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Gates Signs Agreement for Funds for War Children

By Fred W. Baker III
American Forces Press Service

BOGOTA, Colombia, Oct. 3, 2007 – Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates today pledged U.S. funds to provide music education and other services to children displaced by the years of war here.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates signs a pledge with Colombian President Alvaro Uribe Velez and members of of the Batuta Foundation and Colombia's Presidential Agency for Social Action and International Cooperation for U.S funds to provide education and services to children displaced by years of war, Oct. 3, 2007. Defense Dept. photo by U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jerry Morrison
  

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Gates signed an agreement of intention to provide the funds after a meeting with Colombia’s president Alvaro Uribe Velez here at Casa de Narino, the presidential palace.

The new $343,000 grant will allow the National Batuta Foundation and Colombia’s Presidential Agency for Social Action and International Cooperation to expand to about 20 areas helping about 3,600 children along the remote areas of the Pacific Coast. The money will support children who were internally displaced and are at risk for recruitment by illegally armed groups or who are living in precarious neighborhoods, officials said. In addition, the children will receive psycho-social support including counseling and health education.

Uribe thanked Gates for his visit and for the United States’ financial help for Colombian children.

"When a child embraces a musical instrument, that child will never hold a rifle against his neighbor," the president said.

The funds will come from the U.S. Agency for International Development, which also has other programs with the Colombian organizations.

Gates signed the agreement with Norma Poveda, the general manager of the National Batuta Foundation, and Sandra Alazate, the director of Colombia´s Presidential Agency for Social Action and International Cooperation.

This is the second stop on the defense secretary´s five-day, five-country trip to Latin America.

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Biographies:
Robert M. Gates

Related Sites:
U.S. State Department country background note on Colombia
Photo Essay

Related Articles:
Gates Praises El Salvador for Iraq Efforts
Gates Launches Latin American Trip



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