Interview With Amaro Gomez-Pablos of Television Nacional de Chile

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Palace Hotel
New York City
October 2, 2015

QUESTION: Gracias for this interview. Thank you.


QUESTION: There was a solo handshake with the Pope at the Capitol. How would you characterize your relationship, and how much should Pope Francis be credited with the opening of relations with Cuba?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, obviously, I was very, very moved and very personally touched by the gesture of the Holy Father, and it’s hard not to be sort of emotionally overcome by it. It was a very poignant moment for a lot of different reasons.

He had a profound impact in that journey. It was a really quite remarkable journey. I had the time – I had a little bit of time with him at the White House and then a little bit of time with him again at the airport. And he clearly touched a lot of Americans, witness John Boehner who resigned the next day and sort of saw a path for himself that he hadn’t seen previously. I think he mostly reminded everybody about the ability to reach over divides and to find a bigger purpose and to remember what – as he said – the Golden Rule calls on us to do. And that applies to politics and – as well as a gesture within the church or within your faith.

QUESTION: And what would you highlight with Cuba, pertaining Cuba? Would it have been possible without him?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, Cuba – I think on Cuba – I mean, I can’t tell you that except I can tell you he played a very key role in helping to move the process along. And would it have happened without him, I don’t know the answer to that question. I wouldn’t speculate. But I think he deserves enormous credit for wading in, for weighing in, and for being willing to put himself on the line to try to help advance relationships between countries’ people. It’s what he cares about, and I think everybody respected that engagement.

QUESTION: It is a metaphor but a powerful one nonetheless: How long before McDonald’s arrives in Cuba?

SECRETARY KERRY: (Laughter.) Well, no prejudice here, but I hope it’s Legal Seafood from Boston before McDonald’s. But anyway.

Look, I can’t tell you when the embargo will be lifted, because it really depends, to a large degree, on the decisions and choices made by Cubans. They have to make it possible to lift the embargo. And the Congress of the United States appropriately is very concerned about human rights, about democracy, about the ability of people to speak their mind, and to meet, and to do things. And we’d like to see – we’re not asking for everything to change overnight, but we want to see Cuba moving in the right direction, and our hope is that it will.

I personally believe the embargo should be lifted, because I think lifting the embargo helps the people of Cuba, and I think that’s what we ought to be doing as a matter of our policy.

QUESTION: Quick question: Could there be a McDonald’s before we have a full democracy in Cuba?

SECRETARY KERRY: Yes. Before a full democracy I would assume, because I think that it takes a fair amount of time for the fullness to have entirely taken hold. But I think if you’re moving down a road – for instance, we don’t have a full democracy in Vietnam, but we lifted the embargo, we saw progress, we did different things. We didn’t have a democracy in China when we normalized relations and began to move forward. And there are many examples of that around the world.

So I don’t think that full democracy is the standard for when it would happen, but I do think there has to be a roadmap and a direction that is clearly improving these – the relationship between the government and the – and its own people.

QUESTION: Can there be a democracy with political prisoners? Or is it an impossible contradiction? I ask this because of Venezuela.

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, you can have an imperfect democracy. You can have a democracy that is faulty in many regards and still have a democracy.

QUESTION: And what is Venezuela? Case Venezuela?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, Venezuela is a troubled country right now, a country with great difficulties with an election coming soon. And that election will be part of the measurement of what kind of democracy it is and whether or not people will be able to participate.

QUESTION: No international observers will be there.

SECRETARY KERRY: And that makes it very difficult to make judgments, and it also speaks to the question of accountability and transparency, and that will be one of the measurements. I would hope the government would invite people, recognizing that it’s really in the interest of the government to show that this election, to hold it up for the world to see. We’ve had elections in the United States of America, a couple of them didn’t work out so effectively. They had problems in them. It took us months to resolve the election in the year 2000 with former Vice President Gore and President Bush. But it finally got there through the legal process and through transparency and accountability. Venezuela should really try to make certain, for the sake of Venezuela itself and its own participation in the world, that this election is one that can be judged to be fair and open and transparent and free.

QUESTION: And you find President Maduro legitimately elected and a democrat?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, he certainly was elected. I’m not going to go backwards in time. We have enormous questions about the choices that the government is making with respect to the rights of people and the ability to be able to have a full, blossoming democracy. So --

QUESTION: A democrat?

SECRETARY KERRY: I don’t know the answer to that until we see how he reacts to his opportunity to make this election a democratic process that everybody can understand was full, fair, and free, open, and transparent and accountable.

QUESTION: Was there ever an “axis of evil,” or just simply bad diplomacy? I ask this because Cuba and Iran are out of the list, and clearly the credit is yours.

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, I never thought the “axis of evil” was an appropriate representation of what was happening in the world. There is evil in the world, believe me. If you look in a place like Syria, what ISIS is doing is evil. If you look at some of what has happened in North Korea, there is evil. I mean, you can look around the world and find plenty of evil. But to suggest this particular axis I thought was a misapplication, and I think it complicated people’s vision of certain possibilities and of countries.

QUESTION: Just briefly on that front, Germany is taking 800,000 Syrian refugees. The United States is only taking 10,000. Do the numbers speak for the principles?

SECRETARY KERRY: No, not in the least, because we are the largest – we are the largest resettlement country in the world. We take more refugees each year for resettlement than any other country in the world. What Germany has done is taken a group of refugees for the time being and offered them safety and shelter. Now, will they all be resettled there? I don’t know the answer to that yet. Will some of them go back to Syria? That’s very possible. So in the emergency moment, Germany deserves enormous praise for having stepped up in a remarkable way because it’s on the front line of this wave. We’re not on the front line of this wave, but we are nevertheless going to up the numbers of people that we take for resettlement. And that still keeps us as the largest annual resettlement nation in the world.

We’re also the largest donor, $4.5 billion that we have put in to taking care of refugees in the Syrian conflict. And we’re very proud of that, but we don’t want to be just taking care of refugees. We want to end the production of refugees, which means finding a solution to the war in Syria. And we’re working very hard to do that.

QUESTION: Bolivia will not be joining the Our Ocean Summit because it has no sovereign sea. It’s a longstanding dispute, as you know, with Chile. Where do you stand here?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, I’m looking forward to being at the Ocean Summit conference in Chile. I’m very proud of what Chile is doing. Chile is offering tremendous leadership. I congratulate the president. I congratulate my counterpart, Heraldo, and I think that this is the kind of leadership the world needs on issues. Chile is setting aside a magnificent area of ocean to be a park and protected. We last year, when we did this in Washington, summoned $1.8 billion in commitments to ocean protection. We, in addition, set aside some 4 million square miles of ocean for preservation for a marine sanctuary.

So we are going to continue. When I come to Chile I look forward to making announcements of what we will do further. But this is very, very important. We have illegal, unreported, unregulated fishing taking place that is destroying fisheries of the world. We have an enormous amount of pollution coming into the ocean, pollution from greenhouse gasses and acidification that takes place in the ocean as a result which threatens the ecosystems, and then we have pollution that comes from land that fills the ocean with gas runoff or oil or plastic and garbage. And that collects in the ocean, and birds die from it, marine mammals die from it. So we have an enormous challenge, and we really look forward to being in Chile in Valparaiso.

QUESTION: Just two brief questions. First I’ll pick up on what will the U.S. bring forward to the table, but before that, Chile doesn’t believe in its dispute with Bolivia that the International Hague at the court is a competent organism for that. What is your take on it?

SECRETARY KERRY: I don’t have a take on it. I haven’t examined that issue thoroughly enough to weigh in on it, and I would be very reluctant as Secretary of the United States to start weighing in on something that’s in dispute like that, certainly not without great legal input as to the implication. But I hope it gets resolved. I think it would be good for everybody, obviously, if it is.

QUESTION: And the U.S., what will it bring forward to the table in our summit – the Our Ocean summit?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, you have to come on Monday to hear about it.

QUESTION: Make me an invitation, at least for town hall.

SECRETARY KERRY: I’m looking forward to it. I will be at a town hall in – I think in Valparaiso.

QUESTION: Yes, it is.

SECRETARY KERRY: And I’m not sure of the time.

QUESTION: It’s early in the morning.

SECRETARY KERRY: But anyway, I’m going to be doing a town hall, and I look forward to people coming and answering questions – asking questions, and really having a good discussion about why it’s so important to take care of our oceans. And again, my congratulations to Chile and to Chileans for the amazing leadership being shown on this very, very vital topic. Thank you.

QUESTION: Lastly, are you an environmentalist activist under – in disguise as Secretary of State, because I know that your agenda as an environmentalist is very strong?

SECRETARY KERRY: I hope I’m not in disguise. I’m unabashedly protecting the environment, and I think it’s a huge responsibility and I want to be – and I consider myself an activist Secretary of State.