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Interview With Alexandra Ciniglio of CNN Español

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Panama City, Panama
June 4, 2007

QUESTION: (In Spanish.) In view of recent events in Venezuela and the fact that the Inter-American Democratic Charter requires respect for freedom of expression among other democratic bodies, what actions should the OAS take and what happens if nothing happens?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, today we had a very good discussion of the importance of democracy and freedom of expression. The Inter-Democratic -- Inter-American Democratic Charter calls for this. Article 18 of that charter provides for a request to the Secretary General of the Organization of American States to visit a country where democratic rights might be in trouble and we've requested of Secretary General José Miguel Insulza to make that visit. Of course, we will see if Venezuela agrees to allow him to do so. But this was an issue of democracy and this is a hemisphere that intends to defend the right of people to free expression.

QUESTION: (In Spanish.) In your meeting on Friday with Spain Foreign Minister Moratinos, you both talk about new struggles for a democratic and free Cuba, but there are still differences about how to achieve it.

Is Washington ready and willing for a dialogue with Cuba about transition to the post-Castro Cuba?

SECRETARY RICE: The most important thing about the transition to a post-Castro era is that the people of Cuba know that the future is going to rest in their hands. It's not going to rest in the hands of the United States or the region; it's going to rest in the hands of Cubans in Cuba. But that must mean that we must all speak out for the rights for the Cuban people to have democratic elections, a transition to a democratic government. There cannot be a transfer from one dictatorship to another dictatorship. That's what I talked about when I was in Spain and whatever our differences with Spain on how we go about it, we agreed fundamentally that the people of Cuba deserve a democratic life.

QUESTION: (In Spanish.) In an article signed with his name in Havana on May 28th, Fidel Castro said that the President Bush ordered to kill him. How do you respond to that allegation?

SECRETARY RICE: President Bush is a leader of a great country. We don't try to assassinate leaders of other countries. President Bush has been a fierce defender of the Cuban people's right to democracy, of -- during the -- when the transition goes -- comes from Fidel Castro, that the Cuban people will determine their future, but these charges are absolutely baseless. They are without any basis.

QUESTION: (In Spanish.) How do you see the status of the (inaudible) in Latin American (inaudible)? How is Washington view the consolidation of the ideological front of Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, and most -- more recently, Ecuador and Nicaragua?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, these countries are very different and the point that I would make is that the United States does not have a problem with democratic governance from leftist governments. If a government is from the left or a government is from the right, it doesn't matter to the United States. We have excellent relations with Brazil, excellent relations with Uruguay. These are both countries that have leftist governments, but they govern democratically, they govern responsibly. And so I think that Venezuela is in a different category than these other countries.

We're concerned about democratic issues in Bolivia, clearly, but we want to have good relations with all of these countries. We are seeking, for instance, an extension of the Andean Trade Preferences Agreement in our Congress for both Bolivia and Ecuador. That should show to the people of Latin America that this is not an issue of whether a government is from left or right. It is an issue of whether a government is governing democratically and unfortunately, in Venezuela, there are very strong signals that democratic governance is in trouble.

QUESTION: (In Spanish.) The region seems to be divided among two groups, those who have a free trade agreement with the United States and those who don't. How do you think that such a variation will impact economic development efforts and the fight against poverty in the hemisphere?

SECRETARY RICE: We see the conclusion of free trade agreements with countries in the hemisphere as something that we will be seeking with any country that can meet certain standards for free trade agreements and where it would be beneficial to both sides. It's not a matter of dividing the continent into those who have free trade agreements and those who do not. We have free trade agreements with a wide variety of countries. But the most important thing is that we want to have free trade in the hemisphere because we believe that it is a basis for economic development, for job growth, and ultimately for people to be more prosperous.

I was recently in the highlands of Guatemala and I saw people who had been subsistence farmers who have now made their incomes much, much greater because of the free trade agreement that we have with Central America. That's a promise that we would hope would be fulfilled for all the people of Central America, but it is -- all of the people of the Americas -- but it is not an issue of dividing the hemisphere, it is an issue of seeking free trade with all of the countries of the hemisphere.

QUESTION: You have talked about this before, about politics has its own (inaudible), given the circumstances at the moment, do you see the name Condoleezza Rice on the next U.S. presidential ticket?

SECRETARY RICE: I don't see the name Condoleezza Rice on the next presidential ticket. I'm looking forward to my last months as Secretary of State. I will do my very best to improve the lives of people around the world, using the tools of American diplomacy, using the tools of American foreign assistance. I'm very proud of President Bush's record in fighting for democracy across the world, but especially in our hemisphere. I'm very proud of what we have been able to do in partnership with countries for economic development and job growth. And we have much more to do to extend social justice, health, education, opportunity to the people of this hemisphere. That's why I'm here today and that's how I'll spend my last months as Secretary of State.

QUESTION: (In Spanish.) Thanks very much.


Released on June 5, 2007

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