Pace: U.S.-Colombian Relationship Helps Ensure Security for Both Nations
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
BOGOTA, Colombia, Jan. 20, 2007 The success of relationship between the United States and Colombia is having a direct positive impact on the security and stability of the entire region and hemisphere, Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said here yesterday.
Pace spoke to reporters at an early-afternoon news conference yesterday, and then he addressed military officers at Colombia’s War College during a subsequent session. In both events, Pace said that the close relationship benefits both countries.
“This is a two-way street,” Pace said at a joint news conference with Colombian Defense Minister Juan Manual Santos and Gen. Freddy Padilla, commander of the Colombian armed forces.
“The fact that the United States is able to help Colombia inside Colombia is a good thing for Colombia, but it is also a good thing for my country. And the fact that your country is fighting against drugs—a great deal of which come to the streets of the United States—is your country helping out to help my country,” Pace said. “So these are friends helping friends.”
Pace, who wrapped up his two-day visit here last night, thanked his Colombian counterparts for their open discussions about how the two countries can better cooperate as they work toward mutual goals.
The discussions focused on ways to continue that partnership “to strengthen the democracy here in Colombia, which in turn strengthens democracy in the United States,” he said.
The chairman praised progress the Colombians have made in improving their military and facing off against narco-terrorists and other threats.
“I can’t tell you how incredibly proud I am to be just a very small part of the enormous success that is obvious here in Colombia,” he said. “The work that has been done by your government to bring governance to all of Colombia, to bring criminals to justice and to provide a better way of life for all Colombians is truly remarkable.”
Addressing Colombia’s future military leaders at the War College, Pace said he’s observed “a complete change in mental attitude and outlook” in Colombia from five or six years ago.
He congratulated the officers for what they have helped accomplish and continue to work toward. “What you have done to date has made an enormous difference in the vitality and future strength of your country,” he said.
Colombia’s strength and adherence to democracy is critical, particularly in the face of Venezuela and other regional countries exhibiting anti-democratic tendencies, he noted.
“So when you look … at our partnership here in Colombia, it just strengthens my belief as a military man that what we are doing here in Colombia is the correct thing to provide peace and stability for Colombia--and in so doing, to provide examples for others in the hemisphere,” he said.
“What everyone in the region needs to understand is that there are countries like Colombia that will fight for their freedom and that there are countries like the United States that will stand beside them,” Pace said. “We all want for everyone in this hemisphere to live in peace and to respect their neighbors…and their neighbors’ sovereignty.”
United States and Colombia have a longstanding friendship that continues to mature, Pace told reporters at the news conference. “We’ve been good friends for literally hundreds of years,” he said. “We will be good friends for the next several hundred years, and I am glad to be here to figure out how to do that in the most efficient and effective way.”