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Remarks With El Salvadoran President Antonio Saca

Remarks With El Salvadoran President Antonio Saca

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Casa Presidencial
San Salvador, El Salvador
April 29, 2005

PRESIDENT SACA: (Via interpreter) Thank you very much for being here and for Ms. Condoleezza Rice for the fact that the administration of President Bush has had a very special treatment to El Salvador, including El Salvador in this tour through Latin America. We want to highlight the excellent moment that the relationship between our two governments are going through. Our condition as friends and allies is ratified with this new direct approach.

During our meeting that we held just a few minutes ago with the Secretary of State we have dealt with issues that have to do with hemispheric, regional and country security. We talked about the OAS and what is going to happen next Monday. We have also talked about the objectives that join us in the struggle against international terrorism. We have analyzed the phenomena of the gangs. We have also talked about the minutemen due to the concern and anxiety that it generates among the Hispanic leaders and (inaudible) we have also talked about the need to work together in order to achieve the passing of the free trade agreement, for it to become a reality, because this is very important. We need to have a Central America with a free trade agreement that would advance enormously in the economic issues.

We have also talked about the importance of immigration reform to benefit those that don't have documents at this moment. And I have also (inaudible) the Secretary of State that we believe in the principles made public by President Bush that will allow it to expand and to make the benefits of Salvadorans that reside in the United States permanent in accordance with the immigration plans with -- or the ideas of the President on this issue.

I also want to thank the Secretary of State what President Bush expressed yesterday regarding the support that it is going to provide for the prompt ratification of the free trade agreement of the United States with Central America. We are certain that this region is going to be prosperous, that this region will have better possibilities with a free trade agreement because that will change the possibility of our people for employment and the translation of direct investment in this region, that is a stable region, a democratic region. So we have had a very interesting conversation, a conversation (inaudible) Secretary of State.

SECRETARY RICE: Thank you (inaudible) Mr. President. I want to thank you and the Foreign Minister for a really just wonderful reception here in El Salvador, one of our strongest allies of the hemisphere, an ally that we admire as a strong fighter in the global war on terrorism and a country that, having known terrorism itself, is willing to stand up and fight it. We thank you very much for that.

We applaud your commitment to democracy, to free markets, to free trade, your commitment to a government that is accountable and that is transparent and that clearly governs wisely, and we thank you for that.

I had an opportunity earlier to thank your soldiers and their families for their extraordinary service in Iraq. Very often, those who have once in their history, or times in their history, been denied freedom are the ones most willing to help others to find freedom. And the contributions of El Salvador, including the loss of the life of a Salvadoran soldier, are greatly appreciated by the American people and by the Iraqi people because we have to stand together in the support of those who are still seeking freedom and liberty.

The President and I did talk about the importance of free trade in the hemisphere and especially about the opportunity that we now have before us to pass the CAFTA-DR free trade agreement. And, Mr. President, I want you to know that President Bush has this right on his desk, at the top of his agenda, that he looks forward to working with you and with other Central American presidents to make certain that we pass this important agreement that would made such a difference to the economic well-being of this region, to the political stability of this region, and therefore to the economic well-being and the safety and security of the United States of America. And so we look forward to working with you on that as well.

We covered a number of other issues of concern to the region and concerns that democracy continue to be promoted in the region. I want to thank Foreign Minister Lainez for his role today in bringing about the compromise that we were able to achieve that I believe, and those of us who were there believe, will give the OAS now a strong way to go forward, united as a hemisphere to promote the ideas of freedom and democracy and to make certain that those who are elected continue to govern democratically.

So, Mr. President, thank you very much for the wonderful reception here, for the good discussion we've had, and I very much look forward to our continuing discussion over what I'm certain will be a very good dinner. Thank you.

QUESTION: (Via interpreter) Good evening, Mr. President and Mrs. Secretary of State. We would like to know what was the contribution of the United States of America in the final consensus of Latin America regarding the ministry or the Secretary General of the OAS and how the government of President Bush sees the possibility of ratifying the free trade agreement with Central America at the Congress.

SECRETARY RICE: Well, the United States was with several other countries seeking a way forward for consensus so that we have an organization that after the selection of -- an election of a Secretary General would be as strong as possible and would unify the continent in the common goals that we share. And we do have a lot of challenges in -- on this continent-- we have a lot of challenges to democracy, we have a lot of challenges to the well-being of our citizens, but we also have a lot of wonderful opportunities and we have to be fully ready and able to explore those opportunities and to fulfill them. And so along with El Salvador and with Colombia and with Mexico, with Canada, with Paraguay and through consultation with others, we were able to come to a consensus around Mr. Insulza, who I think impressed everyone with his strong commitment. After all, he is the former foreign minister and a current minister in the Chilean Government, one of the strongest democracies in the Western Hemisphere. But we were all very impressed with the commitment that he made to democracy and to the Democratic Charter of the OAS.

On the free trade agreement, we will work very, very hard to pass CAFTA because we believe that it is very good for the region, for Central America, but it's also good for the United States because when we can trade freely with good and hardworking people of another part of the world, or especially in our hemisphere, it's very good for the United States and very good for our hemisphere.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, continuing the theme of free trade, throughout your tour you have emphasized the importance of advancing the free trade accords and you have also exhorted the Latin American governments to make hard choices for the (inaudible) of their economies. But the United States also has to make hard choices, particularly in the agricultural sector, in order for the Latin American governments to receive something in these accords. What specifically have you in your tour been able to say to the Latin American governments that the United States can offer in terms of being more flexible on the agricultural sector?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I think that we have concluded a number of free trade agreements which show that the United States is capable of concluding trade agreements, including agreements that deal with various agricultural products and agricultural sectors. We have stood clearly for the view that when there is a universal solution or an international solution, probably through the WTO, to agricultural subsidies, then the United States stands ready to get rid of those subsidies. It's not that we stand for subsidies, it's that we do not intend to disadvantage American farmers vis-à-vis other farmers, particularly those who are participating in the WTO. So I think we've been very clear on this and we look forward to the next round of the WTO, which is the Doha round, in which hopefully we'll really get a handle on this problem of agricultural subsidies.

But it has not prevented us from signing a number of free trade agreements with Chile, with Australia, with countries in the Middle East. It has not prevented the conclusion of a very, very good agreement with the Central American countries.

QUESTION: (Via interpreter)Good evening. One of the main concerns in El Salvador for the authorities is the theme of the gangs and the (inaudible) think that many of them have been deported, especially those that are being condemned in the United States and are being deported now. Is there a possibility for the gang members to finish their sentence in the United States or to have their records sent to El Salvador when they're deported? And we also want to know what possibilities there are to stabilize this migration status for Salvadorans that are under the TPS when it ends next year.

PRESIDENT SACA: (Via interpreter) Well, I would like to tell you that we were talking with Dr. Rice about the gangs. This is a topic of concern for the United States and El Salvador. We considered that many of these gang members that are criminals have to be judged in the United States. Otherwise, if they're deported, we should have all the information about them so that the authorities of our country can try them and surveil them in some way because they have not committed a crime in El Salvador. This is a very concerning issue and it's going to be in the agenda of discussion and our authorities have been permanently talking with the United States to find a solution to this problem of some deportations that might come ahead in the future.

SECRETARY RICE: We have, I think, very good cooperation on this issue, which is of concern to both the United States and to El Salvador. After all, these are -- in many ways these issues of crimes are cross-border issues. and so we are working very hard. We have a program of information sharing. We are looking to see what more we can do. And so this is an issue that we will continue to work on. It's obviously something that we both have a great interest in resolving.

As to immigration, as the President said, President Bush has put forward some principles and the idea of a temporary worker program to begin to make more rational American immigration policy. President Bush is, after all, the former Governor of Texas. He knows well the immigration issue, he has said that our immigration laws needs to be humane, our immigration laws need to understand the economic reality that we need to be able to match willing workers with willing employers. He has also said that American laws have to be respected, and so those who have broken the law cannot be rewarded for having done so and he does not favor amnesty. But we should have a program that recognizes both the human side of this and the economic realities. And the President has put those ideas forward and we're working with members of Congress and we would like very much to get immigration reform.

QUESTION: I think part of the last questioner's question was not answered. I think she asked about temporary --

SECRETARY RICE: Oh, TPS. TPS is not an issue at this particular point in time. I think it doesn't expire for some time, and so we will examine it at the time that TPS is an issue.

QUESTION: All right. I'll change course then. Madame Secretary, do you think that the commitment of Minister Insulza to the Democratic Charter picks up added significance among the developments in Venezuela?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I think that the commitment of Minister Insulza to the Democratic Charter is a deeply felt one on his part. After all, he's lived with the Democratic Charter in Chile, one of the strongest democracies in the hemisphere.

And any country in this region, including Venezuela, is subject to the Democratic Charter and subject to responsibility to live up to it, subject to responsibility to govern democratically after having been elected and subject to being held accountable by the members of the OAS if they are not governing democratically.

I think we had some very good ideas put on the table about the possibility for some kind of mechanism to monitor democratic progress and what it is doing for people, as well as ways to strengthen institutions. The idea of hearing all voices in a society, including civil society, is very important. And what I look forward to is over the next five weeks or so developing those ideas as we approach the Fort Lauderdale OAS ministerial because there were some very good ideas that came out of the meeting today.

But the Democratic Charter is the essence of what the OAS really should be because this is a region that is now leading the march for democracy. This is a region that had a very dark past in terms of oppression, has found a way out of that, but it does have fragile democracies and those fragile democracies need to be protected.

QUESTION: (Via interpreter) Good evening, Dr. Rice. We want to know what is the objective of implementing military aid to the country and if it's going to be in weaponry or money, and what is the Government of the United States doing to avoid the minutemen at the borders?

SECRETARY RICE: On military assistance, we do have a program with El Salvador, it's a longstanding program, I think it works very well. We also are looking to see what we can do for certain coalition partners who have helped in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, and we have asked the Congress to fund some money for that kind of program through the supplemental, that process is underway in our Congress. But we will be discussing how we can better help the Salvadoran military, particularly given its recent willingness to be helpful to the coalition in Iraq and Afghanistan.

As to the minutemen, it has been very clear in U.S. policy that we believe that border matters are handled by authorities of the United States government, and that that is the role of the American border patrol. We have more secure borders, I think now, than we have had in the past. But the real answer to the concerns is going to be eventually to get an immigration policy that makes sense for our country, that makes sense in terms of economic realities, but still respects our laws.



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