Interview With Leonardo Kourchenko of TelevisaSecretary Condoleezza Rice
Casa Velas Hotel
Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
October 23, 2008
QUESTION: Thank you very much for this time.
SECRETARY RICE: Pleasure to be with you.
QUESTION: And welcome to Mexico.
SECRETARY RICE: Thank you.
QUESTION: How are you? Are you fine? Are you okay in Mexico?
SECRETARY RICE: I am doing very well, thank you. Even more so to be here in Puerto Vallarta, which is a place I’ve always wanted to see. It’s a beautiful place, a beautiful city.
QUESTION: Very good. You have a meeting with Secretary Espinosa concerning this agreement about disasters and emergencies, is that right?
SECRETARY RICE: Yes.
QUESTION: What’s the content of the program?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, it allows us to cooperate for the unfortunate fact that we share the same space here and that these disasters often have a cross-border aspect. And it also allows us to mobilize and to help internally, if necessary. It’s an idea that came more than a year ago, and so it’s very good to see it coming to fruition.
QUESTION: Done and complete.
SECRETARY RICE: Yes, that’s right.
QUESTION: The Merida Initiative.
SECRETARY RICE: Yes.
QUESTION: It’s finally done? Is the money coming finally?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, the Merida Initiative is, first let me say, one of the most important initiatives, I think, the United States and Mexico have ever launched. It’s historic. It will make Americans more secure, but it will, of course, most importantly, make Mexicans more secure, again, in the shared space that we have.
It is an agreement that we consider to be one that we want to move forward urgently. We have the plan for spending that our Congress has approved. We’re now doing letters of agreement with the Mexican Government. That work is well underway. And I believe that we’ll be able to start the disbursements soon.
There are some aspects of the funding that can go forward, and we’re pushing that forward. But these bureaucratic matters are not going to get in the way. This is an important initiative. It has to go forward urgently. Aspects like information sharing and the like are really already underway.
QUESTION: Armed agents, for instance.
SECRETARY RICE: Yes. And so we think that this is – armed agents? No. We’re going to respect Mexican law, and the Mexican Government is in control on this issue. And my colleague Patricia just addressed this downstairs.
QUESTION: There won’t be American agents armed in the Mexican territory?
SECRETARY RICE: We will – the Mexican Government has complete control over how this is carried out. But this is to make Mexican security forces more capable, not to impose American security forces on Mexico.
QUESTION: Tell me about the funds, because there has been a debate about this and when the funds are coming finally.
SECRETARY RICE: Yes. Well, the funds will come, and they will come, I think, very soon. There is a letter – there are letters of agreement that have to be completed for part of the funding, and that is being done. But I just want to assure you that we understand the urgency of this. It’s urgent for Mexico. It’s urgent for the United States. We have the spending plan approved by Congress, and we’ll move this forward.
QUESTION: So it’s your feeling that before the Administration is finished –
SECRETARY RICE: Oh, I certainly believe that, yes.
QUESTION: – the plan is –
SECRETARY RICE: I certainly hope so. And we – we’re moving very rapidly and –
SECRETARY RICE: We want to wrap this up, yes.
QUESTION: Tell me your opinion about the strategy of Mexico against drug trafficking and criminal activity. It’s the right plan?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, first of all, Mexico is a democratic country with a democratically elected president who has gone to his people, gone to his legislative branch, and developed this strategy. And I – we are going to be supportive of that. We have enormous confidence in President Calderon. We have enormous confidence in his will to handle this very difficult problem of organized crime. We have confidence that the United States can help in the improvement of the capabilities, the equipment of Mexican security forces. But our confidence is in this democratically elected government to deliver for its people.
QUESTION: It’s the proper and right strategy?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, the strategy is one developed by Mexicans. We are helping in – helping to find the capability to deliver on that strategy. But I see no other way than to be very tough on organized crime, to be capable of dealing with these very violent people who are trying to terrorize the population, who are trying to carry out their criminal activities. I see no other way.
Again, we have enormous confidence in President Calderon and his ability to execute the strategy. And I think the – our Mexican counterparts would say that there are already very strong efforts going on. It was described to us, the many, many caches of weapons and ammunition that have been found. Of course, there have also been arrests. And I – this is going to continue. But again, we have a lot of confidence in President Calderon.
QUESTION: Tell me something, you are about to finish your job as Secretary of State.
SECRETARY RICE: Yes.
QUESTION: And how do you make a balance of these four years and – globally over all the eight years of the Administration?
SECRETARY RICE: Yes. Well, the President, I think, has governed in very difficult times –
SECRETARY RICE: – times when the terrorist threat became more evident, when cross-border threats, even of the kind that we were just talking about, criminal activity across borders, drug trafficking, arms tracking, which we’ve worked very hard on with Mexico. And I think we have developed some partnerships around the world, but especially near the hemisphere to help us deal with these problems.
The President has also stood very strongly for freedom and liberty for people around the world, saying that there’s no exception; no one should have to live in tyranny. And in our own hemisphere, that has been speaking out for the rights of people in Cuba, but it’s also meant speaking out for the consolidation of democracy throughout the hemisphere. And we’ve worked well with partners from the left and right.
You know, I think this President has really changed our approach to Latin America, which, quite frankly and sadly, for a while was seen through a Cold War prism. If you were from the left, you were against us, because that was associated somehow with the Cold War. We’ve wiped that away. And we have excellent relations with governments of the left and with governments of the right. The only thing in common is that they govern democratically, they’re trying to invest in their people, they are accountable to their people, they’re fighting corruption. And I think the United States has been a really good partner in Latin America (inaudible).
QUESTION: So you are satisfied in general?
SECRETARY RICE: Yes. It’s a complicated time. And times of historic change are always turbulent. I’m enough of a student of international history to know that these changes are always turbulent. When you look back on them, it seems that everything went smoothly. But in the middle, it’s always turbulent. And we’ve made good friendships and good partnerships that have helped to navigate these difficult times. I think, finally, the President has been a major proponent of using the Security Council, the United Nations, to do things that are hard. And Mexico will now take up its position on the Security Council.
QUESTION: Council – yes.
SECRETARY RICE: We’re very pleased at that, because Mexico is a responsible state that I think will help the Security Council to do the hard things that, if diplomacy is going to work, the Security Council has to be able to do.
QUESTION: If you have to put a mark between one and ten about the foreign relations of the U.S. Government for the last eight years, what would it be?
SECRETARY RICE: Oh, I can’t really answer that. Historians will answer that question. You know, it’s – I – again, I’m a student of international history. And today’s headlines and history’s judgment are rarely the same, because big historical changes take a while to play out. And it’s only after they’ve played out you see that, indeed, it has mattered that the United States has doubled development assistance in Latin America and tripled it worldwide; that the United States has stood for freedom for people and empowerment of women; that we have fought to build alliances to deal with violent people, terrorists and organized crime and drug traffickers and arms traffickers; that the United States has helped a country like Colombia come back from the brink of being a failed state to now being a functioning, strong democracy. Those are the kinds of events that take time to unfold. But I think the judgment of this President will be very kind in history.
QUESTION: Well, I know you have a very tight schedule. Tell me about your prognosis about Iraq and Afghanistan and Russia and these very sensible situations in the world which you have been dealing with.
SECRETARY RICE: Well, Iraq is an interesting place. It’s now the first truly multiethnic democracy in the center of the Arab world that is going to function in that way.
QUESTION: It seems very unstable, actually.
SECRETARY RICE: It – well, it is more stable now than it has been. Its security situation is improving. Its democratic government is functioning. Its Arab neighbors are coming to Iraq to get – be – to have embassies there. The King of Jordan was there. Iraq is emerging as a strong Arab state that will, by the way, be a different force in the Middle East than Saddam Hussein, who attacked his neighbors and caused major wars, causing millions of deaths, who used chemical weapons against his own people and against his neighbors, who drew the United States into war with him three times. Iraq will be a different, more stabilizing force in the Middle East.
I think it’s also the case that Israelis and Palestinians are now in a process that will lead to the establishment of a Palestinian state. I still hope that we can do it by end of the year. But they have their first serious process for peace in a decade.
And finally, I think that when you even look at a place like Afghanistan, which is difficult, Afghanistan is one of the poorest countries in the world – really, really poor. It has experienced 30 years of civil war, including the invasion of the Soviet Union. And so it’s not surprising that it’s a hard place to construct a decent government. We talk about reconstruction. We’re really helping the Afghans to construct modern institutions for the first time, and it’s hard.
But in all of these cases, I think one has to understand that it takes time for countries to move and people to move from tyranny to democracy. And it’s never smooth, but it is really the only course that is appropriate for human beings.
And finally, just to say a word about Russia, I had a long discussion with my counterpart, with Patricia about Russia. I – we have no problem with Russia wanting to have good relations in this hemisphere. No problem whatsoever. But they should be good relations and correct relations. And Russia should do nothing in terms of military armaments or building munitions plants in the hemisphere that are going to destabilize the military balance in this region. And so I hope that there will be good relations between Russia and the states of Latin America, but that they will be responsible relations.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, thank you very much.
SECRETARY RICE: Thank you. It’s good to be with you.
QUESTION: I wish you the best on your way back home.
SECRETARY RICE: Thank you very much.
QUESTION: Thank you so much. You are very welcome to Mexico.
Released on October 24, 2008