Press Availability at TecMilenio University

Press Availability
Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Monterrey, Mexico
March 26, 2009

SECRETARY CLINTON: Okay. Well, thank you all. I’ve had a very productive and very meaningful visit. My meetings yesterday with the foreign secretary, the president, and a number of cabinet officials covered the full range of issues facing our two countries from the economy, to clean energy, to hemispheric challenges, to, of course, security. I spent time with indigenous students who put the power of exchange programs on full display, and with women leaders from throughout the country who showed the impressive and growing contributions that women are making to the growth, prosperity and development of Mexico.


I had the privilege this morning to visit a magnificent shrine to Our Lady of Guadalupe, one of the most important religious sites in the world. It’s a treasure not just for the Mexican people, but all of the peoples of the Americas and beyond. And I got to see firsthand the intensive and increasingly effective efforts that Mexican law enforcement personnel are undertaking to fight the drug cartels and the criminal gangs at a state-of-the-art police base in Mexico City.

This afternoon, here at TecMilenio, I have been privileged to learn more and see with my own eyes the potential of Mexico’s next generation. And my final stop will be to see the environmental and economic potential of Mexico’s clean energy sector.

Now, as short as they were, these two days have cast in sharp relief the breadth and depth of the U.S.-Mexico relationship. They’ve been an opportunity to listen, learn, and consult, and to bring a message of shared responsibility. The United States will be stepping up to help address the serious security challenges that Mexico is facing. And Mexico, of course, must do its part as well.

Now, I am a firm believer in results. I’m in the solutions business. And I know that Foreign Minister Espinosa and President Calderon feel the same way. So we are going to develop a checklist with tasks and timelines to measure progress toward our goals. As we prepare for President Obama’s visit here in a few weeks’ time, we will be working to expand and deepen, in consultation with other members of our government and the Mexican Government, what our specifics of this agenda between us will be.

Now, of course, it will cover security issues: What can we do to speed up the implementation of the Merida Initiative, including delivery of equipment; what Mexico can do to speed and enhance its efforts to combat the drug cartels and implement needed police and judicial reforms. It will cover our shared economic challenges, including a new competitiveness agenda, shared efforts to implement G-20 outcomes, and of course, trade, commerce, and border infrastructure modernization. It will cover clean energy, steps we can take to expand our partnership bilaterally and multilaterally, and it will cover health, education, human rights, global and hemispheric issues, including the Summit of the Americas.

We’re going to roll up our sleeves and get to work, and we’re going to be involving not just our leaders but also the people of our countries. You know, I had been stressing before I came to Mexico, and certainly during my time here, how unique this relationship is between our two countries. And I am more convinced than ever that we will stand shoulder to shoulder in support of one another and that we will make progress together. In fact, I think that is the only formula that will work for both of our nations.

So I appreciate greatly the hospitality that I have been shown, and I look forward to returning to Mexico soon. So let me throw it open for questions.

MR. WOOD: Our first question will be from Elise Labott of CNN.


QUESTION: Actually, I’m representing the network pool this time, but thanks, Robert. I appreciate it.

Madame Secretary, I’d like to ask you about Iran. Iran has said that it will attend the upcoming Afghan conference, and I was wondering what potential opportunities you think you have to work with Iran on Afghanistan as part of the Administration’s desire to engage Iran.

On the other hand, President Obama’s speech that he made to the Iranian people on behalf of their new year doesn't really seem to be taken very well or appreciated in Iran. In fact, just yesterday Ali Larijani, the speaker of Iran’s parliament, said that, you know, just sending congratulations isn’t going to be enough, this is a very emotional problem that has gone back 30 years and is going to take a long time and a lot more to undo. If you can address that, thank you.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we are looking forward to the conference at The Hague on March 31st. A broad array of countries have been invited, countries that are part of NATO and ISAF already participating in Afghanistan, donor countries, neighbor countries, countries that have a particular interest in and commitment to stability in the region. And of course, Iran borders Afghanistan. It has a role to play in the region, and we hope it will be a constructive role.

So I’m not going to prejudge the conference. I am looking forward to attending and presenting the results of our strategic review of our policy regarding Afghanistan and Pakistan, which we are viewing together. And there will be an opportunity to hear from others who are in attendance. And obviously, we hope that there will be a positive response from all of the countries there.

You know, we are doing what President Obama said we would do. We are reaching out to the Iranian leadership, but equally importantly, the Iranian people. And that was certainly the spirit in which the President extended new year’s greetings. We have a sort of long-held view that there are going to be difficult obstacles to engaging in the short run with the Iranians, but we’re going to continue to reach out, as President Obama said in his inaugural address. We’re going to hold out our hand and we’ll see if they’ll unclench their fist. And I think that his speech had a very positive effect and certainly was well received by many of the people in Iran.

MR. WOOD: The next question will be from Victor Hugo Michel from Milenio.

QUESTION: Hello again.


QUESTION: Hi. I have two questions from the Mexican press. The first one is: As you know, the U.S. Consulate in Monterrey was recently attacked with small arms fire. That said, my concrete question is: If the U.S. Government will ask the Mexican Government permission for the increased numbers of U.S. officials that we’ll be seeing in Mexico in the coming months to go armed to defend themselves? That would be my first question.

And my second question would be: Will the Obama Administration complete the construction of the border wall? In what timeframe and at what cost? Thank you.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, as to your first question, the announcement that was made by Secretary Napolitano, the Justice Department, and others in our Administration was about additional officials sent to our side of the border – civilians who may be Border Patrol or Customs or DEA or ICE or whatever agency they’re from, but they’re on our side of the border. And whether or not they are armed depends upon the laws and regulations that govern them. We are not talking about sending any representative of any one of those agencies across the border, so that’s not at all what was meant.

Look, I think that the, you know, challenges that we are facing are ones that we have to address together. That was the whole point of my speech. There’s no doubt in my mind that we can do more to help each other. And by our doing more inspections coming south and by the Mexican officials doing more inspections going north, I think, will enhance our ability to, you know, intercept people who are part of these drug cartels. And that’s our goal.

Now we’re also providing a lot of equipment that can be used along the border. I saw some of the Blackhawk helicopters when I was at the police base, and we’re going to, you know, try to obtain additional ones as well for the Mexican police force, but this is a real partnership. We’re going to take care of what goes on on our side of the border. Mexican officials will take care of what goes on in your country. But hopefully, our increased cooperation and information sharing is going to make each of us more effective. That’s the goal.

What was your second question?

QUESTION: About the border wall being built (inaudible).

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we are looking at that. I mean, there have been lots of very legitimate concerns raised about the border wall. And, you know, in some parts of our border which are so desolate and isolated, it might very well make sense. But in many places that it was routed by the Bush Administration, we don’t think it does. And so we’re taking, you know, a hard look at that and trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t.

MR. WOOD: The next question is from Matt Lee of Associated Press.

QUESTION: Hi, Madame Secretary. Slightly related to Elise’s question. As we all know or most of us do, that tomorrow, the Administration is going to be rolling out the new Af-Pak review. I’m sure we’d all love to get a detailed preview of it from you now. (Laughter.)

But I don’t – since I don’t think that that’s going to be coming, I’m wondering if you could just address in general the idea of, in conflict places like this, the importance of boosting the civilian component of the operation there.

SECRETARY CLINTON: You know, Matt, that’s a great question because you’re right, I’m going to wait for the President tomorrow to roll out the specific policy that he has signed off on. But I don’t think it’ll come as a big surprise to know that it is an integrated military-civilian strategy. And we are convinced that that’s the most critical underpinning of any success we hope to achieve along with the people and Government of Afghanistan. So we’ll be looking at where civilian trainers, aid workers, technical assistance of all kinds can be best utilized. And I’m very hopeful that we’ll get the resources to be able to provide that kind of civilian support.

You know, in the budget that we’re facing right now, it’s going to be difficult to fund the priorities, and we’ve got to hope that the Congress will heed the President’s call to, you know, give him the resources he’s asking for so that we can do what we need to do not only in Afghanistan, but in other places around the world, including right here closer to home along our border.

So yes, it’s going to be a civilian-military strategy. And I’m, you know, looking forward to the President rolling it out so I can discuss it in greater detail.

MR. WOOD: Next question from Mark Landler, New York Times.


QUESTION: Thanks. Madame Secretary, a question on Mexico. A few weeks ago, the Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair testified before Congress that the drug cartels were in control of parts of this country, which drew a negative reaction from the Mexican Government. There’s been a discussion, as you know, in Washington about the degree to which drug violence poses an existential threat to stability here and the phrase “failed state” has even been used. Today, Mr. Blair met with reporters in Washington, and he said, emphatically, Mexico is in no danger of being a failed state. You said the same thing, I think, in interviews with Mexican journalists.

Do you feel there’s a need on the part of the Administration to walk back some of this commentary in Washington? And has it reached a point where it’s become somewhat counterproductive for the relationship?

SECRETARY CLINTON: You know, Mark, I think that the latter comment came not from Denny Blair and not from the Obama Administration. So we have no – you know, no problem in saying, look, that’s not our view, we don’t believe it, and I’ve stated it emphatically.

I think what Admiral Blair was referring to is that there’s a public safety challenge. And as I mentioned, I think, yesterday in a couple of different forums, you know, every country at some time or another faces public safety challenges and you’ve got to get on them quick. We learned that in the ‘80s and ‘90s in the way that we dealt with a rising crime rate. You really have to put the full force of your legal authority to work against the criminals so that they don’t gain advantage over law enforcement.

You know, that was one of the major points of my husband’s campaign in 1992 that, you know, the police were being outgunned, they were outmanned by criminals, and it was one of the reasons that he pushed so hard for an assault weapons ban. So you – and I think the results were good. And we still – we’ve gotten crime under control – new policing tactics, you know, taking those weapons off the street at least for 10 years, you know, better arming our own police, you know, looking at using technology. Well, those are all the things that the Mexican Government is now doing. And we saw that very vividly today at the police base – you know, new police tactics, new weaponry, new technology.

So I think that there is an agreement on both sides of the border. This is a public safety problem that has to be, you know, just ended as soon as we possibly can, using the joint authorities of both the United States and Mexico in our respective countries to rid our border area of these criminals, and that’s what we’re going to do.

You know, you can go back and see this in different places, in different times. You know, we – I remember , because I’m older than you are, I remember when, you know, going after mafia families was such a big deal and how you went after them and they would have wars and, you know, they’d go into communities and they’d be shooting each other and innocent people would be killed. Well, that happens, and that’s why it’s important that we’re doing what we’re doing now, and why I give President Calderon and the Mexican Government an enormous amount of credit, because they have just – they’ve leaned forward into this.

You know, they were – you know, they knew that in the beginning of this struggle, they were going to have to send, you know, their police and even their military up against, you know, criminals with assault weapons, night vision goggles and all kinds of military equipment. But we’re, you know, we’re taking it back. And I feel very good about the strategy that is being employed here in Mexico, but they can’t be successful if we don’t help them. And that’s what we’re trying to do, because this is their problem and it’s our problem. That’s why I talk about shared responsibility.

MR. WOOD: We’re going to take one last question from Palmira Gonzalez of El Norte.

QUESTION: Thank you. Could you elaborate on the actions that you might be taking to allow Mexican trucks back into the U.S. territory, or regarding the response to the tariffs imposed by the Mexican Government?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, with respect to the trucks, our Secretary of Transportation has taken the lead on that. And he has convened the process and is consulting with the Mexican Government about how we can work this out. And I’m confident, as I said earlier, that we would.

You know, under NAFTA, the Mexican Government had a right to say, look, you know, we have these remedies under NAFTA, and we’re going to use them. Now, we don’t think either of those are in the best interests of our countries at this time of economic challenge, so we’re going to try to work out a resolution on the trucks issue. And I’m confident that once we get that worked out, the actions taken by the Mexican Government will be withdrawn and we can, you know, begin to, you know, worry about some of these other big issues that we face together.

MR. WOOD: Thank you all.


PRN: 2009/T3-6