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U.S. Department of State
96/02/26 Briefing: Secretary & Central American Heads of State
Office of the Spokesman
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Office of the Spokesman
(San Salvador, El Salvador)
For Immediate Release February 26, 1996
PRESS AVAILABILITY WITH
SECRETARY OF STATE WARREN CHRISTOPHER
AND THE HEADS OF STATE OF CENTRAL AMERICA
San Salvador, El Salvador
PRESIDENT ARMANDO CALDERON SOL (as translated by interpreter): First of
all, I want to say that El Salvador is honored by the visit of the Heads
of State of Central America, the Prime Minister of Belize, and the
Secretary of State of the United States. For El Salvador and for its
people, this is a momentous occasion. We believe that our peace
process, our democracy, are the basis for their presence with us here
today. This has been a very fruitful meeting for Central America. We
have discussed the salient points that are on the agenda, not only for
our region, but also for the entire world. Central America, as a whole
at this meeting, has condemned the violence that was used in the
shooting down of the two civilian aircraft by the Cuban military this
week. We have been unanimous in supporting President Clinton's decisive
action in going to the United Nations to seek redress for these actions.
This has been an example for the entire world. The fact that problems
can be solved through international law, and as we know, the deaths of
these civilians violates international law. This has properly been
managed through the United Nations.
We have expressed our solidarity with the position adopted by the people
and the Government of the United States. Among other subjects discussed
was that of trade parity and the need that Central America and the
Caribbean have to obtain a system of NAFTA parity for our international
trade. Otherwise, we find ourselves at a very great disadvantage vis-a-
vis our neighbors. Our region needs to generate more employment,
something which can be achieved through free trade. We need a positive
response and this is a positive response that we have heard today from
the Secretary of State on behalf of the United States. We hope this
response will become a reality very soon.
Another important subject we dealt with today was that of immigration.
We received assurances from the Secretary of State that there will be no
massive deportations of foreign citizens in the United States. We also
discussed the need for our brothers and sisters of Central America to
see the United States follow programs of social and cultural struggle
against the anti-immigration feelings that have appeared in certain
sectors of that country. The Secretary has expressed to us that he is
equally concerned in this regard.
Another subject of conversation was that of drug trafficking and the
need to fortify all of Central America politically and we need to do
this through properly trained police forces that will be able to fight
crime, corruption, and drugs.
Another subject of discussion on the agenda were other kinds of
cooperation that we can achieve with the United States of America.
Today we were able to hold a very important meeting and we want to thank
everyone involved, in particular the Secretary of State for his presence
And now, the Secretary of State of the United States of America.
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Good afternoon, first I want to thank President
Calderon Sol for hosting this very useful and important meeting, and
also thank the other Central American leaders who were good enough to
come here to San Salvador to join me in this session. President Calderon
Sol has given you a rather full account of the session that we had, so
it enables me to shorten the remarks that I might otherwise need to
As the President said, we had a good discussion of the brutal shootdown
of the two unarmed civilian aircraft over international waters by the
Cuban military on Saturday. I appreciate very much the statement that
the President has made on behalf of his Central American colleagues.
There is no question in my mind that this was an utterly lawless act,
completely unjustified. I reject the very weak explanations that the
Cubans have been giving. As the European Union said, there simply is no
justification for what they've done. As you probably know in the press,
President Clinton has just announced a series of immediate steps that
will be taken. They are steps that are appropriate, yet firm. They deal
with the situation in a way that, I think, you will regard as
responsible for the President of one of the superpowers. As the
President said, he will not rule out further steps, but for the time
being we are going to emphasize strongly action of the United Nations
which is pending here as we speak. I was very gratified by the comments
that were made by the President of El Salvador on that subject.
Now, as the President said, we discussed a number of other topics and
worked together to advance our common goals. First, and I know of great
interest in this region, I announced this morning that President Clinton
will present in his March budget proposal an interim trade program for
countries that are part of the Caribbean Basin Initiative, the CBI.
This program will expand the range of products involved beyond those
that are already involved with the CBI, including such products as
apparel, and textiles, and shoes. This will, no doubt, if and when
enacted, help the economies of Central America and the Caribbean to make
the transition to open markets by the year 2005. It will certainly
expand opportunities, both for the United States and the countries of
the Central American region, as good for them and as good for us.
Second, the United States pledged to intensify its cooperation with
Central America against international criminals and narcotic
traffickers. I proposed that we open discussions next month with the
Central American countries to discuss concrete steps that we can take
with respect to the assets of criminals and drug traffickers, and ways
to improve our enforcement cooperation. I will be sending a team to
this region to have discussions with your law enforcement officials.
One of the things that I heard in the meeting today was the high
importance of professionalizing the police in this region and we'll see
if we can't find ways to help the nations of the region do so.
Third, we agreed that there are new joint efforts required to deal with
the growing problem of smugglers who traffic in migrants who want to
work in another country. We talked about ways to deal with this really
quite horrific conduct and I hope we can be successful in this regard.
Finally, we talked about ways to protect the environment and to pursue
sustainable development. The United States will spend almost $25
million on projects for the environment in Central America in the next
year, and I think this gives us a way to deepen our already good
I want to thank again President Calderon Sol and his colleagues for the
steps we have taken today to deepen our partnership to increase our
mutual respect and to carry out items in our shared interests. Mr.
President, colleagues, thank you very much.
QUESTION (from reporter, as translated by Interpreter): It was just
said that President Clinton has adopted a number of sanctions with
regard to what has happened in Cuba. What effect do you think that
these steps are going to have; have you ruled out the possibility of any
military action, and what measures are you expecting the United Nations
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: There are a number of questions there, aren't
there? The United States hopes and expects that the Cuban Government
will agree to pay compensation to the families of the four individuals
who were killed, and also that the Government of Cuba will agree not to
take any further action of this kind with respect to unarmed civilian
planes flying over its territory. In short, we would expect Cuba to
reaffirm its commitment to international law, which it has so blatantly
violated. The President has not included any military actions in
connection with the items that he outlined today, but he has quite
deliberately reserved the possibility of further steps in the future.
Finally, the matter is pending in the United Nations and we are some
distance from there, but I would hope and expect the United Nations
Security Council to condemn the violent action that has been taken in a
really blatant violation of international law. And I would hope that
the United Nations would do this at an early date, and also perhaps move
beyond that, to take some action to express its abhorrence over what
Cuba has done in this lawless way. But those negotiations are going on
in the United Nations and I don't want to try to micro-manage them from
QUESTION: Mr. Christopher, we'd like to know if the U.S. Government is
going to redefine its economic policy towards Latin America, and if it
is contemplating any sanctions against those countries that have
relations with Cuba?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: I guess the rule here is that the visitor who
comes from the farthest distance gets the questions. We redefined our
policy toward Latin America in an important way today, and that is
President Clinton has taken a step to effectuate an announcement he made
earlier and that is to provide NAFTA parity to the countries of the
Central American region who are part of the Caribbean Basin Initiative.
That's a very important change in what we are doing. The President's
willingness is to put that bill before the Congress, and to be able to
round up the necessary offsets, that is, to find the necessary funds to
compensate for the reduction of tarrifs, which is a very big and
important step. Also, the broadening of this initiative is a very
significant step to try to improve trade in this region, and to create
jobs both in our country and in your country. I would say that's the
most important action that has been taken today to redefine our economic
policy toward this region, or perhaps I should say confirm and
effectuate our policy with respect to this region.
INTERPRETER: The President of Honduras has to leave at this time and
because we are running out of time, we are going to have to shorten the
list of questions that we will be able to take. We will receive one
final question now. Mr. Steven Hurst, of CNN.
QUESTION: President Calderon Sol, you praise the United States for
taking this whole issue through the United Nations, saying that it was
an example for the rest of the world. I am wondering what you think the
United Nations can actually do that would dissuade Cuba from doing such
PRESIDENT CALDERON SOL (as translated by interpreter): As I said
before, I think that this has served as a great example for the entire
world. We have seen a super-power go to the international forum of the
United Nations and base itself on international law in order to seek
redress. This is something that strengthens the entire United Nations
system, and that is why I stressed it. I believe that the United
Nations can condemn and can call on the international community to stop
Cuba from repeating an action like this again in the future. Civilian
aircraft were shot down, civilian lives were lost as a result of this
lawless action. I think that in the worst of cases, these aircraft
could have been caught and could have been taken to Cuba, but there was
no need to kill anyone, and that is why we have condemned this
INTERPRETER: This is our last question. We'd said we'd take two
questions from the Salvadoran Press and two from the Foreign Press.
This is the last question then for the Foreign Press.
QUESTION: Could I ask one of the Central American presidents, how much
confidence they have that the expansion of the Caribbean Basin
Initiative will be approved and benefit them, given that there have been
earlier attempts by the Administration which have not been fruitful in
PRESIDENT CALDERON SOL (as translated by interpreter): We believe that
the expression made by the Clinton Administration is a brave one. It is
a demonstration of the Clinton Administration's will to achieve NAFTA
parity for Central America and the Caribbean. We admire this action as
it comes at this political juncture. President Clinton has gallantly
espoused this cause at a very difficult political time. We are then
going to be in the hands of Congress. We are not absolutely confident
that the measure is going to pass right away, necessarily this year, but
we are fully confident in the will of the Clinton Administration to push
this initiative through. If it is not passed now, be believe it will be
passed after this political moment is over and we take it as a
demonstration of the will and respect shown by the Clinton
Administration toward this region, and we thank him for it.
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