Interview With Gabriella Baer of Ecuavisa
Secretary of State
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Gabriella, first thank you for giving me this opportunity to speak directly to the people of Ecuador. I am so pleased to be here and I’m very excited about the opportunity to discuss some of these important issues.
Let me begin by saying that President Obama and I deplore any act of hatred or violence against any human being, and we are particularly concerned about any such action that is directed at someone who has come to our country. I deeply regret the cases that you mentioned and extend my condolences to the families of the victims.
Both President Obama and I are committed to changing our immigration laws and the President will try to do that with the Congress. The President has also spoken out against the so-called Arizona law, because it is something that raises serious questions about the role of the federal government in making sure that our immigration laws are uniformly the same across our country.
But what we want to do is try to solve the problem. And there are three things. Number one, why do people come from Ecuador to the United States? They come to seek more opportunity. We know that and it has been part of the American tradition. But I learned today in my meetings with President Correa, that for the first time last year, more Ecuadorians came back to their country because there is now more opportunity here in Ecuador. We want to see more opportunity throughout the hemisphere and we are working to achieve that.
Number two, there are rules that every country establishes for immigration. And we want to try to have rules that are fair and humane, but people do have to follow those rules just as they do here in Ecuador or Mexico or anywhere else.
But thirdly, we want to have a reformed immigration system so that the rules better reflect the reality. And we’re working on all three of those aspects.
QUESTION: How long? How long will million of illegal immigrants have to wait until the – Obama’s Government sends an immigration reform to the Congress in order regulate their status?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, President Obama has said that he intends to do that. But he also has to have the support of the Congress; otherwise it will not pass. So he’s working very hard to get that support and I know he wants to do it in the next months. I can’t tell you exactly when, but fairly soon.
QUESTION: It would be this year?
SECRETARY CLINTON: He wants it to be this year.
QUESTION: On the other hand, what would the implications be if Ecuador deepens its relations with Iran and the Government of Venezuela, whose president is Hugo Chavez?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Ecuador is a sovereign country. Ecuador gets to make its own decisions about its foreign policy. We want to have a strong relationship between the United States and Ecuador. We have obviously conveyed to the Ecuadorian Government our concerns about Iran, which we think is a country that supports and exports terrorism and is brutal to its own people and raises many questions about its intentions. But our goal and my visit here is to promote America’s relationship with Ecuador.
QUESTION: But this will affect the bilateral relations between Ecuador and the United States?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we don’t want it to and we hope it doesn’t.
QUESTION: According to President Correa, apparently, the American Government collaborated with Colombia to attack Angostura. He also stated that American intelligent bombs were used. Is this true?
SECRETARY CLINTON: We have said repeatedly that we were not involved. Now, we have, as you know, provided military equipment to Columbia, as we have to many, many countries in the hemisphere. But the United States was not involved.
QUESTION: Is President Correa mistaken?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think that we have a lot to discuss and we are engaging in a very open and candid dialogue about that and many other matters between us.
QUESTION: Do you believe Hugo Chavez is pushing some Latin American governments against the U.S., among them Ecuador?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think that unfortunately, there is a sense of that in my country. And we wanted to be friendly with everyone. When President Obama came in and we went to the Summit of the Americas, our goal was to turn the page on the past eight years. And we would like to turn that page, but we can only work with countries willing to work with us.
QUESTION: Will the U.S. accept Ecuador’s request to renew the Andean Trade Promotion and Drug Eradication Act on a long-term basis and not just for a few months.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, it’ll be a year that it would be renewed and we very much favor that. We would like to see a more permanent, longer lasting relationship because we really value our trade with Ecuador. If I’m not mistaken, 25 percent of Ecuador’s imports come from the United States and 33 percent of Ecuador’s exports go to the United States. So it’s a very strong relationship and we would like to have agreements that are longer lasting.
QUESTION: Would also – it would be possible – as Ecuadorian ministry Ricardo Patino has said, that U.S. collaboration goes beyond drug trafficking?
SECRETARY CLINTON: It does. I mean, the United States certainly cares a lot about the impact of the drug traffickers in Latin America. We think that they’re a real threat to people, their safety and security, and even to governments as we have seen in Colombia and in Mexico.
But our relationship is much broader than that. We have a relationship of trade, investment, many Ecuadorians in the United States who are working, sending money back to Ecuador. We have assistance – development assistance that we provide to try to help lift people out of poverty. We have microfinance assistance, a lot of other aspects to our relationship. And I spoke with both the president and the foreign minister about making sure that both of us describe that relationship more broadly than just through the lens of the anti-drug trafficking efforts.
QUESTION: Does your visit to Ecuador mean there is a possibility of a bilateral meeting between President Barack Obama and President Rafael Correa?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, of course, President Obama met President Correa in Trinidad and Tobago. And we are very hopeful that there will be more opportunities for such meetings.
Part of the reason that I wanted to come to Ecuador was to send a very clear message that the United States wants to broaden and deepen its relationship with Ecuador. And we’re looking for many different ways of doing that.
QUESTION: Could this meeting between both presidents be this year?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I have no idea. That’s something – I don’t schedule for President Obama. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Okay. You would also visit Colombia and meet the two presidential candidates, Santos and Mockus. Has your government expressed or have any concerns about either of the two candidates?
SECRETARY CLINTON: No, that is strictly a decision for the people of Colombia. We have not expressed any opinion at all.
QUESTION: And I have one final question: Do you think there would be fewer wars on all of the (inaudible) if women ran more countries and companies?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, of course the answer to that is yes. (Laughter.) I do think that it is very important for more and more women to assume greater responsibility and have more opportunities, and I look for ways of working on a broad range of issues that affect our two countries.
The United States believes strongly in women’s rights. We believe strongly in press freedom and freedom of expression. We believe strongly in good governance and accountability. And we want to work with Ecuador in these areas and so many more.
# # #