Let us again seek our common bond of unity, the law; democratic authority, freedom and social justice

We didn't come to complain, we got here to work.

The lives of two men, different in attitudes, upbringing and destiny, inspired the beginnings of our Republic. One was the strong-willed rebel from Caracas, a scion of the Colonial aristocracy, nurtured by his black nanny Hipólita, and educated by the free-thinker Simon Rodriguez with Rousseau´s principles of individual freedom and self-discipline who, once trained as a junior officer, came at a very early age to place his sword-arm at the orders of the insubordinate people of Cartagena. The other came from Villa del Rosario at San José de Cúcuta in the Provice of Pamplona, the industrious and precocious student, sent to the San Bartolomé seminary to be molded to the disciplines of the Jesuits, formed by them in the arduous study of the law, who, as still an adolescent, joined the people of Santa Fe de Bogotá in their fight for independence.

These two men, Bolivar and Santander, stand for the essence of our political identity as a nation. Bolivar embodies the idea of order and authority: order, as an unavoidable premise of freedom; and authority, to make equality of opportunity possible. Santander represents the realm of law which guarantees our security and freedoms. Order, to gain freedom through the democratic authority of the law. This is the ethical and political combination which sustains the historical continuity of our nation, and gives meaning to our respect for our institutions.

Bolivar understood order as the principle of unity and social justice. He won the support of the people of Caracas who, after breaking away from Colonial domination, made independence possible. The indigenous mountain communities of Peru saw Bolivar´s concept of order as a beacon to guide their social aspirations. They saw the sword of the Liberator, which wrote a Constitution without privileges for Bolivia, as the symbol of authority in their service, the guarantee of freedom for all.

So that the Liberator may rest in peace, let us restore order. Let unity return to the old New Granada, today fragmented into de facto republics of violent organizations.

Santander conceived peace, and the harmony which is the state of the soul to make it lasting, as being under the exclusive sovereignty of the law. He preferred law to war, when they asked him for more troops to fight the independence campaign in the south of this continent. He honored the law with his obedience to authority, even at the cost of his dismissal as commander of the army in the eastern plains of Colombia.

May that Man of the Law inspire us to be a nation which obeys the law, and free us from the slavery of violence.

In obedience to the oath which I have just taken, which commits all my efforts and the very life which the Creator has given to me, I call on all the men and women of this country to seek again our common bond of unity, the law, democratic authority, of freedom and social justice, which we have lost in a moment of weakness in our history.
Trust and solidarity have declined in our country. We look at our neighbors, and especially the State, with mistrust. Our attitude to solidarity has weakened. There is a disproportionate desire to serve one´s own interest, and indifference to the fate of the community. But this, as a sign of decay in social capital, is not born of the nature of being a Colombian, which is both civic-minded and humanitarian. The reason for it is the destruction wrought by violence, of political chicanery and of corruption, which combine to cause uncertainty, poverty and inequality.

Colombia faces a series of grave difficulties. Nine million of our people live in misery, 57% are on the poverty line, 16% are unemployed and six and a half million are underemployed. The deficit represents 3% of our gross domestic product, and the capacity to pay public debt has reached its limit. If the same number of murders were committed here as in England, there would be 200 of them every year. One murder is serious enough, and so are 200: but we have 34,000. In kidnaps, of which between 3,000 and 3,600 are reported, we account for 60% of all such crimes in the world. And each kidnap means suffering, the flight of capital, and unemployment.

We didn't come to complain, we got here to work.

It will be impossible to solve everything in four years, but we shall spare no effort to try. That is my duty to our youth and to future generations. It is my obligation of honor to those 80% of Colombians, the young now awakening to life, who need us to do whatever is right to ensure that their hopes may flower into reality. We must do our work well, and restore the faith of a people which has never bowed its head, but which does call for a steady hand at the helm and stem the tide of misery and criminal attack.

Fiscal adjustment, to put the nation´s finances in order, is unavoidable. But it will be effected in such a way as to encourage economic growth and employment. Growth is the best form of fiscal adjustment, and the only lasting source of revenues for the State. The powerful, whose tenacity and success in business are good for the country, will have to bear new tax burdens. The efforts of the middle classes and the people as a whole must be rewarded by greater social investment so that we can stop them from continuing their already long years of Purgatory.

With this exceptionally delicate state of the economy, we must give encouragement to sectors of production that generate employment. When a developed country finds itself in a difficult situation, it wastes no time debating incentives: it simply designs then and puts them into practice.

Globalization, like integration of the economy, is irreversible: but the dignity of the poorer nations demands that they achieve social equity. Otherwise, their political viability could only be maintained at enormous cost to democracy and peaceful coexistence.

The Andean Community economy needs greater political will and better results. We would be wrong to think that, with the trade barriers within our region, any of our countries will be able to increase the pace of growth. The best protection within the Community is greater integration. We should all look to Mercosur, the European Union, Canada, and FTAA.

We should make progress towards a harmonized and competitive exchange rate, low inflation, prudent borrowing and fiscal balance. If we can achieve that, then we can think about a single currency, our currency, which we can control ourselves.

Our borders with our neighbors are both open and closed. They are open for goods and honest men, and closed for criminals. Our work in authority will aim to prevent drugs and violence from moving into border areas. And, with the help of the government of each of those good neighbors, we will succeed in this, so that Colombia and everyone can recover peace of mind. This conflict must be stopped, or it may destabilize the whole region.

During the hand-over process I met the senior administrators of the multilateral banks, to persuade them to increase their exposure in Colombia. We need this, and we need it soon. If we use those funds properly, we will be able to continue to meet our obligations, and pay some of our overdue social debt.

Popular acceptance of our State will largely depend on our social achievements. Despite a critical shortage of funds, we will push forward with the 7 tools for building equity which we explained in our manifesto: the educational revolution; broader-based social security; encouragement for the solidarity sector; social management in rural areas and of public services; support for small and medium enterprise to become a country of owners; and the quality of life in the cities.

Economic stability will depend on growth, and growth will be sustained into the longer term if it is based on a cohesive society. Economic stability is impossible without social stability.

Our State is a giant of bureaucratic inefficiency in the face of the corruption which abuses our political customs; and it is, dangerously, a dwarf in social investment. The State must promote development, guarantee social equity, and provide public order. It cannot stand in the way of private initiative, nor turn its back on the demands of society.

Our Community State will seek to ensure that funds and actions reach all, with transparency, giving people a greater part to play in the performance and supervision of public activities. The more we can encourage this participation, the more effective the effort to drive out corruption.

The State cannot ask small towns to practice austerity while those in high places waste money. As an example to all, the reforms must start in the Office of the President, Congress, pensions, salaries, the elimination of political favors, inflated payrolls, and official entertainment.

The revolution in communications will make it easier to have a smaller and less expensive Congress, with a balanced mix of representation and participation, more integrated with the public and more efficient in its work. Its independence from the Executive requires not size, but opinion, observation and control.

This afternoon a draft bill will be sent to Congress, calling for a referendum against corruption and political chicanery. This will open the door to austerity and to the transfer of funds for the revolution in opportunities, which starts with education.

We cannot fight the trade in political favors if we trade in them ourselves. The managers and directors of the regional offices of national institutions will be appointed by merit and in competition, so that all may take part in an inaugural event of equal treatment from the administration.

If our State enterprises are to continue to exist, political influence must be banished, and labor costs must be rationalized.

Our idea of democratic security requires that we work to provide the effective protection of all members of the public, regardless of political beliefs or economic standing. A whole nation is crying out for respite and security. No crime can be justified, directly or otherwise. No kidnap can be explained away by political doctrine. I understand the grief of the mother, the orphan and the displaced. As I wake every morning, I will search my soul to make sure that the acts of authority which I undertake will arise from the purest of intentions and will be performed in the noblest of ways. I will support and sympathize with the forces of law and order, and we will encourage our millions of civilians to join us in assisting them. This increases our commitment to human rights, since respect for those rights is the only way to achieve security and then, reconciliation.

When a democratic State provides effective guarantees, even if it comes to do so gradually, any violence against it is terrorism. We do not accept violence as a means of attack on the government, or as a means of defense. Both are terrorism. The only mission of the legitimate force of the State is to defend the community, and that force cannot be used to silence its critics.

Democracy is the only way in which ideas can compete. We are offering democracy, so that arms can be replaced by argument, and democratic security will be the instrument by which politics can be conducted unarmed, and with the right not to be killed. The defense of the mayors, councilors, governors, and all other representatives of the people under threat, will be the bastion of that democracy. We will not allow the long-standing struggle of the people to elect their next authority to be frustrated by the threat of a bullet.

I have asked Mr. Kofi Annan, Secretary General of the United Nations, for the good offices of his organization to seek useful dialog, based on an alleviation of the situation of our society, and this must mean a cessation of hostilities. Those who wish to enjoy freedom must allow others to enjoy peace of mind. I have asked the media to accept the prudence which this issue demands.

The world must understand that this conflict requires unconventional, imaginative and transparent solutions. The agents of violence are funded by an international criminal business - drugs. They fight with weapons not made in Colombia. No democracy can stand aside from the sufferings of the Colombian people. We will continue with Plan Colombia, adding aerial interdiction and practical substitution programs, such as payments to small-farmers for the eradication of unlawful crops and care for the restoration of our woodlands. We will follow the path already opened up in the United States, knock on doors in Europe and Asia, and reinforce our unity of purpose with our neighbors. If we do not drive out drugs, drugs will destroy our freedoms and our ecology, and the hope of living in peace will be no more than an illusion.

We want peace; not the kind of temporary reassurance that comes from insincerity, or an uneasy agreement or a tyrannical government. Temporary reassurance is not reconciliation: it is simply a suspension of violence, after which more intense violence comes back.

I receive this office as President from the hands of Andres Pastrana who has come to the end of his tasks in dignity and good faith; with much success in integrating Colombia with the rest of the world, and as a final achievement, offering good prospects that ATPA will favor our exports.

Francisco Santos-Calderón has taken the oath as Vice-President. He has done so out of a love for this country held dear by his family, and especially by his father.

I have made an oath to the President of Congress that I will obey the Constitution and the law, and he is an honest citizen, an efficient administrator, and a man of the State. My oath carries the special meaning that for both of us in our respective territories, our word is our bond, and it is graven in stone.

I come from a mountain which taught me to love it intensely, so that I could love all Colombia in the same way. My friends up there, most of them farmers, want me to keep my eyes on Colombia. There too is my mother, always keeping me company, and my father, full of life. They would like to see me doing my duty with love - some kind of extra love -for my fellow citizens. My wife and two student children will be a constant source of support.

We will start an administration which is honest, efficient and austere. It cannot work miracles, but it will work. There is not much money, and there are many problems. But our cheerful spontaneity, intact despite all that we have suffered and our unbending determination in the face of difficulty will be invaluable. I am well aware of the size of my responsibilities, and I know that I cannot follow the right course without my compatriots - you - and your constructive criticism, your efforts and your advice.

If we can tolerate the ideas of others, promote "zero-permissiveness" for crime, and can draw on a bank of authority which can pay out, we can make a better today and a better tomorrow for creative debate.

May our love for our country be the flame of our Lord and the Virgin to guide me on the right course to steer. To overcome human vanity, and to set wrongs right.

I earnestly hope that, in four years´ time, I can look all of you in the eye.


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