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Interview on CNN en Espanol with Patricia Janiot

Secretary Colin L. Powell
Washington, DC
October 30, 2003

2003/1104
(11:30 EST)

MS. JANIOT: Mr. Secretary, I know the United States, it seems to be putting emphasis on cultivating relationships with Central America. What are the main concerns to the United States between -- I mean, between its relationship with Central America in terms of security, narcotrafficking and economic relations?

SECRETARY POWELL: I think our relations with all the nations of Central America are quite good right now; in fact, I would say excellent. And we stay in close touch with them. Their leaders come up here to see President Bush, and I stay in touch with all of the foreign ministers.

But it was important, I thought, for me to visit the region, and especially on the occasion of Panama's 100th anniversary of its independence; and while there, I'll visit Nicaragua and Honduras.

The principal issues of concern are security, but not security in the old-fashioned way of who's at war with whom, but, more importantly, security against the new threats: narcotrafficking; corruption is a new threat that undermines democracy, that if we don't do something about will destroy democracies; economic development, making sure that the Central American Free Trade Agreement moves along, and we're hoping that we can conclude that by the end of the year and present it to our Congress sometime early next year.

So economic development, social development, the end of corruption, the rule of law, narcotrafficking, dealing with terrorism -- all of these are important issues. And I am pleased that we have agreement on these issues with our friends in Central America, and we have to work together to achieve our mutual goals.

MS. JANIOT: What about Mexico? After September 11, immigration talks became not existent. What is going to happen now? I mean, what is their current status?

SECRETARY POWELL: They never became nonexistent. September 11th did change things. Both presidents, Fox and Bush, President Fox and Bush, came into office in 2001 or thereabouts, early 2001, committed to do something on immigration. And we have a number of ideas that we have examined and we still have a number of initiatives that we are looking at.

But when 9/11 came along, it required us to slow this down and get a better understanding of who was coming into our country, who was staying in our country, who was leaving our country. And that made it more difficult to move forward on immigration issues with Mexico.

But we will be meeting with our Mexican colleagues in the middle of November in a Bi-National Commission meeting, many cabinet officers from Mexico meeting with many cabinet officers here in the United States, and we will be, once again, looking at all the immigration issues and how we can move forward in the months ahead.

Next year will be a little difficult because it's an election year for us, and it makes it more difficult to move legislative items through our Congress. So we're looking at some things we can do on immigration that don't require legislative action right away, and I hope we'll be able to demonstrate progress both to the Mexican people and to the American people.

MS. JANIOT: With the recent elections in different Latin American countries, the results seem to show like a shift, like a movement to the left. How is that situation going to affect U.S. foreign policy towards the region?

SECRETARY POWELL: I don't think it will affect it at all. I mean, we have fought so hard for all of our friends in this hemisphere to live under democratic systems, and democratic systems produce the intended result: what the people want. And if the people wish to see a shift left, so be it. Maybe in some countries they'll want to see a shift right. The beauty of democracy is you'd better respond to the needs of the people, whether you're to the left or to the right of center, or you won't be there at the next election.

And so the United States, even as we have seen some of these slightly left shifts, we adjust to them, we work with those new leaders, because the goals are the same: economic development, helping people out of poverty, and letting you know that America is a good partner to any nation that has a democratically elected government.

MS. JANIOT: What about Free Trade Agreement of the Americas? I mean, Argentina and Brazil seem to present a common front asking your country to stop farm subsidies that affect their agricultural --

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, it's hard to deal with the subsidy, agricultural subsidy issue in the United States, as long as the European Union has agricultural subsidies that are even greater than the support we provide to our farmers. And so we have to continue to work on reducing all subsidies, especially agricultural subsidies.

And President Bush has put forward a plan that will take some years to implement, but he recognizes that these kinds of subsidies distort markets. But we can't do it alone. We have to do it in concert with the Europeans, with the Japanese and with other countries that use subsidies.

This should not keep us, however, from moving forward with a Central American Free Trade Agreement on the way to a Free Trade Area of the Americas. We'd like to see free trade from the top of our hemisphere to the bottom of our hemisphere. We believe that's in the best interests of all Americans, no matter what country of the Americas you happen to be living in.

We will continue to push for free trade. We will continue to encourage our friends in the hemisphere as well to open up trade barriers between themselves, removing those barriers. And we still have some structural differences there as well.

We were disappointed in the recent Cancun round, but, as the President has said, we're not going to give up. We believe it's important to keep pushing for free and open trade between our nations in this hemisphere and throughout the world.

MS. JANIOT: Economic crisis in different Latin American countries seem to be affecting democratic institutions. One example is Bolivia, where coca growers overthrew a government there, made a government collapsed. How do you think that's going to affect U.S. drug policy?

SECRETARY POWELL: Our drug policy has to remain the same. Drugs destroy young lives on the streets of America. America provides the demand for drugs. We're not proud of that. We're very ashamed of the fact that the drug problems that exist in Central America and other parts of the Americas are driven by the demand on United States street corners and by drug addicts in the United States. That's unfortunate.

But we have to keep working with our friends in Central America and in South America to cut down the supply and to interdict the drugs that are coming out. I recognize that this is a particularly difficult issue in Bolivia because of the difficulty of finding alternative agricultural products for these growers to turn their attention and energies to. But I also think that the Bolivian people have to take a look at what natural resources they have -- gas -- and determine how best to use those natural resources, not to give away to somebody, but to use these resources in a way that will benefit the Bolivian people.

And I hope that the new government will work with the interested parties in Bolivia to find a way out of the current crisis.

MS. JANIOT: Let's change to Venezuela. The Venezuela Government has accused CIA to organize a plot to overthrow Venezuelan Government, even to kill President Chavez. What is your response to that accusation?

SECRETARY POWELL: It's so totally absurd to hear statements like that. I have not heard the Venezuelan Government -- maybe they have said that. But it's absurd. This is not 19 -- some other century. We have not been involved in any such activity. We do not undertake that kind of activity.

Venezuela is a democratic nation. They have elected a president. There is now a move under the constitution to have a referendum as to whether or not change is appropriate. We hope that President Chavez and the other leaders in Venezuela will respect the terms of this referendum and that the referendum will be held in a peaceful way, in a democratic way, in accordance with the Venezuelan constitution.

It's up to the Venezuelan people to determine who their president will be, not up to the United States of America.

MS. JANIOT: To support their accusations, they are showing some video that they say, I mean, you can see on the video, some CIA agents. I mean --

SECRETARY POWELL: Let me repeat, let me repeat. It's nonsense. We all know it's nonsense. We have no interest in sponsoring coups in Venezuela and we would have, under no set of circumstances, try to harm somebody that the Venezuelan people have elected to be their president. I haven't seen the video, but I'd be delighted to take a look at it. But it's nonsense.

MS. JANIOT: Let me ask you a question about UN aid workers in Iraq, if you don't mind. I understood that earlier this week you said that if aid workers and UN pulled out from Iraq, that will send a message to the terrorists that they had won. Now that the aid workers are leaving -- they said they must leave because the U.S. has not been able to secure the situation -- what now?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, some aid workers have left, some have stayed. The UN has found it necessarily to temporarily pull their people out. And I know that the ICRC, the International Committee of the Red Cross, has reduced its presence. But I think they will come back as security is established, and I am confident that we will be able to deal with these threats in due course and establish conditions of security that will allow more aid workers to come in.

But there are also reports that a number of the aid organizations have decided that they will stay because the need is there and because they have a responsibility to the Iraqi people. So the reconstruction effort will continue.

The whole country is not aflame. In fact, most of the country is quiet. Most of the country is being returned to local control. Yes, the military is still there, the American military, coalition military, is still there. But increasingly, with each passing day, city councils, town councils, that have been put together by the Iraqi people, are taking more and more responsibility for their own activities, their own future. The Governing Council, the new cabinet of ministers -- they're all at work.

And so yes, every day we see these terrible incidents that cause us distress and we hate to see the loss of life. But at the same time, we're not going to let the terrorists terrorize us into thinking that we have to pull out. We're not going to pull out. We're going to stay the course, and we're going to create conditions where a democracy can flourish, where the Iraqi people can put in place a government of their own choosing, and where terrorists will not be free to conduct these kinds of activities. And we will prevail and we will stay there for as long as it takes.

MS. JANIOT: And my last question, Mr. Secretary. Having been the face of the United States to the world in the United Nations presenting the case of going to war in Iraq, and after six months of operations ended and no major weapons of mass destruction being found, do you feel personally misled by U.S. intelligence?

SECRETARY POWELL: No. I sat with UN intelligence experts, the Director of Central Intelligence, Mr. George Tenet, and his Deputy, John McLaughlin, and a large group of analysts for several nights making that presentation, preparing that presentation. And I looked in their eyes. I saw what they had, examined materials they presented, and I believe that what I presented was a fair and balanced representation developed by the Intelligence Agency that put forth the information that we knew we could stand by.

And we will see what Dr. Kay, the guy who is doing all of the investigating now, what he ultimately comes up with.

Now, have we found huge stockpiles right away? No. But there is a lot more to be done with respect to looking at the various facilities that are there, interrogating more people, and looking through all the many, many documents that have been found by Dr. Kay.

So I think it's premature to say that the intelligence was flawed or faulty. There are a lot of people looking at this in our Congress, within the CIA, the work of Dr. Kay, and we will know the truth about all this.

But keep this in mind: The intelligence that I presented, in what I thought was an objective way, was the same intelligence that caused the previous administration, under President Clinton, to attack Iraq back in 1998; it's the same intelligence that has been available to other nations in the Security Council and caused them to believe that Iraq had this kind of capability and these weapons and presented a threat to the world. And that's why the United Nations passed resolution after resolution after resolution.

And so there's no question that he had the intention. Saddam Hussein had the intention to have these weapons. We believe he did have these weapons. He certainly had the capability to produce them. And there should be no doubt in anyone's mind that if we had not acted in the way we acted, and taken him and his regime out of power, as soon as he had managed to get rid of inspectors and sanctions, the programs would have flourished once again.

We don't have to worry about that any more. We can debate how accurate the intelligence is, but the one thing we don't have to worry about is that these programs or these weapons are going to be there to threaten the region or to threaten the world.

MS. JANIOT: Thank you so much.

SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you.


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