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Special Event

Secretary of State Colin Powell Holds News Conference with Mexico's Foreign Minister

Aired January 30, 2001 - 2:50 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: I want to take you back to Capitol Hill, now. Secretary of State Colin Powell, the new secretary of state, is holding his first news conference with the foreign minister from Mexico.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: ... the secretary and I have discussed the arrangements for that visit, as well as the themes that are at the heart of our longstanding and very, very positive relationship.

President Bush's decision to travel to Mexico as his first official foreign visit is powerful evidence of the special place Mexico holds in our national priorities. Our dealings with Mexico impact on the lives of millions of Americans. Our common border is no longer a line that divides us, but a region that unites our nations, reflecting our common aspirations, value and culture.

Over a million people cross that border every day to work, to study and to visit family members. With the advent of NAFTA, Mexico has grown to be our second-largest trading partner, second only to Canada, our neighbor and fellow NAFTA member.

The expansion of trade with Mexico has brought jobs and prosperity to both our nations, helping Mexico rebound from the peso crisis of the mid-'90s. When President Fox took office last month, he inherited a sound economy and solid democratic institutions. And with President Bush now in office, these two leaders can take the opportunity of the upcoming meeting to chart a course for mutual cooperation over the next several years to develop plans for action in areas such as migration, law enforcement cooperation, border affairs and trade policy.

POWELL: I would now like to offer my colleague an opportunity to make a statement, and then we'll be very, very pleased to take your questions.

Mr. Secretary, again, welcome.

JORGE CASTENADA, MEXICAN FOREIGN MINISTER: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. Thank you for the opportunity to visit with you and have, as you said, a very productive, a very fruitful meeting, which I'm sure will be the first of many very fruitful and productive meetings.

As the secretary said, we talked about many issues, among them, of course, the upcoming visit by President Bush to Guanajuato, to President Fox's home town, his ranch. The agenda, the sequence and format of the meeting -- a little bit -- some of the details, we left some of those to our teams in Mexico City and here in Washington.

We talked about many of the issues on the agenda that they would like to talk about, some of a strictly bilateral nature, some of a regional or multilateral nature, the preparations for the upcoming Quebec City Summit of the Americas in late April, in Canada, different initiatives that perhaps could be taken in relation either to some regional affairs, to bilateral affairs, whether this on immigration matters, law enforcement matters, the border and other issues of mutual interest.

I think the main point I'd like to emphasize in conclusion, Mr. Secretary, is that the message sent by President Bush to Mexico and to Latin America by having decided to take his first trip abroad to Mexico, to Guanajuato to visit President Fox in his home town, is a message that is being very, very well received in Mexico and throughout Latin America.

It shows that the discourse in the period of the campaigns was for real, that President Bush does intend to bestow a great priority on relations with Mexico and Latin America, and this is something that is, needless to say, enormously important to us in Mexico.

President Fox believes that there is nothing more important than continuing to build on the solid foundation that has been build up in the past few in relations with the United States. And he is very much looking forward to this new meeting with President Bush in Guanajuato and what will undoubtedly be the beginning of a very strong, fruitful relationship between the two presidents.

Thank you, Mr. Secretary.

POWELL: Thank you.

QUESTION: I'd like to know what Mexico has in mind, in terms of the guest worker program, how many do you envision taking part in this program?

And also, this morning you said that the level of violence along the border is intolerable. Does Mexico have any proposals for dealing with that problem?

CASTENADA: On the guest worker issue, it's important to point that we already have two categories of guest worker visas with the United States, the H2As and H2Bs, which have grown spectacularly in the last four or five years, reaching last year probably above 55,000 between the two types of visas for Mexicans.

And we are listening to ideas and exploring proposals to expand them, to establish different types of regulations and surveillance programs of these programs, and we think that this is certainly, in principle, something that is important to Mexico, at least as we build what we've called an immigration bridge to the year 2010 or so, when Mexican demographics will begin to make many of these issues somewhat redundant.

On violence on the border, simply to state what I stated this morning, again, there are too many Mexicans dying on the border, Mexicans who die of exposure, dehydration, starvation; some, unfortunately, who die as a result of hostile acts on the part of some. The situation has apparently improved somewhat in recent times, but it is still too high, and we would like to discuss these issues with Secretary Powell, and President Fox will undoubtedly discuss them with President Bush when they meet. No specific proposals right now, but a very strong commitment to doing something about it.

POWELL: Clearly, that will be an issue on the agenda. And I share the secretary's concern that Mexicans are dying in this process. I'm pleased that the number of incidents involving Americans actually involved in this have gone down, but the problems of transiting the border in these very, very difficult areas, where there is the risk of exposure and dehydration which causes such loss of life, has to be a concern to both of us.

QUESTION: Referring to that -- to the same point that you were making, the previous administration told the Mexican government, the previous administration in Mexico also, that that was really mainly a police affair, in Arizona particularly, these deaths of Mexicans due to hostile actions. What kind of -- what is different this time? And is there anything that the federal government can do to prevent those deaths?

And also, if I could have a comment from Secretary Castenada, the same?

POWELL: If I got the drift of your question, it's what can we do to reduce the potential for this kind of violence?

QUESTION: Yes, the previous administration told the Mexican government that that was basically a local police affair, basically doing nothing about that.

POWELL: Well, I would -- perhaps we'll let the secretary talk to that. I think we have to do everything possible to see what we can do with respect to workers coming into the United States. The thing that really has to be done to solve this problem is to continue to help the Mexican economy grow, so the jobs are in the south, so that the great magnet is no longer just in the north, but it is also within Mexico.

And I think the policies that President Fox has adopted and committed himself to, the kinds of discussions we'll be having in the future, will help in that process. Both of us have to work cooperatively to make sure that we can protect this border between our two nations, control the flow of people across that border, and use police activities or whatever else is appropriate to control it in a way that does not allow this kind of violence to exist and these conditions to cause such devastation to the lives of people who are trying to cross that border. Whether you wish to say something?

CASTENADA: This is essentially agreeing with Secretary Powell. The issue is not just the question of those Mexicans who have been the object of forms of direct violence by some ranchers in Arizona. That's part of the problem, but is not necessarily the whole one.

The problem is that, for a series of reasons, many Mexicans have been increasingly forced to cross in areas, which are particularly inhospitable, particularly adverse and which are life-threatening. It's the whole gambit of issues of border management, which are involved and we think that things can be done.

And by the way, we think that when the previous administration in Washington began to look into this in a more detailed fashion, particular in Arizona, the number of incidents did diminish and things did get better, partly as a result of the previous Mexican administration urging the previous American administration to get more involved in this. And I think it did work up to a point.

QUESTION: Secretary Powell, as I'm sure you're aware, tomorrow the court in Lockerbie is due to announce its verdict in the trial. How would the U.S. respond to either a not guilty or an acquittal of the two accused? And would the U.S. veto anything by the UN Security Council if it should vote to lift the sanctions against Libya?

Thank you.

POWELL: Well, obviously, we are examining all the options that would be available to us and to others who are interested in this, taking into full consideration the concerns of the families.

One of three outcomes could be announced tomorrow: guilty, acquittal or not proven. And I think it would be premature for me now to speculate on what we might do in response to any one of those three outcomes.

We'll be watching the announcement carefully tomorrow, consulting with the United Kingdom and others, making sure that we keep the families fully informed, and in the course of the afternoon will be examining with my other colleagues in the administration the various alternatives that are available to us flowing from each of those options. But it would be premature for me to speculate now, since we do not yet have the decision of the judge.

QUESTION: If I could just follow up very quickly, is the U.S. satisfied with the level of cooperation it's received thus far from the Libyan government in this trial?

POWELL: At the moment, we believe that the Libyans have cooperated to the extent that a trial was able to be held and the needs of the trial process were satisfied.

I think it's also important to note that, regardless of the outcome that will be announced tomorrow morning, there are other things that the Libyan government will be expected to do with respect to the other elements of the UN sanctions. So we have to keep that entire picture in mind, not just the decision of the judge, but the other elements of the UN sanctions.

And it would also be important to note that there are U.S. sanctions that predate the UN sanctions that were not affected by the outcome of this trial.

But it seems as if all of the information needed to prosecute this case was made available to the judge.

QUESTION: Secretary Powell, Plan Colombia has become a very divisive point in Latin America. Many Latin American countries feel that the U.S. is pushing more for a military solution than a negotiated solution. I know Mexico is playing a major role by keeping contact with rebel groups in Colombia. I wonder if both of you discuss this point. I'd like to hear your opinion, yours personally, on Plan Colombia, and Secretary Castenada's also.

POWELL: The Bush administration supports Plan Colombia as an effort to do something about the narcotrafficking problem in Colombia and in the region at large. We are also mindful of the fact that we don't want to pursue Plan Colombia in a way which spreads the problem out into other countries. And the secretary and I spoke about this and emphasized the need for a regional approach.

With respect to the insurgency aspect of your question, at the end of the day that will only be solved by a political solution, by negotiations. And so we encourage President Pastrana to keep working to see if he can find a political solution, and the United States will lend its good offices, and we have talked about how we can assist President Pastrana in this quest.

I don't think there is a military solution to the insurgency problem, but the people of Colombia are suffering, they are in danger of seeing their democracy destroyed, frankly, by the combination of narcotrafficking and insurgency.

So we're going to help with the narcotrafficking with Plan Colombia, and hopefully the president, with the help of friends in the United States and Mexico and elsewhere, can come up with a political solution and work this political solution out with the FARC and the ELN in a manner that brings peace to Colombia.

CASTENADA: Yes, as Secretary Powell said, we did discuss this issue in some depth and detail. President Fox, as you know, is a strong supporter of President Pastrana's peace efforts, is a strong supporter of those efforts tending to seek a political solution in Colombia.

We have tried to obtain as much information as possible, to be as useful as possible in Colombia in helping President Pastrana move forward on the negotiations with the two groups, more specifically with the FARC where there is less movement than with the ELN.

And we agreed to continue exchanging information, points of view, opinions on this matter and to work very closely together on discussing the situation in Colombia and finding ways to support President Pastrana because, as Secretary Powell said, the main thing is the support for Colombia's democratic institutions. And that is what has to be protected and nurtured and supported at all costs. And we very much intend to do that.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, this morning Mr. Castenada told us that Mr. Fox would like to improve ties with Cuba, financial, tourism and trade. And I just wonder what would be the reaction of the United States to Mexico's improving ties with Cuba.

POWELL: Mexico is, of course, a sovereign nation, free to pursue its own foreign policy and improve ties as it sees fit.

We have had a chance to talk about Cuba, and the secretary understands our concerns about Cuba and the fact there are people still living under a form of government that should be, in this day and age, foreign to this hemisphere.

So we will continue to pursue our relations with Cuba in a way that lets Mr. Castro know that we disapprove of his regime and will keep our sanctions in place. We will only participate in those activities with Cuba that benefit the people directly and not the government. And we will keep in close contact with our Mexican friends so that they understand our point of view and we understand their's.

CASTENADA: Yes, just on that point, to emphasize, perhaps, with a slight bit more precision what I did say this morning and what the policy of President Fox's administration is. It is to strengthen ties of an economic, financial, touristical nature with Cuba, because we believe -- and this is something we don't necessarily agree upon -- we believe that that type of engagement is what is most conducive to bringing about the type of reincorporation of Cuba, fully, into the hemispheric arrangements that exist.

But that we were also going to have a very active and vigorous policy of defending human rights and democracy everywhere, everywhere in the world, everywhere in the region, and in any particular country. Without this being a name-calling or finger-pointing policy, this is one of the main priorities and one of the main changes that the Fox administration intends to bring about.

As President Fox has said on many occasions, we now have nothing to be ashamed about, and we're going to be very explicit and very forceful on this issue. I did want to clarify that point.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, I wonder if the issue of Chiapas came up in your discussions with the Mexican foreign minister. And also, past U.S. administrations have expressed concerns about human rights issues in Chiapas; if you could enlighten us on how you view that.

POWELL: It wasn't a specific subject of our conversation, other than to note that things are happening and there will be marches that we will be all interested in watching later this month. But it was not a specific subject of discussion. CASTENADA: As you say, we did not get into the details of it. I know that Secretary Powell is very well informed about the decisions and the measures that President Fox in relation to the conflict in Chiapas, the steps he has taken to try and renew the dialogue with the Zapatista rebels and to try and move towards a peaceful solution to the conflict in Chiapas. And although we did exchange a couple of points about it, it was clear to me that he is more than sufficiently informed about it and consequently had very little to add to what he already knows.

POWELL: Thank you very much.

CASTENADA: Thank you.

ALLEN: Mr. Powell, the secretary of state, his first joint news conference since he became the secretary of state, standing with the Mexican foreign minister, Jorge Castenada. As you could read there on your screen, the president of Mexico will be the first international president that George Bush meets with, Vicente Fox.

That happens February 16th and as we heard from Secretary Powell, among the things they will be discussing, border violence and immigration matters.

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