Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice outlined
the U.S. visions for the Western Hemisphere and shared U.S.
concerns about the activities of the Venezuelan government
and plans for continued cooperation with Colombia in an
April 27 interview with Luis Carlos Velez of Casa Editorial
El Tiempo in Bogota, Colombia.
Rice said that the United States wants a
positive, peaceful hemisphere where nations adhere to the
Inter-American Democratic Charter and pursue agendas that
include security and free trade. If these efforts are pursued
actively, the secretary said that the region will be more
stable and prosperous.
The secretary stated that the political
leanings of hemispheric governments will not shape U.S.
cooperation with those nations.
“There is no reason that the United
States should not have good relations with democratically
elected governments from across the political spectrum,”
she said. “There is no reason that we have to say,
oh well, only governments that come from this side of the
politics can be friends of the United States.”
Rice added that as long as regional governments
are democratically elected, govern democratically, are not
corrupt and advance the aspirations and the needs of their
people, those governments should expect to have good relations
with the United States.
Within this context, Rice said, the United
States is concerned with the activities of the Venezuelan
government, activities that extend beyond the nation’s
“This is about the behavior of the
regime, both in terms of its domestic -- where domestically,
where it has had very bad relations with the press -- where
the ability for people to oppose the regime, where there
needs to be a sense that the democratic institutions are
being protected, and the questions about the behavior and
the activities of the Venezuelan regime in the region,”
Rice said the Venezuelan government’s
behavior does not simply complicate bilateral relations,
but also regional relations.
“This is an issue of what kind of
hemisphere is this going to be,” she explained. “Is
it going to be a hemisphere that is democratic and that
is prosperous and where neighbors get along, where neighbors
don't interfere in each other's affairs, where people fight
drug trade and fight terrorism together actively?”
In contrast to the concerns she expressed
over the Venezuelan government, Rice applauded the Colombian
government for working hard to advance a positive agenda.
She pointed out that the United States and Colombia have
been closely cooperating on counternarcotics and counterterrorism
issues and said that the United States hopes to maintain
this cooperation and build on the success of Plan Colombia.
“I'm quite sure that because the drug
fight is not yet over that we are going to continue our
efforts, continue our efforts at support for the Colombian
economy, for the training and working with police forces,
and for the efforts with the military. These are still important
goals for the United States, she said.
Rice indicated that the United States remains
committed to pursuing a free trade agreement with Colombia
and will have to work very hard to get it done.
Following is a transcript of Rice’s
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Office of the Spokesman
April 27, 2005
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice With
Luis Carlos Velez of Casa Editorial El Tiempo
April 27, 2005
QUESTION: Ms. Rice, thank you for being
with us and for accepting this interview this Casa Editorial
El Tiempo. The first question that I have to you: Venezuela.
Venezuela recently bought 100,000 rifles, Russian rifles.
Is the United States worried, concerned about a potential
conflict between the two countries, Colombia and Venezuela?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, we have been concerned
about stability in the region and we've been concerned about
the Venezuelan Government's activities in the region and
we've made that known. And I raised the issue of the 100,000
Kalashnikovs when I was in Russia, just saying to the Russians
that this is the sort of thing that doesn't help stability
in the region.
We want to have a peaceful region that is
democratic, where everyone lives up to the Inter-American
Charter and the Democratic Charter, where we believe that
governments that were elected are also governing in a democratic
way. And here in Colombia, that is clearly happening. We've
had concerns about domestic events in Venezuela and we've
made that clear. But our goal has to be to have a positive
agenda, an agenda of free trade, an agenda of democratic
development, an agenda of security for people, which the
Colombian Government is working so hard on and we're working
with them. We have a positive agenda and I'm quite sure
that if we pursue it, and pursue it actively, this region
is going to be stable and peaceful and more prosperous.
QUESTION: Ms. Rice, relations between Venezuela
and the U.S. have also gone through difficult times. Does
the United States have any plan to stop the anti-American
movements that Mr. Chavez is promoting in Venezuela?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, we have no problem
with the Venezuelan people. The United States and Venezuela
have a longstanding tradition of good relations, and this
is about the behavior of the regime, both in terms of its
domestic -- where domestically, where it has had very bad
relations with the press -- where the ability for people
to oppose the regime, where there needs to be a sense that
the democratic institutions are being protected, and the
questions about the behavior and the activities of the Venezuelan
regime in the region.
But this is not just an issue between the
United States and Venezuela. This is an issue of what kind
of hemisphere is this going to be. Is it going to be a hemisphere
that is democratic and that is prosperous and where neighbors
get along, where neighbors don't interfere in each other's
affairs, where people fight drug trade and fight terrorism
together actively? That's the kind of hemisphere that we're
trying to build and I believe that we have the cooperation
and the support of almost all of the states of this region
who want to see the same kind of hemisphere.
QUESTION: Ms. Rice, what kind of plan does
the United States have in order to stop the FARC, the FARC
that is having operations in Ecuador and Venezuela?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, the United States
and Colombia have had for several years now a very active
cooperation on counter-drug issues and on counterterrorism
issues, and I think that Colombia is making progress and
its neighbors -- many of its neighbors are very supportive.
And I was just in Brazil where I think they want very much
to be supportive of what is going on here because this is
a country whose democracy was quite literally threatened
by terrorism and quite literally threatened by drug lords.
It's a tough fight, but the United States has been providing
assistance: economic, and military, and police assistance
of roughly $600 million a year. We would hope to sustain
something like that because we know that this is a long
fight. But we believe that we have a Colombian Government
that is being successful in fighting these scourges against
QUESTION: Ms. Rice, the U.S. wants to strengthen
the Colombian economy and democracy through an FTA, right?
However, (inaudible) that the U.S. Government and the U.S.
negotiating group are not being open to their counterparts.
How do you see the prospects for an FTA here?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, we have to work hard.
It's not going to be easy to get an FTA because there are
a lot of interests involved here, and we're going to have
to have courage to get one. We need to open up our markets
and truly open them up because free trade means free trade.
We need to have an understanding of the structure of each
other's markets, but mostly we're going to need the will
to make the difficult decisions that need to be made.
The United States is currently -- has some
free trade agreements that it has signed, like for instance
the Central America Free Trade Agreement and Dominican Republic
Agreement, which go together. We're trying to get that through
Congress. We're working hard to reenergize the FTAA in the
hemisphere. We're all working very hard within the WTO so
that the playing field is level across the world for free
trade. But we are very interested in and devoted to a free
trade agreement with Colombia. We just have to work very
hard to get it done.
QUESTION: Let's talk about the Plan Colombia.
The initiative is going to reach its end next year and according
to a White House report, despite the aerial spraying of
the cocaine crops they keep increasing. Is there going to
be any change in the Plan Colombia?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, Plan Colombia has
been very successful, and if you remember, it had at its
root a principle that you had to fight this on a regional
basis as well and so there was also work done throughout
the Andean region to make sure that when you eradicated
drugs in one part of the region it didn't pop up someplace
else. It had very important alternative livelihood programs
that were associated with it. And so Plan Colombia has been
very successful and is still being very successful.
I'm quite sure that because the drug fight
is not yet over that we are going to continue our efforts,
continue our efforts at support for the Colombian economy,
for the training and working with police forces, and for
the efforts with the military. These are still important
goals for the United States.
QUESTION: Do you think that the economic
and military assistance that Colombia receives from the
United States is sufficient? Would you increase it? Would
you decrease it? SECRETARY RICE: Well, I think we would
like to try and sustain what we've achieved. We've achieved
in $600 million or so, sometimes over -- in order to be
able to fund these programs. But what we really need to
look at is what do we need to do, and Colombia is in a different
stage of its counter-drug and counter-terror fight than
it was at the beginning when Plan Colombia started, and
so we need to look at what will be most effective. But we
maintain our commitment to Colombia to help it fight terrorism
and to help it fight the drug trade.
QUESTION: Leftist movements are getting
(inaudible) in South America. You see the case of Lula in
Brazil, Major Lucio Gutierrez in Bogotá, even Hugo
Chavez in Venezuela. Do you think it may be that Latin Americans
are getting tired of the North American model?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, (inaudible) put all
the things together. I think that in cases like Brazil or
Chile, which is a leftist government, you have very successful
economic programs, stable and sound economic policies. There
is no reason that the United States should not have good
relations with democratically elected governments from across
the political spectrum. There is no reason that we have
to say, oh well, only governments that come from this side
of the politics can be friends of the United States. We
can be friends as long as governments are democratically
elected, as long as they govern democratically. As long
as they are not corrupt and they have the aspirations and
the needs of their people at the center of what they're
trying to do, we ought to have good relations.
Now, there are places where people are giving
easy answers, a kind of false populism, I'll call it, where
there are easy answers: "We can be out of poverty tomorrow
if we'll just do these things." That's not helpful.
But when you have sound economic policies and people care
about social justice and better lives for their people,
the United States is going to be friends with those governments.
QUESTION: How do you see the situation in
Ecuador? Do you think it's a bad example for the rest of
SECRETARY RICE: Well, Ecuador is a very
complicated situation and we are very supportive of the
Organization of American States mission that is trying to
help the Ecuadorians to make certain that they stay on a
constitutional path, that they do what is needed to foster
stability. I know that there is a South American group that
has also gone to help in that regard. And so we need to
help the people of Ecuador through this extremely delicate
period of time.
There are some fragile democracies in Latin
America. There is no doubt about that. But when you look
back at where this continent was just a couple of decades
ago, nobody would have thought that we would be in a position
where there are 34 now, between North and South America,
34 democracies, members of the Organization of American
States, and the only empty chair is Cuba, which has not
yet, unfortunately, been able to find a path to democracy
for its people. When you look at the fact that there were
military dictatorships and there were civil wars and there
were armed insurgencies in many, many different countries,
this part of the world has made tremendous progress. The
United States has been a good partner in that progress and
we continue and intend to continue to be as we move forward.
QUESTION: I have to ask you this, and this
is my last question. About the American soldiers captured
for allegedly trafficking drugs from Colombia. Do you think
they could be judged here in Colombia, as the local authorities
SECRETARY RICE: Well, we have longstanding
ways of dealing with this between Colombia and the United
States going back decades. They are in custody. It is being
investigated. And we believe in holding people accountable
for what they do, and the United States will do that. We
have to have a process because people should get due process.
They have rights. But we absolutely will investigate this
and act accordingly with what comes out of that investigation.
QUESTION: Ms. Rice, thank you very much
for being with us. We know that you're a devoted pianist
so next time you come here, share your music with us.
SECRETARY RICE: Well, if I have a little
more time to practice, I'll do that. (Laughter.) Thank you.