Remarks of U.S. President Donald Trump and Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, at a joint press conference at the White House.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Thank you very much. It is a great pleasure to welcome President Santos to the White House. Colombia is one of our closest allies in the hemisphere, and today we reaffirm partnership between our two great nations.
President Santos and I had a very productive meeting, and we will continue to work very closely together to bring peace, safety and prosperity to the hemisphere. Perhaps no area is really more important in terms of cooperation than our joint effort to end the terrible drug crimes that plague both of our countries.
Recently, we have seen an alarmed — and I mean really a very highly alarmed and alarming trend. Last year, Colombia coca cultivation and cocaine production reached a record high, which, hopefully, will be remedied very quickly by the President. We must confront this dangerous threat to our societies together.
Today, I affirmed the United States’ willingness to assist Colombia’s strategy to target and eliminate drug trafficking networks, illicit financings, coca cultivation, and cocaine production, of which there is far too much. The drug epidemic is poisoning too many American lives, and we’re going to stop it many different ways. One of them will be the wall.
My administration is committed to keeping drugs and gangs from pouring into our country. Already border crossings are down more than 73 percent. Secretary Kelly is with us; he’s done a fantastic job. Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary. And, in short, we have a tremendous group of people working with us in terms of ICE, the ICE Patrol and the Border Patrol agents. They’ve done a fantastic job, and I’d like you to give them my highest compliments, Mr. Secretary.
And MS-13, likewise — a horrible, horrible, large group of gangs that have been let into our country over a fairly short period of time — are being decimated by the Border Patrol, by ICE, and by our incredible local police forces. And they are getting out of our country, or, in some cases, going directly into prisons throughout our country. But they’ve literally taken over towns and cities of the United States. They will be gone very quickly.
I look forward to working with President Santos as we target drug trafficking. Both the United States and Colombia have strong law enforcement and security relationship. We’ve had it — and especially over the last fairly short period of time. Together, we will continue to fight the criminal networks responsible for the deadly drug trade that our people have a really strong commitment to getting rid of, because they want a much brighter future.
President Santos and I also discussed the deteriorating situation in Venezuela, and it is really in a very bad state, as you see and as we all see through the media. The stable and peaceful Venezuela is in the best interest of the entire hemisphere, and America stands with all of the people in our great hemisphere yearning to be free. We will be working with Colombia and other countries on the Venezuelan problem. It is a very, very horrible problem. And from a humanitarian standpoint, it is like nothing we’ve seen in quite a long time.
The United States and Colombia are also strong economic partners, and we will continue to pursue trade policies that benefit both of our peoples. The nations’ common goals of protecting our citizens, expanding opportunity, and confronting the drug crisis will improve the lives of our people and many throughout the region.
So many people are being so horribly affected by what’s going on in terms of violence and in terms of drugs, and we’re going to take care of the situation. And we’ve both agreed to take care of it strongly and quickly.
President Santos, it was an honor to meet with you and your entire group of representatives, very talented people indeed, who have been working with us and my representatives. And I look forward to many more productive meetings, such as the one we just had. I’d like to thank you very much for being at the White House, being our guest. And I’d like to congratulate you on winning the Nobel Peace Prize. That’s a very great achievement. Thank you very much.
PRESIDENT SANTOS: Mr. President, I want to thank you personally for this warm and productive visit and for the strong support Colombia has received from your administration, from Congress, and from the American people.
As you know, our nations have had for a long time a strategic alliance and extraordinary friendship. We believe in the same principles of democracy, freedom and the rule of law. And we work so that the Western Hemisphere can be more prosperous and safe.
The United States and Colombia, both democracies of greater — of longer standing in the hemisphere, we have supported each other. Our soldiers fought shoulder-to-shoulder in the Korean War. At the request of the United States, we sent anti-drug experts to Afghanistan. And today, Colombia and the United States are working together to support Central America in their fight against drug cartels and the violence of organized crime.
I can say, Mr. President, based on our conversation this afternoon, that I have no doubt that the United States and Colombia continue to be, today, more than ever, a support, one for the other. Our alliance was strengthened. Our most valuable cooperation has been Plan Colombia, which I can sum up in very simple terms.
When Colombians were fighting to survive — for our democracy to survive, actually — faced with the threat of terrorism and drug trafficking, the United States stretched out a hand and helped us win that battle. We will never forget it.
Today, we live in a different country. Today, Colombia is a more peaceful society, a more modern and a fairer society. In November last year, we ended the longest and last armed conflict existing in our hemisphere. The guerilla is putting down weapons at this precise time to the United Nations. Insecurity has gone down significantly. Today, we have the lowest levels of violence of the last 40 years.
At the same time, we have had significant progress for our citizens on issues such as education, housing, health, and social services. Millions of Colombians have been lifted out of poverty. Today, we continue next to you as partners in Peace Colombia to consolidate peace in the most affected areas. With the robust support of your government, we are removing thousands of anti-personnel mines that murdered and mutilated children, women and soldiers. We are healing the wounds of our victims, and we are embarking on a big social-development program.
Such as we said today, we are working with your administration to take advantage of the unique opportunity peace offers so as to reduce permanently the production of coca leaf in Colombia and fight more effectively the other links in drug trafficking, including consumption. We must continue and deepen the fight against organized crime, transnational crime responsible not just for drug trafficking, but also for human trafficking and illegal mining.
Our shared agenda, framed within a high-level dialogue that we Colombians value so much, includes cooperation which has allowed us to have unprecedented progress towards quality education for everyone. And this is a priority in the policies of my government, and we wish to do more with regards to innovation and technology.
With the active participation of the private sector, we have reached trade agreements, investment agreements that are mutually beneficial. This morning, we established the entrepreneurial council between the United States and Colombia. We are and wish to continue to be the best destination in Latin America for American businesses. Colombia will continue to be very proudly a close friend and a strategic ally of the United States.
Dear President Trump, I hope you can visit us soon so that you can personally witness the transformation underway in our country. I hope to be able to welcome you to a Colombia in peace, a more equitable Colombia, a better-educated Colombia that you have so much contributed to.
Thank you so much.