Interview With Michael Putney of Local ABC News "The Week in South Florida"

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Miami Passport Agency
Miami, Florida
April 17, 2016

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, welcome. Great to speak with you.

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you. Good to be with you.

QUESTION: What brings you to Miami?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, I’m here in Miami actually to talk to the honors program at Dade County --

QUESTION: Miami Dade College.

SECRETARY KERRY: Yes, sir. And it’s exciting for me because one of the things we’ve been trying to do is reach out across America to young folks in order to describe to them ways in which they can really contribute to changing the world and representing their country. And so I will not just talk about that, but I will talk about the extraordinary opportunities of service through the State Department and the Foreign Service to make a difference.

And we need the talent that is here. The world is a diverse place today and has great diversity. It’s the strength of this region, it’s the strength of America, and we would like to see a broadening of that base within the State Department.

QUESTION: We are polyglot multi-immigrant community.


QUESTION: You have a resource, I hope, of young men and women who could help spread the message of freedom and democracy.

Mr. Secretary, about Cuba: Ever since December 17th, 2014, you and President Obama, Roberta Jacobson, who’s in the room, others, have been working toward normalization. Even some people in this community who think that 50 years of isolation didn’t work look at what has what happened and say we’ve given the Castro government everything; what have we gotten in return?

SECRETARY KERRY: We haven’t given them everything. In fact, we really haven’t given them anything per se, because we have ended a silence that I think strengthened them. Their ability to be able to use the United States as the whipping boy and always say, well, we can’t do this and that because we have to continue this great, glorious fight against the United States --


SECRETARY KERRY: -- is over. We’re ready to normalize. We want a normal relationship, but we want them to behave normally in the process. So now the focus is on their behavior, their choices, how they treat their citizens, whether their citizens can meet their expectations. And we are no longer standing in the way of that. Obviously, we want to lift the embargo, but the key to lifting the embargo is for them to make some moves on human rights, to open up their system a little more, to deal with businesses more effectively, to begin to prove that they’re ready, in fact, to have what they say they want, which is a relationship with the rest of the world. There’s a responsibility on them.

And what’s happened since we began this process, there are many more Cubans now working for the private sector. There are many more people traveling and going to Cuba and exchanging views and opening --

QUESTION: Yeah, a million Americans this year are expected to go.

SECRETARY KERRY: And that’s enormous. Look, every one of them that communicates with somebody – these are real discussions between real people that are going to take place. In addition, we have seen the Cuban Government actually move and create a number of hotspots for internet use. Internet use is up. That’s one of the parts of the agreement is there has to be more availability of connectivity to the internet for the people of Cuba. And I think over – nobody expected this to be an overnight transformation. It will take some time. But already there are clear indications that there’s a – just a greater sense of expectation, of possibility, and people in Cuba, I think, are thrilled that we have opened up this engagement with diplomatic relations.

QUESTION: Right. Mr. Secretary, this week you and State Department released your annual report on human rights and you cited Cuba, but in the last 15 months or so, according to the Cuban Commission on Human Rights, which monitors human rights dissidents, pro-democracy activists and the abuses they suffer, they say there have been more than 8,000 incidents. I mean, it’s just increased exponentially since we announced this new policy.

SECRETARY KERRY: But in a way that’s good. I mean, in a way that represents the fact that people are out there taking advantage of this change. And yes, there have been detentions, but they’ve been short-term detentions. People have been released. So I think that there’s – that’s part of the transformation. I see that – I mean, I don’t like it, I’m not condoning it, I don’t suggest that we want short-term detentions.


SECRETARY KERRY: But the point is that it proves that the system is in a sort of elastic stage where people are pulling and then it pulls back a bit and they pull some more. That’s part of the change. And I think that it’s an indicator that what we did has ignited a new willingness of people to test the limits and to find out what’s possible.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, we have a ongoing dispute in this community right now because Carnival Cruise Lines --


QUESTION: -- which is a longtime, well established, and in many ways philanthropic member of this community – May 1st, it’s going to start sending a cruise ship to Cuba, and Cuban Americans are not going to be sold tickets because they were born in Cuba and there is this law on the books there that says a Cuban born in this country may not come back by sea. And there are – there is just outrage here that Americans and an American ship sailing out of Miami – that Cuban Americans can’t go on this cruise. What do you say to Carnival or what do you say about the situation?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, I know the folks who own Carnival and I have great respect – and you’re right, they are indeed philanthropic and they’ve built a tremendous business --

QUESTION: They own a great basketball team too.

SECRETARY KERRY: -- among many other things. But I would counsel them that they need to be sensitive to the fact of discrimination and they should not embrace a policy that is Cuban which winds up discriminating against Americans. There should be no policy in Cuba that prevents somebody by identity, by – in terms of their nationality to not be able to travel if they are appropriately visaed and licensed by their country or passported by their country to travel. So I would urge them to stand up to this. If Cuba wants cruise ships coming in and Cuba wants to join the world and Cuba wants to do business with the world, it needs to recognize it’s going to not be able to force its law on everybody else. It’s going to have to recognize the global standard, and the global standard is not to discriminate on the basis of nationality.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, August 20 – I’m sorry, April 24th, Haiti has scheduled a presidential election. The State Department, the U.S. Government has already spent roughly, what, $30 million to help hold this election. If that election is postponed, what do you say? What will you do?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, I think the key is whether or not it is real, that the postponement would be for the minimal period of time and that you will have the election. I think it’s clear it’s going to be very difficult by the 24th and then subsequently for the May date for the runoff. So – but we now have a prime minister, we’re beginning to move in the direction of getting the government going, so --

QUESTION: Yeah. Not an elected prime minister.

SECRETARY KERRY: That’s correct. It’s a transitional situation and we’ve been very involved in trying to work this in order to get a government that is legitimate, that is elected by the people. I think that there’s a shot here to do that. We don’t want to cut off our nose to spite our face, obviously. We really need to see if we can make something come together.

But there is a limit. Let me be crystal clear. The Haitian players, the so-called leaders, need to understand there is a clear limit to the patience and willingness of the international community to condone this process of delay, and the people of Haiti deserve an elected government and they deserve it now. So it’s very important that whatever we do has a very clear and absolutely unchangeable outcome.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, I must ask you about the situation with Israel. We have a large Jewish community, as you know, in South Florida, and a lot of others like myself who care deeply about Israel and its future. Let me just ask you – I mean, this is something – you’ve worked time and years on the Middle East. Will there ever be a two-state solution?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, I believe in the two-state solution. I believe not only that it can happen; I believe it is essential and it is the only solution in terms of the region because if you don’t have a two-state solution, you have the impossible situation of a unitary state, which by definition cannot be a Jewish state, which Israel wants, and cannot be a democracy fully because it’ll be very difficult to divide the rights without establishing what the Palestinians want, which is a state. So you will have constant conflict.

If you want to end the conflict – and I do and I think most people do – you’ve got to wind up with a negotiation that establishes the two states, meets Israel’s --

QUESTION: Are there parties who can --

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, let me just finish. This is very important.

QUESTION: Excuse me.

SECRETARY KERRY: Just that meets Israel’s security needs. Israel has legitimate, real security needs. And the Palestinians need to understand that. I believe there is a way to satisfy Israel’s capacity to defend itself by itself, to be able to be protected, and to even have an eventuality that protects them against a deterioration in the West Bank or in the region, but still to move forward with a political horizon about a state. And I talk frequently with the prime minister, who is a friend, and we’ve dealt with each other for a long time. I urge him to try to move in that direction, and they must stop the settlements that are stealing this ability to be able to move to the two-state solution.

QUESTION: Secretary, great to speak with you, sir.


QUESTION: Thank you very much.

SECRETARY KERRY: Good to be with you.

QUESTION: Thank you very much.

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you very much. Thank you.