Interview With Claudia Gurisatti of NTN24/RCNTV

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Cartagena, Colombia
September 26, 2016

QUESTION: Secretary of State John Kerry, welcome to Cartagena.


QUESTION: Welcome to NTN24 and RCNTV.

SECRETARY KERRY: My pleasure. Nice to be with you.

QUESTION: Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Kerry. Mr. Secretary, United States has strongly supported the Colombian peace process since day one. What are the main reasons for this support?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, we’ve been deeply invested in Colombia for a long time. As you mentioned, we – I was very involved in helping to shape Plan Colombia and to pass Plan Colombia through the Senate and Congress. And Colombia has been on a remarkable journey. We’ve been very involved with helping the leaders of Colombia from both Republican and Democratic administrations alike to be able to reclaim the country.

And today, with the passage of – with the signing of the peace agreement, this is an enormous step forward to end the longest running war in this hemisphere, one of the longest in the world. So we care about the stability, we care about ending the violence, we care about building the capacity of Colombia itself to continue to contribute to the stability of the hemisphere. So this is a big moment and we are filled with admiration for the people of Colombia, who have really willed to this happen.

QUESTION: Part of the Colombian society wonders if the United States has any concerns about this final agreement that is being signed today.

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, no agreement ever satisfies every single person. I mean, that’s impossible. But we believe this is a very strong agreement, it’s a fair agreement, it has a justice component, it cares about the victims, it’s very focused on victims, and I think that’s appropriate. I think it has a great deal of sensitivity and common sense in this agreement.

We don’t take a position on advising the people of Colombia how they should vote or what they should do. That’s up to the people of Colombia. But we, the United States, do believe this is an important – this is a very important step forward. We do support the agreement, we think it’s a good agreement, and we hope it can bring peace and stability to the country. So you can focus on all the other things you need to do to help your young people get education and have jobs and begin to grow into the future.

QUESTION: We hope so. Mr. Secretary, let’s talk about illegal crops in Colombia have doubled in the past two years.


QUESTION: Some Colombian authorities consider that stopping aerial spraying of illegal crops was a mistake. Actually, Colombia’s general attorney is in favor of resuming aerial spraying. Do the United States second this proposal?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, I think we have to evaluate everything very, very carefully. Part of the approach to dealing with illegal crops is to make sure that there’s a marketplace there for alternative crops. I mean, farmers still need to be able to earn money, they need to be able to pay their bills, and they need to be able to grow their own economic future.

So we need to have programs that make sense. If you – I think there is a balance. I personally have believed in some crop destruction, crop eradication, but it has to be accompanied by other economic opportunities in order to be able to be workable in the long run.

QUESTION: And do you support the aerial spraying?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, it depends what’s being sprayed and where and how and it’s complicated. But I think there are times when it can be necessary, providing you have the alternative economic viability for people whose income depends on the illegal crops.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, do authorities in the United States really believe in FARC’s commitment of becoming partners with the government in the fight against drugs?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, they – this is something you have to put to the test. I’m not somebody who just takes words on a piece of paper and believes that those words are going to deliver everything that they say. You have to test it. And I think there are a series of requirements in this agreement that will begin to put to test both sides’ commitment to the agreement. And so I think it’s important to begin the process. I think that in a very short time we will begin to see whether or not it is taking hold in the way that it is supposed to.

QUESTION: Colloquially speaking, it’s a little bit like letting the fox guard the henhouse, isn’t it?

SECRETARY KERRY: Which? The agreement or the narcotics?

QUESTION: Having the FARC as partner of government to fight against drugs.

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, not if they change, but – not if they change. I mean, that is the test. You have to begin somewhere when you’re making peace. And there will be doubters; there always are. But if you don’t begin somewhere, then more and more people are killed, the war goes on and on. You have to start somehow to begin to build the foundations of a new future, a new society. And FARC has made agreements; it will obviously need to be enforced. We will be working on a continuing basis with the authorities of Colombia on counternarcotics initiatives, and we’ll do our best to contribute to making this a reality.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, is the United States considering to remove FARC from the State Department list of terrorist organization?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, we review that on a regular basis. And when the facts change, that gets taken into account in the review. Obviously, the facts are going to change with the signing of an agreement. And if people do disarm and people do live by the encampments and people do reintegrate into society, then that’s – those are all things that have to be taken in account in a review. And we will review under those circumstances.

QUESTION: When are you going to review that?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, as it happens. It has to unfold. We don’t review it on the basis of the day of signing, but we review it each day thereafter and we will look at this very, very carefully. We want Colombia to succeed. We want this to be a victory for the people of Colombia, and the United States is committed to being a partner – a full partner.

We’re chairing the demining initiative with Norway. We raised $105 million last week in New York for demining. We will be very involved in building not only stronger law enforcement, stronger military cooperation on narcotics, but we will also be working very closely on building the peace itself for economic – on economic measures, on education measures, health measures. And the Congress has committed – we are asking the Congress to commit 390 million additional dollars in order to implement the peace in the days ahead.

So I believe this can be very positive for Colombia. People need to work at it. It doesn’t just happen overnight because you say it. People have to work at it. Hard decisions still have to be made. People need to commit to a different kind of behavior. And everybody needs to work at it in a constructive way.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) how long could it take, the whole process of taking the FARC out from the list of terrorist organizations?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, if things unfold quickly here it can happen very quickly. I mean, this is a question of how fast things move in Colombia, and how quickly, how certain people become about the change in behavior. But clearly, with the disarming, with the reintegration into the political process, those will be very important measurements with respect to this.

QUESTION: We know that the European Union is going to announce they will suspend FARC from their list of terrorist organizations. What do you think?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, Europe often has a different approach or a different set of standards by which they operate. I’m happy that they’re willing to do that; that’s their system. Our system will require a little bit more patience, but we absolutely will be prepared to re-evaluate as things begin to change.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, finally, is there an open door for Trinidad to be pardoned by President Obama and eventually be released from jail?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, Simon Trinidad is not a part of this agreement and he was never made a part of the agreement. He’s not a part of the agreement now. So that is something that you would have to address to our Justice Department. It’s not in the State Department’s portfolio.

QUESTION: Secretary of State John Kerry, thank you so much for your time.

SECRETARY KERRY: My great pleasure. Well, felicitacion. Congratulations to all the people of Colombia. It’s a very important day.

QUESTION: Thank you. Thank you.

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you. My pleasure.