THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BACKGROUND BRIEFING BY A SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL The Briefing Room
4:16 P.M. EST
COLONEL CROWLEY: Okay, we're ready to get started. We thought it would be useful, following the press conference and the meetings between President Clinton and President Pastrana, to have a senior administration official who is familiar to you here, just to kind of give you some additional texture to their discussion and the particular elements of aid that President Clinton talked about today.
Also, in between the meetings the President did also have the opportunity to briefly talk with President Cardoso of Brazil early this afternoon. So we'll have a senior administration official here talking on background about today's events.
Q Is that for cameras?
COLONEL CROWLEY: No.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I'm really here to answer questions, so I won't go over the discussions, although I'll be glad to do so to the extent you want. I think we distributed a rather unusually detailed communique, which I think demonstrates the breadth of the new relationship that the United States and Colombia are building together, and which contains a lot of detail about different agreements signed, about the size of our aid program, the fact that that program has in the last few weeks doubled over last year.
So I think it's better just to take questions. The discussion between the two Presidents followed very much along the lines of the communique. That is, there was a discussion on the peace process at some length, a discussion at some length about counternarcotics, also human rights and the need to improve the record, including the record of the Colombian military in that regard, and the economic situation, the steps that President Pastrana is doing to cut the fiscal deficit and the support he's looking for from the international community. And President Clinton, in all of these areas, pledged to be supportive along the lines as expressed in the communique language. So if you have any questions about any of those items or about the structure of our assistance to Colombia, I'd be happy to answer them.
In terms of the discussion with President Cardoso, it was a telephone call. The President called to congratulate President Cardoso on his leadership in bringing about the peace agreement between Peru and Ecuador. President Cardoso, as the chairman of the guarantors group -- that is Argentina, Chile, the United States, and Brazil -- had led the effort to broker a peace settlement and that was successful. The peace settlement was signed on Monday of this week. Mack McLarty represented the United States at that ceremony.
The President congratulated them and they discussed President Cardoso's current negotiations with the IMF and the steps that he announced in a speech yesterday to impose further fiscal disciplines and to continue the economic reform process in Brazil.
Q When was that call?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: It took place around 12:30 p.m.
Q Did President Clinton commit to any support for President Cardoso's package?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We've been supportive all along. We've been supportive in terms of --
Q No, I mean --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: There was no discussion of support above and beyond what the IMF is negotiating about, but we've been helpful in promoting those discussions between Brazil and the IMF. And we've been talking to other countries around the world, the G-8 countries, the other major countries, about the way that everybody can support Brazil and ensure that the global economic turbulence does not sweep into this hemisphere.
Q Sir, Brazilians are reporting there was a $6 billion package that the United States would contribute to the bailout.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: That was not discussed.
Q Has President Clinton made the decision already to use ESF funds for that?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: It wasn't discussed and I don't know that a decision has been made.
Q Am I correct, there are three Americans who were kidnapped --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, there were two Americans kidnapped in Ecuador very recently, like two weeks ago, and one escaped almost immediately and the other is still being held. It's not quite clear who did that. It may have been a Colombian insurgent group, but it was in Ecuador.
Q Three American missionaries --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: There were missionaries -- I think that's almost four years ago, and they have been unaccounted for since.
Q Is there not a recent report that they were -- a secondhand report that they were spotted alive? And is that something the United States is pursuing?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I have seen no such report. I don't think that's correct, sorry. I've seen nothing like that.
Q Could you give us a breakdown of the economic support for Colombia, please?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The package of assistance for the current year that President Clinton announced was $283 million. This is double last year's. It is almost entirely -- not entirely, almost entirely counter-narcotics related assistance. The bulk of it is to the Colombian national police. A smaller amount of it is to the Colombian military. But the bulk of it is to the Colombian national police.
There is also money for alternative development. There is some money for human rights training, for strengthening the judiciary. There is a small amount of money for assistance to displaced persons.
But the largest amount is equipment, training, and maintenance cost for the Colombian national police, for things like helicopters for eradication and other counter-narcotics related items.
Q How expensive is that? How much?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, for what? It's hard to break down.
Q For the police?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: For the police it would be -- I would guess the total assistance for the police must be close to $200 million.
Q Drug trafficking is a long problem for Colombia and the United States. So how are you going to fight when you have part of the military people there corrupt, taking money --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, corruption is not a problem unique to Colombia. In fact, Colombia is in some ways in better shape than some countries. The Colombian national police has established an excellent record of fighting corruption. It's a force generally considered to be honest, to respect human rights, and to be highly professional. And that's one of the reasons that it's getting the bulk of the assistance, is because it has established an excellent record.
Q Sir, what was the total that you gave for the entire package?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: $283 million.
Q Does that include the money that was just appropriated in this budget?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes. There's a $160 million -- of that $283 million, $160 million was in the drug supplemental that was part of the budget negotiation that was just concluded last week.
Q Was there any discussion regarding spraying the coca crop, the United States possibly helping out on that?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The United States does assist. The bulk of it is done by the Colombian national police, but it's done with U.S. assistance. And President Pastrana made clear that this was going to continue to be an essential part of his strategy, that he was also going to put a new emphasis on alternative development -- that is, not only on destroying illegal crops but giving peasants the ability to grow and make a living from alternative crops, which we fully support, and also manual eradication and other techniques. But the aerial eradication was going to continue to be an essential part of the strategy.
Q When you talk about alternative crops, is that directly associated to some kind of a program to pull people away from using the coca plant as a cash crop?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes. The whole philosophy is to try to create a system in which the peasants are able to make a decent living growing and commercially selling alternative legitimate crops. And that requires things like roads and markets, as well as seeds and fertilizer and that sort of thing. So it's a complex thing. It requires an economy that's able to buy their produce. It requires access to international markets. So it's not just a question of giving the money for seeds, but giving the money for seeds is part of the concept of alternative development.
It's worked very well in Bolivia and Peru. It hasn't been tried as extensively in Colombia because the Colombian government has not had adequate control of the countryside to allow one to reliably move from illegal crops to legal crops. But we are going to go forward with some pilot projects in the short term with a view to a more massive program over time.
Q Is the certification a thing of the past now?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Certification didn't come up today other than when the President --
Q But is it likely that it's --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The certification is the law. We'll obey the law. But our intent is to forge a partnership with Colombia which is based on a positive commitment on both sides, and I think that was embodied in the alliance that the two countries signed today.
Q The President today talked a lot about the importance of bringing and human rights. There has been a big debate lately because of the arrest of General Pinochet about justice, sovereignty, all those things. What are the assumptions of the White House about the limits and challenges of justice in the new global -- what does the Pinochet case teach us?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: That issue didn't come up in the discussions, not surprisingly. I mean, our view on that at the moment is this is very actively before the courts of the U.K. and Spain, and it would be inappropriate of us to be commenting on something that's being actively adjudicated.
Q But what does it teach about the new -- I mean, the President is talking about globalizations about many things. What about the effects of globalization on justice? I mean, this case has brought to light some challenges and difficulties that globalization is bringing to justice?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I understand that. The case is being actively adjudicated, so I'm not going to get drawn out to speculate. When it's history, then we can talk about what lessons it taught. But for the moment it's an active case.
Q It's almost history.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Ask me in a few days. If it's history, I'll speculate more.
Q Thank you.
END 4:26 P.M. EST