions for our soldiers. The best military equipment becomes ineffective when soldiers are demoralized.
On the other hand, when I took office, I realized that our society didn’t believe in our military forces. Only 34% of the population believed that our forces could defeat the guerrillas. After much effort, at the end of my government term, more than 65% of the population believed that we could defeat the guerilla warfare.
In fourth place a strategy was designed in relation to the struggle against Drug traffic. As mentioned before, we strive for the international community to accept the principle of co-responsibility in the battle against the world’s drug problem, and offer more cooperation in the control of money laundering and interdiction of drug transportation. We have also strengthened the legal mechanisms to stem drug related activity, by stepping up extradition and confiscation of assets.
In this point, we have placed special emphasis on drug trafficking, realizing that it is the fuel for corruption, violence, and terrorism. The battle on this field is by no means easy, but we cannot give up. I have never hesitated in taking the necessary measures to combat the drug trade, applying authority whenever indicated. During those times, we used to say: “For the drug industry criminal action, and for the peasants social action”.
It was in this manner that we searched for more advances in the eradication of illegal crops, combining three mechanisms: eradication by fumigation, manual eradication, and alternative development. We emphasized alternative development, recognizing that the majority of coca cultivators had no other means of income.
The fifth point was indispensable in the strategy to address the social conditions which have a significant influence on the country’s problems. For the situation to improve, the government needed to be in closer contact with the poorest communities, generating social solutions for them. For this, we designed the Plan Colombia which has invested more than 7.5 Billion dollars in three years. Today Colombia is the third highest recipient of help from the United States after Israel and Egypt. 75% of this Plan was designated for social causes, especially in the most remote regions. Without social investment, it impossible to reach real peace in a Country like Colombia.
The struggle for peace and against terrorism and drugs is not easy. It requires time, resources, the assumption of risks, and, above all it requires knowing you have a clear view of where you want to go.
Terrorism is an almost invisible enemy, slippery and volatile, which can not be engaged with conventional military action; when violence is the only course offered as a solution it grows and feeds on it. Often, the weapons we use against terrorism end up turning on ourselves.
Because of this, rather than launching an indiscriminate arms race based on the paranoia that terrorists spread through their actions, this must be attacked with information and intelligence. The homework of our countries, of our intelligence communities, resides in our ability overcome petty institutional quarrels that impede effective cooperation in order to obtain and share the information necessary to disarm terrorist cells and their central nervous systems.
Unfortunately, the solution to drug trafficking and its consequences, does not depend on my country, which has sacrificed its peace and resources to confront this problem. Colombians have and will continue to make huge efforts to eradicate more and more cocaine and poppy fields, to intercept more planes and boats, to pursue and extradite wrongdoers, to seize laundered assets but, so long as equal efforts to stem drug consumption are not made, our efforts will be of little use.
So long as the international community – developed nations in particular- doesn’t understand that the problem belongs to all of us and that our youth succumb to drugs thanks to chemicals and weapons sold without serious controls, drugs will continue to flow rampantly throughout our streets.
So long as banks and financiers permissively close their eyes to allow the huge flows of criminal money, all our sacrifices, all those which have laid down their lives to stop this evil, will have done so in vain.
“Legalization” will not be the solution to this scourge. Although some people propose it as the best alternative, its effects could be devastating for generations to come. In fact, in countries where drug consumption is to a greater or lesser degree allowed, significant advances against addiction are not reported. Liberalizing production would be equivalent to allowing the business of poisoning our children: a moral impossibility.
The solution goes on another side. The solution –as happens in the terrorism- involves a diagram of cooperation from the international community that covers all the stages: chemical materials, production, transportation, sales and drugs consumption, money laundering and weapons and explosive’s traffic.
But there’s something else that can’t be left aside. Behind the terrorism and its terrible criminal connections the anger and resentment of the cultural and economic subordinated countries hides. The hatred feeds with the hunger and the poverty. Since the developed countries – and those who are in process of development- do not fulfill the acquired compromises in the Millennium Summit and in the International Conference of Financing the Development of Monterrey, the only thing this will be encouraging will be an unfair world with any social equity and a place for unhappiness and terrorism.
To complex problems, we should give an integral solution that involves all the aspects and comprises the whole international community.
THANK YOU VERY MUCH.