My greetings to Mr. Jan Kavan of the Czech Republic, Chairman of this General Assembly, which I address for the first time.

Not far from here, on that fateful 11th of September, 2,801 citizens of the world died. In Colombia, violence causes as many deaths every month.

Forty three million Colombians, lovers of peace, are suffering one of the world´s worst humanitarian crises.

- Every year, Colombia buries 34,000 of its sons, the victims of violence. We have lost 10% of our youth.

- Last year Colombia recorded the highest murder rate in the world: 63 per 100,000 of the population.

- In the last five years we have suffered 8,000 acts of collective destruction, more than those recorded in any other place of violence around the world. 280 villages suffered attacks by guerrillas and paramilitaries, with serious consequences for the civilian population and the armed forces.

- The terrorist act committed during my inaugural killed 21 innocent and humble people.

- Two million people, 40% of them children, have suffered forced displacement under pressure from terrorist groups, both guerrillas and paramilitaries. That is equivalent to displacing the communities of Washington and Manhattan at the same time.

- In the last five years 16,500 human beings have been the victims of kidnapping. Yesterday six children were kidnapped, and one of them is still in captivity.

- 390 mayors - in more than a quarter of all our municipal districts - 9 provincial governors, and 107 provincial assemblymen have received death threats from the same groups.

The terrorist attacks of 11 September last year moved the entire world and provoked just and universal condemnation. Today, the moral conscience of mankind should be shaken by attacks such as that committed by Colombian guerrillas on 2 May in Bojayá, a humble village of a thousand people. They killed 117 civilians who had taken refuge in the church.

This violence impoverishes our people more every day, scares off investors, hampers economic growth, diverts valuable resources and prevents us from overcoming our economic and social backwardness.

- Violence absorbs 4% of our Gross Domestic Product.

- There are daily attacks, kidnaps and robberies on our main highways, such as that which joins our two largest cities. Can you imagine that happening between Brussels and Paris, or New York and Boston?

We Colombians are today making great efforts to face this problem with policies for public order, reforms of the State to root out corruption and political chicanery, greater economic growth and social investment.

The central objective of our policy for Democratic Security is to restore the rule of law.
Security is not for the persecution of real or imaginary ideological enemies. Nor to maintain a one-party regime.

Democratic Security is to protect every citizen in a pluralist nation, open to fraternal and creative debate.

Democratic Security is for all Colombians, so that peasant farmers will not be driven off their small-holdings, businessmen will not be kidnapped; journalists will not be threatened; and the mission of the bishops, the priests, the nuns, the preachers and the educators will be respected.

It is to ensure that union leaders may be free to act; political leaders may move around without fear; that human rights defenders can go about their work without threats.

As civil commander-in-chief of the armed forces I have a commitment to the rigorous observance of human rights. Without that, we might achieve a reduction in violence, but we would never achieve reconciliation. Our emergency measures do no suppress human rights but demand that rules be observed, for example in people´s movements, in order to stop the transport, in the name of free mobilization, of explosives used to kill.

We respect controversy. The security policy which we are implementing is not to silence the critics but to confront violence. There is no going back on that policy.

The numbers of our military and police are relatively low : 3,9 per 1,000 of the population. New York has 42,000 policemen: Colombia as a whole has 75,000.

We must strengthen our forces of law and order. We have decreed a wealth tax, to be paid by businesses and high-income earners. This tax should collect revenues of about 1% of GDP.

In implementing this policy of Democratic Security, the Government has called on the solidarity of one million citizens to provide voluntary cooperation with the forces of law and order and the justice system.

The support of the public for legitimate institutions is an essential element of a Social State of Law. That support is an expression of the solidarity of the individual with the community, and without it the State would lose its social nature. We need to remove the citizen´s fear of the guerrillas and the paramilitaries, and create community ties to democratic institutions. The effectiveness and transparency of the forces of law and order depends to a large extent on cooperation from the public.

Colombia´s problem is a risk to the democratic stability of the region; and we need the help of the world to solve it. I ask for the help of the world because my Government has decided to defeat terror, to ensure that the next four years do not pass as a fresh triumph of crime or as new evidence of the vacillations of the State and society in the face of the arrogance of the violent.

It is imperative that the sources of finance for terror be eliminated. Only with that will we defeat the drug-traffickers and kidnappers.

The forum of the United Nations is concerned about chemical weapons, and we share that concern. But we must, please, understand that drugs have a capacity for mass destruction far more terrible than chemical weapons.

We have the determination to eliminate drugs. We ask the world to make the same commitment. We cannot continue with timid half-decisions or half-actions. While we dither, terrorism sows and traffics more and more drugs.

Do not send us arms! Eliminate the markets for drugs and their precursors. Help us with aerial interdiction, and with seizures of the drugs that sail the waters of the Pacific and the Caribbean.

We need funds to pay our peasant-farmers to destroy drugs and work for the restoration of our woodlands.

Last week, Carlos Enrique Arenas, a Colombian Navy pilot aged 29 - married with a daughter aged only two and a second child on the way - and his copilot Roberto Enrique Guardo - also married with three small children - disappeared over the sea. Their helicopter crashed after they had intercepted a launch that carried more than two tons of cocaine.

Sacrifices such as these demand the support of all countries to defeat drugs, since so far we have managed to seize only 20% of the quantities that leave Colombia.

A United Nations Resolution orders the confiscation of bank accounts, investments and other assets of those who commit terrorist acts. This Resolution has been a dead letter in countries where money used to finance terrorist acts in Colombia circulates.

My Government´s commitment to security is not opposed to dialogue - on the contrary, we want it. We have therefore asked for the good offices of the United Nations, through a special adviser to the Secretary General. This is the way to begin a serious peace process, which must start with the cessation of violence.

The Charter of the United Nations tells us that in order for dialogue to begin, these acts must first cease.

The grief of thousands of Colombians at the kidnap of their loved ones - amongst whom are former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt, several Congressmen, provincial assemblymen, the Governor of my own province, a former minister and tireless worker for peace, members of the forces and hundreds of ordinary people - shows us that we need humanitarian actions which will not help to fertilize violence but will lead us down the road to reconciliation.

The world is full of analysts of the Colombian problem, and critics of our society and our governments. We need less rhetoric and more action, more real help to solve the problem.

We do demand effective cooperation, because our violence is financed by the international business of drugs, and is waged with weapons not made in Colombia.

We suffer the problems of misery, injustice, lack of investor confidence, high debt and fiscal deficit that afflict many countries.

We have always honored our international financial commitments, and we always shall.

We are making unprecedented efforts to freeze spending and to increase taxes; but we need significant bilateral and multilateral economic support to invest and to generate employment. That is, to begin to pay our social debt.

A victory over violence will help the economy to grow and to finance the social development that in turn will consolidate peace.

A thought: coffee was at one time worth more than $3, but today only about $0.60. The international banks and cooperation agencies should double their commitments and funding in Colombia. The money will not be used in wasteful expenditure or to rescue bankrupt companies, but to invest in the interests of the poor and secure governance.

The people of Colombia are worthy, hard-working, democratic and prudent, and their spontaneity has not been stifled by their martyrdom.

Our Nation has the most solid of democratic traditions, the strength of its long-term economic performance is recognized, our industrial base is highly diversified and the structure of our production is increasingly oriented towards international markets, with enormous potential in small democratic enterprise.

With the understanding and support of you, who represent the nations of the world, and with our determination, Colombia will free itself from the slavery of violence and may become a juster place.

New York, 13 September 2002

Discurso ante la 57 Asamblea General de las Naciones Unidas en Español