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Colin L. Powell On Love 97FM Radio Bahamas

Colin L. Powell On Love 97FM Radio Bahamas

Office of the Spokesman For Immediate Release February 7, 2002


February 7, 2002 Nassau, The Bahamas 8:00 a.m. EST

MR. JONES: Good morning everyone, I'm Wendell Jones in the studios of Love 97, Nassau, The Bahamas. The United States Secretary of State, General Colin Powell, is in this capital city of The Bahamas today for the annual meeting of Foreign Ministers of the Caribbean community, CARICOM. Later today, the Secretary of State will join the Foreign Ministers in talks on matters of trade, migration and law enforcement. We are pleased to have General Powell on the line this morning. Mr. Secretary, good morning and thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to be with us.

SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you, Mr. Jones. It's a pleasure to be with you and have a chance to speak to the people of the region.

MR. JONES: Mr. Secretary, what do you think will be the achievement of the meeting today with Foreign Ministers?

SECRETARY POWELL: I think the big achievement is that we'll have the chance to get together and to talk about the issues that you just described. Trade -- there are a number of trade issues that are always of interest with respect to textile quotas or agricultural trade. We'll also talk about migration issues. We'll talk about development issues in the region to see what we can do to spur tourism again after the events of September 11th. I'm sure we'll also have the chance to talk about the campaign against terrorism. The nations of the Caribbean have been playing an important role in shutting down financial access the terrorists might have to their banking systems. And also I'm sure we'll talk about our counter-narcotics efforts throughout the region. And I hope we'll also have a chance to talk about HIV-AIDS, which is a problem worldwide but particularly a problem in the Caribbean, and see what we can do to mobilize our efforts against this scourge on the face of mankind and womankind.

MR. JONES: Mr. Secretary, is the Caribbean strategic in the thinking of the United States in the war against terrorism?

SECRETARY POWELL: Yes, and that's why I'm here. I very much wanted to be here for this meeting. We've had to postpone it once before, but I was determined to be here today and to further the Bridgetown process, which began in 1997 under a previous administration, and to show to the nations of the Caribbean that we believe that they do play an important, vital and strategic role in our campaign against terrorism. This is an area where there is an opportunity to transit into the United States and out of the United States - for counter-narcotics activities, for smuggling activities, for the flow of money and the flow of people, who, frankly, we think should not be able to freely move around the region. So, it is a vital part of the United States and that's why we're also introducing new ideas into our relationship under the rubric of the Third Border Initiative -- in effect it is a third border with the United States after our border with Canada, our border with Mexico, and of course this ocean border with the Caribbean.

MR. JONES: Sir, would you equate drug dealing with terrorism?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, you know, increasingly as you look at various parts of the world -- here in our own part of the world, say in Columbia -- increasingly narco-activities get mixed up with terrorist activities and can provide a source of funding to terrorist activities. So, I think both of them are condemnable and we have to fight both of them and there are linkages between the two.

MR. JONES: Mr. Secretary, many countries in the Caribbean depend on banking and financial services for some of their revenue. To what extent will the United States assist these countries in the event that they are compelled to seriously curtail or modify these services due to pressure from the OECD?

SECRETARY POWELL: We'll try to help in every way possible and we know that some of the suggestions that are on the table from OECD and elsewhere could have a negative impact, and we want to see how we can ameliorate those negative impacts because I, for one -- not only as Secretary of State but in my previous career as National Security Advisor some years ago -- came to an appreciation of how much financial flows in the banking sector mean to the nations of the Caribbean, and so to the extent that it is important for the nations of the Caribbean to act responsibly in making sure that their banking and financial systems are not used for evil purposes, we have to at the same time make sure that we do everything to keep those sectors strong and vibrant because of the important role they play in the economy of the Caribbean nations. So, we need to make sure it's absolutely clean and there's transparency and everybody can trust these systems and do it in a way that does not negatively effect the countries, and I think it's something we are able to do in consultation with our friends. As you know, we recently signed a tax treaty with The Bahamas that helps in this regard -- just a few days ago -- with my colleague Paul O'Neill signing the treaty on behalf of the United States.

MR. JONES: Mr. Secretary, the Haitian government is complaining that badly needed funds earmarked for reconstruction and development are being blocked by the United States. If this is so, can you tell us why? If not, can the United States of America do anything to help the Haitian government?

SECRETARY POWELL: We have done a great deal to help the Haitian government over the years. When you look at all the money that the United States has spent in Haiti over the last seven years, it's in the hundreds of millions of dollars. I have more than a passing interest in this -- having been on the delegation that went to Haiti in 1994, persuaded the Generals to leave power so that President Aristide could come back -- but we are terribly concerned about the political unrest that continues to haunt Haiti. We are concerned about some of the actions of the government. We do not believe that enough has been done yet to move the political process forward to assure ourselves that additional aid will be used in the most effective way at this time. And so we believe that we have to hold President Aristide and the Haitian government to fairly high standards of performance before we can simply allow the funds to flow into the country. So I think this is an issue that will be discussed. I know that there were meetings in the last couple of days in Belize and a resolution -- statement I might say -- came out of that meeting that suggested the United States should remove its objections, and we'll discuss that in the course of the morning and have a good exchange of views on it, I'm sure.

MR. JONES: Mr. Secretary, bearing in mind the Caribbean Basin Initiative of the Reagan administration, does the Bush administration have a similar approach for the region? A similar initiative?

SECRETARY POWELL: Yes. Well, as you know, the Caribbean Basin Initiative goes back quite a few years and it is still in effect, so to speak. But on top of that we're looking at a Free Trade Area for the Americas, for all of the Americas. We are looking for ways in which we can put greater emphasis on trade promotion activities and trade preferences for the region. And so we are committed to making it easier for the nations of the Caribbean to do business with the United States, to ship goods to the United States. President Bush, as you well know, is for open trade-as much as we can get through our Congress. So, that will be our bias-open trade, and especially for the nations of the Caribbean.

MR. JONES: Sir, some Jamaican parliamentarians are saying that Jamaica is being destabilized by drug lords and that gun violence is a major problem in that country. Sir, what, if any, help is the United States giving to the Jamaican government?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, we are in close touch with the Jamaican government. We have very good relations with them. I don't have any specific programs in front of me at the moment and it's really an internal domestic police problem that they face with respect to controlling violence within Kingston and other cities in the country. With respect to counter drug efforts, we have been working with the Jamaicans for many, many years. A number of years ago, I visited programs in Jamaica that were designed to cut down the flow of drugs through Jamaica as well as the growth of crops in Jamaica that would help drug lords. So, it's a problem for the whole region, it's a problem in the United States; and the United States frankly is the cause of the problem because of the demand that we have for drugs within our country. And so we are working with the Jamaicans on counter-narcotics and I'm sure we're giving them advice on police activities; but, basically they have an internal police, and in some cases, military problem, that they will have to solve and we should stand by to assist them in any way we can.

MR. JONES: Mr. Secretary, I understand that you have spearheaded the development of a major youth initiative in the United States of America. Is there any room for that program being extended to the Caribbean?

SECRETARY POWELL: Yes, there is, and that's why I'm about to break off now and go visit the mentoring program here in Nassau. It's a mentoring program that's an undertaking by our Ambassador, Rick Blankenship, inspired by the program that I created in the United States called America's Promise. So I'm about to head off now to the Simpson Penn Center to visit some of these youngsters and give them a word of encouragement, sir.

MR. JONES: Mr. Secretary, thank you very much, sir, for taking the time out and speaking with us this morning and please enjoy The Bahamas.

SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you very much.

# # #

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