Mexican Foreign Relations Secretary
Remarks with Mexican Foreign Relations Secretary Patricia Espinosa
Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Casa Velas Hotel
Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
October 23, 2008
MODERATOR: (Via interpreter) This is (inaudible) Minister of Foreign Affairs and Her Excellency Secretary of State of the United States of America, Dr. Condoleezza Rice. We will now proceed to the signing of the agreement between the Government of the United Mexican States and the Government of the United States of America in regards to the cooperation and the management of emergencies in cases of natural disasters and accidents.
On behalf of the United Mexican States, we have Ambassador Patricia Espinosa Cantellano, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mexico. And on behalf of the United States, her Excellency, Dr. Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of State. This agreement has a goal of contributing to improving the attention of emergencies in cases of disasters, and natural cases and accidents of the United Mexican States with the United States of America. Likewise, through this instrument, we’ll establish a working group for which it will issue the recommendations in terms of a cooperation to establish plans and programs in the area of emergencies in both countries, also being able to issue recommendations of activities of cooperation among other third-party countries at their request. (Applause.)
We shall now give the floor to Ambassador
Patricia Espinosa Cantellano, Minister of Foreign Affairs,
SECRETARY ESPINOSA: (Via interpreter) Good afternoon, to everyone and friends from the press. The visit to Puerto Vallarta of the Secretary of State Dr. Condoleezza Rice is a matter of great satisfaction for all of us here in Mexico. We have had a very fruitful working session. We have shared a broad range of bilateral issues where we have acknowledged, in particular, the relevance of achieving an (inaudible) to our cooperation.
Also, we have reinforced the relevance of the dialogue in regards to global and regional issues. This encounter has enabled us to analyze our economic links in the bilateral sphere and also within the regional arena. We highlighted some actions that we have to launch in order to cover the area of competitiveness in the region of North America. And we also talked about the complex condition through which the financial system is going through.
In regards to the bilateral issues, in particular, we have talked about different issues regarding the normalization of our global region We are fully convinced of the fact that our common border must be an example of understanding and sustainable development in a shared basis.
In particular, we have talked about the relevance of continuing the implementation of the border infrastructure; likewise, this encounter allowed us to acknowledge the level of excellency that is present in the bilateral cooperation in fighting organized crime. The Merida plan is a sample of the maturity that we have reached in our cooperation in regards to our security and also the advancement of our shared responsibility and the strengthening of our institutions.
In regards to this particular issue, we would like to relate to you that we are foreseen to hold a first meeting of the high-level bilateral group in regards to the Merida plan by the end of November of this year in Washington, D.C. In the framework of this encounter, as you have witnessed, we have subscribed a bilateral agreement in regards to cooperation in the management of emergencies in cases of natural disasters and accidents that establishes guidelines of coordination and mutual support before these type of phenomenon.
In regards to the trilateral cooperation, we have talked about the relevance of the commitments embraced throughout the summit of leaders of North America that took place in New Orleans last April. As all of you know, Mexico will be the venue of the next summit that will take place during the second semester of the year of 2009. We also covered regional and global issues. We also covered the strengthening of the bilateral dialogue in the framework of the OAS, the United Nations organization, and the Summit of the Americas, and also the role that Mexico plays as a pro tempore secretary of the Rio Group.
We also talked about the recent election of Mexico as a non-permanent member of the Security Council of the United Nations organization for the term 2009-2010, where Mexico will embrace its role with full responsibility and where we have also agreed to keep an open and permanent dialogue in regards to the issues that are touched upon in the Security Council.
I would like to conclude this brief introduction by pointing out the acknowledgement that Mexican Government makes to the Secretary of State Dr. Condoleezza Rice for her efforts in strengthening our bilateral relations, for having come over to visit us here today, here to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, for us to have the privilege of an official visit on her behalf, and also for her commitment on behalf of the well-being of our communities and the strengthening of our relations.
I would like to personally express my testimonial of my gratitude for the friendship that Secretary Rice has distinguished me that, with no doubt, has assisted us to have a very fruitful relationship.
Madame Secretary. Thank you very much.
SECRETARY RICE: Well, thank you very much. I really have had a wonderful visit with you in this (inaudible) city. The beauty and grace of Puerto Vallarta is, of course, legendary. And it’s been good to see just a small part of the city and I look forward to returning when I have a chance to enjoy everything that it has to offer I want to thank you because this trip was your idea. It was the idea that we would gather in a more relaxed environment with a chance to spend, really, a good deal of time going in depth with intensity through the various issues on our bilateral agenda, on the regional agenda and on the global agenda.
And it would be a very good idea because I think these discussions have been productive and intense and will serve well as we go through the transition to make sure that the U.S.-Mexican relationship remains on the firm footing that President Calderon and President Bush and, before him, President Bush and President Fox have been able to develop.
We have indeed just signed an agreement that will improve our already close cooperation with Mexico on an issue that unfortunately greatly influences all. This is the management of responses of natural disasters and accidents, and I’m very pleased with this agreement. And in doing so, we recognize the historically close cooperation across our shared border. But of course, this is a broader agreement because it will help us to include natural disasters and accidents that might occur anywhere within our (inaudible).
In addition to this agreement, of course, as Patricia has said, we’ve had fruitful conversations on a broad range of issues of mutual interest. It’s underscored the importance of this relationship, the closeness of it, the depth of it. In particular, we talked in depth about the historic and important Merida Initiative. They’ve already achieved an outstanding level of cooperation in our efforts to fight drug trafficking and organized crime. But this initiative takes our efforts to a new level. And I assured Patricia and we have talked about this among various officials that the United States considers this an important initiative and its implementation to be an urgent (inaudible). We are making a great deal of progress in getting to the point that we can disburse the funding for the initiative because this is an initiative that will, of course, help in the security of Mexico. It will also help in the security of the United States. And I look forward to hosting the high-level consultative group of all the relevant secretaries and ministers who will have responsibility for this in Washington sometime next month.
On the economic front, we talked about the close and dynamic ties that we have with NAFTA. This agreement continues to be a way to share prosperity and development, and it is important (inaudible) that regard recently launched (inaudible) prosperity initiative which will meet at the ministerial level in December (inaudible), is another step in the full implementation and we may fully take advantage of the agreements that we’ve signed. We, of course, had the discussion of the complex and difficult circumstances in the global financial system at this time and the effects on the global economy of the importance of affirming the need for changing for the importance of (inaudible), but also the importance of (inaudible) the fundamentals of the need for open markets, for free trade, for competitive economies. And I know that President Bush looks forward to hosting the heads of state, including President Calderon, to look at the critical issues that are facing the global financial system.
Finally, I want to say how really pleased we are and (inaudible) to Mexico on the election to the Security Council. Mexico is going to serve as a state that is a strong democracy that has an important regional and global role to play. Mexico is going to be a responsible member of the Security Council which, at this time, when it is going to make some challenging issues over the next few years, will need the wisdom and the strength of a country like Mexico in helping it to do its work.
And so again, Patricia, thank you for this excellent visit that we’ve had, and I look forward to seeing you soon again in Washington for – I think there will be a couple of other encounters before we are (inaudible).
MODERATOR: (Via interpreter) We go now to the Q&A phase.
QUESTION: Thank you, Miss Condoleezza Rice. First of all, I wanted to ask you about – was your (inaudible)?
SECRETARY RICE: Sorry?
SECRETARY RICE: Thank you very much. First of all, on Merida, as I said, this has been – this is an urgent matter. There is movement forward. The agreement – letters of agreement that need to be signed are being worked through and worked through with urgency and dispatch. It is true that the Congress approved the spending profile, spending plan that the United States has put together, and we’re working very closely with Mexico to get the letters of agreement done because we all want the disbursements to begin. And we expect that to happen really quite soon.
As to the unfortunate incident in Monterrey concerning our Consulate, first of all, we have had excellent cooperation with the Mexican Government at both the local and at the national level. We understand that it is sometimes a challenging security environment in a number of cities We are accustomed, of course – the United States of America – to working in challenging security environments. We will continue our work. We will, of course, do everything that we can to protect our people. But we are here in places like our Consulate in Monterrey to further our relationship, to press forward, to be out with the Mexican people, to provide services, and we’re going to continue to do that. The United States of America is going to continue to do that. And we’ve just had excellent cooperation with the Mexican Government on this matter.
MODERATOR: The gentleman from AP.
MR. MCCORMACK: Nestor.
QUESTION: Thank you. My name is Nestor Ikeda, an Associated Press reporter for Latin America. I have a question on Bolivia. And by U.S. Government request, the USTR has started a procedure to separate Bolivia from the Andean Trade Preferences Act (inaudible). And the motive for these, according to the Administration, is the country’s lack of cooperation in the drug fight. So my question is, what do you think Bolivia needs to do in order not to be separated from (inaudible)?
SECRETARY RICE: Thank you. Well, first of all, let me just say that if we are – we think it’s unfortunate that we have to separate Bolivia from the Andean Trade Preferences because we think that they benefit the Bolivian people, and that is what we have always wanted to do, is to be good friends to benefit the Bolivian people particularly. Of course, that’s why we have such extensive aid programs to Bolivia.
I have to tell you that several times, as the certifications have come up during my time as Secretary, we have seen the increasing lack of cooperation from Bolivia. This wasn’t the first time. I would say at least the last two times that Bolivia was up for certification, it was clear that we weren’t getting the kind of cooperation that we needed. We told the Bolivian Government that we weren’t getting the cooperation. We talked about actions that could be taken to show that cooperation; and unfortunately, those actions were not taken, and now we will have to suspend Bolivia’s participation.
Now, I want to be very clear that we were and remain prepared to work – were prepared and remain prepared to work with the Bolivian Government. The governments of Latin America come from a wide range along the ideological spectrum, and President Bush has made very clear that there is no ideological test for cooperation and friendship with the United States. We have excellent relations with governments from the left, we have excellent relations with governments from the right, we have excellent relations with the center. Whether you’re talking about Brazil or Chile or Uruguay, or you’re talking about Colombia or – we have a broad range. There is no ideological test.
But when the American taxpayers’ dollars are at stake, we have to be sure that we are indeed carrying out these programs in the way that they were intended. And in this case, I do not feel that I could recommend to the President certification under the circumstances. Again, these circumstances have been building for at least more than a year as we have been telling the Bolivians that this has been building for a while.
MODERATOR: Victor (inaudible).
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, first of all, both the Mexican and Bolivian foreign ministries (inaudible). The U.S. is the center of (inaudible) information to Mexico, it has to – it’s positive (inaudible). What is your take on that? The second question: The – after eight years in Washington, first as National Security Advisor and then as Secretary of State, what is your final (inaudible)? What do you hope? How has that changed according to the Roadmap, if (inaudible) Roadmap?
(Via interpreter) With regards to the arrival of the United States companies and the Merida Initiative, what relationship will the Mexican Government have with the private contractors from the United States? And I would like to ask you, in particular, will we allow armed personnel to be here in Mexico? Thank you.
SECRETARY RICE: Well, (inaudible) on the matter of migration and (inaudible) policies. The problem – we all have problems with migration. We and Mexico have discussed this issue. In fact, the President has been a major proponent of comprehensive immigration reform in the United States. (Inaudible) on the one hand, uphold our laws, and on the other hand, recognize the reality of people who are in the United States and who need to have dignity and need to be recognized for the contributions that they’ve made. I sincerely hope that comprehensive immigration reform will come in the United States in the next administration. It really needs to.
But as to the Cuban matter, I think that there, the problem with migration is Cuba. It’s the problem of the way Cuba is ruled. It is the problem of people who have a real fear of political persecution. It is a place that depravation and fear have been what Cuba gives to its people for now, decades and decades. And that that’s the problem. And I – by all means, I think that Mexico and Cuba having a migration accord – the United States has a migration accord with Cuba -- it’s important. But let’s be clear on what the real problem of migration is with Cuba, that’s the problem.
Now as to Mexico, this is an extraordinary country, and it’s made extraordinary leaps over the last several years, even just (inaudible) the eight years that President Bush has been in office. If I look back, it’s had successful elections in which there have been changes in party and special elections at the national level, at the local level, it is making great progress in really solidifying and consolidating its democracy. It is a real voice in the region as a diplomatic power in the region, and here, I really want to congratulate Patricia and her team. I think that this is even been more of the case over the last couple of years, Mexico’s role in the region. And now, Mexico will be on the Security Council and play a global role.
We couldn’t have a better friend than Mexico. We couldn’t share a better continent than the Western Hemisphere, which is a place of innovation and a place of – where I think we should (inaudible) where we really can be competitive with the rest of the world. And we’ve got a lot of work to do, of course. I know the challenges that Mexico faces, particularly in terms of security, and we fully want to be supportive of the hard work that President Calderon is asking his government and the Mexican people to do – not to be held in fear by the – by people who are violent criminals who would try to promote that fear. And so there’s no relationship that I am more proud of than the relationship with Mexico.
SECRETARY ESPINOSA: (Via interpreter) In relation to the Merida Initiative, I would like to mention, as it has been mentioned by Dr. Rice, we are currently working one step – the North American government (inaudible) the funding in order to implement that part of the initiative, because I would like to remind you that the Merida Initiative is not limited only to this transfer of funds, but that it is a framework of cooperation which is, by far, broader. I would like to highlight the fact that that makes reference, for example, to the exchange of information, the (inaudible) among agencies.
And both sides of the border has already had a visible and positive effect in the regards to the results that we have obtained throughout these past months. For example, recalling what has happened since December of 2006 up to this date, in total, between the weapons seized and weapons that have been obtained through the program by computers exchanging them for weapons, we’re talking about almost 55,000. This means that we are achieving the fact of withdrawing from the streets these instruments of violence that the criminal organizations have had in their hands. So I would like to mention, in this respect, that this cooperation will keep on strengthening itself.
In regards to the area of the transfer of funds, as Madame – as Dr. Rice has mentioned, we are considering all the specific issues that will allow us to implement this transfer of funds. And we have also agreed that at the bi-national level, we will establish a follow-up group for Merida Initiative that will work jointly. I would like to emphasize that at all times, it has to do with a bi-national initiative. It’s an initiative that will go hand-in-hand in this partnership. In no way will there be any North American agents armed in our country that will be performing activities that are limited by our law for the Mexican Government officials.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary. First of all, I’m Lachlan Carmichael with AFP. Madame Secretary, an update on negotiations in Iraq. Have you had any conversations with the negotiators? And finally, do you have a reaction to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad saying that Iran believes the U.S. is trying to pillage Iraq and other (inaudible) say they want to defend the interests of (inaudible).
SECRETARY RICE: I think the Iraqis can defend their interests without the Iranians, thank you very much. That hasn’t been the happiest relationship ever. And what the Iranians were doing was arming special groups in the south who were killing innocent Iraqis. So frankly, I don’t take those comments very seriously.
I have not spoken with negotiators today, Lach. I know that the work continues within the Iraqi political space to try and promote the agreement and that is (inaudible). They said this is a good agreement, an agreement that (inaudible) protects our forces, and would allow them to continue to support the Iraqis as they consolidate the gains that they have made on the security side. And it is totally respectable of Iraqi sovereignty. But I have not spoken with anybody, since I’ve been here really paying close attention to this very important relationship.
And if I could just close by thanking you again, Patricia, in saying that I think that the level of cooperation, the depth and breadth of this relationship that has grown is one of mutual respect and mutual cooperation is really extraordinary. Thank you for inviting me.