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 You are in: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice > What the Secretary Has Been Saying > 2005 Secretary Rice's Remarks > June 2005: Secretary Rice's Remarks

Interview With Juan Carlos Lopez of CNN Espanol

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
June 6, 2005

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, thank you for speaking with us. First question is what do you expect to accomplish from this General Assembly?

SECRETARY RICE: The OAS is an organization that is going through a lot of changes. It has a new Secretary General who's a very energetic and capable man. And the OAS which many years ago adopted a democratic charter, now has a chance to really make certain that that democratic charter is being carried out throughout the region.

This is a region that many years ago had fewer democracies than today. But we are talking here about the need to deliver the benefits of democracy to every citizen. And so the ministers here are talking about the OAS's role in crisis prevention. We're talking about the OAS's role in making certain that the democratic charter is adhered to, but also how we can assist countries that are trying to strengthen weak democratic institutions or to carry the benefits of development to their people.

QUESTION: One of the topics is this mechanism that is being proposed to oversee democracy, see how they are developing. What is this exactly and how do you expect it to be received among the countries?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, the reason that we're here is to discuss how the organization goes forward. And so it's not a matter of putting down a proposal and expecting that everyone is going to say, "Oh, yes, that's exactly what we want to do." Rather, we're discussing as ministers who have responsibilities here in the region, how we might give the Secretary General the kinds of tools that he might need, give the Permanent Council the kind of tools that it might need to help strengthen democratic institutions, to be a way, a mechanism, by which people can have dialogue and discussion. And also by which we can help to sustain the democratic institutions that are here in the region. And so there may be any number of tools or mechanisms that are available.

QUESTION: The Venezuelan Government has said they do not accept this type of mechanism; they believe it's aimed at them. And they said that if any country has to be supervisor, a democracy, President Chavez said yesterday, it should be the U.S.

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I think that really doesn't bear comment. First of all, we don't know what the mechanism is, so I don't know what they're actually reacting to. But the fact is that there are concerns about democratic development in Venezuela. But this isn't an issue between the United States and Venezuela. This is an issue of what kind of hemisphere do we want to be. Do we want to be a hemisphere in which those who are elected democratically then governed democratically? Do we want to be a hemisphere in which states are not intervening in the affairs of their neighbors surreptitiously or without transparency? That's the question here. And so I don't think this is an issue between the United States and Venezuela; this is an issue of what kind of hemisphere this will be.

QUESTION: The Venezuelan Government is bringing the issue of Luis Posada Carriles and his extradition or his a request for preventive detention. They said that they would re-submit documentation today or tomorrow to the U.S. Is an extradition of Posada Carriles to Venezuela out of the question there's talk about El Salvador submitting a request or will the U.S. look at those documents and decide that?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, of course, the United States will look at documents related to the case. But this is a judicial proceeding at this point. It's in our justice system. The Department of Homeland Security is involved because those are the appropriate agencies in the United States to deal with this situation.

QUESTION: The Report on Human Trafficking was presented last week and four countries were included: Venezuela, Cuba, Ecuador and Bolivia. Ecuador and Bolivia are going through a very difficult time, especially Bolivia, a political crisis. How can they pay attention to the 90 days they have to improve this situation when they have other issues at hand? Will the U.S. consider this at the moment of deciding and imposing sanctions?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, we certainly know that Bolivia and Ecuador are going through a difficult period of time. The Human Trafficking Report is not meant to be punitive. It's meant to draw attention to a serious problem a problem that really, in terms of human rights, we simply can't allow to continue. And then to help states to deal with it to the degree that they need that help. We have provided, for instance, over the last year $96 million in assistance for technical assistance for legal reforms that can help or for efforts through nongovernmental organizations to help the victims of trafficking. So we do this in a spirit of cooperation. And I'm certain that we'll have discussions with the Bolivian and Ecuadorian Governments about how we can help them to meet the goal of ending trafficking.

QUESTION: There was concern among some delegations that talks at the or coverage of the General Assembly might be overshadowed by tensions between the U.S. and Venezuela. What can you do and what can be done, so that other issues are the highlight of the coverage and of what is being done inside this Convention Center?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, this is about the Organization of American States, which is an institution that is a proud and old institution that is now is remaking itself in many ways, that has a new Secretary General who's vibrant and energetic and ready to go out and tackle the problems of this region. And this is just simply not about Venezuela and the United States. Whatever tensions there are, are not the focus of this assembly. We are here to talk about the future of the Western Hemisphere. We're here to talk about how to help countries to deliver for their people people who, obviously, grow impatient if they're not feeling the benefits of democracy. We're here to talk about strengthening democratic institutions. This is simply not an issue. It's not a question of relations between the United States and Venezuela.

QUESTION: Are there there are critics of Mr. Chavez who acknowledge that his government
has been investing in the poor sections of Venezuela. Is that something the U.S. is following? Is that something the U.S. is aware of or what are the major concerns with Venezuela?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, we believe very strongly in trying to deliver the benefits of democracy. We believe very strongly in investing in the education of people and their health care. But we also believe in giving people the freedom to have their own lives and to really take the challenge of their own lives onboard. And so it shouldn't be a kind of paternalistic developing a development strategy by which people are given education, given health care. Governments need to be accountable to give people opportunity, to give people access. And those are the efforts at education and at health care that always worked best. Because when people are in control of their own future, rather than having a sense that it's the government doing everything for them, then they're able to have businesses and to send their kids to college and to be upwardly mobile. So that's the strategy that we wish to see pursued here.

In terms of Venezuela, it isn't just an issue of governing democratically, once you've been elected democratically and not intervening in the affairs of one's neighbors.

QUESTION: On a separate issue, there are reports on contacts between the U.S. and North Korea. Have these contacts taken place? Is the U.S. taking a different approach towards North Korea?

SECRETARY RICE: We've had for some time a channel in New York where we exchange information messages with the North Koreans from time to time. It's a working-level contact, it's been there, we've used it before and we'll use it whenever necessary. But we do not believe in bilateral negotiations with the North Koreans. We meet with the North Koreans in the context of the six-party talks. We believe that this is the best way to make certain that North Korea gets a consistent and coherent message from all of the members of the neighborhood that their nuclear weapons program simply has to go.

QUESTION: Have you received any update on the case of Natalee Holloway in Aruba?

SECRETARY RICE: We are in constant contact. And I was able to thank the Aruban delegation here last night for the very good efforts that they are making. It's obviously a case about which we're very concerned and we're all watching and working and also praying that this will come out all right.

QUESTION: On Palestinian elections indefinitely postponed, what is your reaction to this and to the fact that Hamas, which is on the list of terrorist organizations, seems to be making headway among the Palestinians in these elections?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, as to the elections, this is a matter for the Palestinians to decide. There will need to be free and fair elections. The Palestinians have demonstrated that they can do that. They had their presidential election that was very successful. They've had municipal elections. And so I'm certain that they will, but it's a matter for them to decide within their structures.

As to who wins or does not, in terms of in the Palestinian territories, I really do believe that the candidates that show the Palestinian people a better future are the candidates that are going to be elected. And a better future does not mean strapping suicide bombs onto yourself or to your children and having them blow up innocent people. I can't believe that there are parents in the Palestinian territories who think that that's the future that they want for their children.

And so the candidates who talk about a better life for the Palestinian people, the candidates who talk about the ability to live in freedom and peace with a democratic society, the candidates who use the platform that Mahmoud Abbas used when he was elected President, in which he said, "The time for the arms struggle is over; it's time now to make peace," I believe those are going to be the candidates that are successful.

QUESTION: I want to end with an OAS-related question. Celso Amorim, Foreign Minister of Brazil said last night, talking about this mechanism to oversee democracies, that the Permanent Council shouldn't become another Security Council and vote on issues. Now they're not discarding the possibility of having a mechanism. But as you said, "a mechanism is being sought." So how can you avoid becoming a Security Council type organization in the hemisphere and how can you convince neighbors like Brazil to go along with the idea?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I took note of what Foreign Minister Amorim said. There is only one Security Council and no one is trying to turn the OAS into a Security Council. But we have had multiple circumstances in this hemisphere in which democratic institutions have been challenged and in which people need help. We watched when the OAS did intervene in Peru and did so very effectively.

We have now a number of challenging circumstances in places like Ecuador, in Bolivia, potentially in Nicaragua. I think we have to ask the question: Why wouldn't the OAS have for the Secretary General some means, some mechanisms, some tools to try and help to prevent crisis before they break openly and before it is too late?

The Organization of American States should not just be a place where we come to talk. It should be an active institution that is helping in the development of democracy and that's all that we are saying what that mechanism looks like, what the tools look like. My sense of it is we'll probably have a continuum several different ways that the OAS can help to shore up and sustain weak democratic institutions. This is not meant to be punitive. But there are cases in which, particularly when you have fragile democracies, the society and the Government need some help. It's why we are emphasizing the role of the civil society, which we know in democracy is an extremely important part of sustaining democratic institutions.

QUESTION: (In Spanish)

SECRETARY RICE: Thank you very much.


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