tv This Is America With Dennis Wholey PBS May 20, 2012 10:00am-10:30am EDT
>> our guest is ambassador gabriel silva, ambassador from the republic of colombia to the united states, former minister of defense, former ceo of the national federation of coffee growers of colombia. mr. ambassador, thank you so much for joining us. >> thank you for having me. >> so exciting to have you here, because one of the articles i have says "showcasing colombia's economic merkel at." -- miracle." talk to us about the miracle. >> it is really a miracle, achieved with a lot of sacrifice, a lot of effort. in the last decade, colombia was able to defeat crime and violence. we still have problems, but i just a completely different
country, eight new colombia. -- a new colombia. the country that is correct with this change has brought in big companies, a lot of interest. we have colombian investors coming back and foreign investors coming in to invest. >> i love the phrase "the new colombia." that is a nice phrase. third largest economy in south america, is that true? >> we surpassed argentina, and after mexico and brazil, we are the third largest growing. 6% a year. >> we would be happy to up 6% here. -- to have 6% here. what is the foundation of the economy? imports, exports? what is happening? >> we have a strong agricultural sector. our coffee, the best coffee in the world. mining and oil sectors have grown significantly.
also, manufacturing. it is really a very diverse and balanced growth. >> i read someplace where maybe 10 or 12 years ago, investment is maybe 1 million or a couple of million -- billion, i'm sorry -- per year. now it has gone through the roof. isn't it? >> 20 years ago, when i was ambassador the first time, and i had more hair and less weight -- [laughter] >> happens to all of us. >> the average investment was $1 billion, $1.5 billion per last year it was $18 billion. tremendous change. it comes from everywhere we. of seeing regions different from the u.s., other countries, taking advantage. probably in a more aggressive way. >> finally, the fda agreement
between colombia and the united states has been signed and ratified. what does that mean for both countries? >> it means a lot of jobs, first of all. yes, jobs. in the case of a colombia, at least 250,000 jobs, new jobs, associated with the development of the free trade agreement. in the u.s., colombian trade and market, we create a lot of new jobs and opportunities for americans. >> you kind of made reference to this earlier in the conversation, that may be in the past there was a stereotype towards colombia which was the drugs and violence and human rights. but now it is education, technology, energy, culture. a vast change in 10 or 12 years. >> we have to recognize the
leaders of that change. the president and his team -- part of the team, and as minister of defense -- i was the minister of defense. in those eight years of the two governments, his stamina, leadership, a commitment to evolve from a country that was almost at the brink of failure -- >> yes, yes, yes. >> to a vibrant and peaceful nation is one of the key factors to understand what has happened. >> the united states has played a key role. aid money, defense money, military men, specifically targeting the war on drugs and the drug cartels, and also the insurgency -- this has paid big dividends, hasn't it? >> no doubt. the relationship with the u.s. has been longstanding.
colombia has -- is part of the group of the peacekeeping forces in egypt and israel. are an active member of the international community, very closely aligned with the u.s. they helped colombia with planned colombia, and the way we used the technology and the resources provided by the u.s. and made a huge difference. the french of the u.s. made a huge difference -- the friendship of the u.s. made a huge difference. >> farc is the name of the insurgent guerrilla group. how does that stand now, and what are the hopes for the country that although it does
insist on some areas, it is not -- exist in some areas, it is not as much of a huge headache, it to be putting it mildly, to the government and the people? >> i think we all want to get to the point where we don't have any more farc any more organized crime. the change has been significant. farc was 24,000 members 10 years ago. now it is close to 7000. but they are still there. we continue our effort. it is an open door. if they decides to come back into society, colombia is willing to have them surrender and find a peaceful solution, an endgame in which they comeback. if not, we will get there through other means.
>> let's take a little break right now and say that we are talking with ambassador gabriel silva, the ambassador from the republic of colombia. sit tight. back on the other side. "this is america." captioned by the national captioning institute --www.ncicap.org-- >> "this is america" is made possible by the national education association, the nation's largest advocate for children and public education. poongsan corporation, forging a higher global standard. the ctc foundation. afo communications. and the rotondaro family trust. >> mr. ambassador, let's talk a little bit about the summit of the americas. i gather that 33 of the 35
leaders in the area attended. i suppose the question is -- i hate to do it backwards, but who didn't attend? >> venezuela. his health is in a difficult situation, as you know. he was represented by his foreign minister. the president of nicaragua, president ortega. we don't know why he didnt' make it. they are the two were absent. but we had a good crowd and great attendance. >> we get all confused in the media here and we did not understand -- what was the agenda of the summit? >> the agenda was very relevant. for example, at infrastructure -- how can we connect our systems, our grid, how to increase our use of local energy and alternative energy? we also had as a topic how to
fight poverty and create jobs. and we had 150 american ceo's of the first grade level. one of the most difficult problems we had was where to park the private jets. [laughter] >> that is a problem, that is a problem. >> and the political news and business news, bridge dramatically the success and the outcome of this summit. >> one of the things that i was keeping an eye on was it some thought within the countries of south america that had to do with the decriminalizing of at least some drugs, which president obama and his administration did not even want to go there, and also emigration was something that
was on the agenda. tell me what the thinking was in south america, latin america, and how some of that was handled and resolve. >> the president presented the concept of discussing in an open way the successes and failures of drug policy the last 20 years. >> the war on drugs. >> and we need to be more successful. open-minded, in an objective way, looking at which policies work, and try to find a new basket of solutions. among them, legalization of some drugs. does not mean we are advocating legalization, but we need to polish and improve the effectiveness of our drug policy. i think we achieved something
very important. the topic is now legitimate. we need to talk about it, and openly discussed it. it is a very important achievement. >> how about immigration? what was on the table there? >> it was on the table because ome countries think that certain aspects of u.s. immigration policy, certain aspects in certain states, is discriminatory and doesn't respect international practices or the respect for due process. it is a concern, and was openly aired by some of the president's. >> it certainly never ended up in our newspapers or television, but what were the successes of the summit? >> for colombia, we had for the first time in history of u.s. president stay in three days,
highlighting his presence, staying overnight, how safe and open -- how different is the new colombia. >> yes, yes, the new colombia. >> that was a tremendous benefit for colombia and all of us. we agree with the president on launching the implementation the 15th of may. tremendous achievement. on the unilateral said, a committed to a very specific agenda, looking for stronger integration of infrastructure, energy, environment, and dealing with the challenging issues of immigration and a constructive way, were the most important successes. >> obviously, i have to raise this with you, of course -- terrible disgrace and destruction, because of the --
distraction, because of the secret service and the military scandal that happened there, while the president was there, and in the run-up to the summit. how did you see it as a person and an ambassador from that country? >> it was a very unfortunate event for the few individuals who misbehave. beyond that, we were sat in a way because a lot of what was achieved in the sum it, a lot of whatmimit, a lot president obama told the government, was executed by these scandals. i'm more sad than anything else. >> there was an article in "the washington post" that you took great exception to. the key sentence in the article was "cartagena is swimming in prostitution." you wrote a letter to the "post." obviously, the people in the
city and angry are angry about a whole incident -- people in this city are angry about the whole incident did detect a lot of the shine off of -- it took a lot of the shine off of colombia. >> the coverage was unfair. these things are attractive for a certain type of press. people felt insulted. in particular because of the way some of the coverage present it reality that are not different from other places. >> were you afraid that the old stereotype of drugs and violence was being replaced by a stereotype of colombian prostitution? >> since i was an ambassador the first time to today, 20 years. we have been fighting stereotypes. this is another one we will be able to overcome. the reality is so strong.
our country has turned peaceful. 1 million-plus visitors a year. huge opportunity for investors and for american companies and american products. that reality is really what matters. we hope that is going to stand. >> did colombia ask the united states for a letter of apology? >> not really, because it is not the fault of the u.s. it is the fall of some individuals who made a mistake. >> a couple more questions on that. the parallel in my mind -- i am serious about this piece of it -- talking about decriminalizing some drugs, and they are also looking at prostitution in colombia is legal. is there any parallel there? if prostitution is legal, it
works because of many factors, one of which might be taking the criminal element out of bed. -- out of it. is there any parallel that i can see between the criminalizing prostitution and decriminalizing drugs? >> i don't really know much about the topic, but i have to tell you that decriminalization is an option. we're not advocating that option. they are two phenomenons. >> you are clear on record, if we lost the war on drugs, we would have lost the country. >> absolutely. i was a presidential adviser before i was ambassador. when we left the office, we never knew we were going to arrive alive at home. >> oh, lord. >> that was the kind of situation. when a judge issued a subpoena,
we add it to answer a broad or -- we had to send him abroad or otherwise we would be killed. >> oh, lord. >> it is a completely different country. for me, having lived throughout the process, it is quite a relief to see that my kids and grandkids are going to live here. a completely different nation. >> i want to ask you one more question before we move on, and i know you want to move on, and i want to move on. colombia is a catholic country. prostitution is legal. nobody has ever talked about the morality of the situation vis-a-vis the whole situation. i wonder how that goes down with such a catholic country and the leaders of the church. >> faith is so personal, and conflicts between personal
behavior and beliefs and morals happen everywhere. it is not uncommon to see everywhere, in the u.s., colombia, everywhere. you should not be too sheen in nature, and humans -- too human nature, and siemens -- that happens almost everywhere. >> will something good come out of this? >> what we created at the summit is permitted. -- is permanent. hundreds of thousands of jobs. american products. colombian flowers, fruit, coffee. all this in the end will be anecdotes surpassed by reality. >> population in colombia is what. >> 46 million.
>> if you could draw the parallel, ideas about the size of what one of our states, maybe? >> california. -- texas and part of california. >> what about surrounding countries? >> we have access to the pacific and the caribbean in the u.s. we include -- cross-country that borders with colombia. we include our maritime borders. not only the size of the country, but the diversity in population, but also how it has changed in terms of the population and income per capita. in colombia, double the income per capita. in a decade. colombia is larger than most of europe with the exception of france and germany. and of course the uk.
>> what is the primary challenge for president santos? >> i think it is to keep our efforts to defeat what is remaining of terrorism and organized crime. as you know, in the past three years, many of the organizers of these groups have been captured or killed in combat. we continue that effort. the other aspect is to translate all of these goals and to him and benefits. also, working on poverty. >> still poverty? >> yes, but we've been able to move a significant portion of our population over the last three years out of poverty. the classes listed 20%, 25%. -- middle-class is 20%, 25%.
it used to be less than 10%. dramatically.nged the series of problems -- land reform, land institution. to heal socially the country and of ahead. -- move ahead. >> tourism is a big business now. >> in colombia, for many years they have or than 1 million- plus tourists. one of the strongest sectors in the economy right now is a hotel and services. >> the united states became distracted with afghanistan,
iraq, the arab spring, asia. south america kind of moved on a loan, didn't it? -- moved on alone, didn't it? >> the challenges for those in power in this new world are quite dramatic. so many fronts. it is actually healthy to have a situation where we understand it, that you need to move the ahead, and have a healthy relationship with the u.s. a constructive one. >> but not a dependent on. you have new partners, political and economic. china is in there big time. iran, india. >> in the case of china, there is development in terms of trade. less interest in investment. in the case of iran, and there
are limited -- only a very few countries. they, looking everywhere. 15 free trade agreements on the last decade. >> thank god we came on. gary >> important for bilateral -- >> is very important for bilateral relations. >> you have been out there making friends and forging partnerships. the relationship between the u.s. and colombia is long lasting and very important. >> very close. not only regional interests. colombia is part of the un security council, voting in working with the u.s. in very difficult, critical issues, such as syria, iran. and working hand-in-hand to promote democracy.
we support the efforts in the u.s. afghanistan. we are quite involved. for me, it is -- support the efforts of the u.s. in afghanistan. for me, it it is very refreshing. years ago, it was drug. we want to diversify our agenda. now we talk about energy development, global politics and other issues. >> we just have a minute or so left, ambassador. your reference a couple of times to the fact that you have been here before, a number of years ago. from your point of view, how has america change. -- changed? what you see when you look at
us? >> i have admired the u.s. all my life. i went to college here, i have businesses in this country. i am biased. i love the u.s. i see a dramatic change after 9/11, understandably. it has turned the country a little bit paranoid, and people in a little bit paranoid. we have a good reason for it, but it is time to start seeing the world differently, because the successes are there. the u.s. has beenm successful is beating the terrorists. >> mr. ambassador, thank you so much for your time. this was just a wonderful education. >> thank you for having me. >> for information about my new book, "the chance of a lifetime," and online video for all "this is america" programs, visit our website, thisisamerica.net.
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