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July 26, 1999
The Honorable Madeleine K. Albright
Secretary of State
2201 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20520
Dear Madame Secretary:
I write regarding the peace process in Colombia. After some hopeful developments in late 1998 which included the personal engagement of President Pastrana with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and a meeting with the FARC in Costa Rica in which a U.S. official participated, the brutal murder of three Americans this past March 4 brought U.S. involvement in the process to a halt.
Further violent incidents have followed, including attacks on human rights workers. These, plus the on-going plight of Colombia's displaced people, counted now in the hundreds of thousands, point up the dramatic degree to which the victims in Colombia's long, senseless conflict are innocent civilians. The question is what can be done to energize the peace process and to stop the kidnapping and murder that continue unabated.
Primary responsibility for achieving peace lies, of course, with the Colombian participants themselves, and we have been pleased that President Pastrana has chosen the route of negotiation rather than pursuit of victory in a war that is unwinnable by any side. It is regrettable that, so far at least, neither the guerillas nor the paramilitary forces have mustered the courage or discipline to do their part.
We abhor FARC culpability in the murders of the three American environmentalists and support our government's insistence that those responsible be brought to justice. We also find totally unacceptable the FARC behavior in the demilitarized zone, including the brutal execution of Colombian civilians, most recently the eleven killed earlier this month. We abhor as well the brutality of the so-called paramilitaries in their continuing attacks on defenseless campesinos.
This does not mean, however, that negotiation is wrong; it means rather that even greater persistence, firmness and creativity are necessary to make it succeed. In this context, Madame Secretary, I would encourage our government to remain actively involved in the search for peace in Colombia, even when such involvement entails risks.
Specifically, I urge that the United States do the following:
With best wishes and assurances of prayers for your work, I remain
Most Reverend Theodore E. McCarrick
Archbishop of Newark
Chairman, International Policy Committee
U.S. Catholic Conference
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