Determination and Certification of the Colombian Government with Respect to Human Rights Related Conditions
On September 7, 2011, the Department of State determined and certified to Congress that the Colombian Government is meeting statutory criteria related to human rights. This determination and certification, pursuant to Section 7046(b) of the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, 2010, as carried forward in the Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act, 2011, permits the full balance of FY 2011 funds for the Colombian Armed Forces to be obligated.
During the certification period, the Colombian Government took a series of important steps to improve respect for human rights, both within the Armed Forces and in Colombia at large. Since taking office one year ago, President Santos signed a new Military Penal Code, facilitated the appointment of a Prosecutor General after a 16-month vacancy, supported judicial authorities’ efforts to vigorously combat corruption, strengthened efforts to dismantle illegal armed groups, and passed legislation stiffening penalties for crimes against human rights defenders, among other steps. The government also significantly improved respect for and recognition of human rights defenders by eliminating judgmental commentary by government officials about such groups and individuals, increasing outreach to NGOs, and publicly condemning threats and attacks against them. Most notably, in June, President Santos signed a historic Land and Victims’ Law that will provide assistance, reparations, and land restitution to approximately four million Colombians – including victims of state violence – over the next decade.
More remains to be done. Threats and attacks against human rights defenders continue to be a significant problem, as the Colombian government acknowledges. As the government has advanced its land restitution policy, criminal interests have targeted land activists; more than a dozen have been murdered this year. Despite a sizeable protection program, NGOs claim the government is not effectively protecting human rights defenders and have underlined the importance of designing and putting in place a comprehensive security strategy to ensure effective implementation of the Land and Victims’ Law without violence. NGOs rightly stress the importance of investigating and prosecuting threats and attacks against human rights defenders. The new Prosecutor General is committed to improving the administration of justice and to eliminating the backlog of pending human rights cases, including some 1,500 alleged cases of extrajudicial executions. It is essential that the Colombian government support her with appropriate resources and clear political will. Finally, while much progress has been made, it is important that the Armed Forces—both military and police—stay focused on the years-long process of building a human rights culture within their institutions, especially by rebuilding trust in those communities most affected by the conflict and where allegations of collusion with criminal groups persist.
The United States Government remains committed to engaging with the Colombian Government, international organizations, and human rights groups to improve the human rights performance of the Colombian Armed Forces and build respect for human rights throughout the country. President Santos’ commitment and energy present a unique opportunity for the government, civil society, and the international community to work together to find solutions to the remaining challenges in order to build a lasting peace in Colombia.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Please, be seated. And thank you so much for what I have heard has been a very productive day as we put some meat on the bones of the High-Level Partnership Dialogue. And I’m very pleased to be here with the foreign minister and the entire Colombian delegation. This is the second-ever U.S.-Colombian High-Level Partnership Dialogue, and we meet at a time when there is so much going on in our hemisphere and around the world, and we are inspired and greatly admiring of all that Colombia has accomplished.
For me, it is just a stark comparison. Where citizens once lived in fear to exercise their right to vote, now we have peaceful democratic elections that are really the envy of so many other countries that have not been able to make that transition. We see now not only Colombia consolidating gains internally, but reaching out to help neighbors in so many respects, and I am delighted that we are building on the strong relationship that we’ve had over the past years. Of course, we’re so committed to the passage of the Free Trade Agreement. We know – which is what President Obama has stated publicly and unequivocally – that this will bring jobs and growth to both of our countries. It will also help to support the security gains that Colombia has made, and, as our two presidents have agreed, it opens even a broader vista for greater cooperation on the spectrum of our shared challenges and opportunities.
Many of you have been involved in this conversation for a long time, and today, with the convening of five working groups, three for the first time, we hope there will be even greater contact between officials of our two governments and more creative approaches to cooperation. Human rights have been a focal point in our dialogue, and I am very honored that Vice President Garzon joined with Deputy Secretary Steinberg to continue the conversations which they started last October in Bogota. And we know that this is a high priority for the Santos administration, to improve on human rights, labor rights, and civil rights.
We also are strongly supportive of your efforts to return families who are displaced by violence to their homes and to end impunity for abuses, and I understand there was agreement to track, on a monthly basis, the progress of important human rights cases. This kind of whole-of-government effort, bringing together experts on security, development, and the rule of law – all of whom are with us today – is a way to really focus the attention of us all.
The Energy Working Group is working to expand our partnership on fossil fuels and clean energy, and the very promising ideas that Colombia has presented for linking electric grids across Latin America. For the first time, the Climate Change and Environmental Protection Working Group was convened. Colombia exercised leadership in Cancun, and we want to deepen our diplomatic cooperation at future climate talks and to find new ways to develop strategies for expanding development without increasing carbon emissions.
And an issue that is particularly close to my heart is inclusive development, and I am very impressed that the Santos administration has adopted this as a goal. The Social and Economic Working Group discussed Colombia’s national development plan, and the United States wants to support this impressive investment in the Colombian people and to look for how we can reach out to all Colombians, in particular indigenous and Afro-Caribbean populations. And I was at the OECD just a few days ago in Paris, and I want to underscore that we want to support Colombia’s bid to join the OECD.
And finally, the Culture and Education Working Group met on how each country can expand access to education, preserve ancient cultures, optimize people-to-people exchanges such as the Fulbright Scholarship that brought President Santos to the United States 31 years ago. We’ve been working closely together for a long time, but I really believe this dialogue represents a deeper engagement than we’ve ever had before. Certainly during the ’90s, an era that I am somewhat familiar with in American politics, we began a very close working relationship on behalf of security. But now, given the extraordinary gains that Colombia has made, the United States wants to support the priorities that President Santos is able to promote, to build on an environment that does provide more physical security, to move now to human security and all of the issues that go with economic growth, with social and cultural transformation.
Now, some I know say, well, when people come and talk, what happens? And I think it’s too simplistic a question, because one really never knows what can happen through this kind of engagement, through getting to know one another, through building relationships. I’m convinced in the absence of that, the answer is easy: Not much will happen. But given this level of engagement that we saw in action, I’m told, at lunch with so many different people coming from across our government and yours to discuss a way forward on the range of issues that are important, there is an extraordinary opportunity here.
And I thank you for your hard work on behalf of Colombia, and I thank my colleagues in government for your hard work on behalf of this very important relationship that we have between our two countries. I wanted to come this afternoon to underscore the importance that we place on it and to thank you not only for what you have done, which presents such an extraordinary model for so many others, but for the increasing role that you are playing in the region and the world.
Just in the last few months, the work that the president and the foreign minister have led on the reintegration of Honduras into the OAS, which we hope and trust occurs tomorrow – it could not have happened without creative diplomacy and Colombian leadership. The role that Colombia is playing on the Security Council, the strong support for standing against the abusive actions of Qadhafi in Libya, and of looking for ways to hold governments accountable for their mistreatment of their own citizens – again, Colombia is playing a global leadership role.
So on so many fronts, this is a relationship that is on a solid foundation but has the opportunity to become so much more for the benefit not only of the people of Colombia, but I would say for our own people in the United States the kind of positive, open relationship that we hope to see even stronger in the future, we think is very much in the interests of the United States as well as Colombia. We actually have a lot to learn from you, and we look forward to the opportunities that this partnership dialogue provides to do just that.
Let me now invite the foreign minister to the podium for her remarks and, as she comes forward, to thank her for her leadership also in the last months. Thank you. (Applause.)
FOREIGN MINISTER HOLGUIN: (Via interpreter) Madam Secretary Hillary Clinton, Mr. Ambassador McKinley, Mr. Ambassador Gabriel Silva, esteemed members of the U.S. and Colombian delegations, I would like to express my satisfaction with the work conducted today during the Second Session of the High-Level Partnership Dialogue that got started in Bogota on October 25th. These dialogue working groups in democracy and human rights, energy, environment and climate change, economic opportunities in society, culture and education, have allowed us to get to know the broad range of issues that we need to work on a bilateral agenda together.
Colombia has a strategic relationship with the United States based on historic and shared values, and this is perhaps one of the most successful cases of cooperation. Over the last eight years of our Democratic Security Policy, we’ve been able to move forward towards democratic prosperity and to think about issues that go beyond the internal security situation, which continues to be our national priority, to move forward and think about our country’s comprehensive development.
We’ve faced scourges like drug trafficking and terrorism for decades. We have shared a vision, and we have been consistent in our cooperation and international positions on the matter. Our joint search for solutions will be current among our priorities, and we will continue to build with the U.S., with the forum – the international forum against terrorism. Colombia has become a partner, given the priorities it has developed in the international fight against terrorism. That is why today we can develop a cooperation strategy against a lack of security in the fight against transnational crime, which we can work on together in response to Mexico’s needs as well as Central America. In the Caribbean’s needs, we are undertaking ambitious cooperation projects in this fight, cooperation that we’re also extending to countries in western Africa, countries that are no doubt your great partners as well.
And the respect for differences and the search for common destiny with equity and equality for all when giving priority to the fight against – priority against – fighting poverty make our region a peaceful region. Based on cooperation and respect, we’ve been able to recover and strengthen our relationship with our neighbors without declining in our main priority in national security. We are a bridge country in the Americas. We join north and south. We are a platform for dialogue, and in that sense we will continue to build a political and economic joint space that seeks our well being. The selection of a Colombian and appointment as the general secretary of UNASUR is a testament to the positive role that Colombia can play in the region. We have established same goals with Chile, Peru, and Ecuador, countries with whom we share an economic and political vision. And to ensure sustainable development, we are also developing an interconnection scheme with Peru, Ecuador, and Chile, as well as with Panama, towards Central America.
We are an energy-generating country, and as infrastructure projects develop, we will be providers of energy to an important swath of the continent. Our role is not limited to fossil fuel production or hydroelectric production, and the production of bio-fuels and the potential for wind energy in these areas has increased significantly, and we hope to see projects come into fruition in this area soon. Our conviction with democracy backs the unrestricted support of human rights protection. The land law for victims will drastically change the structure in our country and will set new goals for development and progress for all. It is a great challenge that lies ahead. And during the October meeting, I mentioned this as a possibility. Today, it is a reality.
I invite all U.S. sectors to understand the changes and challenges that we face and to join our country’s willingness to change and solve the problems that have marred us for decades. If you look at us differently, I know that you will find the values and the integrity of a society that has not let adversity beat it. And as a country – Colombia is a country that is a permanent ally of the United States, and we are grateful for the support we’ve received. We want to continue to move forward with this cooperation in the framework of a broader and more innovative agenda that will allow us to move forward for the development of our countries.
Thank you very much. (Applause.)
QUESTION: (Speaking in Spanish.) Thank you for being with us. (Speaking in Spanish.) Is the United States going to be entering into a new battlefield in Libya?
SECRETARY CLINTON: No, but what we are going to do is to work with the international community to convince Mr. Qadhafi to stop the violence against his own people, and we’ve laid out very clear demands in the United Nations Security Council. This is not an American initiative; this is an international initiative. And then we will be prepared with European partners and Arab partners, which has never happened before, to enforce the will of the international community. But the United States has a very time-limited, discreet, well-defined role to play in accomplishing this.
QUESTION: (Speaking in Spanish.) But the U.S. Armed Forces may be involved?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes, they will be. We have some unique capacities that neither European, Arab, nor anyone else has to contribute to this effort, and we will do so. But what has been really important about this is that it’s not just everybody saying, “Oh, we need to do something, go do it, United States.” It’s other people saying, “We want to be part of it. We’re willing to put our planes, our pilots, our military assets to work.” So that’s a big difference than many of the other situations that have occurred in the past.
QUESTION: (Speaking in Spanish.) The message directly to Qadhafi is what?
SECRETARY CLINTON: As the President said very clearly: You must end your violence. You must have a ceasefire. You must withdraw away from the cities that you have taken by force. You must return power and water to your own people. And you must open up access for humanitarian assistance to be provided.
QUESTION: (Speaking in Spanish.) — Japan what an amazingly destructive incident –
SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh my goodness.
QUESTION: — and many are worried about the nuclear after-attack.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes. Well, first, I think every American was horrified by what happened in Japan – a 9.0 earthquake followed by an enormous tsunami, which is a Japanese word for obvious reasons, and now, these very catastrophic developments in the nuclear reactors. There is no danger to Americans from radiation coming from Japan to the United States. However, we are worried about Americans and Japanese and others who are near these plants.
And we have sent our nuclear experts to Japan. They are working to try to determine what exactly is going on, and how we help advise the Japanese about what to do about it, because it’s a really unpredicted, unprecedented chain of events. We actually ordered that Americans get much further away from the plants than the Japanese have. We are providing –
QUESTION: Why is that? (Speaking in Spanish.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, our assessment was that the potential for radiation fallout was beyond the 20-mile radius that had originally been discussed. In fact, it would be safer to go to a 50-mile radius. We moved a lot of our military forces who were helping with the events out of a wind pattern and further away from shore.
Now, Japan’s been fortunate in the last couple of days because the wind has been blowing out to sea, so we haven’t seen the impact that we were worried about. But we are literally watching this minute by minute, and we have told American citizens in Japan that they should take prudent precautions, and we have told the families of our civilian and military employees that if they wish to leave, we will facilitate that.
QUESTION: (Speaking in Spanish.) Let’s talk about Mexico. Is Mexico Colombia during the ‘80s?
SECRETARY CLINTON: No, but it faces serious security challenges, and we’ve been working closely with the Mexican Government, as has Colombia, because Colombia, as you know so well, has a remarkable success story to tell. It was a courageous effort by the Colombian people and a series of Colombian leaders who have moved Colombia out of the category of being a failed state, which it was, because of the combined effects of the narco-traffickers and the guerillas.
So what we’re doing with Mexico is to make sure that they get all the lessons that the United States, Colombia, and others have to offer, and we are determined to assist Mexico in President Calderon’s very courageous fight against these unbelievably ruthless criminal gangs.
QUESTION: You know there’s been a flare-up on the WikiLeaks issue because the president has expressed very little confidence in the U.S. Ambassador to Mexico. Is he going to be there? Do you have confidence in the U.S. Ambassador? (Speaking in Spanish.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, this was a very unfortunate situation. I spoke personally with President Calderon about it and expressed our regret. But at the same time, the Ambassador has been very instrumental in working to make sure that the United States Government responded to the Mexican needs. I think the Ambassador will make an assessment as to whether or not he can continue to be as helpful as he has been in the past.
QUESTION: Fast and furious, this operation that has caused a lot of headlines in Mexico, arms going into Mexico and people are saying, “Is that the way the United States should be acting?” (Speaking in Spanish.) What’s your reaction to that?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, of course, we are committed to doing everything we can to stop the flow of what we consider illegal guns being trafficked into Mexico and being used by the criminals against innocent Mexicans. Different methods have been tried. The one that you mentioned is under review by the Department of Justice, because everything we do, we want to lead to the right result. And I think that questions have been raised about this by the Mexicans themselves and we should look into it.
QUESTION: (Speaking in Spanish.) How would you describe the position or the condition of U.S.-Mexican relations right now?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I think it’s good, and it’s a relationship between friends and partners who are very candid and open with each other, which I personally like, because being the Secretary of State, I see people often saying one thing in private and then an entirely different thing in public. With our Mexican counterparts, they’re very straightforward. President Calderon’s administration, it just lays it on the table. And we don’t agree on everything, but we don’t agree on everything with any country in the world.
So this has been hard. I mean, what the Mexicans are trying to do is to build an effective, professional, national police force, which didn’t exist; strong prosecutorial and judicial responses; a better corrections system to keep these bad guys behind bars; build good, strong community responses against these narco-traffickers. It’s a huge agenda. So I understand that it’s a pretty stressful time, and we support them and we’re going to continue to support them.
QUESTION: On the issue of Alan Gross, 15 years, other than talk and condemn, what can or should the United States be doing? (Speaking in Spanish.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first, I think that the 15-year sentence is deplorable. Alan Gross was in Cuba to help people literally connect with the rest of the world, and as we’re seeing around the world, that’s a tide that is coming. You’re not going to be able to push it back out to sea, even in Cuba. He has served a very long time for doing what was not in any way criminal, in our view. And he should be released, and at the very least, on humanitarian terms. He should be sent home to his family, and I’m hoping that the Cuban Government will do that.
QUESTION: (Speaking in Spanish.) Separate from condemning, is there anything you can or should be doing?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we are working closely with Alan Gross’s attorneys, who want to be very supportive of what they’re trying to do on his behalf. We don’t want to take any actions or say anything that will undermine the chances for this man to come home to his family.
QUESTION: Last thing – (Speaking in Spanish) –
SECRETARY CLINTON: (Laughter.)
QUESTION: You know this, we talked about this a lot, the Hispanic community admires you and your husband, but especially you because of your actions with us for many, many decades. And many were taken aback and, quite frankly, upset with you when you said that you weren’t going to be in the public eye in the near future. You want to talk to us about that a little bit, please?
SECRETARY CLINTON: (Laughter.) Well, I cherish my relationship with the Hispanic community in our country, and it goes back really to the time I was a young girl and I was –
QUESTION: You were helping people register. (Speaking in Spanish.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yeah, that’s right, and through my church, working with the children of farm workers. So it is incredibly important to me, but I think that – I have signed on and am very honored to serve President Obama as Secretary of State, but at the end of his first term, I will have been 20 years in very high-level political positions, both appointed, elected, and by marriage. And so I’m looking forward to taking a deep breath.
And I think for many of your viewers, I will always continue to serve, and I will look for ways to continue to serve here at home and around the world, particularly on behalf of women and children.
QUESTION: Yeah, I think I’m going to let you slide on that, because I want to know exactly what you are going to be doing –
SECRETARY CLINTON: (Laughter.)
QUESTION: — and where our community can be finding you. (Speaking in Spanish.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I’ll make a promise.
QUESTION: All right.
SECRETARY CLINTON: When I get near the end of my tenure, you and I will talk, and I will give you everything that I can to be specific.
QUESTION: (Speaking in Spanish.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thanks.
QUESTION: (Speaking in Spanish.) Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you.