U.S. State Department Geographic Bureaus: Latin America Bureau

U.S. Department of State
96/03/01 Briefing: McLarty & Watson on Secretary's Latin Trip
Office of the Spokesman

Office of the Spokesman

(Sao Paulo, Brazil)
For Immediate Release March 3, 1996


Melia Hotel
Sao Paulo, Brazil
March 2, 1996

MR. MCLARTY: Thank all of you for joining us this afternoon in Sao Paulo. I think that most of you know and are familiar with Ambassador Alec Watson who is Assistant Secretary for Inter- American Affairs at the State Department and of course our distinguished Ambassador Melvin Levitsky from Brasília. We appreciate your joining us.

We are particularly glad to be in Latin America on this trip with the Secretary of State. It is frankly somewhat nice for Alec and me to be outside of Washington. We understand that there is about five inches of snow there this afternoon and it is always pleasurable for me not to be there with the budget battles going on at the moment. But I think, more importantly, the Secretary's trip affirms the importance of our relations with Latin America and the Caribbean and really underscores the Summit of Miami and the Declaration of Principles and Plan of Action that were agreed there by the 34 democratically elected heads of state. The Secretary's trip I think, as all of you know, will encompass five countries and we will be going to Manaus tomorrow for a trip to the Amazon, the rain forest, an environmental event and then we will be concluding our trip in Trinidad/Tobago.

I think in terms of the Summit Agenda most of you are familiar with the real pillars of the Summit which were strengthening democracy, expanding economic relationships and economic integration and thirdly, developing human resources, particularly with emphasis on helping education as well as environmental stewardship.

This trip I think has further affirmed that agenda and has in many ways strengthened the follow-up process of Miami. The importance of the region is really underscored and highlighted in a number of ways and we have seen that very vividly on the trip. Of course, the economic aspects are really undeniable, about 40% of the United States exports go to this region. We actually sell more to Brazil than we do to France or China, just as an example here in Sao Paulo. You have got a potential twelve trillion dollar market with about 850 million people in the hemisphere and of course, it is a very natural market with trade going both ways. But moreover, in terms of the relationship and the partnership, in each of our visits that has been underscored with the true partnership that has been established with support of security efforts literally around the world, in Bosnia, Angola, Mozambique, in Iraq with Chileans being there. So, I think there are several examples of that partnership that have been highlighted on this trip. Finally, I would say what has really come across on this trip is a very clear feeling that there is a dramatic change of 10 to 15 years ago just in terms of the true feeling that has been expressed. And that, frankly, is one of a valued partner and a trusted and loyal friend. And that relationship is underscored with dignity and respect for the individual. And of course, it is underscored here in Brazil with our visit yesterday with President Cardoso and the visit with the private sector today at AmCham. With those opening comments Alec and I will be glad to take any questions that you might have.

QUESTION: My name is Antonio Cabral. I work in the newspaper O Estado de Sao Paulo. My question is about a delicate situation in relation with Cuba. Several countries in Latin America have been defending the suspension of the embargo against Cuba, as the best way to ensure the democratization of the island. But now, in the context of the incident involving the murder of the four pilots of the organization Brothers to the Rescue, the Clinton Administration is defending in the Congress legislation with more and stronger sanctions against Havana. What is the prospect of the future relations with Cuba in terms of the possible return of the dialogue, which seems very difficult, right now assuming that a military confrontation is not in the interest of the continent?

MR. MCLARTY: I think what has been obvious in the sector is discussions with the heads of state of the countries that we have visited here and the other consultations that having been taking place. There is firm agreement and a fervent hope that democracy would be restored in Cuba, both by the United States and countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, that human rights would be restored. There has been a difference into the best way to get to that shared goal and regrettably what we are seeing is neither engagement nor the embargo approach has been successful and that is truly regrettable for the hemisphere for each of our respective countries, but it is more regrettable for the Cuban people. What we have seen in the last couple of weeks with some of the Track 2 endeavors that you alluded to in your question, which Ambassador Watson can speak to, is with just those very modest steps of opening moderate human rights groups are being included in some dialogue we see very repressive steps, of course, and then the terrible tragedy of shooting down unarmed civilians by fighter jet. I think the Secretary's comments today at lunch underscored that Cuba is indeed alone. That was also apparent at the Miami Summit, where you saw great promise, economies that were growing in their strength and ability to be part of the global economy, most important bettering the lives of their citizens, with Cuba being isolated in an archaic and inefficient economy. I think you now see that in a much more dramatic way, in terms of human rights and democracy. And I think, that was underscored at our stop in El Salvador, Chile, with Minister Souza who had recently visited Cuba and is here today in Brazil. Now Alec, you can talk about some more of the efforts that have been made in the past, and where you see things might be going.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY WATSON: Thanks, Mack, but I think you covered most of it. Obviously what happened the other day is a tragedy, not only in terms of the loss of human lives, but also in terms of the negative impact it has on the ability to perhaps find ways to help Cuba move toward a peaceful transition to democracy. It is a little dangerous to say that we had a dialogue with the Cuban government. We did not have a dialogue with the Cuban government, but we were trying to establish greater communication with the Cuban people. I think, if I understand what the President has decided while I wasn't in Washington, if I understand correctly what he has decided, he wants to continue to do that. The importance of that is to help Cuba, it is hard to imagine what it is like to live in Cuba for virtually all the information comes from government controlled sources. It is to give people external points of reference to make their judgment on the society and what is going on in the world. So we want to try to increase that kind of communication. I think we will try to continue to do that. Another important aspect of that is to help create a little bit of what we call civil society, that is to say, non-governmental organization, where people can discuss and exchange ideas. Because that is what they are going to have when the day comes when the dictatorship collapses and falls, which is inevitable. They are going to have people with some ability to deal with the issues they are facing - people who are not associated with the current regime. So, I think we will try to continue to do that. Sure, there has always been a debate on the effectiveness of the U.S. embargo, which has a very, very long history as somebody was pointing out the other day, one of the many extraordinary people we have met with on this trip. We have to remember that the embargo did not start with Bill Clinton. Far from it. It started way back with John Kennedy. And it has been in place for a long time for historical reasons that you are familiar with. But bear in mind that we have always said that if there had been real serious movement toward reform on the part of Cuban regime that we are prepared to respond. The Secretary said this publicly many times, with carefully calibrated measures. Frankly, I do not know where we are going to go from here on that point until we see exactly what the legislation says and how much latitude the executive branch will have. But I hope to be able to continue to reach out to Cuban people. But I do not anticipate any major adjustments in the embargo. Certainly, not now.

QUESTION: Angus Foster, Financial Times --I would like to ask about the decertification of Colombia yesterday. Last night a couple of Republican Senators mentioned that Samper's resignation could actually help recertify at a later state. What extent does the administration see his departure as a precondition for this re-establishment of normal relations. And if it is not a precondition, what can Colombia do?

MR. MCLARTY: The drug certification decision was based on a very strict criteria that is set under that legislation. And let me underscore that whether it be for Colombia, Mexico, Peru and the other countries that are under review for certification. I think that we have been very careful and it is certainly very appropriate for us not to become involved in Colombian politics or matters. Drug certification by statute is a process we go through yearly. I think that is how it is looked at. Ambassador Watson was deeply involved in that decision. Alec, you might want to speak a bit more, but I want to underscore that basic premise and point.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY WATSON: I think that it is absolutely right, but I just want to take exception to one formulation you just used which is the re-establishment of normal relations. We have normal relations with Colombia across the board. We have simply to follow the law, which requires us to make this kind of judgment on the level of cooperation of other governments with us on the narcotics matters. And I can't speak for what other Senators might be saying. We have been extremely careful, almost to a fault, of avoiding doing anything which would look like the United States was involved in the political debate and struggle which is taking place as the Colombian body politic comes to grips with the narco-corruption issue. That is for them to decide knowing they are a sovereign state. It is also because if you are going to have any kind of lasting solution to that problem it has to be done through a democratic process in which the Colombian people have some sort of stake. So, to suggest that we would take action which would deliberately make some external deliberate change in there and in the internal system would be a mistake. So, the real questions are the questions laid out there that the levels of corruption and inability of the Colombian government do certain things in terms of legislation that are all laid out yesterday in a statement that Bob Gelbard made.

MR. MCLARTY: Let me just put one final note on that. We will be sending a senior delegation to the trade ministerial and the America's Business Forum in Cartagena in mid-March. I will be traveling there along with Ambassador Kantor and Secretary Brown to that very important meeting. We discussed that meeting in each of our stops with the respect of the President and foreign minister or trade minister depending on where that responsibility resides.

QUESTION: Nina Tashoi. National Public Radio. I want to ask a follow up question on Colombia. Critics of the decision say that in fact it was made on political grounds and not on the grounds of how much progress Colombia has made in fighting the war on drugs because if you look at their records in the last year, I mean, it is unprecedented they put six out seven of major Cali cartels druglords in jail. They claim to have eradicated 20 to 30 thousand of hectares in crops and their crop spraying program and all of that is quite unprecedented in Colombia. On those grounds it looks as if they have made quite a lot of progress which will lead one to conclude that the decision was made more on the grounds of the U.S. just could not maintain relations with the president so tainted by these accusations.

MR. MCLARTY: I think Mr. Gelbard in his statement underscored recognition and indeed expressed gratitude to those brave Colombians engaged in the fight against drugs and in some cases have resulted in loss of lives, and he cited some of the progress that had been made. But clearly based on the criteria that Alec just spoke of, Colombia just simply did not meet the criteria for certification. And that is how the decision was made by the President on the recommendation of the Secretary of State.

QUESTION: Adrian Dickson from Reuters. Another Colombia question. When he made the statement on the announcement of decertification Gelbard said that for the time being Colombia would not suffer any interruption of trade benefits. He said this is for the time being and this might be lifted in the future. Under what circumstances might Colombia lose its trade benefits with the U.S.?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY WATSON: That is a very complicated question. I am not going into that with absolutely nauseating detail. The decertification without the national interest waiver triggers certain kinds of action immediately affecting EXIM bank and OPIC in our assistance programs. They are not strictly humanitarian so called or narcotics related. Beyond that, there are a whole series of other measures which can be taken on a discretionary basis. There is a long series of other measures. Maybe 20 or 30 other measures which can be taken. I do not have my list with me here and what the President decided was not to use that discretionary authority. At this point, to ask us here in Sao Paulo, Brazil to speculate as to what sort of actions on the part of the Colombians might at some point in the future trigger a decision to make use of that discretionary authority I think is not very useful. I really can't guess exactly what that would be. The point I think is that the President wanted to indicate that he was not aiming the decertification at the Colombian exporters in the business sectors, and others who in fact have been recently, in the past I can tell you from the time I was there, pushing hard to try to come to grips and deal effectively with the problem of the impact on their society of the cancer, which is the narcotics cartel, which eat away at the institutions of the society. So, the point was not to broaden the impact of the decision any further than what was absolutely necessary.

QUESTION: Stan Lehman, Associated Press. Yesterday, the nuclear cooperation agreement was initialed by the Foreign Minister and the Secretary of State which seems to indicate to us a move by Brazil perhaps towards an eventual signing of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, and the Secretary of State also urged Brazil to sign, today in the speech. How, in your conversation with Brazilian officials, how close do you see in the future Brazil moving in that direction? Did you get any idea on a timetable or anything like that?

MR. MCLARTY: Certainly I would not want to at all speculate and certainly not speak for the Brazilian government. I think Minister Lampreia was specific in his comments that they would not rule this out. Then he went into some detail. I think what yesterday's discussion in the signing of certain space agreements and other cooperative agreement did demonstrate is a number of areas to work very closely together, not only in trade but in science and technology and that was discussed in some detail. As far as any timetable, Alec, I don't think we developed that line of discussion in yesterday's meeting. The Secretary's comments were straightforward today.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY WATSON: It is very encouraging from our point of view the expression by the Brazilian government officials and their willingness to work very closely with us to try to get a Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty this year. This is crucial. You may be aware that the Clinton Administration really made a dramatic shift in U.S. policy to be going for that because there has been some resistance in the past and we hope to get it done this year. And I think that getting such a treaty would go some distance towards the remedying of the difficulties that Brazil has traditionally seen in the NPT. Nobody on Earth is going to be having nuclear tests and that evens the playing field a little bit. Without trying to speculate what the Brazilian position would be, Minister Lampréia indicated to us that CTBT was a very, very important factor and we would very much welcome their support. We are going to need to bring everybody around.

QUESTION: Herb Lash, Bloomberg Business News. How important is the patent law on the intellectual property rights that was passed in the Senate two days ago, two nights ago, and how important would it be if the Senate were to rescind the Raytheon contract? How was that to U.S. business in Brazil?

MR. MCLARTY: First, in regard to the patent law, the passage by the Senate in about a 3 to 1 majority is clearly a positive, even important step in terms of really modernizing the patent laws here in Brazil. The legislation, as you know, now goes back to the House. We did discuss that with President Cardoso, who is quite optimistic and hopeful that it will be passed in the House. We very much support his leadership in this area. It is important not only for the United States and interests there, but it is important from Brazil's standpoint in terms of attracting investment to this country. And foreign investment has been on a very strong pace here in recent months and years and we have discussed this with Ambassador Levitsky, who has certainly been at the forefront in terms of that advocacy from the United States standpoint, which we appreciate very much. But that is the real key in terms of coming in step with economies that are clearly now integrated and globalized. So we are quite encouraged by that step and we appreciate very much the question of leadership. In terms of the SIVAM contract, I think the Secretary spoke to that today at the luncheon in just the right way. That is a matter for the executive branch and the legislative branch of Brazil to ultimately determine. The President has been very strong in his support of this project, believing it is an important one for Brazil. And from the Raytheon standpoint, it is a fine American company, with a highly regarded reputation in this area and (inaudible).

QUESTION: Could I have a follow-up? The patent law's five years in the Congress and the political scandal here in Brazil about Raytheon suggest Brazil seems to be very slow in resolving things. Is that frustrating for the U.S. administration?

MR. MCLARTY: I would hesitate for us to be too judgmental of how various Congresses move forward on certain pieces of legislation. I think that is one of the real characteristics and virtues of democracies and I think we see that both in Brazil and in the United States. I think what is, of course, important is the vision or plan that the respective leader in the country has. And I think that it is very much apparent in this country and that is feeding a genuine hope, not only in Brazil but throughout the region and throughout the world.

QUESTION: Bill Hinchburger, Institutional Investor Magazine. Some American executives, from multinationals, told me that they feel that they are at a disadvantage sometimes, because of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. And I was wondering if there is any consideration of making changes in that or on the other hand, if the American government has any ideas in terms of how they might be able to help American companies get around with what they see as disadvantage in comparison to some European companies who aren't under the same restrictions, for example?

MR. MCLARTY: You are talking about changes here in Brazil? Or in our Congress or..?

QUESTION: Changes in the U.S. legislation.

MR. MCLARTY: Well, there are a number of initiatives in this area. And perhaps the most perhaps appropriate and promising is one really done at the initiation of business itself, to adopt or develop some principles that would be the guidelines for all companies. And I know a number of American companies have been very active in that endeavor and we are very supportive in that endeavor. That would seem, perhaps, to be the best way to get at a situation like this. Individual legislation is difficult. I think from a trade standpoint the question has been consistent in wanting open and fair trade and that goes to the heart of your question. And then I think it not only benefits United States' companies, but it frankly benefits those companies that are competitive, and ultimately it benefits the consumers whether they be in Brazil or the United States. So, I think that is the best way to go at it. Maybe all or maybe some individual things in Brazil apply here, I am not aware of any, and Alec, give me a hand (inaudible).

ASSISTANT SECRETARY WATSON: Since Hattie Babbitt, Ambassador of the OAS, who is with us, is not here now, I will steal her lines and talk a little about what we are doing with the Organization of American States. The corruption issue, to our very pleasant surprise, is one that became salient during our preparations for the Summit of the Americas and not because the United States was pushing the idea. We started off with the idea of talking about problems of governments, that we all face being sure our governments work efficiently and fairly. And there are several Latin America leaders who said that is all very nice to talk about governments, but we are really talking about corruption as a problem that is really damaging us. The Foreign Minister of Peru told me the other day he thought that corruption was the single greatest contributing fact to the poverty in his country. And so the OAS is working on a code to deal with corruption in the hemisphere. That won't eliminate it overnight of course, but it starts people thinking and starts up some standards that hopefully will be absorbed by governments and countries over time. At the same time, the OAS has been coordinating this with the OECD in Paris, where there has been some work at the instigation, by the way, of Secretary of State Christopher on the corruption issue. So I think the Clinton administration is on record as strongly trying not to undo the Foreign Corruption Practices Act. That is the law of the land. Nobody is talking of undoing that, at least not in Washington - but trying to make it so that similar kinds of practices are adopted by the companies and other governments. And I think that around the hemisphere you see an awareness of how much damage is done to confidence in legitimacy of governments, when officials and governments are revealed that they have taken large bribes or influenced contracts one way or another. And I think you will see the corruption become a powerful political factor in Brazil, Guatemala, and Venezuela. You will find more and more political leaders getting on the right side of the issue. That is, it is not something you clean up immediately but I am really quite encouraged over what's happened over the last couple of years in the hemisphere.

MR. MCLARTY: Let me just add one brief comment to what I think is relevant and that is, you cannot help be struck as you hear discussions in the White House about President Clinton's views and vision for the future and as you have discussions with the leaders of this hemisphere how much there is a shared vision of strengthening democracy, making government more responsive, making it work, that is, part of the Vice President's initiative of re-inventing government that he has been so involved under the President's leadership. Getting our economies moving in the right direction consistent with the 21st century; profound changes that all of you are aware of in terms of technology and information, economic integration; and investing in our people. And I am just struck that those are the same agenda items, the same discussions that are oftentimes initiated in our meetings that are very much in keeping with the discussions you hear in our own government. At bottom, what you really see in the leaders of this hemisphere and certainly you see it in President Cardoso, he has a clear understanding that these programs and policies must touch people's lives. And that goes indirectly to your question. The final point I would like to note is that there is a strong institutional support of the Summit Agenda including anti-corruption. Not just through governments, but the OAS, the IDB, the Pan American Health Organization that give real support to the Summit Agenda on a very broad and effective basis.

Let's take perhaps one more question here. It is snowing in Washington and at least warm today in Sao Paulo. We will take the last one from you, but go ahead, please.

QUESTION: Katherine Ellison, Miami Herald. I just wondered if at a time when Pat Buchanan's arguments are gaining some force and people are increasingly insecure about whether their jobs are going to last in the United States, if you really think there are a strong resonance for this kind of trip and this kind of message in the United States?

MR. MCLARTY: The answer is yes, I think there is. I think we do not want to get into either legislative the discussions in Brazil or the Republican primaries on this trip and we will do neither, but I do think that primaries reflect a large field of candidates and therefore what might be a plurality does not necessarily represent the majority of thinking by the American people. I do think that it is important to communicate clearly the benefits of economic integration and how more jobs and better paying jobs, which goes partly to the anxiety that you just noted, can be achieved through open and fair trade. So I think very definitely that the President talked about that in a very direct way and in a way that I know he has a deep feeling about when he was in California recently, and I think his comments were not only well- stated but spoke directly to the American people.

QUESTION: Lee Katz, USA Today. Regarding free trade, how do you see progress on the goal toward hemispheric free trade, because in this part of the world, we occasionally hear complaints that the U.S. is going astray and is taking too long to approve Chile's entrance into NAFTA etc. and the concerns that the Southern Cone is drifting more toward Europe as opposed to the United States?

MR. MCLARTY: It is a fair question. I personally think very good progress is being made toward the goal of the FTAA by 2005 and I base that on a number of observations. One, the trade figures continue to increase between the hemispheres. It is a natural partnership with trade and investment going both ways. Secondly, the working groups that were established in Denver, while that is a quiet and steady way to build toward the FTA, it is an essential step of a building block approach - a step-by-step approach. It is very easy to get somewhat focused on a particular trade agreement, you mentioned Chilean accession to NAFTA and that is very important. But at the real heart of increased trade is economic integration, not just trade agreements. I think we will see a persevering and diligent effort in that regard. I think that we will continue to make real progress, including the next meeting in Cartagena. I think that regional trading blocks, whether MERCOSUL, the Andean pact or NAFTA, are very much a part of that integration that will take place. I think there are a number of paths toward achieving FTAA in the time line or time frame that you suggest. Minister Lampréia has used the phrase "We need to proceed with order and determination," and I think that is a very good way to say it. It is easy to get perhaps dismayed at the moment. Progress will never be smooth or easy. It will have some unevenness to it. But I think the general trend line is quite encouraging and I am very hopeful in that regard. I just might add as a P.S. from the Miami standpoint, I think just going through the Miami airport it is hard to get a seat sometimes on the plane, going to Latin America, or to the Caribbean which I think underscores not only travel, but trade and commerce are taking place.


Back to Latin America Bureau Documents

Return to the Electronic Research Collection Geographic Bureaus Home Page

Visit the Electronic Research Collection Home Page

Go to the U.S. State Department Home Page

To top of page