Bush Focuses on Security During Latin America Trip
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 22, 2004 President Bush met today with Colombian President Alvaro Uribe to praise him on progress in fighting narcoterrorists and to reaffirm the United States' support for opposing the drug trade, which Bush said "destroys lives in our countries and threatens the stability of our hemisphere."
The visit to Colombia was the last leg of Bush's three-day trip to Latin America to meet with Pacific Rim leaders at the 12th Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit in Santiago, Chile. In addition to economic and trade measures, leaders at the summit announced several new security initiatives, senior administration officials told reporters Nov. 21.
In his Nov. 20 radio address previewing the visit to Cartagena, Colombia, Bush lauded Uribe's crackdown on terrorist and extremist groups, including the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC; the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, or AUC; and the National Liberation Army, or ELN. The State Department names all three organizations on its list of foreign terrorist organizations.
FARC, a major provider of cocaine to the United States, has been linked to bombings, murder, kidnapping, extortion and hijacking, as well as guerrilla and conventional military action against Colombian political, military and economic targets, defense officials said.
"Colombia is making progress in the fight against terrorists who traffic in illegal drugs," Bush said in his weekly radio address Nov. 20. "America is standing with the Colombian government to oppose the drug trade."
At the APEC summit, administration officials said they were "very pleased" that leaders recognized the link between security and economic prosperity and were able to agree on concrete initiatives to advance both goals.
"All Pacific nations must keep up the fight against the forces of terror that threaten the success of our economies and the stability of the world," Bush said on the radio. "Terrorism is a threat, not just to the West or to the wealthy, but to every nation. And every nation must fight the murderers."
Attendees at the summit announced a plan to strengthen aviation security by cracking down on the proliferation and distribution of man-portable air-defense systems, shoulder-launched rockets that officials called "a dire threat to commercial aircraft."
They also agreed to adopt firmed controls on the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, including a commitment to implement protocols set by the International Atomic Energy Agency by 2005. Officials said the plan lays out a set of best practices to control items and the technologies associated with weapons of mass destruction.
Leaders at the summit also took steps to improve security of ships and ports and enhance travel security, officials said.
The United States and Australia launched the new Regional Movement Alert System that promotes information exchange about lost and stolen passports. Bush said the new system will help authorities track and stop suspected terrorists who travel using forged or stolen documents.
In addition, the leaders agreed to new efforts to work together to fight terrorism, including programs to support APEC members that Bush said "have the will to fight terror, but need help in developing the means."