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Powell Interview with CNN en Español

Interview with CNN en Español

Secretary Colin L. Powell
Santiago, Chile
June 9, 2003

QUESTION: Buenas tardes, Sr. Secretario. Do you want to say something in Spanish?

SECRETARY POWELL: No, thank you.

QUESTION: What should be the North Americans role in the new conflict of global terrorism?

SECRETARY POWELL: I think Latin America has an important role to play. Terrorism is a worldwide threat that affects every country. No country is free of terrorism, and there are many countries in Latin America that have been seriously affected by terrorism. In the case of Colombia, terrorism is a threat not only to individuals, in terms of loss of life; it is a threat to democratic institutions. It is a threat to the viability of Colombia as a democratic country. So for this reason we all have to come together and do everything we can to help those countries that are under serious threat such as Colombia. But other countries that could be under threat because of the worldwide spread of terrorist organizations that will try to get at not just U.S. interests, but also the interests of democratic nations. So I think the global war against terrorism really becomes a major security challenge for our hemisphere. When you take terrorism and you mix it up with narco-trafficking, you have a very volatile combination that affects all of us.

QUESTION: How should the guerrilla conflict in Colombia be solved?

SECRETARY POWELL: I think that President Uribe has put together and is now implementing a very effective plan to go after the guerrillas and go after the leadership of guerrilla organizations. Will there come a time when dialogue is also necessary and perhaps we can bring them to the peace table? Perhaps, but it didn t work very well under President Pastrana. So I think it is quite appropriate for President Uribe to be aggressive in defending his people, in defending his country and defending his system of democracy.

QUESTION: Talking about the war against terrorism, the United States had very little political and popular support in Latin America for the war against Iraq. How does this affect U.S. beliefs and priorities in the region?

SECRETARY POWELL: I think that, over time, people in Latin America will realize that the United States took the correct action in dealing with Iraq. A terrible dictator who poisoned his own people with gas, who suppressed his people, who wasted their money on weapons and on threatening neighbors and on creating huge armies--a huge army and military force--is no longer there. I hope the people of Latin America will watch these pictures we are now seeing of mass graves--tens upon tens of thousands who were murdered by Saddam Hussein--and they will come perhaps to a different judgment as to whether the United States and its Coalition partners acted correctly. I think we did act correctly. One, to get rid of weapons of mass destruction--and they are there--and as we continue to unroll the documentation, as we continue to examine the sites there, I am quite sure we will find more evidence of weapons of mass destruction. And so we got rid of that. We got rid of the dictator. We will now be using the oil of Iraq to benefit the people of Iraq. And we will now have brought to justice of a regime that is no longer there, that killed people by the tens upon tens of thousands. I hope that over time the actions that the United States took will be seen throughout the hemisphere as being quite justifiable actions.

QUESTION: International opinion studies show that anti-American feeling has grown since the war in Iraq. Do you predict that this feeling will grow even more if you can t prove that Baghdad has weapons of mass destruction?

SECRETARY POWELL: No, I don t think so. I think that now that the conflict is behind us and international opinion sees that the United States is helping the people of Iraq to build a better society, a democratic society, and when people--especially people in Muslim countries--see that the United States is engaged in the peace process in the Middle East trying to help the Israelis and the Palestinians move forward, then I think that attitude will change and it will start to be realized around the world that the United States does not come to invade you, the United States is not threatening you. The United States only wants to make friends and partners around the world, not enemies. The wars we have had to fight in recent years--whether it was Gulf War I, Gulf War II, whether it was Kosovo, or whether it was what we did in Afghanistan--all of these were for the purpose of either putting down an enemy that was destroying innocent life, in the case of Al Qaida in Afghanistan, or we were saving Muslim nations or Muslim populations from assault from other Muslim nations, in some cases, and we were coming to the rescue of Muslims. I hope over time this message will get through and that people have a better view of America than is reflected in the poll that you are making a reference to.

QUESTION: Beginning on Latin America. Is the triple border between Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay a current Islamic terrorism risk zone? What should be done?

SECRETARY POWELL: I don t know how serious it is. It is something we keep an eye on, but I would not believe--I would not suggest right now--that it has become that huge a problem, but it is some something that we have to keep our eyes on and work with the parties in the region.

QUESTION: In general in the last elections of the countries in the region, including Brazil and Argentina, have been a left wing turn even closer to Cuba. What class of relationship does the United States want to establish with these governments?

SECRETARY POWELL: We will have good relations with Brazil, with Argentina. People chose what kind of leader they wanted to have. Sometimes it will be to the left, sometimes it will be to the right. But I don t think anymore that it will be to the far left or to the far right. People understand that, in order to be successful in this century and in order to have good relations with your neighbors and frankly I think it is in the interest of nations in Latin America to have good relations with the United States--it is best to elect a leadership and to elect congresses that understand the role of democracy in modern society; that will support democracy and will support transparency in government, and the rule of law; and will support open trading systems and market economic activity. Because that s how you generate investment, that s how you get people to want to invest in your country, invest to make a profit, but more importantly, by making that profit you create jobs and you provide a better life for people in those countries. And whether they are left of center or right of center, the only thing people want to know is Are you going to make my life better? I m not terribly worried about Cuba. Cuba is such an anachronism, and when I say worried about Cuba, I m not worried about new governments coming in being so friendly to Cuba, or so supportive of Cuba, that Cuba somehow becomes a threat to us again. Cuba is not a threat. Cuba is a historical relic. It is an anachronism. It is a country that in this century, in this hemisphere, still puts people in jail for 15, 20, to 25 years. For a crime? For murder? No, for speaking out, for demanding their political rights, for demanding the political rights that the countries you just made reference to have given to their people. So I hope that all the leaders of the hemisphere will ask that the Cuban people have the right to elect a left-of-center government or a right-of-center government. They have no right to elect any government, except Castro, and he is there without the freedom of his people to make a different choice.

QUESTION: How do you define the relationship between Mercosur and AFTA, as enemy or complementary systems?

SECRETARY POWELL: No, they are not enemies, but we are going through quite a transformation in trading relations in our hemisphere. We just recently signed a free trade agreement with Chile and we are moving as aggressively and rapidly as we can toward a Free Trade Area of the Americas and we still have a goal of seeing if we can accomplish this by 2005. So all the issues related to AFTA, CAFTA, and Mercosur will have to be worked through as we move forward. But I don t find these to be enemy systems as much as systems that exist and transition systems as we move toward a Free Trade Area of the Americas.

QUESTION: Is Brazilian President Lula da Silva an obstacle to FTAA, and will FTAA be reached on your time schedule?

SECRETARY POWELL: I don t know, we will have to see. I think it is achievable, but I don t want to make predictions that belong to my colleague, Ambassador Bob Zoellick, our Trade Representative.

QUESTION: Speaking about governments, as you were doing in that summary, what is your opinion about the recent agreement that the opposition and the government of Venezuela reached?

SECRETARY POWELL: We support the agreement. In my intervention--my speech at the OAS today--I expressed the support of my government for the May twenty-ninth agreement.

QUESTION: Is it enough?

SECRETARY POWELL: It is an agreement. It s a beginning. The agreement in itself is not enough. It is executing that agreement and making sure that the referendum takes place in a way that is satisfactory to the terms of the agreement is what now has to happen.

CNN: Thank you very much.

SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you very much. [End]

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