Interview With Lourdes Meluza of Univision

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
March 18, 2011

QUESTION: (In Spanish.)

At this point, do you have any evidence that the offer by Libya – the ceasefire – is real? Would you have to – what would you have to see to trust it? And will this in any way slow down the operations that have set in motion the Security Council approving this resolution?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we are waiting to see what Mr. Qadhafi actually does. The Security Council called for a ceasefire, and President Obama has made very clear we expect to see a ceasefire – but not just by words. We want to see actions on the ground. We want to see Qadhafi’s troops begin moving away from the cities that they were marching toward that they have sieged. We want to see them pull out of the cities that they’ve taken by violence and force. We want to see them open up the country to real humanitarian assistance coming in to help the people.

And so he knows what he is expected to do. He’s on a very tight timetable, because the international community has made its will known with the Security Council resolution. So we will know whether he is going to abide by the Security Council or whether the international community will have to enforce the resolution.

QUESTION: (In Spanish.)

If your goal, as you have stated, is that Qadhafi leaves, is the military action inevitable?

SECRETARY CLINTON: We don’t know yet, and so I don’t want to prejudge it. Because it is possible that he will see the overwhelming opposition of the world and begin to behave in a way that a leader should behave, in which case he will have begun to answer the demands of the Security Council. Now, I don’t know what he will do, but by this time tomorrow we will have a much better idea.

QUESTION: (In Spanish.)

What will be your goal in your meeting in France?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, what is so remarkable about what happened in the Security Council and it will be demonstrated at the meeting in France tomorrow, is that this is not a U.S. unilateral action. This is not even an action by NATO. This is an action that came from the demand of the Arab League. The Arab League, last Saturday, said to the international community, we want a Security Council resolution that will stop this man from what he is doing, and then said we will help you. So this was remarkable that we had for the first time an Arab League decision to suspend a member and then to call for action, including the potential of military action.

So tomorrow in France we will have the heads of state of a number of European countries, of Arab countries, and everyone will work to determine the best way forward.

QUESTION: (In Spanish.)

The United States will, in fact, participate in this no-fly zone?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes. Now, we will be aiding the efforts of the Europeans and the Arabs because we have some unique capacities. But the President has made clear this will be a well-defined, limited, discrete mission that the United States will go forward in helping others to make sure we do this.

QUESTION: (In Spanish.)

Are there discrepancies in what Japan is communicating to the U.S. as to the safety of – particularly on the nuclear situation? And is the U.S. prepared to evacuate thousands of Americans, if necessary?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we are always prepared to evacuate American citizens if we believe that they are in danger. And where we stand right now is that our nuclear experts are working very closely to reach our own judgments based on the information we can obtain about what’s going on and working closely with the Japanese to assist them in dealing with this unprecedented disaster that they are facing.

But we have said we will assist those Americans who wish to leave, and we are doing so. We have also worked with our military, which has, as you know, many people stationed in Japan, to make sure that we are closely coordinating.

It is not yet at a point where we would order people to leave, but we have said, based on our information, we would like to see Americans at least 50 miles away from the plants.

QUESTION: (In Spanish.)

Despite widespread concerns here and elsewhere, Jean-Bertrand Aristide has returned to Haiti. Are you concerned that he could be a destabilizing force at this moment?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think it is going to be up to former president Aristide what kind of force he is inside Haiti. What’s important is that the people of Haiti are looking to the future, not to the past. They have an election on Sunday, which is so significant because it will be the first time there will be a handoff of power between a democratically elected president to the next democratically elected president. And the United States is going to do everything we can, along with our international partners, to make the election successful – free, fair, transparent, with credible results. And that’s what I think people are looking at in Haiti.

QUESTION: But the U.S. had preferred he had not returned?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, putting together this election, still in the midst of all of the destruction from the earthquake, is a huge undertaking. And we just want it to be done as smoothly as possible. And I’m hoping that that will be the case on Sunday.

QUESTION: Okay, on the trip of the President to Latin America. (In Spanish.)

One of the reasons of the trip of the President, he has said, is to reestablish economic ties, to strengthen them, and to talk about job creation. And do you think, for instance, that China is gaining terrain on the United States with Latin America?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think China is certainly expanding its commercial relationships in Latin America, which it is doing all over the world. There’s nothing unusual about that. But Latin America is America’s biggest trading partner, and we are very committed to doing everything we can to strengthen those economic ties and also the relationships between the United States and the countries of Latin America, because we have so much more in common when it comes to democracy, when it comes to dealing with challenges from climate change to energy security to social inclusion and income inequality. And that’s what we’re focusing on and that’s what the President will be talking about.

QUESTION: (In Spanish.)

Do you expect any concrete initiatives to come out of this trip?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes, I think you will see some very important announcements on the economy and greater economic cooperation between the United States and Brazil. You will see a reaffirmation and a very strong statement of support for democracy and the need to continue to improve it in Chile. And you’ll see a real commitment on the part of the United States to helping El Salvador and Central America deal with the twin challenges of security problems caused by the criminal gangs, the narco-traffickers, and inequality and poverty, which has to be addressed.

QUESTION: Okay, on Mexico. (In Spanish.)

As you know, the ATF Operation Fast and Furious has created an uproar in Mexico. They claim that they didn’t know anything about it. Were you aware that it was taking place, and how has it affected the relations with your partner?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I was unaware of it. It was a law enforcement initiative. But I do think it’s important to recognize it was aimed at doing something that we are in full agreement with Mexico about, and that is stopping the flow of illegal guns across the border.

But we’re still working on making sure there is good cooperation and good information sharing. We’ve come a very long way in working with our Mexican friends on this shared challenge of criminality. And the Department of Justice has announced it will be investigating that particular program.

QUESTION: Does the U.S. ambassador in Mexico, Carlos Pascual, does he still have your confidence after the WikiLeaks scandals?

(In Spanish.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I deeply regret the WikiLeaks situation, and I’ve told President Calderon that. But I do really appreciate what Ambassador Pascual has done in his time as our ambassador because he’s worked closely with many parts of the Mexican Government. We are close friends and partners with Mexico but we don’t always agree on everything, as no two countries do. And so I’m going to continue to really support the important work that’s being done, and it will be up to the ambassador to determine how effective he can be going forward.

QUESTION: Okay. (In Spanish.)


QUESTION: One more? Okay, one more. It seems that Cuba returned to the United States (inaudible) Cuba, like in the recent measures that were announced, Cuba comes back with something, and this time it’s being the sentencing of an American citizen.

(In Spanish.)

What can you do about it?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we deeply deplore the sentencing of Alan Gross. He should not be there in the first place, having been in prison for so many months. He should not have been brought before a court and charged with crimes that he did not commit. We believe he should be released and returned to his family on humanitarian grounds as soon as possible. And we hope that the Cuban Government will do that, because I think everyone knows that President Obama came into office and has demonstrated a willingness to try to assist the Cuban people and provide greater relationships and connections between the Cuban people and Cuban Americans and other Americans. But it is very regrettable that Alan Gross is being treated the way he is.

QUESTION: Madam Secretary, we wish you the best in your trips and your diplomacy in Europe. Thank you for this time, the best of luck to you. Thank you for this time.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much.

PRN: 2011/427