Rice Interview by Alberto Pando of CNN En Español
Interview by Alberto Pando of CNN En Español
April 29, 2005
(8:12 a.m. EDT)
MR. PANDO: You announced that one of your goals during this trip was to discuss Venezuela and its relations with other countries in the region. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez just suspended a military training agreement with the United States and President Hugo Chavez recently announced the opening of a Venezuelan petroleum industry office in Cuba.
Taking these two events into account, where do you believe the United States relations is headed with President Chavez and his government? What leverage does the United States hold in attempting to contain Venezuelan foreign policy in the region since it is awash in cash with the recent spike of oil prices?
SECRETARY RICE: My goal on this trip is to talk about a positive vision for this region and for this hemisphere. We have a lot of challenges in this hemisphere, but we also have the fact that if you look 20 years in the past, nobody would have thought that we would be in a situation in which there are 34 democracies in the hemisphere and the only one that cannot take a seat at the Organization of American States is Cuba because it is not a democracy. And that vision is one in which free trade and free economies complement democracies that are strong and that can deliver benefits for their people.
And that's what I came to this region to talk about and that is the consensus view in this region of where the region ought to be going. Anyone who governs democratically after having been elected democratically, anyone who adheres to those principles, is going to be a friend of the United States. So this is sometimes cast as the United States and Venezuela. This is not a bilateral issue between the United States and Venezuela. This is an issue of what kind of hemisphere is this going to be.
MR. PANDO: It's been a bloody morning, a bloody day, in Iraq -- 24 dead people, almost 100 injured -- and Abu Moussad al-Zarqawi reminds us more. What do you say about that?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, it is a difficult period in Iraq but the Iraqi people have an opportunity to move from the brutal dictatorship of Saddam Hussein, in which he threatened and invaded his neighbors, used weapons of mass destruction against his own people and his neighbors, defied the international community time and time again, and tortured and murdered his people, who ended up by the hundreds of thousands in mass graves. They can move from that past to a future that today, even though it has a lot of violence, has a new government, a government that will be responsible and responsive to the Iraqi people. They voted in huge numbers because they understand that they can take control of their own future.
So yes, side by side, you have an Iraq, the good and the bad. But when you look at what the Iraqi people faced under Saddam Hussein, their future is much brighter than it could ever have been had Saddam Hussein remained in power.
MR. PANDO: Who will Washington's political agenda be focused on: its allies who will build, rebuild (inaudible) democracy, peace in your own continent; or those who fight the wars along United States overseas?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, America has to -- the United States of America has to be able to have a broad foreign policy and to deal with many issues simultaneously. Obviously, after September 11th, the challenges of fighting terrorism, of fighting not just the terrorists and the people who fly airplanes into buildings, as they did on that September day, but also the conditions that created them -- in other words, trying to create -- to bring about with people in the Middle East a different kind of Middle East, one in which there is democracy and freedom, that's a very high priority.
But it is a goal that we see as a goal for the entire world, and here in Latin America, in many ways Latin America has led that march toward freedom because it was 20 or so years ago that there were military dictatorships in 14 countries of Latin America. Well, if you look around the region now, you see that democracies are there, some of them very fragile. But this is very much in line with President Bush's belief that every man, woman and child deserves to live in freedom and that those of us who are fortunate enough to already live in freedom have an obligation to those who are not yet free to help them with that aspiration.
MR. PANDO: And talking about dictatorships, a couple years ago former Secretary of State Colin Powell acknowledged that Washington's support of South American dictators like Augusto Pinochet was not its finest moment, its finest hour. When will be the best moment arrive for the White House to declassify all the details of that support? Some people suspect that there may have been lots of money involved.
SECRETARY RICE: Well, the United States is an open society. And I'm an academic and I can tell you that academics can get access to all kinds of things and these stories will be told.
We obviously have important laws about what is declassified when, but let me speak to the larger point. The fact is that we have been through some difficult times with Latin America. We have been through times when the United States was not at its finest. There is no doubt about that. But we are not in the early 20th century or the mid-20th century now. We are in the 21st century. And the United States seeks partners like Chile who are democratic, who are committed to the well being of their people, who are committed to free trade and free economies. And we can see a hemisphere in which, whatever the past, the future is one in which democracy and prosperity and peace between neighbors is simply the course that is before us.
MR. PANDO: The OAS has still not elected a Secretary General. Does the tie in the first election, with 17 countries supporting Mexican Derbez, 17 behind Chilean Insulza, indicating -- indicative of a divided continent between those who align themselves with Washington and those who belong to the southern left? Never has Washington candidate been defeated. Do you think you're going to have -- do you still support Derbez?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I see the situation a little differently, which is that we are very fortunate that we have outstanding candidates who want to be Secretary General of OAS. It means that the organization is valued and that it is vibrant. Yes, we've supported and do support Minister Derbez. The fact of the matter is we have also said that Minister Insulza is someone with whom we've worked and we would be very pleased if he is the Secretary General of the OAS.
And it is sometimes talked about in terms of ideology or geography. I don't think that is the way to think about this hemisphere. The United States can have good relations with any state in the region that is democratically elected and governs democratically, no matter where they come from in the political spectrum. Look at our relationship with Chile. This is a government that is center-left. We have outstanding relations with Chile. And I think that you will find that around the hemisphere.
This is an issue of core values and countries that share the core values of democracy, and open and free trade, and open and free economies, and concern for people that shows up through accountability and transparency and concern for people's education and well-being, and also a fight against corruption -- any of those countries are going to find a steadfast friend in the United States.
MR. PANDO: How do you see the crisis in Ecuador and what can the American community help in this?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, there are some quite fragile situations in the region and Ecuador is one of those. We have been working with the current Ecuadorian authorities. Our Ambassador has. We have been talking with our colleagues -- other ambassadors and others in the region. I think all of us want to see the Ecuadorian people on a path for a constitutional answer to the crisis that they have had.
We are in close consultation with the OAS mission, which is fact-finding and helping. There has also been a mission from the southern cone that has gone. These are all very good things and I know that there will be others who go. We all have a common interest in helping Ecuador out of this crisis.
MR. PANDO: An America united and in cooperation from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego, that was President Bush's promise, which was, in fact, being put on hold. According to many Washington critics, the war against terrorism in the region seems to be leaving Latin America reduced to Plan Colombia and a bunch of free trade agreements. What is the U.S. offering to Latin America now and what it is asking in return?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, we have had a very active policy with Latin America and we shouldn't say, well, just free trade agreements because, after all, what do free trade agreements mean? They mean economic well being and economic development and the chance for growth so that governments can better address the needs of their people. We have had an active diplomacy through the Organization of American States and Summit of Americas and through the work that we have done at Monterrey. We have a very active policy here in Latin America.
But it is not so much what does the United States ask from Latin America or Latin America from the United States. It's what can we do together. And what we can do together is advance the cause of human freedom, advance the cause of economic growth and advance from that the well-being of people who are rightfully impatient to see that their democracies make a difference in their lives.
We can also advance peace and security and give a stable environment to those who are still seeking democracy. We are doing that together in Haiti, for instance, and that is a very important goal. And we can be supportive as a hemisphere that has had our own experiences with the absence of freedom; we can be supportive of those who are still seeking that freedom.
I would note that it is probably a little-remembered fact, but the deciding vote for Resolution 1559 of the United Nations Security Council -- that's the resolution that told Syrian forces to withdraw from Lebanon -- that vote was cast by Chile in the UN Security Council back in September of 2004. Who would have thought how important that resolution would be to now the Syrians leaving after 30 years of occupation of Lebanon?
So it just shows that we can use who we are and our commitment to democracy to make life much better for others.
MR. PANDO: Thank you very much. Good day.
SECRETARY RICE: Thank you.
Released on April 29, 2005