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Interview With Isabel Clemente and Rodrigo Rangel of Época

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Brasilia, Brazil
March 13, 2008

QUESTION: Do you believe that Brazil should act more actively in regional affairs?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I believe that Brazil is very active. It’s looked to as a regional leader here in South America and in Latin America as a whole. It’s one reason that the United States has valued its relationship with Brazil, because I think here in the region there are many things that we can do together. I would speak to the biofuels initiative, for instance, which is going to give us an opportunity to help many countries in the region attain energy independence and reduce their emphasis on fossil fuels. So I think everyone does look to Brazil as a regional leader, and it’s a good one because it’s a good, strong democracy.

QUESTION: Talk about (inaudible), about biofuels -- we have an agreement but our products face barriers in the States. Isn’t that a contradiction?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, at this point, the tariff has gone up for review for a little while; and secondly, it isn’t a real barrier at this point because the export isn’t there. But this is something that can be reviewed over time. But for now, I think the tariff is going to remain, but we need to develop the technologies, we need to develop the relationship, we need to develop the markets, and then we can see where we go from there.

QUESTION: President Chavez insists that the U.S. is his enemy. Does the U.S. consider him to be the same?

SECRETARY RICE: We’ve always had a good relationship with Venezuela, and I want to be very clear the United States has a broad policy in Latin America where we stand for social justice based on economic growth and economic development, where we stand for equality for women and for people of different racial backgrounds. Today, I’m going to be signing an agreement in which we look to alleviate all forms of discrimination. That’s the positive agenda. The United States doesn't have enemies in Latin America. So we -- no, we don’t have enemies in Latin America.

QUESTION: But is Chavez a threat for the stability and peace for the region?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, the problem is that some of the activities of Venezuela, I think, are questionable in this regard, and we watch it carefully. But we build on our strong relationship with our allies, and we don’t have an ideological test. We are absolutely able to work with countries from the left, countries from the right --

QUESTION: Despite the speeches?


QUESTION: Despite the speech?

SECRETARY RICE: What speech?


SECRETARY RICE: Oh, it’s not worth talking about.

QUESTION: Okay, then. So about the alliance with Uribe’s government, some people believe that this is a factor for stability, too. Is American presence really necessary in Colombia (inaudible)?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, the United States and Colombia have worked together, and it’s a policy that’s had bipartisan support in the United States that goes back to the Clinton Administration, to try to help Colombia deal with the effects of terrorism, with the effects of coming out of what was essentially a civil war. And in 2000, many people were talking about Colombia as a failed state. That would not have been good for the whole region -- bombings all of the time in Bogota, kidnappings.

Colombia is a different country now. It is more secure for its own people. It’s developing economically. The United States and Colombia have a free trade agreement that we want very much to see passed by our Congress. So I think that the work that we’ve done in Colombia has been very beneficial to Colombia, to Colombia’s citizens, but also to the region.

QUESTION: Many Latin American countries, including Brazil, are held by leftist parties that refuse to classify the FARC as a terrorist group. Is it a problem?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I -- you know the United States classifies the FARC as a terrorist group, and I would simply look at the behavior. If you were sitting here with me and my colleague, the Foreign Minister of Colombia, you would be sitting with someone who was held for six years in captivity by the FARC. Now, to my mind, that is a form of terrorism -- going and kidnapping people, bombing innocent civilians. But perhaps the most important thing is that I think we all have to have an understanding that the killing of innocent civilians is simply unacceptable, and countries must protect their citizens.

QUESTION: The States have a historic track of getting involved in Latin American (inaudible). (Inaudible) without (inaudible) help, is it a sign that the American influence is waning across the region?

SECRETARY RICE: I think just the opposite; the United States believes strongly in regional solutions. And why wouldn't nations in South America take the lead? The United States doesn't have to be in the lead in everything. But I would note that we are, of course, members of the Organization of American States, that we were active with the OAS in helping to work through this crisis. But from my point of view, it’s terrific if others can sometimes take the lead. This is a situation that I think was very much handled well by many leaders, including President Lula.

QUESTION: Because the investments, people say Chinese and European are taking (inaudible). So have the States turned away from the region?

SECRETARY RICE: No, we’re here in large part and large numbers. I often ask people, just look at the numbers. The United States has strong trading partners here, strong foreign direct investment. We’re always going to have that. We also are active politically. The President has been here several times. We have these strong partnerships with democracies like Brazil. The United States has doubled foreign assistance to Latin America during the President’s term. So I don’t think anybody is going to “replace” the United States, but we look to open markets where everyone can compete openly. The United States competes quite well in Asia, it competes quite well in Europe, so we’re a global economy.

MODERATOR: Guys, this’ll have to be the last question.

QUESTION: Really? Okay. So as we look to the U.S. future, there’s just one certain thing: We’ll have a new president next year.


QUESTION: And if it’s not Mr. McCain, it’ll be either the first woman or the first African American to ever be in power. Which one moves you the most?

SECRETARY RICE: Oh, I’m telling you, I’m not going to tell you who I’m voting for -- no, not by any means. (Laughter.) Look, it’s a great thing that America has a system that is open this way, and after our own long history, particularly of discrimination that dates back to our founding really, these are wonderful developments. But you know, when Americans go in the voting booth, they’re going to ask the same questions that they’ve asked in every other presidential campaign: Does this person share my values? Is this person going to pursue policies that are in my interests? Do I trust this person? And I think the wonderful thing is that those questions, I believe, will really transcend race and gender.

QUESTION: So it’s just -- one last one?

QUESTION: One last question?

MODERATOR: One last question.

QUESTION: The U.S. (inaudible) has been quoted as an interested player in the internationalization of the Amazon. True or false?

SECRETARY RICE: False. Brazil is a sovereign country that’s blessed with this great natural resource, the Amazon. Everyone in the world wants to see it protected and everyone wants to see it develop and be this great natural resource. But it would be working with Brazil in any way. But no, this is a false rumor. The United States doesn't stand for the internationalization of the Amazon.

QUESTION: Thank you very much.

QUESTION: Thank you.

SECRETARY RICE: Thank you so much.


Released on March 14, 2008

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