For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
August 25, 2006
4:03 P.M. EDT
Q Good afternoon. We will be initiating our second session. I'd like to thank Dr. Condoleezza Rice for being here with us through electronic satellite system. For those of us, as journalists, it's a great privilege and pleasure to be able to count on her presence here in our meeting today because honestly, she is an individual that -- she's one of the newsmakers of the world. And we must admit that whether or not we're in agreement with her decisions, and the advice that she gives President Bush, as National Security Advisor, we can be in agreement or not, but we must recognize that she is a woman of immense value and great ability to synthesize the problems of the world.
For no reason, it's obviously -- it's not a bad thing for her to be occupying this position -- not just for the people of this country, but the world. She's the author of several very important books: In 1995, Germany Unified and Europe Transformed, with Mr. Philip Zelikow; The Gorbachev Era, in 1986, with Alexander Dallin; and Uncertain Allegiance: The Soviet Union and the Czechoslovak Army, in 1984.
In addition, she had a very important position as the provost of none other than Stanford, where she was the chief officer of budget and academic affairs, and handled half a billion dollars; 14,000 students, and 1,400 first-class university professors. So let us welcome Dr. Rice. And we'd like to invite her to please present her message to us. Thank you.
DR. RICE: Thank you very much. (Applause.) Thank you. It's a great pleasure to be here by the wonders of technology, in Washington, D.C., and to be able to speak with you in Chicago. I want to thank very much (inaudible.) and Andres Garcia (ph) and the delegates for giving me this opportunity to be with you. I'll speak briefly, and then I will be happy to entertain your questions.
The administration of President George W. Bush has not only a strong record in the Western Hemisphere, but a deep and abiding interest in the region. President Bush, from the time that he ran for office as President of the United States, made clear that he believed that sound American foreign policy starts in our own neighborhood.
The President has met with nearly all of the hemisphere's heads of state, including a ministerial-level summit with Brazilian President Lula. He has traveled to Mexico, Canada, Peru, and El Salvador, and he looks forward to returning to Mexico in January for a special Summit of the Americas.
This President's vision for the Americas is a fully democratic hemisphere, working together to achieve market-based development, representative democracy and security that improves the lives of its citizens. The President is committed to advancing trade liberalization globally, regionally, and with individual nations in order to promote economic development and democratic governance among our trading partners.
The President said it this way on September 3rd during the signing ceremony for the U.S.-Chile Free Trade Agreement -- he said: "For developing nations, free trade tied to economic reform has helped to lift hundred of millions of people out of poverty."
As such, we are working to complete by the end of this year a free-trade agreement with five Central American countries, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. And we have notified the Congress of our intention to negotiate a free-trade agreement with the Dominican Republic.
These initiatives compliment the United States' goal of achieving a genuine, comprehensive free-trade area in the hemisphere. And we believe that the free-trade area of the Americas, the FTAA is the best route to achieving that goal. The President is committed to strengthening the region's democratic institutions by promoting good governance and combating corruption. The Inter American Democratic Charter, adopted on September 11, 2001, ironically for the United States, day that will always stay seared in our memory, but that democratic charter was adopted, reaffirming the region's commitment to freedom and to democracy.
And I just want to note that as we speak right now, the Bolivian government, Bolivia is facing a great challenge. There have already been lives lost. We, the Organization of American States, and the international community must fully support the democratic, constitutional government of Bolivia. And our thoughts and hopes for a peaceful resolution are with the Bolivian people.
The administration is firmly dedicated, too, to a proactive Cuba policy that will assist the Cuban people in their struggle for freedom. As the President emphasized just last week, we remain committed to the goal of achieving a rapid, peaceful transition to democracy in Cuba, using the dissuasive tools of economic embargo and travel restriction. But the President also announced the establishment of a Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba. And this commission, co-chaired by Secretaries Colin Powell and Mel Martinez, will prepare the U.S. government to assist the Cuban people with an orderly and peaceful transition from tyranny to democracy.
The administration supports a peaceful, democratic and constitutional and electoral solution to Venezuela's ongoing political crisis consistent with the OAS Permanent Council Resolution 833. We consider this an issue for the region, and we are fully supportive of the efforts of the OAS in this regard.
The United States is committed to providing strong, economic and security assistance in support of the Colombian people. We are working closely with President Uribe in the fight against narco-terrorists, in the eradication of coca and poppy, and in the interdiction of illicit drugs and the extradition of criminals.
Since September 11, 2001, we have been pleased to have the excellent cooperation of our hemispheric partners to combat terror. And we have especially enhanced border security with Mexico and Canada, while ensuring the intense pace of legal movement of people and goods along our land borders is maintained.
Looking ahead to the special Summit of the Americas to be hosted in Mexico in January, we will emphasize the positive message that democratic governance, sound pro-growth economic policy, and investment in health and education create opportunity for all citizens. This agenda will help build on and advance the commitments agreed to in April of 2001, at the Summit of Americas in Quebec City.
We are working toward the establishment of the Millennium Challenge Account, the President's groundbreaking initiative that links a 50 percent increase in development assistance to just government, investments in people and economic freedom because the United States wants to join with developing countries in our hemisphere and beyond to demonstrate that performance by governments in these critical areas can build a development partnership focused on growth and embodying the new development paradigm agreed to at Monterrey.
I want to close by simply saying that this President is committed to a hemisphere that is free, democratic, governed wisely, governed without corruption, that trades in freedom and where growth and prosperity spread. He looks forward to working with the many leaders in the hemisphere, who he knows, to working with the regional organizations of the hemisphere, and to looking for a brighter and greater future for the peoples of our own neighborhood, the Western Hemisphere.
Thank you very much for your attention. And I'm happy to take your questions. (Applause.)
Q Thank you, very much, Dr. Rice. Well, we have some questions. Then we have some questions. As Mr. President said we ask, those who have questions, to pose them from the podium, so that Dr. Rice can see them as they do so.
Q Thank you. As you all mention, there's a strong cooperation between the Colombian government and President Bush. President Uribe is one of the U.S.'s strongest allies in this moment, not only in the war against terrorism, also because Uribe is one of the few Latin American presidents to support the Iraqi operation. Nevertheless, a recent law that the Uribe government wants to pass for the demobilization of the illegal armed groups has met with a strong criticism in Colombian public opinion because it's considered too lenient for the paramilitary groups. I understand that the U.S. government also has objections to this law. I would like, Ms. Rice, if you could clarify what these objections are, please?
DR. RICE: Well, in fact, the President recently met with President Uribe. And President Uribe was also in discussions with several leaders on Capitol Hill. We fully support the efforts that the President is employing in Colombia to try and deal finally with the narco-terrorism and the terrible terrorism that has befallen the Colombian people. We are, in fact, in discussions with the Uribe government about the law concerning what might happen to paramilitaries. And it is very clear, from the administration, that we are concerned about some aspects. But we believe that it will be very possible to work with the Colombian government. And after all, it will finally be a decision for the Colombian government and for the Colombian people as to how they deal with issues of reconciliation, as they try to move to a better day for Colombia.
Q Thank you.
Q Good afternoon, Dr. Rice. Venezuela -- the Venezuelan government, at least to the best information in our newsroom, has limited and curtailed U.S. drug interdiction flights in a country whose constitution does not allow extradition to the U.S. Venezuela has failed to follow on the San Jose Accords to supply oil to the Dominican Republic, thus complicating the triangulation with Mexico. The Chavez administration, we know, supplies daily some $50 million of oil to Cuba, and has gone on record as supporting Evo Morales in Bolivia.
Briefly put, ma'am, to what extent does Venezuela's internal polarization and the problems that we are undergoing on our way to fulfilling the mandate of OAS 833 towards a democratic, constitutional and electoral solution to the problem pose in your mind the status that Venezuela may be putting at significant risk both the security and the stability of the entire Andean and Caribbean region if that electoral solution is not reached soon?
DR. RICE: Well, thank you very much. Let me start by saying that we are very supportive of the efforts of the Organization of American States in trying to oversee a process that will get Venezuela to a constitutional, electoral process that will resolve these issues. We do not consider this to be a bilateral issue with Venezuela , but rather a regional issue. And it should be treated as such.
As to certain responsibilities that Venezuela ought to be exercising in the hemisphere, I think it is no secret -- and it would certainly be no secret to you -- that we have had our concerns about some of the activities of the Venezuelan government. And we make those known to Venezuela on a regular basis.
Venezuela does have responsibilities in the hemisphere to fight terrorism, to fight narco-trafficking, to make certain that it is responsible in its economic activities in the region. And as to Cuba, Cuba remains the one government that cannot even be seated at the Organization of American States because the governments that are seated at the Organization of American States are committed to democracy.
And so we've had our differences with the Venezuelan government. We continue to. We believe that Venezuela ought to fully live up to the responsibilities that it has to this hemisphere for security and economic prosperity in this hemisphere. And we are very focused on trying to get to a peaceful referendum so that these issues can be resolved.
Thank you very much.
Q Thank you, ma'am.
Q Dr. Rice, in your words you spoke of the role of the U.S. government in international policy. And you expressed your desire, your concerns about the future. Regarding this future, the Inter America Press Association is very concerned about the threats that freedom of press is facing in the context on the next World Summit of the Information Society, under the sponsorship of the U.N., with the direct participation of the Union International Telecommunications and UNESCO to be held in December in Geneva. There is an attempt to have the summit approve a plan of action and a statement that imposes restrictions upon the free media, radio and TV, an attempt to curtail the freedom of these media.
In 1980s, the United States of America held a firm position in defense of a free press that led to the United States leaving UNESCO. Today, after the U.S. has decided to return to UNESCO, it is of great importance -- it matters a great deal to us to IAPA, to be sure that the U.S. government will take a firm and active stand, and that it will have a delegation in Geneva -- will be with us, defending the free press. We would like very much, ma'am, to hear your comments on these issues that I have just mentioned.
Thank you very much.
DR. RICE: Thank you. The United States has, indeed, rejoined UNESCO, and the forum about which you're talking, my understanding is that this a dialogue on global communication in a new era. And it is important that there be such a dialogue about the importance of global communication. It's important that we talk about how to make certain that that communication can take place by all means in all countries, for instance, the use of the Internet and how it has changed global communications. I think this is simply to be an opening dialogue on this very important subject. Of course, the United States is founded -- one of our first freedoms is freedom of the press. And the United States has been a strong voice for and proponent for a free press.
Q Thank you very much.
Q Good afternoon, Dr. Rice. It is, indeed, a pleasure to talk to you. We heard that you reinforced your security measures along the U.S. and Canadian borders. And personally, I think you're fully justified in doing so. Nonetheless, I would like to know whether you have weighed the damages that are being caused to us and are being caused to you, as well, because a lot more Mexicans than usual are crossing the border as undocumented aliens without no control -- and could you tell us when do you have plans to lift or to change this measure?
DR. RICE: After September 11th, we did have to work with our partners in Mexico and in Canada to try and improve border security. We've learned that we did have a number of problems in border security. My colleague, Tom Ridge, the Secretary for Homeland Security, has been working with his counterparts, I think, very effectively. They've instituted a program called Smart Borders, which is an effort to use technology and to use cooperation to improve border security so that people do not cross the border who should not cross the border, but to allow the free movement of goods and of services and of people legally across the border. These are very important elements.
And we would be the first to say that it will require more work. It will require continued experience in how to make our borders more secure without cutting off commerce, which is what we do not want to do. The commerce that has been brought to us by NAFTA is so important to all of our economies that, of course, we want the free flow of goods and services. But I do believe that we've made a lot of progress since September 11th. Tom Ridge meets frequently with his counterparts. And I believe that we will continue to make progress on this very important issue.
Q Thank you.
DR. RICE: Thank you.
Q We have one last question.
Q Thank you very much, ma'am, for your words this afternoon. My question is, what is the final position of the President of the United States regarding travel to Cuba that gives so much money to Castro's totalitarian tyranny? That is my question. What will be the President's decision? Is it going be an effective -- is it going to become effective soon? Or is it going to be a long-term thing?
DR. RICE: Well, thank you very much. The President just last week directed the Homeland Security Department to significantly tighten the travel restrictions that have been on the books. There's supposed to allowed travel for, say, humanitarian purposes to Cuba. But we know that there are a lot of people who are using the travel opportunities to go to Cuba in ways that end up enriching the Cuban government because the Cubans are able to take the money in hard currency, to then pay the workers in fairly worthless pesos, and to pocket the difference between that hard currency and the pesos that they pay. This is simply unacceptable.
And the President has directed Homeland Security to put together a real enforcement program and to really begin to enforce these travel restrictions. I cannot tell you that it will happen tomorrow because these things take time. But I can tell you that there is a firm commitment to begin immediately enforcing these travel restrictions as quickly and as fully as possible. And this President could not be more committed because we do not want to enrich the tyrannical government of Fidel Castro. We do not want to allow him to use these monies to fund his tyranny, his crackdown on dissidents, which has been really awful this year.
And if I could just make one final point about Cuba, last year, the President in a new Cuba initiative made an offer to the Cuban government. He said that he was prepared to think about changing some of our relations with Cuba, easing some of our restrictions, if Fidel Castro would just permit free elections for his people and begin to undo some of his tyrannical ways. And what was the answer to that? The answer was a crackdown on dissidents that has earned Castro the tremendous criticism of countries around the world. This needs to be an international effort. It is unacceptable that Cuba remains in the state that it does in this hemisphere. In a time when democracy and freedom and prosperity are within the grasp of people in the hemisphere, it should not be that the Cuban people are forgotten.
Thank you very much.
Q Thank you, Ma'am. (Applause.)
Q That concludes the presentation here today. Thank you very much on behalf of the Inter American Press Association.
DR. RICE: Thank you.
END 4:27 P.M. EDT