THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (New York, New York) ___________________________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release September 8, 2000
BACKGROUND BRIEFING BY A SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ON PRESIDENT CLINTON'S BILATERAL WITH PRESIDENT HUGO BANZER SUAREZ OF BOLIVIA Waldorf-Astoria New York, New York
2:00 P.M. EDT
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: This is the first meeting between the President and President Banzer of Bolivia. The purpose of the meeting was to praise the Bolivians for the extraordinary efforts that they have made on a number of fronts -- on the democracy front -- Bolivia has now had 18 years of democratic governance. One that used to be one of the most unstable countries in the region, with practically no history of democratic politics; they've also made significant changes in the economy and they have been successful in eradicating coca cultivation.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Not completely, but significantly, by over 50 percent. And President Banzer has pledged to pull the last coca plant out of the ground before he leaves office in the year 2002. And it's really a significant success story. But Bolivia remains also one of the poorest countries in the region, and they discussed that, as well, with President Banzer arguing for the importance of increased cooperation on economic and on trade fronts, in order to provide for more employment for Bolivians.
They discussed the situation in Colombia. The President of Bolivia said that he supported the plans of his counterpart in Colombia, thinks that this is going to be a process that's going to take a while. President Pastrana, as he put it, will be able to sow the seeds of success, but will not be able to -- his successors will have to reap the benefits of the programs that he's putting into effect right now.
There was not that much concern -- there was not concern expressed directly by President Banzer that success in Colombia would lead to increased cultivation of coca in Bolivia again. So there wasn't a direct discussion like the Ecuadorans have been concerned about. But clearly, he's worried that unless they're able to grow the economy more, that people will be tempted to turn to the drug trade in order to make a living.
Q Did the Bolivian leader make any requests of Clinton, either along the lines of the Colombian aid plan or anything else --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: He said that he wanted to have increased cooperation. Bolivia, as you know, already benefits significantly from USAID programs. It's one of the largest recipients of bilateral assistance in areas beyond the narcotics area. But he did make the point that he wanted to try to see if he could try more cooperation. The President noted that Bolivia is one of those countries that benefits from the HIPC, which is the debt relief program -- the highly indebted poor countries.
So it was a very cordial meeting. The President wants to continue to work with Bolivia and promised that we need to try to develop a plan with Bolivia that is more comprehensive, that looks at ways in which we can engage with the Bolivians on the various different dimensions that they discussed -- economic cooperation, trade issues and anti-narcotics cooperation.
Q How long did the meeting last?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: About 30 minutes.
Q Did the President ask him to contact some of the other countries around Colombia to try to get their support for the Colombian aid package?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: He asked them specifically about what he felt about what President Pastrana was doing, but he did not ask him to contact other leaders in that regard.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 2:10 P.M. EDT