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Robert B. Zoellick With Guatemalan President

Press Availability With Guatemalan President Oscar Berger

Robert B. Zoellick, Deputy Secretary of State
Presidential Palace
Guatemala City, Guatemala
October 3, 2005

PRESIDENT BERGER: [translation] Good morning to you all. Good morning, Deputy Secretary Zoellick. This is a very important day we are celebrating today. We have the visit of Deputy Secretary Zoellick and a very important delegation he has brought with him today. We just had a session in which very specific points were addressed. We have talked about efforts for Guatemala to be able to accede to the Millennium Challenge Account. Guatemala, as you know, has been considered a middle-income country, but it is unfortunately a country where major inequalities exist. So we have areas where we have great riches, but others where we have great poverty, and so the goal is that it would be important to qualify for this program and to be able to garner some of those advantages for Guatemala.

We also discussed the issue of our interest in being able to get similar treatment for our undocumented workers -- some of our immigrants -- so that they will have treatment similar to that received by other countries. These are people who are living in the United States, and Deputy Secretary Zoellick is aware of this situation, as is President Bush, and so we must seek to make some headway on policy to address this issue.

We also discussed security issues and this is a very important issue for us, of course. We talked about the possibility of expanding the Maya Jaguar plan, a plan that has reached so much success. We have been extremely successful in the achievements of that plan, the seizures that have been made. We also discussed legislation that we now have before our Congress in order to achieve more efficient law enforcement capabilities. We also talked about the efforts of reorganizing and modernizing our armed forces and the personnel that we have been able to contribute to peacekeeping operations around the world, and we talked about possibly expanding economic resources that would assist us in those efforts. It is obvious that there is a large amount of goodwill in this area, and we have a great opportunity because of the integration that our armed forces have been able to learn and expand on their experience with these programs. We commented on the success of other countries like El Salvador, as well as our own, where this has really been a win-win situation.

Well, CAFTA finally is the other very important subject we discussed, and we are very much in agreement that CAFTA is an opportunity for everyone. As an instrument, it is something that cannot wait. We need to make CAFTA's promise a situation of results in reality. Resources exist in order to assist in areas such as labor, the environment, businesses, especially in the micro and small-business areas. The Free Trade Agreement is already working to help us in the export of products such as chili peppers, tomatoes, pork and poultry. These things already exist, and we have working teams that are going to continue in these areas. Deputy Secretary Zoellick also indicated that there are major programs that we can take advantage of in order to help our people be more competitive to better take advantage of the promises of CAFTA. And we also indicated to Mr. Zoellick that Guatemala is a very important ally of the United States. We have received assistance from the U.S. but it cannot compare to the assistance received by other ally countries. We have received the least assistance per capita, and Deputy Secretary Zoellick took note of all of these issues, and with regard to this last issue we hope in a short term we will have some proposal with regard to that situation. In closing, I would just like to repeat what a pleasure it is to have this delegation here with us today, and if you have any questions, you can ask them in Spanish through the interpreter if you like.

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: Well, first I would like to say how much I appreciate that the President and so many members of his Cabinet could be available to meet with me. One reason I wanted to come to Guatemala was to thank the President and his colleagues for our close work together in passing CAFTA in the United States and also working out its passage here in Guatemala.

And I also had an opportunity, as I arrived, to thank some of the Guatemalan soldiers who have just returned from their peacekeeping mission in Haiti. It is a wonderful example in which Guatemala can help their neighbors in the hemisphere. And I think it represents the professional and the modernized and changing forces in Guatemala who are also helping in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and looking for other possible ways to help peacekeeping operations.

With the President and his colleagues I wanted to try to start a deeper dialogue about how we could use CAFTA as a tool for development to deal with issues in economic and social change in Guatemala, deeper integration in Central America and, of course, to further support democracy.

We hope that CAFTA can become the cornerstone of a larger structure, and this will involve foreign investment. For example, my colleague, the Secretary of Commerce, will be arriving, I believe, this month to talk with his business delegation about investment opportunities. It involves the integration of aid and trade programs, some of which the President mentioned. It involves working on other issues that will be important for the business environment in Guatemala, including the security issues the President mentioned.

So part of my goal here was to listen and to learn from Guatemalan colleagues to see how we can work together to build the structure. Following this meeting I hope to meet members of Congress because I know they are critical in moving this agenda forward. We are going to meet with some human rights and NGO organizations because I want to hear what they have to say about our work together in Guatemala. I am going to visit a factory and show some of the promise that we can build with CAFTA. This is a plant that employs some 14,000 Guatemalans already. It imports about $180 million dollars a year of denim and other materials from the United States and then creates and then sells apparel to the United States. And together this helps the United States and Guatemala to compete with others, for example China. As you can see, I view this visit, not only as a celebration of CAFTA, but it is a start of something that I hope will be much more important, it will be important to deal with issues of poverty, growth and development in Guatemala. And, finally I will just say that President Bush has great respect for the President and we enjoy working with the colleagues in his Government. He has assembled a fantastic team so we consider this a strong partnership, and we want to work together on CAFTA and other issues.

FRANCISCO FION, GUATEVISION: [translation] Mr. Zoellick, CAFTA brings with it demands for revised economic and labor requirements, and these things have a pace of their own with regard to achieving their enforcement. How has that pace been seen, so far? Is it good, is it not good enough, and how would noncompliance affect trade relations between our two countries?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: Well, first, we have seen that Guatemala and its partners in Central America seem very committed to try to improve working conditions, to create jobs, and to improve the livelihood of the people of their country.

The best way you can help people's labor conditions is to help them get a job. This is a good example of the type of cooperative agenda that we want to build with Guatemala and the other countries of Central America. Because when our Congress passed the Central American Free Trade Agreement, it also allocated $40 million a year to work on labor and environmental conditions. One of the topics that I raised with the President is how we could work together to use those funds to improve conditions here in terms of labor standards and environmental conditions, enforcement of their labor laws, so as to make this a venture where all the people of Guatemala can benefit from it and the U.S. can show how we can develop a partnership for development. As you see, that fund is separate from the approximately $40 million a year that Guatemala gets now in U.S. aid and the possibility of the Millennium Challenge Account support that the President also mentioned. From our vantage point, Guatemala made an historic Peace Accord. But we recognize there is work ahead in terms of developing democracy, fighting corruption, improving labor conditions and empowering the powerless. This won't happen overnight. But the President and his team have made some important progress. Now we have to make sure the pieces fit together -- the trade, aid, the investment, the building of the rule of law and better respect for human rights and security. They all come together to make Guatemala a better place to work and to live.

JOEL BRINKLEY, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Mr. President, the United States and the OAS both asked Guatemala, among other countries, to help resolve the political crisis in Nicaragua. What do you think about what is going on there, and what can Guatemala do to help resolve Nicaragua's political problem?

PRESIDENT BERGER: [translation] We are extremely concerned with regard to the situation in Nicaragua. Several times, as you are aware, the presidents of Central America have traveled to Managua in order to offer and demonstrate their support for the President of Nicaragua. The situation there today is of a democracy under siege. I would once again call on the OAS to do its very best in order to avoid a coup d'etat from taking place in Nicaragua, and as President Bolaños has indicated himself, to avoid the disappearance of democracy in Nicaragua as such. As you are aware there are two sides currently which are actually pressuring the Executive Branch in its operation. There is no democracy possible without full independence of each of the branches of government, and right now the various branches of government are affected. We see that in the judicial system, we see that in the legislature as well. Therefore, I condemn what is happening, and I call on the international community to do its utmost to prevent this situation from worsening.

Thank you very much, members of the press; it has been a pleasure talking to you. Thank you.


Released on October 4, 2005


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