Transcript: Colombian President Alvaro Uribe

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This is a partial transcript from "Your World with Neil Cavuto," September 16, 2005, that was edited for clarity.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: You know, Hurricane Katrina (search) not only having a big impact on this country. Would you believe Colombia?

Earlier, I sat down for an exclusive chat with the president of that country, Alvaro Uribe.


CAVUTO: Let me ask you, sir. President Bush addressed our nation last night, saying that he will rebuild New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. It's going to cost a lot of money. Estimates are well north of $200 billion. Do you fear some of that money going toward hurricane relief is going to mean less money going to Colombia?

ALVARO URIBE, COLOMBIAN PRESIDENT: First, let me express to the American public opinion that solidarity on behalf of all Colombians.

On the following day after the disaster, I called your embassy in Bogota (search) and I offered that a team of Colombian rescue operators was ready to come to New Orleans to help in all the operations. We want to express our concrete solidarity with the people of the United States.

Second, we cannot consider the duties of the U.S. government to recover New Orleans as a set of expenses that have to compete with the other budget portions. For instance, we cannot leave the job we are jointly doing in Colombia halfway. We are winning, but we haven't won yet. That snake is still alive. Therefore, if we leave this job halfway, we will lose all the progress we have gotten now.

CAVUTO: But no U.S. congressman has told you, sir, that Colombia is going to get less money now?

URIBE: In Congress, I found yesterday a lot of support. The people of your Congress have clear ideas, that it is necessary to win this battle. Otherwise, the war against drugs, against terror, could have a very negative setback.

CAVUTO: Let me ask you, sir -- I know you're meeting with a number of American businessmen, including those in the oil industry. You have urged exploration for oil in Colombia. You seem to think there is a good deal more there than meets the eye. Not everyone agrees. They feel that you're no Venezuela; you're no Ecuador (search) with oil. So, are they just chasing business that might not be there?


I find that there is great enthusiasm to invest in Colombia again. When my government began, Colombia had $500 million of foreign direct investment per year. Last year we got over $3 billion. And this year we are expecting to have over $5 billion. In the oil industry, when my government began, we had 10 explorations per year.

This year, we will complete 40. We had less than 20 contracts per year. This year, we will sign 70 contracts. Eighty-seven percent of our territory is unexplored yet. Therefore, we have a great horizon to explore in Colombia.

CAVUTO: There is no denying that unemployment is down in your country. Inflation is down in your country. You've had three-plus years of steady improving economic growth in your country. The incidents of violence are down in your country. Terrorism is down in your country.

But a number of U.S. business leaders I talk to, Mr. President, think your country is dangerous. What do you say to them?

URIBE: We are in a very steady path of changing for good. The current reality will change perception. And I hope that, because of what you have said, perception has to change in the States.

Homicides are down. Massacres are down. Kidnappings are down. Inflation is going down. We have completed three years of steady economic growth. We have many, many problems, but we are in a positive trend.

CAVUTO: Everyone in this country talks a lot about Venezuela, and they talk about Hugo Chavez (search). We had a prominent preacher in this country, sir, Pat Robertson (search), who had suggested maybe it wouldn't be a bad idea that this guy be assassinated. Now, he retracted those remarks later. But do you think Hugo Chavez would be better dead than alive?

URIBE: No, no, no, no.

I am democratic in general, philosophically speaking. I am Catholic. We need solidarity. We need to create an environment of peace in this world. Therefore, I cannot wish for someone to be killed.


CAVUTO: All right, but what he was saying, that, if the president of a brother country was maybe indirectly or directly arming the rebels in your country, he's not a friend. He's not a brother.

URIBE: Colombia has the determination to defeat terrorists whenever they stay. Our diplomacy is very clear, prudence in our speeches, effectiveness in our actions, effectiveness in results, prudence in words.

CAVUTO: Do you think he is helping FARC?

URIBE: There are many times I have talked with President Chavez. He has said to me that he doesn't hide FARC.

CAVUTO: Do you believe him?

URIBE: I have to believe him. But let me reaffirm this. One of the main rules of my management of diplomacy is prudence in words, effectiveness in results.

CAVUTO: Do you trust him?

URIBE: I have to trust every democratically-elected president in the world.

CAVUTO: Officials in this country, including our secretary of State, sir, Condoleezza Rice, and our president have expressed great disdain for President Chavez. Are they crazy to be so paranoid about this guy?

URIBE: No, please, we have many topics, many Colombian topics to talk about. In the middle of the problems of Colombia, I have to keep my mind concentrated in these problems to find solutions.

If I diverge my interests from Colombian items to other problems, we won't solve any problems in Colombia. I have to be concentrated in Colombian problems.

CAVUTO: So, you're not of the opinion he's trying to mucky up your problems in Colombia?

URIBE: I am concentrated in how to solve Colombian problems. Imagine, imagine, with the difficulties Colombia faces every day, could you imagine how worse our situation would be if the president of Colombia, instead of attending Colombian problems, was being in the attitude to get in other problems and different problems?

CAVUTO: Let me talk about terrorism, Mr. President, where you've had great success.

URIBE: I like to talk about this.

CAVUTO: OK, good, because you were getting mad at me, and I don't want you mad at me.

Could I talk to you a little bit about the problems President Bush is having on this front? He has slid tremendously in the polls here, because people think the war on terror has gotten confused. A lot of people say we shouldn't be in Iraq. A lot of people say that the president has lost the focus. Many people say, in your country, you have kept the focus on terror. Do you have any advice for President Bush?

URIBE: Advice, no. Advice, no.

Let me say this. First, I want to repeat, on behalf of all Colombians, our gratitude because of the help we receive from the United States. It is very important, from your people, from your Congress, from your government, and, of course, from President Bush. We consider your country, your government, your people a great ally of Colombia.

Second, to defeat terrorism, we need political will, persistent democracy and social cohesion.

CAVUTO: Mr. President, a lot of people in this country are worried about another terrorist attack. Now, I know you deal with terrorism perhaps more than any prominent leader in the world. Advise us. Advise Americans, how do you deal with the constant threat?

URIBE: Permanent adjustments in the middle of perseverance. This is the only way.

CAVUTO: Because a concern in your country, Mr. President, has been that, not that you have eased the war on terror, but you're more accommodating to the terrorists, whether it's an amnesty program, or a lay-down-your-arms program, that some are interpreting that as a sign that you're not as tough.

URIBE: When I came to the presidency, I found 50,000 people in the terrorist groups. Now we have had the demobilization of 20,000.

When they say, we want to give up our guns, we want to surrender to the law, we want one opportunity for peace, their government cannot neglect this proposal. Therefore, my idea has been, the Colombian government needs to be the hardest it can to defeat those who persist in violence. And, at the moment they say, we want peace, the Colombian government has to proceed with generosity.

CAVUTO: But how can you trust them?

URIBE: Because I trust in my policy on security.


CAVUTO: All right, Alvaro Uribe, the president of Colombia.

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