Colombia Will Share Efforts with Neighbors, Defense Minister Says in U.S.
By Dialogo February 07, 2011
Colombia is ready to share efforts and personnel with neighboring countries in the fight against organized crime, Defense Minister Rodrigo Rivera declared on 3 February, following a meeting with his U.S. counterpart, Robert Gates.
“Despite the successes we’ve had, we can’t feel at ease; we feel that we also have a great deal to contribute. Just as in our most difficult moments we received cooperation, we’re now not only offering, but putting forward specific cooperation,” Rivera declared at a press conference.
“It’s our obligation to talk about these issues. The United States is making a great effort; so are we,” he added.
A total of fourteen Latin American countries, including Mexico and Central American nations, are being advised by Colombian military or police forces on security matters, the minister recalled.
“We’ve been responding to requests from those countries, on a case-by-case basis, but now we want to do so with a plan that corresponds to a strategic logic, with a portfolio of capabilities, of services, that we can make available to other countries,” he said.
Rivera’s visit to Washington, his first since becoming defense minister, is taking place as the U.S. Congress and the White House are launching a fierce debate about the 2011 budget.
Colombia is the region’s largest recipient of U.S. security assistance, with more than six billion dollars received since Plan Colombia was activated in 2000.
The Central American countries, however, suffering under an unprecedented wave of violence, are also demanding more aid from the United States for a regional plan.
Mexico, for its part, signed the Mérida Initiative four years ago, for which Washington has budgeted around 1.3 billion dollars.
Rivera characterized his meeting with Gates as “very warm,” although he nonetheless conveyed to Gates his “concern” about a possible cut in funds for Colombia.
“I believe that it’s a shared aspiration that all this cooperation can be maintained with a more creative, more prolific dialogue, not only in our country but throughout the region,” he explained.