The United States is committed to strengthening
democratic institutions, promoting prosperity, investing
in people and bolstering security in Latin America -- and
the U.S. Department of State is employing its diplomatic
tools to pursue these ends, says Assistant Secretary of
State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roger Noriega.
In July 27 testimony before the House Committee
on International Relations' Subcommittee on the Western
Hemisphere, Noriega said that the United States is willing
to work with all nations throughout the Americas interested
in strengthening their political institutions and implementing
economic reforms to take advantage of trade opportunities.
Noriega cited several examples of U.S. diplomatic
challenges in the region, including the establishment of
a free-trade agreement with Central America and the Dominican
Republic (known as CAFTA-DR) and supporting Colombia's efforts
to confront terrorism and the illegal narcotics trade.
The State Department official told legislators
that CAFTA-DR, currently being considered by the U.S. House
of Representatives, will benefit the United States as well
as the nations of Central America and the Dominican Republic.
Noriega said that in crafting CAFTA-DR, the United States
emphasized a multilateral negotiating structure, encouraged
consultation with private-sector and civil-society groups,
worked to enhance the trade capacity of the CAFTA-DR countries,
and ensured that the agreement is consistent with other
hemispheric and global policies.
Noriega said CAFTA-DR is an "integral
part" of U.S. efforts to forge a freer world-trading
system. U.S. diplomacy in Colombia, he said, is focused
on security interests and other issues.
The State Department official said that
Colombia is one of the United States' strongest allies in
Latin America. As Colombia continues to confront the narcotics
trade and terrorism, it also has remained "a vibrant
democracy and a force for progress and stability in the
Andes, serving as an important counterweight to less positive
trends in the region," he said.
Noriega noted that the United States supports
Colombia's efforts to combat narco-terrorism and to bolster
democratic institutions by training prosecutors and judges,
managing alternative-development projects, advising counterterrorist
units and spraying coca crops, among other measures. "Our
partnership is helping to transform Colombia," he said.
Other U.S. diplomatic challenges in the
region include efforts to address political upheaval in
Ecuador, Bolivia and Venezuela. Noriega said that the United
States remains engaged and committed to strengthening democratic
institutions in Ecuador and Bolivia, following unscheduled
government transitions in those countries. He said the United
States also will continue to speak out on threats to freedom
of the press from Venezuela's current government, attempts
to pack Venezuela's Supreme Court, the purchase of 100,000
AKM Russian assault rifles and other noteworthy developments
During his testimony, Noriega also discussed
recent U.S. economic diplomacy in Uruguay, the launch of
the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America
(SPP) and ongoing efforts to hasten Cuba's emergence from
Whereas U.S. efforts to confront diplomatic
challenges may not yield the desired results in the short
term, the United States is determined to stay the course
in spreading freedom and prosperity in the region, he said.
Following is the text of Noriega's remarks,
as prepared for delivery:
Roger F. Noriega, Assistant Secretary of State
Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs
Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere
Committee on International Relations
U.S. House of Representatives
July 27, 2005
"Diplomacy in Latin America"
Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee:
It is a pleasure to appear before you today
to discuss United States diplomacy in Latin America -- and
more specifically how the Department of State is using the
diplomatic tools at its disposal to advance our strategic,
political, economic and trade interests in the Western Hemisphere.
The basis for United States policy in the
Western Hemisphere can be summed up in one word: freedom.
We aim to help the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean
consolidate the impressive democratic gains they have made
over the last two decades and to extend political power
and economic opportunity to everyone, particularly the very
poor. Our policy is anchored by four strategic pillars:
strengthening democratic institutions, promoting prosperity,
investing in people and bolstering security. We want to
help countries that are prepared to help themselves and
are willing to make the difficult decisions that will lead
to truly open political systems and open economies. We are
prepared to work with any country truly interested in strengthening
its political institutions to encourage responsible policies
and retooling its economy to take advantage of trade opportunities.
As a way of illustrating our approach and
demonstrating its effectiveness, I would like to go through
some concrete examples of diplomatic challenges that we
have faced in the last few years and describe how we responded
through bilateral and multilateral channels. I would like
to stress that these are illustrative examples of the diplomatic
efforts we carry out in the hemisphere on a daily basis
and not an exhaustive list. As with most issues in the international
sphere, there is no final conclusion to report. However,
I believe in all cases we have significantly advanced U.S.
interests, even where the results to date may be less than
we would have hoped.
Diplomacy -- in particular, multilateral
diplomacy -- is hard work. To succeed, one needs to understand
not only one's own country's objectives and motivations
but those of each and every other country involved in the
process. In the OAS, multilateral diplomacy is further complicated
by the commitment to work by consensus. We have to negotiate
every comma with every country. While there is an expectation
and a need for U.S. leadership on most issues, we must be
careful not to overplay our hand, lest our role become an
issue in the negotiations underway. Empathy -- knowing what
others want and need -- is an essential element in diplomacy.
It is certainly better to pursue and achieve our goals without
making other countries unhappy, but we cannot always do
so. In cases where there is simply no convergence of interests
or values -- such as with Cuba today -- our diplomacy has
a hard edge. There, as in all cases, our diplomacy should
be evaluated against the desired outcome and the obstacles
we must overcome to achieve it.
Free Trade with Central America
and the Dominican Republic
Formation of a Free Trade Agreement with
Central America and the Dominican Republic has been one
of our top diplomatic priorities the last two and a half
years. We believe that the elimination of trade barriers
can be a transformative process for societies. By stimulating
growth, making economic decision-making more transparent
and opening new economic opportunities for workers, farmers
and businesses, free trade not only increases prosperity
but also strengthens democracy. It also enhances our security
here in the United States. Crushing poverty is one of the
root causes of political instability, migration and crime
in Central America and the Dominican Republic. It is better
to attack these problems at their source than to have to
deal with them when they reach our shores through illegal
immigration, the drug trade or terrorism.
The CAFTA-DR Agreement is not only a good
thing for our neighbors; it's a good thing for us. How we
achieved this Agreement, moreover, is a good example of
our diplomatic process.
First, we emphasized a multilateral negotiating
structure, while providing opportunities for bilateral negotiations
to address the specific needs of each individual country.
The CAFTA-DR will set up a single Free Trade Area with common
rules for all six countries. At the same time, we consulted
individually with each of our partners and tailored the
agreement to provide additional time or to modify some specific
provisions when needed to secure the agreement of an individual
Second, we encouraged consultation with
the private sector and civil society groups. In the U.S.,
we have established consultative arrangements between the
Executive, the Congress, and a number of private sector
groups. During the CAFTA-DR negotiations, we encouraged
the other countries to set up similar arrangements to inform
the negotiating process and explain the agreement to their
Third, we recognized their need for technical
and financial assistance to meet the free trade objectives.
We formed a Trade Capacity-Building Committee to coordinate
assistance aimed at improving their ability to implement
the obligations of CAFTA-DR and to adjust their economies
to free trade. In FY 2004, we are providing more than $50
million from all U.S. government agencies for these purposes.
Finally, we made sure that this sub-regional
agreement was consistent with our hemispheric and global
policies. CAFTA-DR is fully consistent with the rules of
the World Trade Organization and with our objectives in
the current WTO negotiations, known commonly as the Doha
Development Round. CAFTA-DR is an integral part of our strategy
of moving toward a freer world trading system through complementary
trade agreements on a bilateral basis (such as the U.S.-Chile
Free Trade Agreement and the negotiations underway with
Panama), and on a regional and hemispheric basis (such as
the negotiations underway with the Andean countries and
for a Free Trade Area of the Americas).
A Security Emphasis in Colombia
In Colombia, U.S. diplomacy is clearly focused
on advancing our security interests, among other issues.
Colombia is one of our strongest allies in the region. Despite
conducting a multi-front campaign against narcotics traffickers
and terrorists, Colombia has remained a vibrant democracy
and a force for progress and stability in the Andes, serving
as an important counterweight to less positive trends in
Our two countries face similar threats.
The illegal drug trade claims victims, whether in Cali or
Chicago. Both our countries are fighting terrorism, at the
cost of American and Colombian lives lost or liberties stolen,
including three American contractors held hostage by the
FARC since February 2003.
Despite these threats, Colombia is remaking
itself. As members of this committee have observed first
hand, Colombia has made remarkable progress in recent years,
under the leadership of President Uribe. Internal security
is greatly improved. Drug-crop eradication, narcotics interdiction,
related arrests and extraditions are at record levels. FARC
terrorists are on the defensive, ELN terrorists have been
isolated and paramilitaries are laying down their arms.
In addition to wresting territory back from narco-terrorists,
the government is strengthening its democratic institutions,
promoting respect for human rights and rule of law, fostering
socio-economic development and addressing humanitarian needs.
The result is a more peaceful and prosperous ally; this
is clearly in the U.S. interest.
U.S. diplomacy plays an important supporting
role in this effort, but not just in a conventional sense.
We don't just talk to the Colombians (although that is important,
as in this month's FTA negotiations or in last week's discussions
with the vice president and foreign minister on human rights
issues), we work with them, whether training prosecutors,
judges and police investigators (Department of Justice);
or managing alternative development projects (USAID); or
advising counterterrorist units (Department of Defense)
or spraying coca crops (Department of State). Our partnership
is helping to transform Colombia.
Economic Diplomacy in Uruguay
Uruguay had a solid record of market-oriented
economic policies in 2002 when the financial crisis in Argentina
directly contributed to a bank run. The Treasury Department
maintained close contact with the Uruguayan government and
IMF officials during the first half of 2002, tracking the
decline in deposits and assisting in formulation of a response
to it. Initially, Uruguay drew on its existing IMF program,
and a new IMF program was launched in March and augmented
in June. When it became clear in early summer that these
measures would not be sufficient to bolster public confidence,
Treasury began a series of intensive meetings with Uruguayan
and IMF officials to develop a strategy for addressing the
bank run decisively.
As a result, the United States joined with
the IMF in supporting the government of Uruguay's plan to
fully back dollar checking and savings deposits while reprogramming
dollar time deposits. The deposit guarantee plan was financed
with additional funds from the IMF, World Bank and Inter-American
Development Bank. The government of Uruguay also determined
that it would suspend the operations of four private domestic
banks. To assist the banking system until the multilateral
assistance could be disbursed, the U.S. Treasury provided
a short-term $1.5 billion loan to the government of Uruguay.
The loan was repaid within one week.
These interventions -- the result of sustained
close coordination between the Treasury Department, IMF,
the State Department, our embassy in Montevideo and Uruguayan
officials -- combined with fiscally responsible policies
of the government of Uruguay helped the country avert a
possible collapse of its banking system and default. In
2004, two years after the onset of the financial crisis
and one year after a successful debt restructuring, Uruguay
enjoyed real GDP growth of 12.3 percent.
Political Upheaval in Ecuador, Bolivia
A recurring theme in our relations with
Latin America -- and part and parcel of our support for
democratic governance -- is how to respond to threats to
the constitutional order. Our policy in such situations
is to seek authoritative information on what is required
under domestic law and to urge all parties to work within
those constraints, utilizing both bilateral and multilateral
channels of communication. Ecuador and Venezuela both illustrate
how difficult this can be when the institutional structure
is weak, nontransparent, and subject to manipulation by
This past April 20, the Ecuadorian Congress,
acting with less than a quorum of members of the opposition,
dismissed the Supreme Court and President Lucio Gutierrez
and then swore in Vice President Alfredo Palacio as his
successor. They claimed that, under the Constitution, they
had sufficient votes to dismiss the president for abandonment,
even though no actual abandonment of the post was evident.
This action followed months of charges and countercharges
among the political parties related to Congress' dismissal
of the Supreme Court in December and subsequent actions
of the new Court, rioting in the street, and the declaration
by President Gutierrez of a brief state of exception.
While the situation was still fluid, we
reached out to President Palacio and all sectors of Ecuadorian
society to resolve the political crisis and restore the
rule of law. We mobilized other countries in the region
and within the European Union to help stabilize the situation
and supported a special mission led by the Secretary General
of the OAS to help the government of Ecuador strengthen
its constitutional processes. The OAS, working with the
government, remains engaged in efforts to restore and strengthen
the institutions of democracy in Ecuador. While the lack
of a functioning Supreme Court remains a serious concern,
the Congress and Executive Branch are generally functioning
at this time. There is no more rioting. The international
community has offered assistance to resolve the impasse
over the naming of a new Court, and we remain hopeful that
progress will continue to be made on other matters of public
policy -- reducing polarization so that the question of
the Court can also be resolved in due course.
Like Ecuador, Bolivia has just experienced
an unscheduled transition in government, but for different
reasons. In June, President Carlos Mesa stepped down amid
violent public protests and road blockages reflecting the
political polarization of the country. The country remains
deeply divided over how to exploit the country's vast natural
resources, how to include the aspirations of the indigenous
people within its democratic framework, and how to address
regional calls for autonomy. We remain engaged bilaterally
and multilaterally with the government of Bolivia, now led
by interim President Eduardo Rodriguez, who is committed
to putting the country back on a path toward strengthening
democratic institutions, beginning with national elections
later this year.
In Venezuela, the United States worked intensively
to facilitate reconciliation between the opposition and
Chavez government from the temporary interruption in democratic
governance in April 2002 to the August 2004 referendum.
The referendum process focused international attention on
the declining state of democracy in Venezuela and limited
President Chavez's ability to curtail individual freedoms.
Since August 2004, we have witnessed an increased concentration
of power in the Executive, the packing of the Supreme Court,
enactment of legislation curbing press freedom and civil
rights, and the persecution of civil society, most notably
the electoral watchdog organization Sumate.
The United States has led the international
community in calling attention to these and other issues
that have arisen -- both through the OAS and through bilateral
engagement within the hemisphere and with our European friends.
While many share our concerns, other countries have been
less inclined to speak out, preferring quiet diplomacy.
Thus, sometimes alone and at other times in the company
of international nongovernmental organizations, we have
spoken out on threats to freedom of the press, packing of
the Supreme Court, harassment of Sumate, the purchase of
100,000 AKM Russian assault rifles, and other noteworthy
issues. We are also encouraging the OAS and the European
Union to send observers and experts to evaluate electoral
conditions in advance of the December National Assembly
We will continue to speak out on these issues,
as warranted, as well as to voice our concerns privately
to Venezuelan officials. During the past year, however,
our access to senior Venezuelan officials has been limited,
and this lack of access is having a chilling effect on our
working level contacts as well. Thus, for the foreseeable
future, our diplomatic efforts in Venezuela will aim primarily
at influencing events through public statements and private
contacts with other governments and organizations dealing
directly with the government of Venezuela.
Security and Prosperity Partnership
of North America
A special relationship continues to evolve
with Mexico and Canada that increasingly addresses security
along with the trade and related issues covered by NAFTA.
On March 23, President Bush joined President Fox and Prime
Minister Martin in launching the Security and Prosperity
Partnership of North America (SPP). The SPP is intended
to develop new avenues of cooperation that will make our
open societies safer and more secure, our business more
competitive, and our economies more resilient. It is based
on the principle that security and prosperity are mutually
dependent and complementary. The prosperity pillar seeks
to enhance North American competitiveness through improved
productivity, reducing the costs of trade and enhancing
environmental stewardship. The security pillar confronts
external threats, prevents and responds to threats within
North America and facilitates the flow of traffic across
Thus far, we have identified over 300 initiatives
spread over twenty trilateral working groups on which the
three countries will collaborate. Ongoing bilateral initiatives
-- such as the "smart border" programs with both
Mexico and Canada -- will be incorporated into this broader
framework, giving greater cohesion to our overall border
security program. Assistance to Mexico provided through
the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement
Affairs is a significant part of our bilateral relationship
Cuba: A Different Challenge
In Cuba, the only country in the hemisphere
without a democratic government or an open economy, we are
actively engaged in helping the peaceful opposition create
a democratic future. Our support is similar to what we have
provided to civil society groups in Serbia, Georgia, Ukraine,
and other repressive societies throughout the world. In
contrast to other countries that insist on trying to hold
a dialogue with the government of Cuba, which has no desire
to reform, we have chosen to work with the Cuban people
instead. They will ultimately determine Cuba's future.
To hasten the day of Cuba's emergence from
tyranny, the Commission on Assistance to a Free Cuba recommended
a comprehensive approach, pairing more substantial support
to the opposition with measures to limit the regime's manipulation
of humanitarian policies and to undermine its survival.
We are providing $8.9 million this year and are requesting
another $15 million next year to implement the Commission
recommendations. Through this assistance, we aim to ensure
that, when change comes to Cuba, it will be a transition
to democracy and not the succession in kind being planned
by the regime.
As these examples illustrate, we have an
active diplomacy -- on both bilateral and multilateral fronts
-- that addresses the specific challenges and opportunities
as they arise in different countries. We are helping countries
willing to help themselves to develop their human resources,
sustain and strengthen democratic institutions and open
economic systems, and protect their people and way of life
from organized crime and other multinational threats. This
approach requires mature relations with other governments
as partners, based on shared values. While there is broad
agreement in the hemisphere on the values we share -- they
have been articulated repeatedly at Summits of the Americas
-- the practical challenges to their implementation are
great. Our diplomacy often deals with those challenges and
may not achieve the desired results in the short term. However,
we are determined to stay the course and help other countries,
where possible and as appropriate, achieve for their people
the full benefits of the same freedoms we have long enjoyed
in the United States.
I would be pleased to take your questions,
about the issues I have addressed or any others. Thank you
for your attention.