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2010 - 2009 - 2008 - 2007

Speech of the President of Colombia, Álvaro Uribe Velez to the General Assembly of the United Nations

September 27, 2007


Allow me to congratulate you on your election as President of the General Assembly and to wish you the greatest success in your work.

After five years in office, we return to the United Nations General Assembly, to inform you on issues crucial to Colombian democracy.

We have rejected the dismantling of the State and we refuse to adopt any form of State domination that strangles private initiative. We have reformed 420 State agencies and we are determined to work in that direction until the last day of office. We seek a more efficient State at the service of the community, not controlled by political deals, union excesses or interest groups.

We are committed to the development of an entrepreneurial society, in opposition to state or private monopolies, in a Nation with a consensus around productivity, discipline and equity.

          We provide all possible room for private initiative with a social responsibility, which must be expressed in the transparency of the relations between investors and the State, in entrepreneurial solidarity with the community, beyond the minimum  requirements of the law, and in labour relations framed by fraternity, working against the capitalism of the jungle and the class struggle.                                   

In sectors such as electricity, metals engineering and health, we have encouraged participatory trade-unionism, with simultaneous responsibility in social affairs and entrepreneurial management, as distinct from the traditional system of struggle and conquest by the unions.

We have increased the affiliation of workers to social security by 40%, due to the better performance of the economy and our fight against evasion. In the last five years, the minimum wage has grown by 8% above inflation.

Our per capita income has risen from US$1,851 to US$3,517. In making the adjustment in terms of purchasing power, it has increased from US$6,468 to US$9,456. For the first time, in decades, our Gini coefficient is starting to improve.
Since the first day of my government we have had our Democratic Security Policy, which is a decision not to tolerate the murder of any Colombian, and to defeat impunity.

The security situation has improved substantially. In 2002, Colombia recorded 29,000 murders, of which 196 were trade unionists, and we closed 2006 with a 40% reduction in general violence and 70% in violence against trade unionists.

This year there are 6,714 Colombians with individual protection by the State, of whom almost 1,200 are unionized workers, with a budgeted cost close to US$39 million.

In our efforts against impunity, between 2002 and our budget for 2008, we will have increased funding for the Judicial Branch by 76% and for the Attorney General’s Office by 78%.

The budget for the Special Unit of the Attorney General’s Office for cases of murder of trade unionists has increased by 40%. This Unit takes care of more than 300 cases prioritized by trade union movements.

The battle against impunity of the murderers of unionized workers is waged under International Labour Organization guidelines, in agreement between Government, workers and employers. The reports on the progress made, submitted by the ILO office in Colombia, have been positive.

Allow me to say before this Assembly that in Colombia murder and kidnap have been the work of the terrorists. First, it was the Marxist guerrillas who, introducing their perverse scheme of “combination of all forms of struggle”, murdered, kidnapped and also penetrated sectors of workers, students, politicians and journalists. Then came the paramilitaries and they did the same, and murdered workers accusing them of collaborating with the guerrillas - and in reciprocity murdered all those whom they believed to be friends of the paramilitaries. In certain parts of the country, the confrontations between the two guerrilla factions that still exist remain the source of the murder of workers.

Our Democratic Security Policy in unwavering in its intentions to rid ourselves of this scourge, once and for all.

With regard to this, we have three objectives: to consolidate Democratic Security; to consolidate investor confidence; and to complete our social programme, which is more ambitious than the Millennium Social Development Goals which we aspire to meet before the date set by the United Nations.

With regard to Democratic Security, we are winning, but we have not yet won. With persistence and transparency, Colombia will overcome the terrorism which is financed by illegal drugs.

We have a long and respected tradition of ever-deepening democracy. We are approaching the fifth series of elections held under this Administration and the transparency and effectiveness of the guarantees offered to all candidates is most evident. Direct elections will fill 18,332 posts, choosing from 86,347 registered candidates from 235 different political origins.

This is happening in a country where five years ago was facing 60,000 terrorists, and where about 11,000 still remain. To fight them, we deepen democracy instead of restricting it, protect liberties instead of suppressing them, encourage dissent instead of silencing it. Our fight against terrorism is observed by our critics at home and abroad, who roam free in our country and can say what they please.

Our democratic practice gives us the political authority to say that those who are up in arms, financed by illegal drugs, are not insurgents against oppression but terrorists against liberty. We do not refuse to negotiate with them, if they cease their violent actions, but we will not allow that negotiations could become a trap that might lead to the destruction of our democracy. We have achieved the demobilization of 46,000 members of different factions and we are carrying out a costly and complex reinsertion process with them, demanding truth, justice and reparations for the victims.

So now we come to the idea of a humanitarian agreement to free kidnapped people being held by FARC terrorists. Most of them were kidnapped before or during the time of the Caguán demilitarized zone, which lasted 42 months. We do not understand how the FARC can ask for a demilitarized zone to release the victims if the FARC had that option for so long and did not free them. There was an absence of law and order for many years, with no security, which allowed the guerrillas and paramilitaries to take over much of the country. Citizens do not want terrorists, they want the State, and only the State, to be present in all corners of the country. We are open to a humanitarian agreement, but we cannot allow demilitarized zones, which are ultimately concentration camps run by terrorists. Nor can we permit those who are released from prison to return to crime, since it would be an affront to the sacrifice of our soldiers and our policemen.

We have unilaterally freed 177 FARC members; and we have freed Rodrigo Granda, a high-ranking member of that organization, at the request of the President of France, Nicolas Sarkozy. We have given our consent for many people and institutions to be facilitators. The only answer from the terrorists was the treacherous murder of 11 assemblymen from Valle del Cauca, who were held kidnapped for more than 5 years, and the continuous assassination of defenders of democracy – such as that perpetrated in the last weeks, in which the victims were Julio Cesar Marentes and Alberto Martínez Barbosa, both candidates for Mayor of Villarrica and Rio Blanco, Department of Tolima, who were members of political parties from the Government’s coalition.

The options open for the release of kidnap victims, who include a French woman that also has Colombian citizenship, and three American citizens, are not options for the political positioning of terrorism. Colombia will not permit that the recovery of its legitimate and democratic sovereignty be frustrated by giving back national or international space to the murderous power of terrorism.  If terrorists want to be involved in politics, they must give up their bloodthirsty activities and submit to the Constitution.

Recently, the Government gave its permission to Senator Piedad Córdoba, who is a member of the opposition, to play a role as facilitator of the humanitarian agreement. We also accepted the help of President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela, who will shortly meet the representatives of the FARC. President Chávez has invited some Congressmen from the United States to join him during that meeting, with my Government’s support and my suggestion that the American delegation be a bipartisan one, so as to preserve a bipartisan approach in US relations with Colombia. We celebrate the positive willingness of the Government of the United States.

We have made certain reservations in order to defend our democracy’s higher interests and we encourage both President Chávez and Senator Piedad Córdoba in their task because we are committed to the release of the victims of  kidnap.

The dismantling of paramilitarism, the weakening of the guerrillas, the recovery of effective guarantees for democracy, goes beyond political rhetoric. We have  the protection of a free press in a country where once 15 journalists were murdered  in one year –this year there has been just one such case. These are results that allow us to look at the world in the eye and demand complete support for our Democratic Security Policy.

Today there is no paramilitarism. There are guerrillas and there are drug-traffickers. The term “paramilitary” was coined to refer to private criminal organizations whose objective was to fight the guerrillas. Today, only the State is fighting the guerrillas, and it has recovered the monopoly it should never have lost.

With the backing of the United Nations we make a great effort to assist displaced persons and return to them their dignity. We have multiplied by 10 the budget to protect them. The phenomenon remains, but has shown a significant reduction.

Today the people of Colombia feel more confident. The investment rate has gone from 12% of GDP to 26%. Deficit and indebtedness are clearly falling. Unemployment, which was around 20%, is now 11%, and we are making every effort to reduce it to 7%.  We aspire to reduce poverty, once close to 60%, to no higher than 35% in 2010.  We are advancing towards the goal of achieving universal access to basic education; we have built an excellent technical training system; we have gone from 300,000 to 1.5 million families living in poverty that receive a subsidy for their children’s nutrition and education; we aim to accomplish, in the next three years, the goal of universal access to health services; we are working hard to achieve the target of providing 5 million micro-loans to 5 million poor families, as a basic strategy to overcome factors of exclusion, during our Administration.

When we began 3 million children benefited from our food programmes. Now there are 9 million. We expect to reach 12 million in 2010.

Our programme “Together”, to eliminate extreme poverty, brings together different social tools to cover 1.5 million families.

We reaffirm our commitment to fight against global warming. When we came to office, 37,000 vehicles had been converted to natural gas. Today some 300,000 converted vehicles are on the road. We have moved forward in the construction of mass transportation systems in nine cities to reduce individual transportation. With indigenous communities we have advanced in the construction of a series of villages to form a barrier so that full recovery of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta can take place. Our new forestry law prohibits the destruction of rainforests and changes of land use. Colombia has 578,000 square kilometers of tropical forest, a lung of the Earth. Shortly, we will have registered 80,000 Forest Warden families, paid by the State, and committed to abandoning illicit drug production and supervising the recovery of destroyed forests. And one of our national objectives is  the production of bio-fuels, for which we have 44 million hectares of savannah, which will allow expansion and development, initially in sugar cane and African palm, without risking food security and without destroying a single square millimeter of rainforest.

I thank the United Nations system for all the support given to Colombia and I would like to highlight four areas. The Office against Drugs and Crime has been the guarantor and supervisor of our Forest Warden Families Programme to protect the rainforest from the destructive threat of drug-trafficking. The International Labour Organization has done outstanding work in our Workers’ Protection Programme.  We  have extended the mandate of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, to maintain its presence in Colombia for the remainder of my  Government’s term of office. Also, a large number of  UN agencies are providing valuable support in the task of assisting the displaced.

We continue to work for a society without exclusion and without class hatred, in permanent and constructive debate, looking for options, rejecting insurmountable antagonisms, respectful of democracy and the constitution. There is a long-term vision, fed daily by inclusion and by dialogue.

I thank the international community for all the support it has given us. I invite you to visit Colombia, to talk to us all, and to see for yourselves the collective spirit to fight for the greater happiness of future generations.

If you want to know about Colombia, you could do better than watch or read a bad press. I again invite you to try a different approach – just go there.

Documents 2007

Confianza en Colombia
Día de la Independencia
Volver a empezar
Que el  mundo nos juzgue
Sentido Común