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Robert B. Zoellick Presser At OAS General Assembly

Press Availability at the General Assembly of the Organization of American States

Robert B. Zoellick, Deputy Secretary of State

Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
June 5, 2006

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: I believe you already have received a copy of my remarks to the plenary session, so I think it may be best just to start with some questions. Mr. Katz got up early this morning to catch me as I left the hotel and I didn't give him an answer. I promised I'd . . . . . .

QUESTION: Is the OAS membership matching your support for Guatemala in its bid for the seat on the UN Security Council in Venezuela's place?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: I spoke briefly with Minister Briz this morning and I know he's having discussions with his colleagues even as we meet. And I think there is a mixture of views.

The point that we have been emphasizing is as follows: Guatemala is a particularly interesting candidate because it was both a beneficiary of the UN programs but has also been a contributor to them. I think people are well aware of the UN's important history with the vital peace and reconciliation process bringing Guatemala to democracy.

But what people in this region may not know as well is that Guatemala has been a contributor for example to UN peacekeeping forces in Africa and indeed I believe lost 8 peacekeepers in a mission in Congo. It also turns out that Guatemala was one of the founding members of the UN but has never served on the UN Security Council. So not surprisingly when you face issues like we'll be facing such as Iran its good to have a country that has been at the heart of the UN system and who appreciates the role that it can play.

There are two other points that are particularly apt in this environment. At OAS meetings you see you have got some countries that are very, very small and some that are some of the largest in the world. So given that the "Perm Five" are larger players it's also good to have a representative of a smaller country.

And as I'm sure many of you see there is, I think, increased and very warranted attention to the role of the indigenous people in this hemisphere. And this has been a problem of Guatemala's past, but it's made great strides in trying to overcome it. So we hope that those reasons will be persuasive. I know that the European democracies are supportive of Guatemala; many of the East Asian countries are supportive of Guatemala so we hope that it'll find broad based support here.

One last point: an issue that is sometimes raised is the border dispute between Belize and Guatemala. Since Belize is a member of CARICOM this is an issue that some of the CARICOM members have pointed to. I would just note that Guyana another member of

CARICOM has some serious border problems with Venezuela. But the Guatemalan Minister mentioned he's been discussing this issue with his Belize counterpart, and he said he hoped that that would be reflected in Belize's statement to its CARICOM partners, but that you'll have to see.

QUESTION: Yes, Pablo Bachelet with the Miami Herald. You have pointed out that to Peru's complaints that Hugo Chavez has been interfering in its elections, but the other countries seem to be remarkably solid on this issue. I was just wondering have you discussed this with some of the bigger South America, Latin America countries that haven't made any pronouncements on this such as Brazil? I understand you have just had a bilateral meeting with Celso Amorim. Was this discussed? What kind of resolution do you see to this at this OAS meeting?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: Well actually what I've picked up not only here but from some of the reporting that your paper and others have done is actually there is a lot of frustration, and some of it quite outspoken, about Chavez's interference in their democratic processes. Of course, the best response is that of the Peruvian people, which decided to vote for President Garcia and not for Chavez's candidate.

But the Nicaraguans raised this issue yesterday. One of the Central American Ministers told me that they had met as a group, and they were going to object to the Venezuelan efforts to give subsidized financing not to the country, not to the people, but to specific political parties and leaders. And some of the countries you've mentioned, in private discussions, I have heard concerns. But it's really appropriate for them to make their own points publicly.

Brazil obviously has a very complex relationship with Venezuela. You've seen the discussion of this in the Brazilian press in public and in their Congress. And I would just say that if one learns to listen carefully to comments, it was worth noting that Minister Amorim made the point he did about non-interference in other countries affairs this morning.

So the way I read the picture is that Chavez has over played his hand, and people in the region are recognizing it. But look he still has a lot of oil money and a lot of influence. But I think it's a very encouraging sign as part of the general development in this region that Latin American countries are standing up for their own democracy.

And that was, as you saw, part of the theme of what I was trying to say today, which was the focus on democracy and development as partners and the role of the OAS and the IDB as multilateral institutions to support that because obviously if you're a big country like the United States sometimes people may look at your actions and then say why are you using your influence in that way so its better for it to come from a multilateral process in the region. Now sometimes multilateral processes, because they have to represent all their members, have to be a little bit more indirect and circuitous. But I work closely with both Secretary General Insulza and President Moreno, and we're very fortunate we in the hemisphere have such good leaders.

I wanted to get one of the local press . . . . . Are you from . . .?

QUESTION: Latin America

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: Okay, close enough. (laughter)

QUESTION: Jakarta Vasquez from New Link. The impression of Latin America is that the United States has no interest in Latin America, especially now that they are building a wall. What do you think about this? Especially when the General Assembly also has a topic saying that protecting human rights for those immigrants in the United States.

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: I'm going to take a little moment to answer this because I always hear this question and I want to try to respond fully. The United States and President Bush in particular have a great interest in this hemisphere.

Now, of course, people see that we're a global power, and we have to be engaged in issues all around the world and so we have to do a number of things at once. But as I suggested in my remarks yesterday and in the plenary today, I think having a global perspective is actually very important to bring to bear to the issues of this hemisphere. About a week ago I was at a World Economic Forum in Egypt so I'm looking at issues of the Middle East; on Friday I met some very significant leaders from Asia so I have an Asian perspective. My friend the Chinese Ambassador to the United States comes up to me this morning because he's here as an observer because I work so closely with China. So we want this hemisphere to be able to compete successfully in a global context.

And we believe that the hemisphere does have some advantages and disadvantages. And I emphasized yesterday, particularly in the closed session, that the focus on democracy in this hemisphere, blended with development, is a unique one. And in the developing world, I don't know of a similar combination like the OAS, which is now focusing on democratic development, and frankly the IDB is one of the most effective of the regional banks.

And you may say well that sounds good but what are you doing? I'm very proud that, first as U.S. Trade Representative and supporting as Deputy Secretary of State, we now have Free Trade Agreements with countries that represent two-thirds of the population of this hemisphere, although we still have to get some through the Congress. And it represents two-thirds of the economy of this hemisphere, not counting the U.S. economy. And what's not even reflected in those numbers is that with some smaller economies, including the Dominican Republic, we used the Free Trade Agreements as critical devices to help leaders that want to improve and reform their economies; that's what I talked about with President Fernandez yesterday. And we don't want to stop with those two-thirds; we still have the vision of free trade throughout the hemisphere.

But trade is not enough. But as I pointed out in my statement, under President Bush we've doubled aid to this hemisphere, and its about 1.6 billion dollars a year. And one of the most important developments is the fact that on many of these issues, our role and that of Canada is complemented by regional leaders, like the Mexican Mesoamerican Energy Initiative that was here a day or two ago, or the role of Brazil and Chile, or even now you're getting for the first time the Central American countries working together; they never did that before. And consider what I said in answer to the comments about the multilateral institutions: sometimes the United States used to stand off; well, frankly, we believe this is the best way to help the hemisphere come to terms with its own problems and us to support.

But you mentioned immigration in particular, but you've seen that President Bush has fought very hard for a comprehensive approach to dealing with this issue. Of course, every country has the right to secure its own borders. In the place where we are today, the Dominican Republic is an excellent example of that; probably have about a million Haitians here. But Dominicans also are immigrants to other places, including the United States. So that's why President Bush is trying to approach this, for our own interest, in a comprehensive fashion but also in partnership with others.

And let me give you a good example of why this is, I think, moving in a better direction. Mexico and the Central American countries have made clear to us that they realize they also have a responsibility to try to stop the flow of illegal immigrants. But we also recognize that the immigrants from Latin America have enriched our country and our culture, and it's going to be a two-way flow. You're seeing some Americans now starting to retire and invest in some of the area in Mexico and other areas in the hemisphere.

And that's all the reason why it's in our mutual interest to help development and democracy succeed in the hemisphere. If people don't have jobs, or even more important, if mothers and fathers don't see hope and opportunity for their children, then the lesson of life is they'll try to leave and go somewhere where they can find those things. So we need legal immigration, secure borders, ending dangers like these coyotes that charge people money and put their lives at danger. But we also want to have healthy broad-based development in the region as a whole.

MODERATOR: We have time for one more question, a quick question. Una pregunta.

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: I'll do two . . . . . Okay, well I'll do this gentleman and then I'll do one more real quick.

QUESTION: (translation) The issue of energy is one that affects all of us, and profoundly affects the Dominican Republic and is in fact one of the issues that is supposed to be addressed at this meeting of the OAS, and what we would like to know is whether the United States is willing to help the Dominican Republic address this issue and if so how would you do it?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: We're certainly willing to help the Dominican Republic and other countries in the region. And it's a point I made to the President yesterday and some other colleagues in the developing world because as much as the high oil prices put a strain on the U.S. economy, you can see for many developing economies it's a real burden. Its one reason why I was confused by the Venezuelan proposal, as a brother to others in Latin America, to cut oil production, which would increase prices even higher. But fortunately the OPEC countries, the Arab countries, said no, that's not what we should, Mr. Chavez.

But our strategy has to have different elements. First we need to increase non-oil and gas supplies. The Chilean Minister Foxley talked about a number of options; I referred to ethanol, where Brazil has played a leading role. And I discussed yesterday with President Fernandez the possibilities of developing the sugar cane industry here to an ethanol feed stock. But he said the investors weren't yet ready, that maybe we can help move that.

Second we need to expand the oil and gas supplies. So it's unfortunate that a region that is struggling with high energy prices has policies that preclude investment, technology and the development of more energy sources. Now I recognize there are political sensitivities with these issues, and that's one reason why, in the plenary, I suggested maybe the IDB could do a survey in a neutral fashion to look at what energy policies might be changed to increase supply.

We also need to work on the demand side through conservation and efficiency measures so to lower the overall demand for energy. And at least for developed countries or major economies, its also a good idea to have strategic petroleum reserves so as to deal with some of the spikes in the market, but that's more our responsibility or other bigger countries.

But finally it's important to look at regional market conditions and even sub-regional conditions within that global context. Because there may be inefficiencies and problems that can be overcome that would help increase efficiency and better supply. And that's why the Mexican initiative is important, and I know there have been some discussions between Mexico and the Dominican Republic as part of this initiative. This may involve oil for the Dominican refineries. In other places like Central America you could improve the electrical grid. So I'm very glad this is on the OAS agenda, and in the spirit in which I've outlined our approach, I hope we can connect the OAS and IDB together.

I think I'm now late to meet Minister Foxley so I'm sorry. . . . .

Moderator: Thank you. Gracias.

QUESTION: Real quickly . . . . .


QUESTION: I'm from a Mexican news agency. I wonder if you had a chance to talk with now President-elect Garcia from Peru, and what did you . . . . . (inaudible) take into consideration his dubious past when he was first elected as President of Peru?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: First we welcome the elections in Peru for the Peruvian people because they were transparent and they were tranquil, and that's a very good thing. And I made a particular compliment to President Toledo, whose inauguration I attended I might add, because if you recall when he came into office, Peru was really struggling after the aftermath of Fujimori and so he's really left an important legacy.

And we look forward to working with President-elect Garcia. His own policy statements as he ran for office suggested that he'd learned from some of the mistakes of the 80's and he was going to be on a different course now. You may know we negotiated a Free Trade Agreement with Peru and so we need to get that through our Congress and the Peruvian Congress, and my understanding is President-elect Garcia has backed that effort as has President Toledo so I hope we go to work on it.

One last point: what President-elect Garcia pointed to in the campaign is something that I pointed to my remarks today as well. And that is even though there has been macroeconomic success, higher growth rates in Peru in particular, lower interest rates, lower inflation, we have to expand this to a broader base of the public. As you open up political systems and people who've been shut out of the political process not just for years but for centuries now have a voice, they want to have a piece of the economic action too.

And my country is one that has tried to develop an economic system to broaden the participation so people from modest origins can build economic businesses and small businesses and create opportunities for their families. It's not that we do everything right, but that's our philosophy for economic empowerment. One of the things I talked about with President Moreno is we need more of an effort to help that in the Andean region and other parts of Latin America. Maybe it's your property rights, maybe your education, maybe small business development, but we have to broaden the participation, and that will strengthen the countries as well as their economies.

So I hope President Garcia will build on President Toledo's legacy, and we want to work with him to address these issues. Gracias.

Released on June 6, 2006


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