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Colombia Seeks Commerce, Investment

February 07, 2008

Recently some outside of Colombia have questioned whether the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) are a terrorist group. Perhaps outside of Colombia people can have that academic debate. But the people of Colombia know full well that the FARC regularly terrorizes this nation on a daily basis. Their actions -- illegal drug production and trafficking, random bombings, the kidnapping and killing of civilians, the executions of political candidates, the planned violence against our nation's soldiers and police officers -- are terrorist acts, plain and simple.

To view the FARC in any way, other than that of a terrorist organization is to turn a blind eye to what really takes place in our country.

FARC is not a political alternative in Colombia. Movements that vindicate social rights, equality or social justice never use violence or terror or inflict human pain. FARC disparages mankind, disrespects compassion and human life. Colombia has suffered by their hand a barbarity that few nations have witnessed.

We Colombians, without exception, reject FARC and every group that uses violence and terrorism. This is our unanimous position, independent of our political or ideological affiliations or of the region where we live. Our position must be very clear to the rest of the world. This rejection must be a demonstration of solidarity absent of all subtleties.

The great advances made in security and illicit-drug crop eradication in Colombia are due, in large part, to the successful foreign policy set forth by the recent administrations and the U.S. Congress, independent of whether they were Democrat or Republican. For Colombia, the United States is an ally, and our strategic alliance supersedes party affiliations in both countries. This alliance is based on respect for the democratic system, on solidarity against crime and on the elimination of poverty.

The United States and Colombia negotiated a free trade agreement, already ratified by our nation. The consolidation of our economic, commercial and investment relationship, apart from the political one, represents a great triumph for both countries. This consolidation is the fruition of a policy with a long-term and sustainable vision; one that generates confidence and consideration for the values inherent to democracy and freedom.

For Colombia as for the United States, the approval of the free trade agreement is a fundamental decision in terms of foreign policy and for the advancement of the United States' strategic relations with the hemisphere.

The approval of the free trade agreement with Colombia is a political and economic decision that would reflect the great progress made by our nation in terms of security, growth, investment and social cohesion. Through the ''democratic security policy,'' indicators such as homicides and kidnapping have decreased by more than 50 percent and 88 percent, respectively. The poverty line dropped more than 10 points during the past five years, from 55.7 percent to 45.1 percent, and extreme poverty was reduced by almost 10 points, from 21.6 percent to 12 percent.

Colombia is not looking for assistance. Colombia seeks commerce, investment and economic opportunities that are mutually beneficial for both nations. To reject strengthening this successful partnership would be to disavow the reality of the region, as well as the transformations within the current international system.

Francisco Santos Calderon is vice president of Colombia.

Used with permission of the Miami Herald. Copyright 2008.  All rights reserved.