10:30 A.M. EDT
THE WASHINGTON FOREIGN PRESS CENTER, WASHINGTON, D.C.
MODERATOR: Good morning, and welcome to the Washington Foreign Press Center. Today, we’re pleased to welcome back Roberta Jacobson, who is the Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs. And today she will be providing a preview of the Pathways for Prosperity in the Americas Ministerial as well as the Americas Competitiveness Forum, which will take place in Cali, Colombia from October 23rd to 25th. She will also provide a readout of Secretary Clinton’s recent trip to Peru. After she does that, she’ll be open to questions.
And without further ado, I will turn it over to Assistant Secretary Jacobson.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY JACOBSON: Thank you, Jean. Good morning, everybody. It’s nice to see everyone again. I will say friendly faces because we always start out friendly, don’t we? Let me do a couple things. I want to make a few remarks. They’re not very long, I promise. That ensures that I get to tell you what I want to say so that afterwards, you can ask me all the questions that go to what you want to talk about, because they aren’t necessarily the same.
And let me also make one editorial comment at the beginning. I apologize for this. I love new media. I love social media. I love all of our digital and electronic media. But I confess I was sad this morning when I read that Newsweek, after 80 years, will stop publishing hard copy paper editions. And I just want to underscore my age by pointing out that I think it’s really not the same to go browsing through your iPad as it is to go thumbing through hard copies of things. So I’m a little bit sad about that today.
But let me take a couple minutes to talk about a few themes that I think you’re aware of but that I want to highlight, because there is a lot going on in this hemisphere that doesn’t get a lot of attention, but even more importantly, I think, I want to underscore the notion that nobody in this Administration is slowing down on our engagement with the Western Hemisphere between now and January.
As you know, and as Jean mentioned, next week in Colombia, the Colombians will host in Cali a ministerial-level meeting of the Pathways to Prosperity in the Americas Initiative. That will be followed immediately by the Americas Competitiveness Forum, the ACF. Deputy Secretary William Burns will represent the United States at the Pathways Ministerial, and Commerce Department Under Secretary Francisco Sanchez will represent the United States at the ACF. I will participate in many of the events in that high-level delegation with others throughout the U.S. Government.
The messages that I think Deputy Secretary Burns will convey in his meeting with leaders in Cali and around – from around the hemisphere will reinforce the President and the Secretary’s messages of partnership and shared responsibility. To be effective, the United States must be a true partner in the region. We have to share responsibility for joint success with other countries in the Western Hemisphere. We also have to take responsibility for some of the challenges. To put it in business terms, what we’re talking about is co-investment, or meaning that all of us have to have skin in the game. It means we take risks together and we succeed together.
Taking a moment to pause to think about the fact that these two important meetings are in Cali, I want to note that Cali, in fact, was off limits to U.S. personnel for quite a while. It was the infamous citadel of the Cali drug cartel, a city synonymous at one point with organized crime and insecurity. And the fact that all of us are coming together feeling secure and comfortable and excited about going to Cali, I think, is a tribute to the Colombian people and the Colombian Government, those successive governments over the years. After a decade of Plan Colombia and partnership with the Colombian Government, the Rodriguez-Orejuela brothers are in jail and Deputy Secretary Burns is going to Cali, and that is transformative, I think.
At the Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, President Obama joined with his counterparts as well as the private sector and civil society, who will be present at these events as well in Cali, to commit to working together to increase economic opportunities. He announced several initiatives in Cartagena that we would undertake with partners in the region to make those goals a reality.
And I want to emphasize that what you’ll see in those initiatives that I’m just going to mention real briefly is a very important common theme that highlights what we’re doing in Cali as well as what the Secretary was doing in Lima earlier this week, and that is the issue of social inclusion, a catchphrase for the expansion of economic, social, political opportunity to those in the hemisphere who have not yet benefitted from the positive changes. Some of that is occurring naturally as people move from poverty into the middle class; some of it has certainly been achieved through dramatic openings in democratic societies and the participation of groups and individuals who have never been able to participate. But frankly, we want to make sure that that opening of economic, political, and social space is not only accelerated, but deeply rooted and sustained.
So we will highlight in Cali initiatives such as the training and assistance for small businesses through the Small Business Network of the Americas so entrepreneurs can compete in the global marketplace and so that they can be connected both to each other in the hemisphere and to small businesses in the United States. We will be talking about helping women entrepreneurs create networks in the regions via – in the region via the WEAmericas Initiative in order to increase economic opportunities and inclusion. We’ll talk about building educational exchanges to build closer people-to-people ties through the 100,000 Strong in the Americas Initiative. We will talk about improving energy infrastructure and promoting the interconnection of electricity grids in Connecting the Americas 2022. And we’ll talk about access to broadband and the internet as laid out in the Broadband Partnership of the Americas Initiative. So you can see that there is this theme of social inclusion and expanding opportunity throughout those initiatives.
The message that I bring is really one of optimism on what the United States and the countries of this hemisphere can accomplish when we focus on common goals and shared values. You all know me well enough to know by now that I am an inveterate optimist. The countries in this region have made very important strides in leveling the playing field, strengthening social inclusion, and enhancing democratic ideals. And we will come together in Cali next week to reinforce those partnerships.
I want to thank Colombia for hosting both the Pathways Ministerial and the Americas Competitiveness Forum. Those two events have not always been held back to back like this. That began last year in the Dominican Republic, and I think it’s an ideal complement for those two meetings to take place together. Next year, Panama will host these events, and I think that is also particularly timely, given Panama’s thriving economy and its leadership on many of these issues.
Let me highlight two more issues, two issues that I’ve mentioned but I just want to underscore. The Small Business Network of the Americas, which we talked about in the summit, and the fact that the Deputy Secretary will sign an MOU opening one of the first small business development centers in Colombia. There are many of those already in existence in Mexico and elsewhere in the hemisphere, but it’s important, I think, that Colombia be another of those promoters.
The second area is the Women Entrepreneurs Initiative, the WEAmericas Initiative that was launched at the summit. You know that Secretary Clinton is obviously deeply committed to this. During the Pathways and ACF meetings, the Colombian Government will sponsor a Women’s Entrepreneurship Expo that will highlight the challenges and opportunities for women-owned businesses in the region. Obviously, you know that the Secretary’s trip to Lima earlier this week highlighted this same issue of women and girls’ empowerment at an international conference that was titled “Power: Women As Drivers Of Growth And Social Inclusion.”
It also marked the one-year anniversary of the creation of a ministry of social inclusion under the very able leadership of Carolina Trivelli in Peru. And I think it was a particularly appropriate opportunity for us to highlight the Secretary’s constant commitment to that issue and the progress that is being made, but also some of the ways in which countries can grow and prosper and make much more progress if they are attentive to the issue of including women in their economic development strategies.
So let me close with mentioning one final initiative that we’ll be focusing on, which is this Connecting the Americas 2022 Initiative on electricity interconnection. Our goal here is the fact that despite enormous strides forward, there are still many people in the hemisphere who do not have access to reliable electricity. This is something that isn’t just about bringing electricity to people’s homes or businesses. It’s about bringing hope, it’s about bringing education, it’s about bringing economic empowerment and the ability to increase your livelihood. And so this is a very critical initiative.
The Secretary co-hosted with Foreign Minister Holguin a meeting on this subject in New York at the UN General Assembly. There is a lot going on in the hemisphere on electricity and on energy that’s extremely exciting, but there are very real barriers that we have to overcome to make this work. And so I think that’s going to be the subject of a very pragmatic conversation in Cali as well.
Let me stop there, thank you all for being here, and take your questions.
MODERATOR: Okay, if you can just wait for the microphone, please, when you’re called on.
The first question, we’ll go in the front right here.
QUESTION: Thank you for taking my call. Maria Pena with EFE News Services. When you talk about social inclusion and empowerment, that’s precisely one of the topics that will come up with the Colombian peace dialogue. And some critics have said that the U.S. financed or helped finance the armed conflict and therefore it should finance the peace as well. So how prepared is the U.S. to help the Colombian peace process now and in the months when they do hopefully reach a peace accord?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY JACOBSON: Thank you, Maria. I really appreciate the question. Obviously, I disagree with the notion that we financed the war, or the problem. We certainly supported the Colombian Government over the last number of years, a decade or more. But your question about how we will support the peace process and hopefully its successful conclusion I think is a critical one. And I think it’s very important that we make very clear that, as we said when President Santos announced that he was starting this process, we strongly support the Colombian Government and the entire effort on the peace process.
Obviously, we’ve all watched the pictures and the conversation and at least some of the press conference this morning from Oslo. This is a huge opportunity. We want to be as supportive as possible. We are continuing to work in Colombia on programs that we think address some of those very social issues that both sides are concerned with as they sit down at the table, whether that is land titling, whether that is human rights issues, whether that is labor rights, whether that is bringing greater security throughout the country so that economic development can accelerate. All of those issues – fairness, justice, equality before the law – are very much a part of our Colombia Strategic Development Initiative, which is really the follow-on to Plan Colombia, as well as subjects for the conversation that is being launched today.
So I think that is a reinforcing mechanism, and certainly we have made clear that we want to be part of that solution. We want to continue to support Colombia and the Colombian people in ensuring that we all as an international community do everything we can to ensure a real and durable peace comes out of this process.
MODERATOR: Great. Next question. We’ll go over here.
QUESTION: Jordi Zamora, AFP. (Inaudible) I’d like to ask you about the Cuban decision, the most recent measure. And I would like to know a little bit your thoughts on the impact on the immigration – of immigration talks and immigration negotiations that keep going on with Cuba regularly. I know that you’ve been involved personally, so on those issues and that – those talks, what is the prospect – what, after the announcement in Havana, what have you started as a discussion inside the State Department? Because it could be quite a huge impact in the relationship in the immigration issue, but also in the Cuban and American relations in very short term.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY JACOBSON: Thanks, Jordi. I think what I want to be clear about as we start this is – the short answer to that question is we don’t yet know how those changes that were announced are going to be implemented. And so it is, of course, of great interest to all of us in this room and certainly policy makers at the State Department and elsewhere throughout the U.S. Government what the change means, how it will be implemented, and what we may need to do to respond to that.
Let me start out by saying, as I think Toria Nuland has been very clear from the podium at the State Department in saying, is that obviously as part of responsibilities of governments under the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, the ability of citizens to freely leave their country and return we think is a critical one that all governments ought to be upholding that we have certainly long sought for Cuban citizens along with all others in the world. And so it is a good thing that it is being announced that some of the restrictions on Cubans to travel hopefully will be reduced, if not done away with.
The real question, to some extent – and many of you have seen this – is if you remove the exit permit but you require Cuban citizens to revalidate their passports, the question is: Will everyone get a passport back and therefore be free to travel, or will there still be controls? Some controls have been outlined already in the Cuban Government’s announcement. Unclear, exactly, how that gets implemented. So I think we have to hold off on talking about what the implications of this are in very practical terms until we actually see how it’s implemented.
The question of the impact on the United States or other countries – and I want to stress, this is certainly not something that impacts only the United States; there are lots of other countries that will be impacted by this – is something that I think will be under discussion and development as we have more facts and can make some planning assumptions going forward. But we have a pretty active and robust consular program in Havana attempting to keep up with the demand for visas to come to the United States right now, and it’s something that we will continue to be working on so that we’re ready for changes depending on how those get implemented.
QUESTION: Just a quick follow-up: Do you plan to increase personnel in Havana following this – is this something that you’re thinking about?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY JACOBSON: I just – I think the – well, I think the answer to that question is that we just don’t know yet. We can’t say yet whether we will need more personnel in Havana because we don’t know exactly what our demand level will be. There certainly is a backlog in the amount of visas we’ve been able to process even now, such that we would like to be able to obviously clear that up. But that’ll be the subject for, frankly, further thinking about it internally and potentially conversations with other agencies and within the U.S. Government and potentially in the future even with the Cuban Government, because we have to get people in to do those jobs. In the future, as we know what the demand level will be, as you know all over the world, whether it’s Brazil, where we’ve had to surge consular officers or other places, visa demand fluctuates for lots of different reasons, so we’re constantly kind of evaluating and calculating how many people we need to respond to that.
MODERATOR: Okay. Next we’ll go to Gregorio.
QUESTION: My name is Gregorio Meraz from Televisa. We have learned that some of our journalists have been killed in Mexico. Abel Lopez Aguilar, which was director from a newspaper in Tijuana, Tijuana Informativo. What the U.S. thinks about the increasing number of journalists have been killed in Mexico? How do you consider this is affecting the abilities of the Mexican people to be well-informed and avoid this censorship in totally independent journalists?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY JACOBSON: Yeah, no, I had not heard that, (inaudible), and I have to say starting out that I’m really terribly sad to hear that there is another case in Mexico. There have been an extraordinary number of incredibly brave men and women who have tried to report on things in Mexico, particularly crime issues, and have either been mercilessly threatened, had their families threatened, or lost their lives because of their brave efforts to try and bring the public the information they need.
And we talk often about how many more sources of information there are today, with the assumption I think many of us have that all of us will be better informed because of it. But when you have a situation like that, in which journalists are so severely threatened by criminal organizations, a place where non-governmental organizations repeatedly say it’s among the most or the most dangerous in the world for journalists, then it is increasingly difficult for the public to feel that they are well-informed about what’s going on in their country, what’s going on in their community, what affects their family.
So I think it’s a critical issue. I think we have tried, over the last couple of years, to speak out more and more about this and in support of journalists doing their work freely, openly, safely. I certainly think that the Inter American Press Association’s meeting in Brazil just earlier this week, I think, or late last week over the weekend, is a critical part of both bringing this issue to the fore and talking among journalists about how you can do better in protecting people. I think the Mexican Government has responded to the threats to journalists to try and create some structures that will help journalists be protected, but it’s incredibly difficult.
And I just – I think that all that we can do outside – and it’s precious little – is continue to support the journalists in their work, regardless of what they’re focusing on, try and set up and support with governments, with nongovernmental organizations, with local communities as much support as we can for the ability of people to go about their daily work, to share those stories and that information, and then fundamentally to work on the root cause of that violence – whether it is going after transnational criminal organizations to reduce their power and their sense of impunity, working on justice systems to try and ensure that people are held accountable for such action, and to work with communities such that they – violence is reduced and the fear is lost, so that they can become partners with journalists in that endeavor. We got a long way to go and we have to keep working at it.
MODERATOR: Follow-up? Sure.
QUESTION: Can I follow-up? Yes, it’s just – have you expressed to the Mexican Government your concerns about how the impunities – allowing more crimes against journalists – because I understand most of them have not been investigated, and there’s a lot of people responsible?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY JACOBSON: Well, I think we start from the recognition that we have been discussing with the Mexican Government since 2007, when we began working on the Merida Initiative, but certainly accelerated under this Administration, we have been discussing a whole range of issues that get at the issue of impunity and solving crimes, prosecuting them successfully, keeping people in prison. And so that panoply of work with the judiciary, work with alternative forms of dispute resolution, work with penitentiaries, work on the transformation of the justice system in Mexico, which was passed in 2008, is certainly, I think, the framework in which we’re having that conversation.
But yes, absolutely, we have had specific conversations with our colleagues in Mexico about how we are both worried about particular categories of people. Those categories of people are clearly journalists as well as human rights defenders and NGOs. So all of this is part of the conversation as we and the Mexican Government look for ways to combat that violence.
QUESTION: Follow-up with a question?
QUESTION: I want to add to what you have said --
MODERATOR: I’m sorry. Can you just tell me your name?
QUESTION: Andy Jud from Argentina, Perfil.
MODERATOR: Thank you.
QUESTION: I want to add also that in the last election in Venezuela eight days ago, a team of journalists from Argentina that went to Venezuela, Jorge Lanata – he’s a very critic journalist from Argentina, sometimes with a lot of vehemence. He has – he’s a very strong journalist with a clear concept sometimes. Well, he was taken in a subway in a basement in the airport when he arrived to Venezuela. They told him that he couldn’t do his job normally because he was going to be followed. And when he left – he was going to leave Venezuela, he was taken away to a basement. All his team was put there for two hours and they erased all the material and really was a very complicated situation that the Government of Venezuela said that was a routine investigation, because Lanata found some secret intelligence documents that said that he was being chased. I want to know if really – we are not talking about only a situation with criminals, we are also talking governments that sometimes are having this pressure with critic journalists. And (inaudible) which is the message of the U.S. when we are seeing in Latin America a lot of changes and a lot of critic journalism also?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY JACOBSON: No, actually I appreciate the question because it allows me to make sure that I amplify a little bit on the previous question to be clear about what we are concerned with vis-a-vis press issues in the hemisphere. And I think we’ve tried to be clear on this, but let me try again if we haven’t.
You have a set of pressures on journalists – threats, pressures, violence – that comes from criminal organizations, and I think that’s very clear. It’s clear especially in places such as Central America and Mexico, but it’s also clear that in many cases you have governments trying to resist that and protect journalists, sometimes unsuccessfully, unfortunately, but giving attention to the matter.
But on the other hand, we have a range of press issues that are, in fact, connected to governments. And we’ve been pretty clear about our concerns on freedom of the press issues in the hemisphere. We have been clear about the way in which pressures have been brought to bear on free and open media outlets by governments using various tactics. Some may be of the sort you described, others may be law suits that are, frankly, extreme, it seems to us, and don’t provide for the kind of open exercise of their journalistic trade in ways that we expect democracies to honor.
So – and this has been seen not only in individual countries in the hemisphere, but frankly in some of the attacks on the Inter-American Human Rights System – in particular, the Special Rapporteur on Press Freedom, who I think has a very important role to play in bringing a lot of these issues to light.
So we think that is incredibly important. And I would direct you, as well to anyone who may have missed its implications for this hemisphere, to the President’s speech at the United Nations General Assembly, which I think while not specifically directed at Latin America and the Caribbean, had a huge amount of relevance in the response to freedom and some of its tensions and difficulties being more freedom not less.
MODERATOR: Sonia, and then Flavia. Right here in the front.
QUESTION: Hi, thank you. Sonia Schott with Globovision-Venezuela and Blue Radio of Colombia. I just want to double-check with you, because on Friday, Mr. Hammer in the briefing said he is not aware of any requests coming from the Colombian Government regarding Simon Trinidad. And I would like to know, is there a request? If there is – or not – or it is something you don’t want to comment or to get into that?
And the second one will be: What will be the major change for a second term of President Obama regarding Latin America, especially on Venezuela, on Colombia.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY JACOBSON: Okay. Thank you. Let me start out by saying that Mike Hammer is a very smart guy and I never, ever want to contradict Mike Hammer, so you’re not going to hear me do that today. (Laughter.)
I think the issue of the Colombian peace talks, I’ve already said, are critically important to us, and we want to support and help in every way possible. What I won’t do from the podium, and I don’t think any State Department official is going to do during this process, is confirm a lot of details about individual conversations with the Colombian Government on aspects of the talks. It’s just not helpful to their process.
This is first and foremost something that the Colombian Government has to decide and lead in their conversations with the FARC. And so we will discuss with them anything they bring to us and talk it through with them. Certainly the elements of government that would be involved in that conversation would be beyond the State Department, for obvious reasons would involve the Justice Department. But I’m not going to confirm sort of when, where, who – any conversations like that might take place. It is very early days also, I want to say, in terms of these talks. And so these are things that the Colombian Government is probably still contemplating.
On the question of the President and what comes next in a second term, let me say that I think there are a number of things the President himself has said he considers sort of unfinished, that he’d like to move ahead with. And one of those that is not, by definition in some respects, a foreign policy issue, but most certainly does affect our relationships with the hemisphere – and in fact involves the State Department in its implementation – is comprehensive immigration reform. And that obviously doesn’t come as big news to anybody here. That is a critical thing that the President would like to get done, and its impact on our relationships in the hemisphere would be extremely positive and extremely important, I think.
So that is one thing. I think the other thing that has been one of the more exciting initiatives in this Administration that clearly would cross into a second term, is the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the movement of an exciting and new trade agenda with countries in the hemisphere. Remembering that the Trans-Pacific Partnership began with two members from this hemisphere – three if you count us – which are Chile and Peru to begin with, but that just recently the time expired on the entrance into the negotiations, that is to say they are now fully engaged in the negotiations for the TPP, and that’s for Mexico and Canada.
So you have a very robust Western hemisphere presence already in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which we view, really, as the next generation trade agreement and trade engagement. And so I think that’s incredibly important as you look at – for years, we’ve talked about what comes after NAFTA? What comes after the bilateral free trade agreements? And while it obviously does not include all countries in the hemisphere, it really is, I think, as many countries in the hemisphere look to Asia and are Pacific countries engaged in increasing trade in that direction, a very exciting development for our own relationships on trade in this hemisphere and globally.
I think the other thing that I would say that we are hoping to both continue – and there’s certainly a lot of continuity, but I suspect that’s not really what you want to know about is what we will do exactly the same. There are still things, I think, all of us believe are – we can do more, we can do better, we can achieve greater things. One of those, I think, is this whole model of equal partnership and shared responsibility in the area of security. And work on citizen security I think has been highly successful in Colombia. I think it is showing great promise in Mexico. And we’ve very good conversations with the incoming government in Mexico, the transition team as well.
I think we have all been disappointed that more has not been achieved in Central America. Although the Secretary talked at her meeting with Central American leaders recently about significant reductions in homicide in Central America in the first half of this year, a trend we certainly hope continues, there is so much more that needs to be done in Central America. And the level of violence overall, other crimes, et cetera, is still unacceptably high, and we’ve got a real challenge to continue working – working smarter, working better, trying to bring to fruition some of those programs. The same in a sense in the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative, where it was started later. The President announced it in Trinidad in 2009, and we’ve still got a lot of work to do. So I guess on the Citizen Security initiatives, I would say we have begun to get a very good sense of what works, what doesn’t work, how we have to adjust things, but that needs to bring greater results in the next four years.
Obviously, we would like to see greater changes in Cuba. We have engaged the Cuban people to a greater extent under this Administration, with the regulatory changes that we have made. We think that is a very good thing. Our – obviously, our problems have never been with the Cuban people; they’ve only been with the Cuban Government. I will tell you personally, and on behalf of the Secretary and others in this Administration, I certainly expect and hope that Alan Gross will come home as soon as possible. I would like that to be before the elections. And that that will enable – if anything else is possible with the Cuban Government, it is not possible, it is difficult, while he is in jail for an excessive sentence for a crime that shouldn’t be a crime. And so we would like to see that take place as quickly as possible, and other changes as well in Cuba itself.
QUESTION: And in Venezuela, no change?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY JACOBSON: Now in Venezuela, I wouldn’t say no change. I think we have said pretty clearly since well, for quite awhile – certainly since before I was the Assistant Secretary – that there are issues we believe are of mutual concern and that we would very much like to have conversations and engage in a dialogue with the Venezuelan Government on those issues. We have not gotten a positive response up until now. If we got a positive response that the Venezuelan Government wanted to have some conversations on things that are in both of our interests, we would look forward to having those conversations.
We also obviously look forward to the elections in December and the ability of all Venezuelans to continue the process of voting their conscience and having those votes count and be reflected in elected officials. We’ve also made clear that we think that the fact that the opposition got 6.5 million votes in this election is a very significant advance, and that the views of those people need to be taken into consideration as the Venezuelan Government moves forward.
MODERATOR: Next question, Flavia.
QUESTION: Hi. Good morning. Flavia Barbosa, O Globo Newspaper, Brazil. You mentioned concerns about attacks to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and you had said that before in the previous briefing after Cartagena. But since then, a reform within the commission got started, and a lot of organizations are concerned that these reforms are meant to weaken the commission and not to strength it. I would like to hear, will – how the U.S. is working within the commission to try to avoid that it becomes weaker. And I would like you to assess how – what role is Brazil playing in this process, and if Brazil is an ally of those who want to weaken the commission or of those who want to strength it.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY JACOBSON: Right. Thank you. I do have some themes that are common each time we talk, and that’s certainly one of them. I do think – I have to say I stand before you today a bit more optimistic about where things may be moving in the Inter-American Human Rights System and the efforts to reform. I think perhaps when I talked to you last – I’m not sure exactly when it was; it might have been right after Cartagena. Anybody who saw me right after Cochabamba would’ve seen someone who was fairly depressed, I have to be honest, but – on this particular issue. But I think there’s been progress made on this subject. And I think some of that progress has come from the commission itself, which has really, I think, been energized to try and move ahead with reforms and promote and present some of its own reforms in conjunction with member states that I think will have an effect of strengthening the commission and not weakening it but are still reforms, because we do think there are changes that are necessary.
We have a new Executive Secretary at the Inter-American Commission. We were obviously very supportive of his predecessor. But I think in this particularly difficult period, new blood of any type, frankly, whether it’s members of the commission, whether it’s an executive secretary, whether it’s those of us who are working on this issue from outside, can often be very helpful in kind of adjusting that debate and, frankly, making it a little less polarizing and a little more cohesive and coordinated and positive in its approach.
I know that the commission has traveled to a number of countries in the hemisphere. They’ve been to Mexico. I think something may be on the agenda for Brazil, but I’m not sure about that. And I think those kinds of – that kind of a traveling road show in which they engage with governments, with NGOs, find out from people what are their concerns about the commission and how can they make it better, is incredibly important and very positive.
The Brazilian Government has been, from the beginning, one of those who has pushed very hard for reform, and came to the table with a fairly well thought out reform proposal. We can obviously discuss whether or not we agreed with every one of their proposals for reform. I suspect we never agree a hundred percent on those kinds of things. But it was very well considered, and it was clear that the Brazilian Government was interested in a positive reform. So in that respect, we’ve continued to work with the Brazilian Government on ways to reform and strengthen the Inter-American Human Rights Commission so that it benefits all of us.
So I am a little bit more optimistic in that area than I was, but I think we don’t have a huge amount of time left before we may have a special general assembly on this, and that those of us who feel strongly about the commission and its role in protecting human rights throughout the hemisphere need to remain vigilant and on guard against those who would seek to weaken or destroy it, because they still exist.
MODERATOR: Just time for a few more questions. Question right there?
QUESTION: Santiago Tavara from Notimex. With the end of the wars on Iraq and Afghanistan and the death of Usama bin Ladin, it is time now to increase the use of drones in the fight against drugs in the southern border with Mexico, as they are used in the fight against terror (inaudible) in Afghanistan and Pakistan. And now that you mentioned military reform, it is time to address this issue not as a domestic issue, but as a foreign policy issue with regional partners as Mexico --
ASSISTANT SECRETARY JACOBSON: Address which issue? I’m sorry.
QUESTION: Yeah, as a foreign policy – foreign policy issue. Not immigration, not --
ASSISTANT SECRETARY JACOBSON: Okay.
QUESTION: -- seeing as a domestic issue, but as a foreign policy issue.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY JACOBSON: Thank you. Okay. Thank you. The first thing I guess I would say about the use of UAVs or drones in the fight against – and I’m going to continue to revert to transnational criminal organizations, because I think, frankly, it’s a more accurate one because they deal in contraband of all sorts, whether that’s human beings, whether it’s drugs, whether it’s other things.
The first thing I guess I would say is, frankly, they’ve been in use where appropriate for a while now, and obviously, that has included use on the U.S. side of the Mexican border and occasionally with Mexico. So I do not think that the utility or use of unmanned aerial vehicles or drones in the fight against criminal – transnational criminal organizations is driven by or, frankly, in any way connected to the drawing down of efforts in Iraq or Afghanistan. Obviously, resources might be freed up. Obviously, lessons learned can change the way you view the utility of certain equipment or models in other fights. So I’m not ignoring that fact.
But I think it would be a serious mistake to assume that what the U.S. or any other country or ally does is kind of just say, “Okay, we’re done using them here. We’ll just take them exactly as they are and use them for another mission.” There is obviously some utility to the use of this equipment that people are looking at and trying to figure out whether they can be used more effectively in the coordinated fight with governments around the hemisphere. But I think I want to guard a little bit about – against the notion of thinking that there’s an automatic redeployment underway, because it’s just not the way we work.
On the immigration issue, I think you raise a very important point. I can only speak to a part of the immigration issue that is related to foreign policy and our engagement with other countries. It clearly is – it’s an issue of great concern to countries throughout the hemisphere. It’s one that we’ve had conversations on for years. But similarly, just to point out that whatever happens in comprehensive immigration reform – and I want to stress the word “comprehensive” because comprehensive means you’re also talking about creating legal paths for people to come to the United States to work temporarily. Who issues those visas? That would be the State Department, our consular officers all over the world. So we do have to be engaged.
We have always seen this – because of our particular position, we’ve always seen it as a foreign policy issue, its impact on foreign policy. It’s not necessarily, though, the central part of the debate in the United States, and I don’t know that it ever will be. I’m not really going to comment on whether it should be or not. Many of my colleagues in the domestic agencies are obviously deeply engaged in this from the domestic perspective.
MODERATOR: Okay. Right here.
QUESTION: Hi, Roberta. Jesus from Proceso. You said you have seen progress in Mexico in terms of security. And if you ask the Mexican people, they probably will say no. So I will ask you, what kind of progress have you seen, if you see now – exactly what progress you’ve – if you ask the government of Calderon, they will say, “Well, the country’s in peace,” after over 100,000 people dead in six years.
And do you believe that the killing of one of the bosses of the cartel is really a progress for security in Mexico? I’m talking about the case of El Lazca. And the U.S. Government was very careful in its response or reaction to that, (inaudible) saying that he’s dead. You were saying the President of Mexico and the Secretary of (inaudible), they confirmed his death.
So I will ask you one more time, and please give me an answer: Is he dead? Do you believe, the U.S. Government believe, that he’s dead?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY JACOBSON: Again, let me start with the first question, the one about progress. I think this is one of the hardest questions to answer for any of us, frankly, because – and it’s a subject of obvious conversation pretty openly, both in the United States, in Mexico, elsewhere. Because the question on progress is always dependent upon what are your metrics, what are you looking at as indicators of progress, right?
The most obvious one is levels of violence or deaths. But as tragic as levels of violence may be, or deaths – and I started out by talking about unacceptably high levels of violence and I continue to assert that that’s the case; they are unacceptably high for citizens who are living through that – they aren’t the only indicator of progress, nor necessarily the best indicator of progress, despite the fact that they’re critically important, I think, for both governments and for citizens.
I do think we want to look at other things too – not only but too – in Mexico. You have to look, for example, at the way in which Mexicans, Americans, Central Americans, Colombians are working together to ensure that criminal organizations cannot take advantage of and exploit national differences, right? That’s a huge part of why they succeed, because they are considerably more agile and flexible than governments are. And they don’t stop at borders, and they exploit weaknesses between and among countries. Unless we work together better, we can’t keep up with that. I think we’re working together significantly better than we ever have with Mexico in terms of the sharing of information, in terms of how we work to sew up those seams of difference and ensure we can both work together to prosecute transnational crime.
I think efforts that Mexico has made on things like precursor drugs, on things like finding contraband, seizing it, making roots insecure for those who would use them, have been very significant. I think the progress in transforming the judicial system, whether it’s at the state level – which obviously began well ahead of the federal efforts but with some support from the United States – as well as now at the federal level has been progress, even though there’s a great deal more to be done.
I think that the notion of engagement of civil society in this issue is a critical part of success, and there has been enormous progress in that area. Mexicans didn’t really get engaged – I don’t know, pick your metric, six years ago, eight years ago – partly because the level of violence may not have been as high, but partly because people just weren’t organized around the issue. It wasn’t really one for discussion. You are right; violence triggered a reaction on the part of civil society. That reaction, whether it is opposed to current policy, supportive of current policy, or just seeking to have a voice, is extremely healthy. It’s healthy for the Mexican Government, whatever Mexican Government is in power, to have an engaged citizenry. It’s healthy for the relationship with the United States.
So I think there are areas in which progress has been made. I think people in Ciudad Juarez would argue that there has been progress made in that city. Now the question then is: Can you scale up, can you use what works, can you replicate to make progress in lots of other places where, clearly, not enough progress has been made?
On the question of Lazca, I mean, the first thing I want to say is obviously, I will try and speak for the State Department. I cannot speak for the entire U.S. Government. But I think you’ve seen what we’ve said. Yes, we believe he was killed in that firefight. But I also want to say I am not an expert. Nobody at the State Department is sitting there with fingerprints or DNA analysis or anything else. We saw just the other day a press report that DNA analysis apparently will be done. So the notion that we would reflect what the Mexican Government says is not a dodge here. It’s the way these things go because it is Mexican Government entities that have the actual facts as opposed to the State Department or the U.S. Government.
QUESTION: But you support Calderon for anything he does. I mean – and the body’s missing, so how do you explain that? I mean, with all your support for Calderon --
ASSISTANT SECRETARY JACOBSON: Look --
QUESTION: -- it seems like he’s not doing good enough, isn’t it?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY JACOBSON: I’m not going to grade President Calderon. He has been a terrific partner these last six years on things that we both think are important, like cooperating much better, like making progress against transnational crime.
Now there’s one area of what you said that I think is absolutely accurate. I don’t think any of us should take the death of a leader – confirmed, unconfirmed, whatever – as in and of itself progress, okay? There is a lot more besides that that has to be looked at. I would like leaders of criminal organizations to be taken out of that trade, okay? Put in jail, unable to ply their trade. That is a good thing.
But the notion that one at a time or one particular incident in which people are killed is enough or a good thing in and of itself – I think you have to look much broader. I think that part is certainly fair. And I would say that when you look much broader, you still come up with a pretty positive assessment of the way in which we have made progress working with Mexico in the last six years.
MODERATOR: One very last quick question.
QUESTION: Well, that’s what I’m saying.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY JACOBSON: Yeah.
QUESTION: Thank you. Silvia Ayuso from the German Press Agency. A very, very quick question: Is Secretary Clinton planning any other trip to Latin America before the end of the year? And just on Cuba, because you said with Alan Gross, which is an obstacle to eventually – as far as negotiations, there is another case in Cuba going on. It’s very different, I know, with the Spaniard Carromero, but I’m asking myself if there’s – if you’re kind of watching how the negotiations are going. They’re saying that he could be expelled so he can go back to Spain. If there’s any similarity or something that you could learn from that case and apply to Alan Gross situation, if you’ve talked about it somehow?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY JACOBSON: On the last question, I will tell you I’ve been around a long time, and I have long since given up trying to figure out how things are going to go and what that means for an individual case with the United States. I just don’t necessarily think that’s a productive endeavor.
So while obviously I feel for Mr. Carromero and his family and I obviously – we were all incredibly distraught over the death of Oswaldo Paya, I would not spend any time drawing comparisons, distinctions with the case of Allen Gross in a way that would then cause me to come to any conclusions other than the one that the U.S. Government has had from the start, which is that Mr. Gross needs to be released to be home with his family on humanitarian grounds.
On the Secretary’s schedule, I got to tell you – the one thing I will tell you, I don’t know whether she’s going to be in the hemisphere again between now and when she – when the Administration’s first term comes to an end now in January. But I will tell you that – all of you probably know this – she is not slowing down. She is sprinting to the end. There is obviously a huge amount going on in the world, some of it very, very difficult right now, and the Secretary is going to remain fully engaged on the whole range of issues right up to the last day that she’s working at the State Department.
QUESTION: (Off mike.)
MODERATOR: Sorry, that’s all the time we have.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY JACOBSON: I’m afraid that that can’t be as short as what I’ve got left in time. I apologize. There will be more other opportunities. Thanks a lot, everybody.
MODERATOR: Thank you, and we hope to see you again soon.
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