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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

Remarks with Honduran President Ricardo Maduro After Their Working Lunch

Secretary Colin L. Powell
Casa Presidencial
Tegucigalpa, Honduras
November 4, 2003


PRESIDENT MADURO: (In Spanish) Good afternoon, Secretary Powell and good afternoon to all the members of the media. Today it’s a great pleasure to welcome to Honduras the Secretary of State, Mr. Colin Powell, who has come along with Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roger Noriega, our old friend Ambassador John Maisto, and the rest of the U.S. delegation. He came here, and we have been talking about a number of issues.

We’ve been talking about our troops that are serving in Iraq. We talked about the pending free trade agreement between Central America and the United States. And I am very happy to have been able to inform him regarding a number of measures that we’ve been taking here in Honduras. The economic basis that we are working on to put our country on a firm foundation, the issue of poverty reduction, also the issue of strengthening our institutions so that our population can trust in the strength of these institutions. Measures have been taken to that end, for example, doing away with immunity, for certain senior officials, strengthening the judicial system, and also providing aid to the poorest in our population.

We also discussed the negotiations we are carrying out with the IMF. We had a very successful meeting just ten days ago, and we are looking forward to being able to have an agreement with them. We are looking forward to a letter of intention which will provide greater faith in our economic underpinnings, which will also strengthen the economic indicators in our country. We, after hearing from Secretary Powell, we will be available to take your questions.

SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you very much, Mr. President, for welcoming me back to Honduras. It is a great pleasure to be here, and I bring you greetings from President Bush and the American people. And I bring you a special word of thanks for the fact that Honduras stepped up to the challenge and provided troops to stand alongside the Coalition Forces in Iraq. Your young soldiers are doing a tremendous job and I know that they will come back home full of pride for what they have accomplished in helping the people of Iraq to a better future.

As the President indicated, we had a full discussion of all the issues between our two countries. We have a strong relationship, a relationship that I think is getting stronger with each passing day. Getting stronger principally because of the reforms that Honduras is making and that the President has touched on. Political reforms that give the people a greater confidence in their government, their restructuring of the judiciary system, the changing of the legal system so that people will have greater confidence in it, removing immunity from government officials so that the people know that their officials are accountable for their actions. These kinds of reforms, other reforms having to do with the economy that the President has touched on, all aspects of life, all of these are indications to us that Honduras is moving forward, and worthy of continued American support as a good friend and a good partner. Actually, I am hopeful that the IMF discussions will go well and after they have been concluded the legislature will pass whatever is required so that we can get finished with the HIPC debt problem and remove the debt burden from the people of Honduras.

We did talk about CAFTA. We are very excited about CAFTA, and we are hopeful that the negotiations will end by the end of this year and we can take it to our Congress sometime early next year. CAFTA will open a new era of economic opportunity for all the countries of Central America as well as for the United States. On the educational initiatives that the President spoke to me about, we’ll make sure that the people of Honduras, the young people of Honduras, are getting the kind of education they’re going to be required for a new economic environment where you have to increase the skill levels of the people. And the President is committed to that prospect.

In that regard, we discussed the new American program called the Millennium Challenge Account. We are going to be investing large sums of money in those countries that are committed to democracy, that are making the necessary political, economic, and social reforms, and that are committed to economic openness as well. We are hopeful that the Millennium Challenge Account will be up and running within the next few months, and when it gets into full operation an additional $5 billion a year will be available for investment in developing nations. And I am confident that Honduras will be one of those countries that we will be looking at very, very carefully as a potential recipient of Millennium Challenge Account funding. But no decisions have been made yet.

I am very pleased with the cooperation we have with Honduras on our fight against terrorists and especially against narcotrafficking, and the President has renewed Honduran’s efforts toward that end. And I am very pleased with the results that I have seen so far.

And finally, let me just say that I am so impressed how the nations of Central America are now working together. When I think back 15 or 20 years ago to the problems they were facing then, but now the Presidents meet on a regular basis. They talk to each other all the time. All of the old models that used to be out there where everybody was worried about security issues, and things of that nature, those are all now receding into memory as they now cooperate politically and economically. And as they start yet another new initiative to find a regional balance of security forces so that no one would think that any other nation in the region is a threat to another nation in the region. All of these show a maturing in Central America that I think is healthy and will benefit all the people of Central America.

Mr. President, I thank you for your hospitality and I thank you for your friendship, Sir. And, Mr. Minister.

MODERATOR: (in Spanish) We begin a round of four questions. First, Jose Adan Castelar of Abriendo Brecha news.

QUESTION: Mr. Powell, one of the most important economic bases in our country is coffee. Would the U.S. consider reestablishing an International Coffee Organization, and, also, what would be the situation with regard to providing helicopters to help us combat drug trafficking?

SECRETARY POWELL: We are taking another look at participating in the ICO, and that’s a subject of intense discussions in Washington now. And, we have a more positive attitude to it now, but we are not quite ready to make an announcement. With respect to the helicopters, they are very expensive, both to provide and to operate, and, although we would like to do more, I think that at the moment we are resource constrained with respect to providing additional helicopters.

MODERATOR: Mr. George Gedda.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, as you yourself have mentioned at least twice during the year, widespread poverty is a problem throughout Latin America, throughout Central America. Social development has not kept pace with democratic development, social development has not kept pace in Latin America with democratic development. If this situation persists, do you believe that democracy, representative democracy could be threatened?

SECRETARY POWELL: Poverty is a problem. Every President that I have spoken to on this current trip, and in my previous discussions, recognize that poverty is an enemy of democracy. You have to deal with it. But, the way to deal with it is with economic reform, political reform, social reform, democracy, creating conditions in your country that will invite people to invest, invite businesses to come in and create jobs. We shouldn’t fall for the falsehood that somehow it is democracy that is the problem. It’s moving to the left, those who pander to the populist notion who will be taking the people in the wrong direction. Poverty must be fought. It could undermine democracies and that is why the reforms of the kind that the President has spoken to, and other Presidents in Central America have spoken to, are so important, why debt relief is important, why CAFTA is so important -- to create jobs that end poverty.

QUESTION: For Secretary Powell, two questions. First, given the present difficulties in the security situation in Iraq, is there any possibility that you would contemplate requesting more troops from Central America? And the second question is, would the U.S. be planning at this time to back the candidacy of Mr. Francisco Flores as a sole candidate for OAS Secretary General?

SECRETARY POWELL: We would welcome any contributions that Central American nations might wish to make beyond those that have already been made. But we are deeply appreciative of the Central American contingents that are in Iraq now. The security situation is challenging, but we are hard at work on it. And we must not overlook the many good things that are happening in Iraq: youngsters are going back to school, governing councils are being formed, in towns and villages all over Iraq, the infrastructure is being repaired. So, we will prevail and Iraq will be a country that will rest on a democratic foundation with a leadership that is elected by the people.

With respect to Mr. Flores, I have the greatest respect for him, I think he has done a tremendous job and I am pleased that he has offered himself for candidacy. But I have no comments right now as to what our position might be.

MODERATOR: (In Spanish) One last question, Paul Richter, Los Angeles Time.

QUESTION: Mr. President, the Secretary thanked you for Honduras’ contribution of troops to Iraq, but I wonder as you read about casualties in Iraq whether you have any misgivings about sending them there? Also, would you consider sending additional troops?

PRESIDENT MADURO: (In Spanish) In the first place, I’d like to go back to the reasons why I requested of Honduras’ National Congress that we send troops to assist in Iraq, and why the majority of our Congress accepted to do so, and why the majority of our public opinion is in favor of this measure. The United States has always been a friend of Honduras. It has always been directly identified with the problems that the Honduran people have suffered. I had the great privilege and honor to be President of the Central Bank, when the United States condoned $400,000,000 of our bilateral debt to the United States. The United States has always been firm in its economic and political support to us.

The second thing is, that Honduras is becoming an international player on the economic stage. We want to be included in this international economic community and to do so it would not be consistent nor would it be logical, nor would it be legitimate, to expect to be part of a group when you want to obtain benefits from it, but then to step back when there are difficulties and you have to provide some kind of help. The people of Honduras are people of principle, and we are people who value and respect our friendships.

In third place, we have Honduran troops present in Iraq for the efforts for peace and reconstruction, because we believe it will also be a good experience for our Armed Forces. This is going to help our troops. Every six months we have a contingent of troops that returns, and, while they are still needed, we will have new contingents taking their place. They will become stronger in the work that they do here at home because they will gain experience in areas that we want them to learn about for their future role as the Armed Forces of Honduras, not just the traditional roles that they have had so far. And, it will also afford them access to forging relationships and learning about other cultures.

Yes, our troops are always at risk when they go out to do their job. I recently visited one of our soldiers who was hurt. But he was hurt actually not in the line of fire, he was hurt in a traffic accident, the kind of traffic accident that he could have suffered here in his own country. Yes, they are always subject to risk, but that is part of their job and we are happy to support them in everything they do.

I want to thank the press for their presence here and I also want to thank you, Secretary Powell, and I am very sorry for the interruptions we’ve had today.

Released on November 5, 2003

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