Rice comments on regional issues, including Brazil, Venezuela, Colombia
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Office of the Spokesman
March 13, 2008
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice
With William Waack of Globo TV
March 13, 2008
Salvador de Bahia, Brazil
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, in terms of the capacity of your government to influence positively events in this region, under President Bush, what's your assessment? This capacity has increased or decreased?
SECRETARY RICE: In many ways, our relations have never been better in many parts of the region. With Brazil, we've developed a very important and strategic relationship where we're cooperating together on projects in Africa, where obviously we have the biofuels initiative. Brazil is such an important actor not just in the region, but globally. And I spent a long time today talking to the Foreign Minister, for instance about the Middle East -- Brazil was a participant in Annapolis -- and even on issues that are not of high politics, but I think that touch the lives of people. The United States has doubled foreign assistance to Latin America and we are trying to do more about education and healthcare because ultimately, this President cares about social justice in this hemisphere; democracy, good economies and social justice.
QUESTION: I read your remarks at the OAS as recently as last October when you said this is a change in history. This President, for him, it's not important where you are, your ideological background, whether you are leftist or rightist. But after we heard from President Bush yesterday, Wednesday about Chavez, this position has changed.
SECRETARY RICE: No, this is – we are sitting here in Brazil. Brazil has a president from the left. He's one of America's closest friends and partners in the region and on the globe. I will go on to Chile, another country where the president is from the left and again, we have excellent relations with Chile.
And so this is not about where you are on the ideological spectrum. It's a question of: Do you respect democratic values and democratic institutions; are you working for the good of your people; are you working for the good of your neighbors. Those are the issues that are important to the United States, but it's certainly not a matter of whether you come from the left or from the right.
QUESTION: So definitely, you can work with Chavez?
SECRETARY RICE: This is a question of what policies the country pursues, what interests the country pursues. We've had good relations with Venezuela historically. We would like to have good relations with Venezuela again. The question is: Are countries and are leaders working for democracy and for free trade and for prosperity and for social justice for their people and are they respecting their neighbors.
QUESTION: Now the United States is involved directly in armed conflict in Colombia. How seriously do you take the allegations that the FARC would be defeated were it not for the help it's getting from neighbors like Ecuador and Venezuela?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, the United States is involved and has been, on a bipartisan basis going back to the Clinton Administration, in helping the people of Colombia deal with what was a terrible situation in which insecurity was a daily matter for the Colombian people; kidnapping and bombings along roads, roads that no Colombian would even go along, narco trafficking and terrorists who were killing innocent people, paramilitaries who were involved in all kinds of crimes.
And President Uribe, following on President Pastrana, has carried out what he has called a program of democratic security. And indeed, life in Colombia is much better. I was in Medellin just a couple of months ago and I'll tell you something about Medellin. This is a name that used to be synonymous with trouble and now, it is a city that is booming and where prosperity is coming again and where people are beginning to feel safe. That's the partnership that the United States has engaged in with Colombia.
Now to the degree that the FARC, a terrorist organization by U.S. designation, is operating someplace outside of Colombia's borders, Colombia's neighbors owe it to the people of Colombia to deal with that problem, not to allow them to operate on their territory. And it is, by the way, a UN requirement of member states to do everything that can be done to prevent terrorists from using irregular groups, from using financing, from using ungoverned territories to attack innocent people. And so we've worked very closely with Colombia. Colombia is a good partner and Colombia is a good partner in the region for a better Western Hemisphere.
QUESTION: In your assessment, Madame Secretary, why are so many South American and Latin American countries shy or reluctant to adopt the same designation to the FARC as the U.S. does?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, we have different histories. We have different tasks to where we are now. But I don't think that many would deny that the FARC has been associated with some of the most horrendous violence against the people of Colombia. If we were sitting here with my Foreign Minister colleague from Colombia, we would be sitting with somebody who was six years in captivity because of the FARC. So whatever one wants to call them, and we designate it as a terrorist organization, the FARC has had a horrendous impact on lives – for the lives of ordinary Colombians.
QUESTION: Would you call Brazil a leader in this region?
SECRETARY RICE: Brazil is clearly a leader in this region. Brazil is looked to, President Lula is looked to for his wisdom, he's looked to for his ability to bring the region together, he's looked to for his vision. And by the way, not just his vision for the region, but because he has been effective here in Brazil in helping to deliver a better life for its people, in having relationships now with countries like the United States that I think will put biofuels on the map as a way to deal with the terrible problems that we face in energy supply and climate change.
So President Lula is looked to as a leader and Brazil is looked to as a leader. I think increasingly, Brazil will be looked to as a global leader as well, not just a regional leader.
QUESTION: On the other hand, the branch of government that you lead, the State Department, as recently as the day before yesterday was worried about the level of corruption in Brazil, stating – well, in a country report that Brazilian authorities are not doing enough. Is that impunity what worries you?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I don't believe for one moment that there – that it's a question of impunity. I know that it's very difficult when corruption gets rooted in, to get it out, to root it out. But I strongly believe that the Brazilian Government understands the connection between corruption and growth. Corruption is attacks on the poor. Corruption is a sure way to kill international investment and I know that those things are understood by the Brazilian Government and that efforts are being made to fight out – to fight corruption.
QUESTION: Have you time to talk a little bit about more pleasant issues?
SECRETARY RICE: Sure.
QUESTION: Have we? Because she was giving me time.
SECRETARY RICE: Yeah, we'll take a moment to do that, yeah, sure.
QUESTION: Have we time? Yeah.
SECRETARY RICE: Sure.
SECRETARY RICE: Sure.
QUESTION: So it – apparently, it was one – a personal wish from your side to be in Bahia. And why?
SECRETARY RICE: It was a personal wish of mine to be in Bahia. First of all, I've heard so much of Bahia over the years, of Salvador as a great city, but also because of the Afro-Brazilian community here and the expression of that culture here. I am, of course, myself of – partly of African descent and I've always believed that Brazil and the United States, in some ways, look more like each other than any two countries in the world; great European and Latin and African and (inaudible) traditions all living side by side.
And so I was – I wanted to come to Bahia. I can see I wasn't wrong. It's absolutely beautiful here. I'm just sorry I don't have longer to be in Bahia.
QUESTION: You do feel at home?
SECRETARY RICE: I feel right at home and as we came through the streets, you can see the wonderful mixture of people. I'm a great believer that the future is in big, multiethnic democracies like Brazil and India and the United States and South Africa, where all kinds of people find their place and all kinds of people find opportunity and they live together. In so much of the world, difference is still a license to kill and when you drive along in Brazil or in the United States and you see that there are people whose faces look like the world, but they speak the same language and they want the same things, it's really quite affirming of our common humanity.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, thank you very much.
SECRETARY RICE: Thank you.
(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)