U.S. Department of State Spanish Twitter Briefing

Special Briefing
Michael A. Hammer
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Public Affairs
Washington, DC
May 31, 2012

This transcript is also available in Spanish.

MIKE HAMMER: Hello, good afternoon. Welcome back to the State Department here in Washington for another session of Twitter in Spanish. I am Mike Hammer, Assistant Secretary, of the Bureau of Public Affairs. We take this opportunity to answer as many questions as we can, since we received many of them, and we appreciate the interest.

At the Department of State, we want to communicate more frequently and often in Spanish and in other languages. Well, with that, we are going to answer a few questions.

MODERATOR: Our first question comes from @lugrat. Why is the agenda on the Saad regime in Syria not being pursued?

MIKE HAMMER: Well @lugrat, the Syria issue is a very serious one. We have seen a horrible massacre that happened in that place a few days ago, where again over 90 people died. It is tragic, but it shows that Assad's government has to come to an end, Assad has to leave. The international community is reacting with force. We have expelled the Embassy head from Syria, here in Washington. Together with other countries, England, Spain, Germany, Canada and Australia, we have taken these steps because we want to continue the pressure and ensure that Assad remains isolated, and we are going to continue working with the international community to support the Kofi Annan plan, to see how we can put an end to the violence and bring a better future to the people of Syria.

MODERATOR: Next question from @xvillacatradio: Are there plans to remove ETA from the list of terrorist organizations, now that they have put down their weapons?

MIKE HAMMER: Well, thank you for this question from Catalunya radio. Indeed, we know that ETA is a terrorist organization that has been acting in Spain for over 50 years, killing more than 800 people and injuring more than 1000. We know that they have declared a ceasefire. But as in the past, the ceasefires have been violated by ETA itself. Therefore, we have to be very attentive to the issue of terrorism. In fact, our law with regard to terrorist organizations says that every five years we should review whether that organization continues as a terrorist organization. The last revision was made here in the United States in 2008, and apart from that, I cannot comment on exactly when the new revision will take place, but we must continue to do everything possible and cooperate with the Spanish authorities to defeat terrorism in Spain. Thank you, next question.

MODERATOR: From @danielberliner, asks: As director of AJOTENE, I wanted to ask Mike Hammer, how does the United States see the involvement of Iran in Latin America, and the AMIA attack? How does the United States view what Argentine investigators have done to clarify the case?

MIKE HAMMER: Well, thanks @danielberliner. You have two questions here. I am going to answer them jointly. The United States follows Iranian activities here in Latin America and around the world closely. We have to take into account that, as you mentioned, in the AMIA case in 1994, when there was that horrible terrorist attack, that Iran has been involved in terrorist activities also here in Latin America, and we are aware of the recent threat that was averted here in Washington with the Ambassador of Saudi Arabia. Thus, we follow Iran's issues very closely; we have seen that there is a new tour now by the Vice-President of Iran; he loves it. In fact, Iranians are looking for friends but are very isolated. There is a global concern about their nuclear program... We need to ensure that their program is a peaceful program, and so far, they have not shown that it is. In fact, last week, I was in Baghdad, in Iraq for talks, and we had difficult negotiations, but still Iran is not showing enough so the world can have confidence in their supposedly peaceful intentions for their nuclear program. Therefore, we will continue on this issue; we will be working with the international community, and we are preparing for the upcoming talks in Moscow on June 18 and 19. Thanks. Next question.

MODERATOR: @libertadusa is asking: Do you think that the upcoming Mexican elections on July 1st will affect the policy of the United States towards Mexico?

MIKE HAMMER: Thank you @libertadusa for your question about Mexico. In fact, here in the United States, we want to continue our good relations with whoever wins the upcoming elections on July 1st in Mexico. The important thing is that these elections are carried out freely, openly, transparently, and in a democratic manner. And whoever wins, we are willing to work with the new President or Madam President and the new government. We have enjoyed very good relations and cooperation with President Calderon's government. Last week, I was in Mexico, and we heard of all the efforts that are under way to combat drug trafficking, and this is something that is an extremely important issue for both the people of Mexico and for the United States. And for our part, we want to continue this good cooperation to overcome this problem, which is very serious and important for both countries. Thanks. So, let's move to the next question.

MODERATOR: The next question comes from @lugrat. What is your view on the Burmese government's decision to allow Aung San Suu Kyi to leave the country?

MIKE HAMMER : Well, thank you, @lugrat, for that question on the country of Burma. We view it as a positive fact that the government has allowed a hero to leave for the first time in over two decades, a person so clever and capable, one that has won the Nobel Prize, Aung San Suu Kyi. So she can travel abroad. We have seen the beginning of reform which may be positive; and we want to support the reform process. We know it will be a long road, but the U.S. wants to be there to facilitate this change and support more democracy in Burma. In fact, we are sending a new Ambassador because we want this process to continue and be long-lasting. The important thing is that we will keep working on it, and that the Burmese government appreciates how important it is to allow democracy for its people. Thanks, and with this we go to the next question.

MODERATOR: @Centraltweet question: if my visa has already expired, how long do I have to renew my visa once again?

MIKE HAMMER: Well, thank you @centraltweet. That question, obviously with regard to visas, is something we should refer to our embassies. And to what can be done through the Internet. But we, on the part of the United States and with a new initiative launched by President Obama, want to attract more tourists and visitors to the United States. So we are reforming our visa process and the means for people who already have a visa and for those renewing it, so there are opportunities to do so very quickly. We are starting new initiatives in some countries like Brazil, India, China, and I was just in a Mexico few days ago, and there I explained all the processes that our embassy and our consulates are implementing to make the visa process faster, more effective and more convenient for all those good Latin American citizens who want to visit our country. "Welcome to America!" is the message we sent to everyone; we want more tourism, we want more visitors; it is good because it helps us to understand each other and build trade which is very important to us and the rest of the world. Thanks, let’s go to our next question.

MODERATOR: Our next question comes from @Luístorresvas. What measures are the United States encouraging in order to stop climate change?

MIKE HAMMER: Well, thank you, @LuísTorresvas for your question on climate change. As you know, the United States is a world leader and is looking for ways and means to reduce carbon emissions. In fact, in the United States we have more than doubled the use of solar energy and wind energy, and we are looking for other ways to reduce our emissions. It is clear, that is not an issue that only needs to be addressed by the United States, but together with all countries of the world, we are facing the climate issue, which is something that presents a threat to our future and the future of our children and grandchildren. So we are in discussions and supporting these issues to reduce carbón, and we will also have an important meeting at Rio +20 later this month with the participation of the United Status, where will continue to explore more cooperation. But that's a very important issue that the Obama administration is monitoring closely. Thanks, let’s go to the next question.

MODERATOR: The next question comes from @Gabyrenata. What will by the position of the government of the United States on the Argentinian claim to sovereignty over the Falklands at the OAS meeting?

MIKE HAMMER: Well, thank you @Gabyrenata. As you know, the U.S. position has not changed. With respect to the islands, that is an issue we should... that should be resolved between Argentina and England. Well, let me say, as was mentioned at the OAS meeting in Cochabamba, let me say a few things about it. We are hoping with much anticipation to have a good meeting. In fact, I have lived in Bolivia and I can assure you that the food is very rich in Cochabamba and the people of Cochabamba are extremely friendly. So that is an environment that can lead to good work. That is the interest on the part of the United States, to work together with countries in the hemisphere to secure our future, to advance economic prosperity, and to tackle poverty. Here, there are issues such as climate change, where we will work together as we did in the Americas summit in Cartagena, and will ensure respect for human rights that will strengthen democracy. So we are very willing to continue this cooperation with the countries of the hemisphere and we anticipate a good meeting there in Cochabamba, Bolivia. Well, thank you very much, next question.

MODERATOR: Question from @ lugrat. Egypt's elections are between candidates that are not sympathetic to the United States. Does this indicate a coming change in relations?

MIKE HAMMER: Well, thank you @lugrat, for that question on Egypt. We do take note of this historic election, the first round of presidential elections that took place recently. We, on the part of the United States, want to work with whoever the Egyptian people choose as their next president and the next government. We want to have good relations with Egypt and we support democracy, human rights and the economic development of the Egyptian people. We have been on the side of the people supporting this very important transition and want to see how it is possible for the United States to continue to support these universal aspirations. So whoever wins, the U.S. is ready and willing to work with them.

MODERATOR: Our first question that comes from Cuba is: How are negotiations with the United States government concerning the liberation of the contractor Allen Gross?

MIKE HAMMER: Well, just so you know, we are not mentioning whom the question came from in order to protect that person’s identity, but we appreciate the concern about Allen Gross. His is a tragic case that must be resolved immediately. Secretary of State Clinton met with his wife this week and we are once again asking, something we do every day, that the Cuban government allow Mr. Gross, who is sick and who also has sick mother here in the United States, to be allowed to travel back from Cuba and return to the United States. This is a summarily unjust case. We are working on this every day and we want the case resolved immediately. Mr. Gross has already spent over two years, almost two-and-a-half years, wrongly imprisoned in Cuba. And now it is time for this case to be concluded and for him to be given his freedom. Let’s go to the next question from Havana.

MODERATOR: The second question is: The judge presiding over the Rene Gonzalez case allowed him to travel to Cuba for a humanitarian visit to his gravely ill brother. Many of us had hope that there would be a certain reciprocity for Allen Gross, who also has a gravely ill family member.

MIKE HAMMER: Well, since then we have wanted to see a similar humanitarian act that would allow Allen Gross to be able to travel and visit his 90-year-old mother, Evelyn Gross, here in the United States. I do not know why they would not allow this simple act. He feels trapped; there is no underlying rationale and we are appealing to Cuban authorities that they may take this humanitarian act and allow him to travel so that he can visit his mother and other family members. Thanks, next question please.

MODERATOR: The next question that comes from Cuba is: Why, as an independent journalist, do I not have the necessary measures to perform my work and break the press censorship? Can you help me? I ask because I have neither a computer nor even a recorder; as an independent journalist, I do not have a set future in the Internet service.

MIKE HAMMER: We hear you very loud and clear. The problem with freedom of the press in Cuba is serious and worrying. We are constantly insisting that the Cuban government allow freedom of press, which is a basic element of expression in a democracy. We hope that someday soon, the government will allow a type of exchange to be made that would allow Cuban citizens and journalists such as yourself to be able to communicate freely and without difficulties. We know about the blocking of the Internet, and that is why we are taking your questions through the interest section in Havana. But that is insufficient. We want to see that there is freedom of press in Cuba and throughout the world, and we will continue to insist on that until the day on which you and your journalist colleagues – who work in very difficult and dangerous conditions – can do so freely just like any other journalist throughout the world, such as is proper for being able to inform the public. Thanks, are there any more questions?

MODERATOR: Only one more question, which is: What new initiatives must North American diplomacy adopt in order to prevent the majority of the governments from continuing to support the totalitarian regime in Havana within the framework of the various UN voting blocs on matters such as the embargo, which is a key decision on your country’s sovereignty, or to achieve full consent in Geneva for condemning the unpunished violation of the most element human rights by the Castros’ regime?

MIKE HAMMER: Well, thanks for this question. In fact, the important thing here is, when are the Castro brothers going to let a true democracy exist in Cuba? Where will there be freedom of expression? When will there be no more political prisoners? When will human rights be respected? And that is why we continue to pressure, through our embargo, through what… through what we do with respect to international cooperation in order to be able to pressure Cuba, i.e., the Castro brothers’ regime, to change and allow there to be freedom. We want to support the Cuban people, and we will continue to pressure the Cuban government until the day that we truly see a free Cuba. Thank you; as always, it has been a great pleasure to talk with you during a Twitter session. In fact, tomorrow we will have a press conference in Spanish. And we here at the State Department will continue to communicate with all of you here in Spanish and in other languages. We believe that it is important to know what US policies are, and we also believe that it is important that we have a better understanding of what your concerns are. It has been a great pleasure. Many thanks, and see you soon.