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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 Angie Sandoval of Telemundo

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
June 6, 2005

(8:45 a.m. EDT)

QUESTION: We'll start with Mexico. We have a Mexican city mayor; he's running for the Presidency in 2006, he's definitely Leftwing. How is the U.S. viewing his run for election? And how will that impact U.S. and Mexican relations if Mr. Lopez Obrador is elected?

SECRETARY RICE: This is a matter for Mexicans to decide the Mexican people to decide. We care about one thing in this hemisphere and that is the democratic institutions and democratic processes are being sustained, so that that democracy can work to the benefit of the people of the hemisphere. And so any election that is free and fair and transparent, the United States will, of course, support its outcome.

We do not believe that what is happening in this hemisphere is a Left-Right split, but rather there is a split between those who govern democratically and those who do not. The United States has worked well with governments on both sides of the spectrum. For instance, we have very good relations with President Lula in Brazil, excellent relations with President Lagos in Chile.

The wonderful thing about this hemisphere is that now the people of the hemisphere have a chance to choose their leaders, to listen to their platform. We believe that when people are given a chance to choose and when they are given a chance to take control of their own lives not the state taking control of their lives but they take control of their own lives that people prosper.

QUESTION: You know, it's a good lead for Venezuela. Very tight relations with Venezuela but Chavez is saying that he will go on as President and really challenging the U.S. What do you want what the U.S. wants from President Chavez? What changes?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, this is not an issue between the United States and Venezuela. This is an issue of what kind of hemisphere is this going to be. Is it going to be a hemisphere in which people who are democratically elected then govern democratically? In which they recognize the need to have opposition that can use the free press, that can associate freely, that can challenge the government that is the essence of democracy: that people in the opposition can challenge without fear of retribution. And it's also one of the important elements of this hemisphere that there not be interference in the affairs of neighbors, that there be transparent relations between neighbors and that is what we are promoting.

So the United States has had good relations with Venezuela in the past. We hope to have good relations in the future. But this is not about the United States and Venezuela; it's a question of what "rules of the road," so to speak, govern this hemisphere.

QUESTION: How far is the U.S. willing to support the opposition? We saw President Bush meeting with the opposition leader last week. How far are they willing to support the opposition this time?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, the President meets with many members of civil society in countries all over the world. And these are important elements of civil society. People who are trying to get an alternative view expressed and that's extremely important.

I just note, for instance, when the President was in Latvia, he met with members of the Russian language minority there, who are critical of the way that the Latvian Government has carried out its policies on nationalities, on minorities. We have no better relations than with the state of Latvia.

So this is something that the President is going to do. I'm going to meet with civil society from all over.

QUESTION: Would you meet with Chavez?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I think that's probably not on the agenda right now, but I did say hello to the Foreign Minister from Venezuela yesterday. He's here as a minister in the region.

The OAS is an organization that is, I think, very robust, already in its age, it's an old organization, it's a proud organization. But now it needs to take the next step. We have an energetic, new Secretary General who can bring his considerable diplomatic skills to bear to help solve problems in the region. Why wouldn't we want to give the Secretary General the ability to engage in crisis prevention in this hemisphere?

The OAS cannot just sit and talk. We can't just come here every year or some place in the world every year and talk about the problems that are gathering in the hemisphere. If it is to be an organization that is relevant, it has to be able to act.

QUESTION: In the case of Posada Carriles, how difficult becomes the war against terrorism when the U.S. recently rejected the extradition petition from Venezuela? You know, how do we look the Americans how do what do we look like in the world in the war on terrorism if we say "no" to Venezuela, "you're not going to get Posada Carriles."

SECRETARY RICE: Well, matters of extradition and judicial procedures are for our judicial system and our justice system and for our Department of Homeland Security to deal with. We try and intend to apply our standards uniformly, consistently, but these are issues that have to be decided in the right channels. And so they are being looked at in those channels.

QUESTION: In Colombia, congress will soon vote on it giving leniency to the paramilitary who are stepping down. The U.S. wants has requested extradition of one of the main paramilitary leaders. If congress if the Colombian congress decides that they will just send this man to jail, if he accepts that he did what he did, would the U.S. be disappointed and really seek his extradition?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, we're working with the Colombian Government on this issue. I can't prejudge how it might come out or what the U.S. response might be. We have very good relations with the Colombians and as they are trying to reintegrate people into the society in order to try and bring to an end some of the insurgent activity that the Colombian people have faced, we have been concerned principally that this be done with a sense that justice has to be done and that human rights need to be protected. And so that's been the nature of our discussion with the Colombian Government. I can't comment on any specific case, but we have had detailed discussions with the Colombians about these issues.

QUESTION: Is the U.S. concerned about this surge of Leftwing presidents and, you know, we have the case in Argentina, we have the case in Brazil and Nicaragua. We have the Sandinista that are really gaining a lot of ground. How is the U.S. handling that? What plans to does the U.S. have dealing with that?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, the issue, as I was saying earlier, is not Left or Right, it's democratic and non-democratic. And there is an issue of economic freedom for people. People need to have a chance to build their businesses without so much state interference. They need to be able to be entrepreneurs and to free the economy so that investment can come in. Those are all important issues to be debated.

But of course, for the United States, we will work with governments that are democratically elected. We are concerned about some of the events that are unfolding in Nicaragua because there needs to be a very clear sense that the Nicaraguan people are getting what they thought they voted for. And so that's an important and concerning situation, but we can work with governments that are freely elected from across the broad of the spectrum.

QUESTION: My last question, this is not political. Children? You know, you don't grow up thinking that you're going to become

SECRETARY RICE: No. (Laughter.) I was going to be a great concert pianist, that's what I grew up thinking.

QUESTION: Yes, that's what I read. When did you start thinking that you could have the job?

SECRETARY RICE: I really didn't ever think about it really until, you know, most recently and that's because I've never been a great long-term planner. And when I was a professor at Stanford, I would always tell my students that the best thing you can do in life is to seek different opportunities, enjoy what you're doing at the time, have some tolerance for the fact that there may be major changes in your life from time to time. And so, as I said, I thought I was going to be a musician and I ended up Secretary of State. There's a lesson in that about having too many plans.

QUESTION: Definitely. What does that mean for an African American woman, who grew up in the '50s


QUESTION: To have achieve this?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I do think that it says something about the United States and how far the United States has come, you know. The first Secretary of State was Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Jefferson, who was a Founding Father, of course, of the United States, said that, "the God who gave us life, gave us liberty at the same time," and yet he was a slave owner.

And so it shows how far our country has come in struggling toward democratic development and struggling to fulfill the principles that we enunciated all the way back in 1789. It was only recently that America was able to secure for all citizens the right to vote without harassment.

And so the United States has come a long way, too, and it says that democracy is not easy. It says that you have to keep working at it every day; the work is never done. And I hope that it gives some comfort and some perspective to people who are just starting out on their democratic journey, that while it takes time and while sometimes the principles are hard to fulfill, they are worth continuing to struggle with and eventually democracy does deliver.

QUESTION: Thank you so much for your time. I wish you had more time.

SECRETARY RICE: I do, too. Another time. But thank you very much.

QUESTION: Definitely. Thank you.


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