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 You are in: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice > Former Secretaries of State > Former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell > Speeches and Remarks > 2003 > November

Interview on Telenoticias with Rossana Guevara

Secretary Colin L. Powell
U.S. Embassy
Tegucigalpa, Honduras
November 4, 2003

2003/1126

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, thank you for your time.

SECRETARY POWELL: My pleasure.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, thank you for your time. The U.S. is reinforcing its relationship with this Central American region. What is more important to the U.S. government, the economic development of these countries, the economic relations, the security, or narcotrafficking?

SECRETARY POWELL: We really canít separate them out as one being more important than the other. They are all important and they all affect one another. Let me start with economic development. Economic development is essential for Central America. Why? To create the jobs that people need, jobs that will give them hope, that will lift them out of poverty. And so everything we do has to be directed toward creating jobs with aid, but also with investment. With investment, you have to have a secure investing environment, youíve got to end corruption, you have to have the rule of law, youíve got to be seen as reforming your economic system, your political system and your social system. You have to educate your people for those jobs. You canít have narcotraffickers running around because they give rise to crime and crime creates an unstable environment for investors.

So all of these things have to come together. You have to have a secure area. I think it is so important that the presidents of Central America are now looking at their militaries: what do we really need and how do we reduce the burden of our militaries? We are no longer threatening one another. So you have to create the conditions for economic development.

Thatís why CAFTA is important, thatís why the Millennium Challenge Account is important. All of these things are linked together so the United States approaches this problem in a comprehensive way and I am pleased that the presidents of Central America, especially the President of Honduras, sees this in a very comprehensive way.

QUESTION: Farm subsidies are a big obstacle for Central America in the free trade agreement with your country. Will it be possible that the U.S. stops subsidies in the United States to compete with these countries in equal conditions?

SECRETARY POWELL: Farm subsidies distort markets. Our farm subsidies distort markets, the European farm subsidies, which are far greater than ours, distort markets, and there are other countries and regions in the world where there are farm subsidies. But those subsidies are not going to go away overnight. So we have to have phase-in periods to CAFTA and weíre looking at phase-in periods so that it doesnít hit all at once. And we are looking at ways to protect markets, that at the moment are weak and need some protection. But all will benefit with CAFTA eventually. And we hope, the United States hopes that farm subsidies will eventually go away. We have announced a long-term plan over a period of years to get rid of our subsidies, but we can only do that if other regions, such as Europe, Japan and elsewhere, they get rid of their subsidies as well.

QUESTION: Corruption in Honduras, Mr. Secretary, is more than evident. I understand that the government is opening this Millennium Account so that countries like Honduras can fight it. Can you please talk to us about this program?

SECRETARY POWELL: The Millennium Challenge Account is the most significant development program that the United States has been involved in since the Marshall Plan in the 1940ís. Up to five billion dollars a year additional funds will be available to developing countries. But these countries, in order to qualify for this money: one, must have a need for the money, their needs must be great enough to justify us making an investment. But beyond that, they have to be committed to democracy, the rule of law, transparency, and the end of corruption.

Why should we take American taxpayers money and invest it in a country where we have real concerns that corruption will misuse the money. And so all of the Central American countries, to include Honduras, must fight corruption at every level of government. And if you are not making a solid commitment to ending corruption and putting transparency throughout the government and letting the people know what the government is doing and having a judiciary that will enforce the rule of law, then it makes it harder to justify investing in such a country.

Honduras is moving on these fronts. There is much more that Honduras has to do. The President and I had good conversations about it today, and I think the leaders of Honduras, the President and the cabinet ministers I met, know what they have to do in order to get rid of corruption, make sure the rule of law applies to everybody, and to make Honduras a place where we would be interested in providing Millennium Challenge Account funding.

QUESTION: What measures is the United States considering, other than the suspension of visas, for those Honduras who have assets in the United States but are yet involved in criminal activity, money laundering, drug traffic, and corruption?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, unless we have charges against them in our own courts, then all we can do is point out to countries in the region the offenses that we believe these people are involved in. And what we do do is we deny them visas to come to the United States and I think that is quite appropriate. If an individual is clearly involved in narcotrafficking or money laundering or other kinds of criminal activity, why should we provide them a visa for them to come to the United States and perhaps bring that kind of criminal activity with them.

QUESTION: Honduras is a poor country, however, narcotraffic has intensified its activities here. Can the United States intensify its aid to combat narcotraffic here?

SECRETARY POWELL: We want to. There are limitations on how much we can do, but we want to help. And I am very pleased that the President of Honduras has reenergized his counternarcotics efforts. We have seen some progress, so I will go back to the United States and see what else we might be able to do to help Honduras in the counternarcotics effort.

QUESTION: Can the United States help with the International Monetary Fund so that Honduras can sign this letter of intentions?

SECRETARY POWELL: First and foremost, Honduras must help itself with the IMF. And, I understand there are very intensive discussions taking place now and then the legislature, your assembly, has to take action that will satisfy the IMF demands. So we stand ready to help, but right now the major effort rests upon the Honduran government to satisfy the requirements of the IMF.

QUESTION: Letís go back to September 11, 2001. Could the U.S. confirm about Iraqís participation in the terrorist attack in New York?

SECRETARY POWELL: No, weíve never made a connection. We have no evidence to suggest that Iraq was directly involved. However, we know that Iraq has been involved in terrorist activity, and we will always keep our minds open to any evidence that might link Iraq, but we have seen no direct connection between what happened on 9/11 and Iraq.

QUESTION: The New York Times reported last week that some U.S. officials see Saddam Husseinís hands in these terrorist attacks against the U.S. troops in Iraq. Whatís your comment?

SECRETARY POWELL: I have no evidence to support that. I read the story and some officials may believe that, but I have seen no evidence to support that. We donít know whether he is alive or dead. Many of my colleagues believe he is still alive. I just donít know. And he may well be doing things that we are not aware of. But I have seen no evidence that proves he is the one pulling the strings on the recent terror attacks.

QUESTION: What about Osama Bin Laden? Do you know, where is he? Is he alive or dead?

SECRETARY POWELL: I donít know whether he is alive or dead either. These are two individuals that, if they are alive, are hiding because they know if they were not very well hidden they would be brought to justice. I do know, though, that as long as we donít know whether theyíre alive or dead, they will continue to be a problem. And so we are looking for them to establish whether they are alive or dead and, if they are alive, to capture them and bring them to justice.

QUESTION: What about the major weapons of mass destruction?

SECRETARY POWELL: We are still waiting for Dr. Kay, the gentleman who is in charge of the program of searching for these weapons, to finish his work and to report. He has uncovered miles of documents, many witnesses to be interviewed. We havenít found any large caches of chemical weapons but we found evidence of the programs, and we found evidence that they had such weapons and such programs. So we are continuing to look.

QUESTION: Why is so fragile the U.S. in Iraq now? Itís getting violent there. They just reported some explosions in Baghdad. Is it dangerous for the Honduran troops there?

SECRETARY POWELL: There is a security problem. I donít think the Honduran troops are in any particular danger, but you know, when you go into that sort of a situation there is always risk. And as the President said earlier today, thatís one of the things you accept: that there would be risk for your troops. So many things are going well in the country. The northern part of the country is quiet and stable; the southern part is quiet and stable. We are still having this problem in the center part, the Sunni Triangle and in Baghdad itself. Most of Baghdad is fine. People are out there in the streets, thereíre in the shops, theyíre working, theyíre going to school, but we still have these evil remnants of the old regime and some terrorists who have come into the country to make trouble. And these are the ones we have to deal with, and we will deal with them.

QUESTION: And my last question, Mr. Secretary. George Bushís Secretary of State, James Baker, during the Cold Warís context quoted that Central Americaís importance for the United States was real. You come after 15 years passed since the last visit of Secretary of State George Schultz to the region. Is Mr. Bakerís quote still alive although your attention is now concentrated towards the Middle East? And Honduras helped the U.S. during the Contra war with its territory and now Honduras is supporting the U.S. with its troops in Iraq. What will this country get in return?

SECRETARY POWELL: I fully agree with what Secretary Baker said, and I regret that itís been 15 years, but I am here now to show you that we appreciate the contribution that Honduras and other countries in Central America make to a stable Western Hemispheric region. We are giving back to Honduras in the form of assistance, in the form of aid. CAFTA will be part of our contribution to the development of Honduras. What we are doing with the Millennium Challenge Account, I hope, when we finally decide who gets those funds, that Honduras will certainly be a strong candidate for those funds.

So we are trying to show by my presence, by the manner in which President Bush always receives Central American leaders when they visit in the United States that we consider this an important region. This is our neighborhood; this is where we live. We are all part of the Americas. And so, I hope that my visit, once again, brings back to everyoneís mind in Honduras what James Baker said 15 years ago. Honduras is important to us. Central America is important to us.

QUESTION: Thank you very much, Sir.

SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you very much.


Released on November 5, 2003

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