262. Letter from President Carter to Colombian President Turbay1

Dear Mr. President:

Thank you for your letters of February 13 and 27, 1980,2 in which you proposed new dimensions in inter-American cooperation, and expressed your concern about the status of the islands of Quita Sueno, Roncador and Serrano. Your suggestions are timely and most welcome. I have delayed in responding because I have been exploring with my aides how best we can work with you and other hemispheric leaders to bring your proposals to fruition.3

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Allow me to deal first with your timely suggestions on inter-American cooperation to support two of our most fundamental values—democracy and peace. Despite occasional setbacks, I believe we have made steady progress toward the achievement of democracy and peace in the Americas. But from time to time we need to review our progress in the light of changing regional and world circumstances in order to see what adjustments and new dimensions the times may require.

I believe our review should start with a reaffirmation of certain fundamental principles held in common by most of the governments and peoples of the hemisphere.

—The first and most basic of those principles is our deep concern for human rights.

—The second is that the civil, political and economic freedoms associated with democracy are essential to human self-realization and responsive government, and that they are a desirable and realizable goal for all nations of the hemisphere.

—The third is that there is a connection between economic progress, on the one hand, and the achievement and consolidation of democracy on the other.

—The fourth principle is that national sovereignty and independence should be respected and maintained, and peace within the hemisphere preserved.

On the basis of these principles, we need to examine the uncertainties and challenges that face our countries as we move into the 1980s. What are the obstacles to the advance of human rights and democracy, and what can we do to overcome them? How can economic progress be sustained in the face of difficult conditions, especially in the energy field? What can best be done to maintain peace in the hemisphere?

It is in the light of these questions that we must inventory our policies, institutions, and political attitudes, identify our resources, and decide what new initiatives—what new dimensions—we require. I am attaching an illustrative list of some ideas which my staff developed for your consideration.4

Mr. President, you have inspired an initiative with great potential. It is only appropriate that you should take the lead in bringing it to fulfillment. I assume you will wish to discuss your ideas further within the Andean Group, and when the Andean Group’s support is assured, you may wish to convene a larger working group. To be most effective, this working group should be small, but it should include thoughtful people of broad vision from principal countries and subregional group [Page 756] ings in the hemisphere. If you should choose to follow such a course, my government would be pleased to join in your efforts. When more specific ideas have evolved and broad support is assured, we should consider moving to more formal meetings.

If this process can bring about a recommitment to freedom, peace, and human fulfillment, then, Mr. President, we will indeed have achieved new human and hemispheric dimensions of incalculable value to our peoples.

Your Ambassador has informed me of your concern about the Treaty on Quita Sueno, Roncador, and Serrano. Let me assure you of my continued support for that treaty.5


Jimmy Carter
  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, President’s Correspondence with Foreign Leaders File, Box 4, Colombia: President Julio Cesar Turbay Ayala, 3-5/80. No classification marking.
  2. Translations of both letters are Ibid.
  3. In a March 10 memorandum to Brzezinski, Tarnoff presented options for “withdrawing U.S. claims” to Quita Sueno and other claims in the Caribbean “in a way which would satisfy the Colombians without antagonizing the Nicaraguans at this delicate moment in our bilateral relations,” and proposed that a reply to Turbay’s letters wait until after the resolution of the hostage crisis in Bogota. (Ibid.)
  4. Attached but not printed is an undated paper entitled “Illustrative List of New Initiatives With Comments.”
  5. In an April 18 memorandum to Carter, Brzezinski wrote: “Due to the sensitivity of our current relationship with Nicaragua, which also claims the three barren reefs in the Caribbean, we have delayed our approach to the Senate to ratify it, and Turbay fears that we may be abandoning the treaty altogether. Your reaffirmation of support will be appreciated.” (Ibid.)