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Albright And Ecuadorian Minister Foreign Relations

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Office of the Spokesman (Quito, Ecuador)

For Immediate Release August 18, 2000

Joint Press Availability with Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright And Ecuadorian Minister of Foreign Relations Heinz Moeller Carondelet Palace

Quito, Ecuador August 18, 2000

FOREIGN MINISTER MOELLER: (in Spanish) Honorable Madeleine Albright, Secretary of State of the United States of America; Mr. Raul PatiOo, Minister of Social Welfare; Cabinet Ministers; Honorable Mrs. Gwen Clare, Ambassador of the United States of America; members of the delegation accompanying the Secretary of State; representatives from the international and technical assistance organizations; ladies and gentlemen; representatives from the Ecuadorian and international media. This is a timely opportunity for the visit of our distinguished friend, the Secretary of State of the United States, a country which is a friend of Ecuador.

It is a visible demonstration of the support Ecuador deserves because of the fight its people and the government of President Gustavo Noboa are carrying out to strengthen the democratic process, understood as the right of our people to have better living conditions, to express their beliefs freely, to express their disagreements, to present alternatives. This is a government free of commitments to political parties or ideological trends. We are a country in crisis that wishes to and must live better. To achieve this goal, Madame Secretary, I request the help of our country's friends who believe --like we do -- in democracy, who believe in sustainable development, who believe in the principles of shared responsibility among the industrialized nations and the countries of our world. It is an initiative for what, as I told you in our personal conversation, I commend you and I congratulate you for your incredible energy that has brought you here to Ecuador, which we want you to consider as your second home. We are sure you are going to feel just like that during the hours you are going to be with us, during which you will also have some well-deserved rest.

The agreement we have just signed today is yet another demonstration of our commitment to a program with enormous social content. You can rest assured that it will be transparently and efficiently administered by the Minister of Social Welfare and the Minister of Health who are here today, for the direct benefit of the poorest of Ecuador -- women, children, adolescents, adults, and school children. This is but one example of how friendship helps one another to achieve greater development.

Please rest assured, Madame Secretary, that Ecuador is doing all it can on its own. We walk proud in the search for a new future, recognizing our past mistakes, acting within the constitutional framework of the regime of President Noboa, without fears or complexes. And that is why we can say with emphasis, as President Noboa told you, that to the extent to which we respect our differences of opinion -- which is healthy -- we are friends and allies in the struggle for a better world. This is what I wanted to express to you, distinguished Madame Secretary.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Thank you very much Mr. Foreign Minister. It is a real pleasure to be here this afternoon. Distinguished ministers, colleagues, and members of the press, I am delighted to be here in Quito and I am very happy to have had the chance to meet with President Noboa and his team.

The Unites States has long enjoyed a warm friendship with the government and people of Ecuador and my trip to South America would not have been complete without a visit to this wonderful and diverse country.

I was delighted, just now, to join Foreign Minister Moeller in signing a food aid agreement, whereby the United States will donate to Ecuador approximately $20 million in agricultural commodities, which will be our largest contribution of food aid to any country in Latin America this year.

The funds generated, as has just been explained, will be used primarily to improve nutrition for children and pregnant and nursing women, and we hope to help as many as one million people through this donation. Overall, the United States' assistance to Ecuador continues to grow. We are providing several million dollars to enhance the government's presence on the border with Colombia and we are helping in important areas such as health, judicial reform, education and the environment. This is appropriate because Ecuador under President Noboa's stewardship is beginning to emerge from this devastating economic crisis.

It is essential that this country's friends and the international financial organizations, do all they can to help. Together, we must back the government's efforts to reform and stabilize Ecuador's economy, reduce poverty and assist the most vulnerable members of the society.

I am also highly encouraged by President Noboa's efforts to reach out to the Indigenous community and I hope that dialogue and line of work will continue.

Reform in the midst of a crisis is always very hard, but economic reforms are the key to revitalization, which is essential, in turn, to addressing Ecuador's social needs. So the United States strongly supports President Noboa's economic program, and fully backs the efforts of Ecuador's people to raise their standards of living and resume growth.

The United States views Ecuador as a key test of democracy in the hemisphere, a rich contributor to the cultural heritage of the Americas and a very good neighbor and friend. I want to thank the President and my friend, the Foreign Minister, and my many hosts here for their hospitality and the opportunity to have these discussions and I thank you for letting me say this is my second home. It is a beautiful place and I very much look forward to the remainder of my visit.

Thank you very much Mr. Foreign Minister.

QUESTION: (in Spanish) Madame Secretary, good afternoon. You have said that Ecuador is a key test for democracy in Latin America. Within this context and after the political problems we have endured, we consider that by your presence in Ecuador you are seeking to consolidate or support democracy. Within the same framework, is it possible to forgive the Paris Club debt in order to strengthen the dollarization process undertaken by Ecuador?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Let me say that we had a very important discussion about the economic issues in general and about the debt issues. We consider the problems that Ecuador has as serious and we would like to be of assistance generally in talking about how this debt issue can be dealt with. And we have agreed that we need to have ongoing consultations about all economic issues because the economic reform program is so important.

The dollarization issue is a decision that Ecuador made. We respect it and I think that it has had useful effects on the economy, but I think that what is important to remember is that nothing is a substitute for a good and sound economic policy. And those are the subjects that we discussed at length when I met with the President and the Foreign Minister.

QUESTION: (in Spanish) Thank you very much and good afternoon. Speaking of democracy, you have been visiting several countries. Have you noticed some weakness in those democracies? How do you evaluate the present situation of the Ecuadorian democracy?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Let me say that the United States and democratic countries in the hemisphere are together generally proud of the rising tide of democracy in our hemisphere. That has been a hallmark of the last decade and I think that all of us who live in this hemisphere can take great pride in that development. When we had the Community of Democracies in Warsaw, I was so proud to see the Latin American and North American countries all there in strength. Nevertheless -- and I have discussed this across the board in all the countries that I have visited -- democracy is not an event, it is a process. It is one that needs to be sustained consistently and it requires the ordinary people of every country to feel the benefits of it through vibrant social programs and economic policies that bring a dividend to ordinary people and so it is not easy.

We have talked a lot about what the elements of democracy are, and I am not saying this just about Ecuador. Elections are obviously important but they are not the only part. What is important is to have a strong judicial system, an independent judiciary, political parties that act as responsible opposition and cooperate with the leading party, to be able to have a dialogue with the people and have it be an ongoing process. I know that Ecuador has gone through a crisis and everyone watched it with great care. We believe that it is on the right track and that, as the Foreign Minister explained, the government here is working, I think, across the board to try to deal with the difficult problems. Nobody says the job is done and that is why I wanted to come here in order to lend you support for the efforts being made here and for President Noboa's very complicated and difficult work.

QUESTION: (in Spanish) A cordial greeting to you, Mrs. Albright. Various social sectors have criticized the use of the Manta Base as part of Plan Colombia. On the other hand there are individuals who request an increase in economic aid to Ecuador, which is now only $20 million. What do you think of these positions? Is the U.S. committed to increase economic aid and what compensation is foreseen for Ecuador if displacements and other consequences of Plan Colombia affect it?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, let me say that, as I just mentioned, we signed this agreement on food aid; actually I think that once it (the food) is sold it will be worth more than 20 million dollars. We understand the problems of being a neighboring country to Colombia and we have provided additional money to Ecuador. As a result, we are providing 20 million dollars in aid under Plan Colombia and we are looking for additional assistance to help on the northern border and also $15 million will be available to help displaced people and, again, we are going to be looking for more there.

We also spent a great deal of time in our discussions discussing the northern border and understanding the problems of the spillover. I think we have developed a way to discuss this issue further because I think that it is essential that the countries surrounding Colombia also be recognized as having a difficult problem.

Let me explain that the reason the United States decided that it was important to help Colombia in dealing with narco-trafficking is not just because of what is happening in Colombia itself, but because by dealing with this very serious problem there, we hope that it will also help throughout the region. We understand Ecuador's difficulties and I feel that we have had a very good discussion about how we can provide more assistance -- not only financial, but in terms of discussions about where we can be more supportive.

QUESTION: This is a question for Foreign Minister Moeller. Following up on the last question, have you asked for additional funding for refugees through Plan Colombia? How much assistance from the U.S. would you need for this?

MINISTER MOELLER: As a matter of fact, it is not a matter of the agreement of Ecuador regarding the logistical use of the Manta Base for fighting narco-trafficking through electronic surveillance. We feel that it is the moral duty of any country in the world to participate in this moral war against narco-production and narco-trafficking.

I have discussed many times what Secretary of State Albright calls the over-flow. I call it metastasis. We believe strongly in the principle of non-intervention. We believe that Colombia has the right to fight against narco-production and of course we endorse the valiant efforts of President Pastrana in trying to achieve peace with the guerrillas through dialogue. We are going to accept President Pastrana's invitation and President Noboa will be in Bogota on the 23rd and 24th of this month in order to have very transparent, fluent communication by which we can know what is going to happen with Plan Colombia.

We don't want the removal that is necessary, compulsory of that cancerous tumor in Colombia to cause metastasis in Ecuador and that is why we have started. Months ago, we discussed with the United States and with other countries of the world, the Europeans and also the Japanese, a development program for our northern area which has nothing to do with Plan Colombia, nothing to do with anything that you can call Plan Ecuador, because the situation is different. We don't have narco- production here in Ecuador; that is a fact. We don't have guerrillas; we don't have narco-guerrillas; we don't want to have them. So yes, we are counting on financial assistance for a program that I call the creation of a buffer zone in which we could have alternative agricultural, ecological sanctuaries to defend the Amazon jungle. And of course the necessary military and police control to avoid the infection, if I may call it that way. In this vein, we expect to present to the American administration and to the European Community a program that should be financed in the line of the shared responsibility that we all have in fighting this universal disease.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Could I just add something on Manta? I think that it should be viewed as actually a positive in terms of the Ecuadorian economy because over $60 million in construction upgrades are taking place there and most of the materials and labor actually come from Ecuador. And also this is creating a world-class runway there and that should bring economic benefits to the area. Tourism is growing there, and the money spent there by U.S. personnel is already helping -- about $25 million per year -- and that should also result in more local jobs.

I also think it is important to understand that Manta is part of long- standing regional counter-narcotics cooperation and not part of Plan Colombia. It is not a U.S. base so I think that there are a number of misconceptions about it and we obviously did discuss some aspects of it. I think it is very important for your viewers and readers to understand what it is and what it is not.

QUESTION: (in Spanish) Good afternoon. President Gustavo Noboa Bejarano has committed himself to officially request the U.S. Government to withdraw visas of all the fugitives from Ecuadorian justice who are at present in U.S. territory. We don't know if you and the Ecuadorian authorities brought up that subject in the meeting of this afternoon. However, we would like to know what are the probabilities of the U.S. Government accepting such a request made by Ecuador to withdraw the visas of those individuals so they can come back? Additionally, what are the chances that the U.S. Government will provide the facilities needed to extradite them because until now it has been almost impossible to do it?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: First of all let me say that I do not discuss visa cases. I think that is something that needs to be done through a different system. Actually we did not talk about this this afternoon, but let me also say in cases where extradition is asked for I think it is important for the government to do so under the extradition treaty, and we will be prepared to deal with these kinds of issues, but I do not wish to discuss visa cases.

FOREIGN MINISTER MOELLER: (in Spanish) I would like to clarify the question of the journalist by pointing out that this subject has been dealt with by the Ecuadorian government mainly through the Department of Justice of the United States. I would like to take this opportunity to again thank the excellent and permanent cooperation we have had from Janet Reno who has taken personal interest in this situation.

The extradition process of PeOaranda was initiated today. He was subject to a deportation process that regrettably had to meet a series of requirements according to the U.S. law. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, following President Noboa's instructions, submitted an extradition request under the old treaty. Although the treaty is not viable in some cases, it is in this one and while we have to wait some weeks more, PeOaranda will return to pay for his crimes in Ecuador. In reference to visas, in fact, this is not the occasion to address that subject. The request was made some months ago and we are waiting for the U.S. Government response.

(###)


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