Roundtable with Press at the General Assembly Of the Organization of American States

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
June 14, 2016

SECRETARY KERRY: Guys, we’re on a real deadline. I apologize. We’re just running late.

QUESTION: Can you tell us how it went? It looks like it was not exactly warm at the beginning.

SECRETARY KERRY: It was a good meeting. No, it wasn’t a question of not being warm in the beginning, but there was nothing that – it wasn’t un-warm. It just was not a meeting with – I haven’t sat with her – it’s the first meeting – so I wouldn’t say it wasn’t warm. We had a very congenial, very respectful, very constructive conversation. Extremely constructive. In fact, we agreed to have a dialogue immediately that works with both she and me and Tom Shannon continuing his conversations that he had. But we – I raised the four points that we’ve raised all along and raised earlier in my comments publicly about wanting a dialogue and supporting the process and the need to – for them to engage people and take steps to prove that they’re ready to implement the constitutional process and engage with the recall and do the things necessary to give confidence to people.

We made it about – my conversation was about Venezuela writ large, not about the details of a particular argument right now. We talked a moment – she was explaining the recall referendum, and I said, “Look, we’re not – it doesn’t make sense for us to get stuck in those points here. We’re not going to resolve that kind of thing this afternoon. What we can do is reach an agreement that we want to resolve – we want to change this dynamic and we want to try to engage with each other more constructively and get something done.” And she said, “Absolutely agree, and we want to do that.”

QUESTION: So when you said you’ve agreed to have a dialogue including you, her and Tom Shannon --

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, Shannon will first go down there and sit and meet with them – again, by the way, he has been – but with a specific view, with a specifically larger agenda that will then, I hope, bring Delcy and myself together and in a way that gets us beyond the old rhetoric. And I said that point blank. I said, “Look, we can’t be stuck in this old rhetorical battle here. We’ve got to get to something that meets the needs of the people of Venezuela and respects the Venezuelan constitution and process.” That’s what we talked about.

QUESTION: Given the meeting of June 23rd, is your country allowed to push to have Venezuela suspended from the organization?

SECRETARY KERRY: No, we’re not – we don’t want to do that. I’m not. The United States is not taking that position. We’re not pushing for a suspension. We don’t think that would be constructive.

QUESTION: And then how does one get between what you --

SECRETARY KERRY: Certainly, I mean, at this point in time, certainly, we’re – we can get a constructive process. I think it’s more constructive to have the dialogue than to isolate at this point.

QUESTION: So how do you move from what you’re talking about as the dialogue to something that would be the opposition and the government --

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, that’s what we talked about. There are two tracks, and I specifically said we will continue to support and leverage the Zapatero et al. track and try to make that work, but we also need work on our bilateral track to the degree that that diminishes from your willingness to do the other. And it also, I hope, will give us the ability to help in terms of the Zapatero track too. I think they’re not mutually exclusive, frankly.

QUESTION: Did she repeat her call to apologize for the 1965 invasion of the Dominican Republic?

SECRETARY KERRY: No, we didn’t discuss it. No.

QUESTION: And about the --

SECRETARY KERRY: I’m going to speak with her tomorrow about it briefly, but we didn’t discuss it.

QUESTION: And about the embargo, she was talking during the meeting about --

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, she talked about it in the meeting, but I don’t know what embargo we’re actually talking about here. We don’t have an economic embargo. And there are seven people who have been sanctioned for their individual activities, but the government has not been sanctioned. There’s no sanction against the Government of Venezuela. So I don’t – there is no embargo in place.

QUESTION: Your backing for calls for recall – so you’re supporting calls for the recall of President --

SECRETARY KERRY: We’re supporting the constitutional process.

QUESTION: Yeah, so can – just can you explain to us, what are you --

SECRETARY KERRY: We’re not taking sides. We’re just supporting the constitutional process. The opposition has a right under their constitution. And as she pointed out, there are two constitutions – theirs and Bolivia’s – that have that right. And we talked about it; we talked about the recall. But we’re supporting it in the context of a constitutional prerogative available to the opposition which they have chosen to exercise and have been frustrated in the exercise of, and we’re just trying to say, look, you’ve got to try to respond in ways that indicate an openness to your own enforcement of your own law.

QUESTION: Do you believe Maduro’s open to having this dialogue? Do you get the feeling they are ready to negotiate?

SECRETARY KERRY: I assume that the foreign minister is here at an official conference speaking for the country and for the president, and she indicated that he wants to proceed in this direction, and so we will explore that. That’s why Tom Shannon will be first to go. I’m not committing myself yet until we have – I mean, I’m not going yet, but I’ve committed to try to see if we can make this work, and let’s see if we can improve the relationship.

MR TONER: A couple more questions, guys.

QUESTION: Yeah. But there’s a new agenda for bilateral meetings between the State Department and the --

SECRETARY KERRY: We hope that that can come out of Tom Shannon’s visit.

QUESTION: Do you have a specific date for --

SECRETARY KERRY: Soon, very quickly. There is a lot happening and we don’t want this to get out of – we don’t want this to – this should not sit around. This should not wait. So we’ll – I will be urging Tom to be immediately in touch and to follow up as soon as possible.

QUESTION: Food and medicine shortages, all kinds of (inaudible) --

SECRETARY KERRY: I raised that.

QUESTION: You raised it? Have you offered any kind of assistance?

SECRETARY KERRY: Not yet. I mean, we’ve offered – yes, we actually have.

STAFF: And we’re waiting for them to request it.

SECRETARY KERRY: But we don’t have any mechanism yet or any acknowledgment that that’s something that they (inaudible).

QUESTION: Oh, I see.

SECRETARY KERRY: So that’s why we’ll have this dialogue. I raised the issue of food and medicine and the shortages. I mentioned the IMF judgments about what’s happened in their economy and the oil crisis and so forth. And they agreed; I mean, she understood. They’re – they’ve had some pressures. So first thing, folks, is to get this moving as fast as possible. That’s what we’ll do today.


QUESTION: Okay. Thank you, sir.

SECRETARY KERRY: Good. All right. Thanks, guys.