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Nov 30, 2000

Colombian president makes airport visit

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It’s not often that Belize entertains a visiting head of state. And even though the length of the visit was measured in minutes rather than days, it’s the thought that counts. Ann-Marie reports from the PGIA.

Ann-Marie Williams, Reporting

President Andres Pastrana made a brief stop over visit to Belize this morning on his way to neighbouring Mexico, where he’s scheduled to attend inaugural ceremonies for President-Elect Vicente Fox.

When the Colombian military plane touched down at the Philip Goldson International Airport, Pastrana, his family and members of congress met Belize’s Deputy Prime Minister Johnny Briceno.

Pastrana’s first time coming to Belize had a two-fold purpose. He further cemented the close ties between the two countries and also brought a donation of hurricane relief supplies. In addressing the media, Pastrana said the donation was a show of solidarity from the government and people of Colombia.

Andres Pastrana, Colombian President

“We’re here to give you this small donation with the warmth and affection of the people of Colombia. It consists of food for the children; our own local product we use to feed our children back home. We also brought clothing. This is small, but it shows our concern and we wanted to be of assistance.”

In accepting the supplies Briceno thanked Pastrana on behalf of the government and people of Belize.

Johnny Briceno, Deputy Prime Minister

“It?s very interesting that they have a paste or powder which they claim once we mix it into a lab or juice, has all the nutrition that a child would need. So certainly the kids and even adults that have been affected, will get all the nutrition they need. It?s something that we need to take a look at and maybe even consider using in the schools sometime in the future.”

Ann-Marie Williams

“How will the food supplies be distributed?”

Johnny Briceno

“We work that through NEMO at the national level. They will determine the villages that need it most. Obviously it?s going to be in the Belize District and the Orange Walk District, where we have several villages that were completely under water. Many of these farmers lost all their foodstuffs, their vegetables, their sustenance. So we are going to be working through these villages, again through the District offices, the DEMO, along with the Red Cross will distribute it all over the districts.”

And what comes of the private talks promises to benefit Belizeans all over the country.

Ann-Marie Williams

“It’s a brief visit and you’ll meet with he president for talks afterwards. What’s the genesis behind the talks?”

Johnny Briceno

“We will want to talk about the Mixed Commission that we had earlier this year where we discussed ways and means where Belize and Colombia can have closer ties, culturally or through education or even through commerce. During the time we were there we were looking at how they can train some of our people in music. I saw that they were even talking about furniture making, which from the Ministry of Natural Resources, is very important to us, how we can use the lumber we export presently to create beautiful furniture locally and for export.”

And after less than an hour on the ground, President Pastrana was off for Mexico City. Ann-Marie Williams for News 5.

A government press release quoted the Colombian president as being impressed with Belize’s flora, fauna and archaeological sites. This affinity was developed, however, on the basis of browsing through some tourist brochures. Pastrana will pass back through Belize on Sunday for a brief airport meeting with Prime Minister Said Musa. The two leaders are currently in Mexico for Friday’s inauguration of President Vicente Fox.

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