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Remarks to the Press En Route to Sao Paulo

Remarks to The Press En Route to Sao Paulo

Secretary Colin L. Powell
En Route To Sao Paulo
October 4, 2004

SECRETARY POWELL: Thanks for traveling with us down to Brazil. I look forward to tomorrow's activities in Sao Paulo: the business community and the Chamber of Commerce speech, where I'll have a chance to review the state of U.S.-Brazilian relations, which I think are quite good right now. We have a number of initiatives underway with the Brazilians that flowed from President Bush's summit with President Lula last year, last June, or this June, June 2003, excuse me, in the area of treasury, energy, commerce, a variety of areas that we are working with them. And I've had very close and continuing relations with Foreign Minister Amorim, as evidenced in the work we've done in the Security Council on a variety of resolutions, as well as how we have cooperated so closely dealing with the problem of Haiti.

I take particular note of the tremendous work being that is being performed by the Brazilian contingent in Haiti under the leadership of a Brazilian general, working in turn for the United Nations. They stepped forward and are playing an important leadership role in the hemisphere and I think what they did in Haiti demonstrates that. And I also thank them for the work they did as leadership of the Friends of Venezuela group that we are a part of.

So, I think Brazil is playing a more significant role, not only in a hemispheric sense, but on the international stage as well. Evidence of that was the leadership they took in the food summit at UNGA, Monday before last, where we had Secretary Ann Veneman participate in that effort.

I'm also looking forward to meeting with some youth groups. And one of the youth groups I'm meeting with tomorrow is part of a group that came to visit me in the State Department last year, and I'm looking forward to seeing these youngsters again. And then onto Brasilia where I'll have meetings, of course, with President Lula and with Foreign Minister Amorim, and with other youth groups, as well.

I'll tell you now that after we leave Brazil on Wednesday morning we'll be going to Grenada, and we'll be stopping in Grenada for a few hours. We can't stay too long because they are still struggling through the aftermath of a hurricane, and the facilities are rather austere, and we didn't want to overload the circuits. And so we'll land, spend a couple hours in the vicinity of the airport. We may get a little ways away from the airport, but we can't go too far because of transportation restrictions and infrastructure problems. But I did want to have a chance to make a first-hand assessment. We have committed several million dollars--the exact number Richard can give you, I think it around $3 million to Grenada so far, and we have a $50 million supplemental request in the hurricane supplemental that is before the Congress now. That $50 million is for the Caribbean and I hope the Congress will act on it later this week. And I'll just stop right there and see what questions you guys want to go to.

QUESTION: Haiti has been pretty hard hit. Why don't you go over to Haiti and sort of make an assessment of Haiti?

SECRETARY POWELL: I considered it, but Secretary Thompson was there over the weekend, in fact, just came out yesterday. So I'll get an assessment from Tommy and follow up from what I hear from him. I don't want to overload with two Cabinet officers in a period of four days. And it seemed like it would be more appropriate to go to Grenada. And while in Brazil I'll have a chance to speak to Foreign Minister Amorim and other Brazilian officials about the reports they're getting from Haiti. And so we're in pretty close touch with the situation in Haiti, and I thought it better to let Tommy come back and make his assessment, and then we'll make a judgment as to what else we need to do in the way of visits or other assistance to Haiti. There will be money in the supplemental of course for Haiti, as well.

MR. BOUCHER: Do you want to do that on Grenada, or should I?

SECRETARY POWELL: One million dollars already gone into Grenada and another three and a half, 3.6 million have been identified. And more will be coming when we get the supplemental passed. So, that's a total of 4.6, either given or identified to be given.

QUESTION: Right now we've seen a lot of demonstrations, a lot of rioting against the government, wanting them to do more about what happened and some calls for Aristide to come back. Don't you think that right now what the government needs, in addition to money, is a show of U.S. support for the caretaker government? Do you think that would help the situation?

SECRETARY POWELL: I think we are showing our support in a number of ways: by supporting the U.N.- the U.N. has a representative on the ground- the Haitians know we are supporting them. We have a strong mission on the ground and that's why we sent the immediate problems over the last couple of days was one of humanitarian support and that's why Secretary Thompson went down.

And there were demonstrations over the last several days; I don't have a report of today. These are the old Aristide elements and some criminal elements who are trying to take advantage of the situation. I talked to Kofi Annan last night about it, and he feels confident that his people can manage it and control it and work very closely with the Haitian authorities. And we're trying to expedite the additional peacekeepers who are going in. And so, on that basis, I decided I'd better take a look at a place that's in even greater distress right now as a result of the hurricanes, and that's Grenada.

QUESTION: About Brazil, I want to know about what you think about Brazil's enriching of uranium and the refusal to let in the inspectors of the IAEA?

SECRETARY POWELL: They haven't refused to let the inspectors in. I think there's a team coming in on the 18th of October. There is a discussion taking place about how much access will be given to, giving them to, their facility. They are working on that now and I hope they will find a solution. We have no concerns about Brazil moving in a direction of anything but peaceful nuclear power, of course, and in creating their own fuel for their power plants. There's no proliferation concern on our part, but we think that they should work with the IAEA to satisfy the IAEA's need for oversight. And we also hope that Brazil will, in due course, accept the additional protocol. And so, the IAEA has worked out these kinds of differences in the past; I expect they will work it out this time with Brazil. It's a question of how much visibility they get in certain technical aspects of their facilities but that's something to be worked out.

QUESTION: On a different subject, Mr. Secretary, over the weekend, Prime Minster Sharon said that he intends to expand the incursions into Gaza because of the rockets that are being launched against Israeli towns and also settlements. This is clearly not in line with the disengagement plan; it's in fact the opposite of it. Would you have any reaction to that? And do you think expanding those incursions now is helpful?

SECRETARY POWELL: It is not in contrast to the disengagement plan; the disengagement plan continues, so I'll set that editorial comment aside for the moment. He remains as committed to the disengagement plan and hopefully that will get on track and we can also see the disengagement from four settlements in the West Bank as we get into the Roadmap.

The immediate problem right now is that Israeli built-up areas are being hit by rockets and Mr. Sharon finds a need to respond to that. I hope it does not expand. And I hope that whatever he does is proportionate to the threat that Israel is facing and I hope that this operation can come to a conclusion quickly.

QUESTION: You emphasize the increasingly significant role that Brazil is playing on the world stage, so when they ask you for support for a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council, what will your response be to them?

SECRETARY POWELL: We're going to wait until the eminent persons group, as its sometimes called, has finished its work, and see what they recommend. Clearly they are going to be recommending some modifications to the entire organization of the U.N., to include the Security Council. And from what I understand of their work, it will open up opportunities for additional membership in the Security Council. There are a number of counties that have expressed an interest, of course, on being on the Council and we're not going to take any more positions on this issue until we see the work of the group. And I hope to be talking to the head of the group, either later this week, the former Thai Prime Minister is coming to see me. It's either the end of this week or early next week, and I'll get a better indication of how their work is going and what recommendations might be flowing from their work toward the end of the year.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, you mentioned that you have worked closely with the Brazilians vis-a-vis Venezuela. Is it time for a détente now between the United States and Chavez. Is there a willingness in Washington and do you see anything in Caracas, to make you think that the relationship is going to get on a better path?

SECRETARY POWELL: I hope it will, and our new ambassador presented his credentials on Friday and indicated to the Venezuelans, as Ambassador Brownfield came up from Chile to Caracas. And Ambassador Brownfield in his presentation said that we are looking forward to improving relations with Venezuela. Now have the referendum, that's over and behind us, and we should find ways to cooperate. We still have differences of opinion, of course, and when those differences occur, we will present our side of it as the Venezuelans present their side of it. But we're looking for ways to cooperate.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary when you talk about proportional force in Gaza, do you think that already Sharon and his offensive is an overreaction? And would you like him, when you say you hope that there won't be an expansion, do you actually expect him to limit the offensive?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, I think his offensive is for the purpose of removing the rockets and the places where the rockets are coming from and the individuals who are doing it. I can't tell you how long it's going to take, that's for them to decide. And I can't tell you anything about the proportional or not proportional without knowing much more about what he's trying to do, and the threat they are facing, and what he considers to be the threat he's facing and how long its going to take him to deal with that. And I think the operation will come to an end when he feels he's dealt with a threat.

QUESTION: You talk about all the cooperation that you have been doing with Brazil, and Brazil has been taking on a greater role on the world stage. Do you see a deepening or a strengthening of the relationship, like a growth of Brazil as a major U.S. ally now? Has that changed?

SECRETARY POWELL: There are many areas in which we are cooperating now. We're co-chairs of the work on the Free Trade Area of the Americas, as you know; we're involved in the friends of Venezuela; we're involved in working with them in Haiti. And I think that this kind of involvement and the close ties that exist on many different levels between officials in the Brazilian and U.S. governments certainly indicates that the relationship is improving and strengthening. And President Bush has, what he considers, a very good relationship with President Lula.

And the economy in Brazil has started to improve and I think that puts the whole country on a much better footing, of course. And we just look forward to opening up more areas of cooperation between us and the Brazilian government. And I know the president is interested in strengthening an already good relationship that he has with President Lula.

QUESTION: I wonder if you could just speak in a general way to your perception of U.S. standing in the region, after the events of the last year, where leaders of Latin America accuse the United States of seeing their problems through the lens of Cuba and has not been friendly to the aspirations of the poor and addressing the aftermath of the problems of Venezuela where the U.S. was widely criticized, fairly or not. Do you acknowledge that there have been some problems that you have to do some repair work on?

SECRETARY POWELL: There are always problems but I think we're doing well in Latin America. Three countries in Latin America are on our Millennium Challenge Accounts first tranche. We're working on bilateral trade agreements, concluded one with Chile. Working on Central American Free Trade area. I think you'll see that this trip to Brazil- the largest country in South America, in Latin America, certainly indicates the level of interest we have. The way in which we quickly went for supplemental fighting to deal with the hurricane aftermath. I don't accept the characterization that the place is awash with problems that the United States hasn't tended to. We spend a great deal of time with Latin American leaders. The president has attended a number of meetings and summits. I have been a steadfast participant in all the OAS meetings. We got the Community of Democracies launched in 2001.

And we don't see everything through the lens of Fidel Castro. Fidel Castro is a problem for the Cuban people. I don't view him as that much of a problem for the rest of the hemisphere. Certainly not the way he was when I was National Security Adviser- 15 years ago- when he really was.

And I sense that all of these countries are looking for a better relationship with the Untied States as we are looking for a better relationship with each and every one of them. With respect to, we also had all kinds of trade improvements over the last couple of years- Andean Trade preferences extension - all of which shows we have an interest in this part of the world.

And with respect to Venezuela, it was the opposition in Venezuela that was challenging the actions of its government. The United States worked with the Friends of Venezuela to try to find a solution. And the people of Venezuela have had their opportunity to decide how they wanted to move forward, and they did it in a constitutional means, and we're supporting them. So the suggestion that somehow the United States is the cause of whatever difficulties exist in Venezuela, I don't think it's accurate. There were legitimate grievances that opposition parties had and they were worked out and worked through in a constitutional manner. And the new ambassador is going in and we look forward to working with Venezuela. If you look at polling, I think you'll find that attitudes toward the United States are not bad in this part of the world, in fact better than in many other parts of the world, particularly in Brazil.

Anything else? Thank you.

[End]

Released on October 5, 2004


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