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Spain's Bank Bailout and the Eurozone Crisis; Elie Wiesel Advocates Action in Syria

Aired June 11, 2012 - 15:00:00   ET


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour.

What happens now that one of Europe's powerhouses, Spain, has been forced to take a bank bailout to the tune of $100 billion? It may be expensive, but this is an attempt to stabilize Spain ahead of what Europe is really worried about, and that's next week's Greek elections.

My brief tonight: is the Spanish bailout enough to protect Europe against the worst-case scenario in Greece? If the leftist anti-austerity candidate, Alexis Tsipras wins, Greece may well leave the Eurozone and many economists see that as a frightening outcome.

It's no secret that Greek voters are angry and now people are angry also in Ireland and Portugal because Spain does not have to meet as many draconian conditions as they did for their bailout.

Spain has already enacted tough austerity measures and reforms. People there are indignant, literally. The indignados are back on the streets. That's the Spanish protesters that spawned Occupy Movement here in the United States and around the world. Unemployment in Spain is now a staggering 29 percent.

Christine Lagarde, the managing director of the IMF, the International Monetary Fund, is a crucial player in the European drama, and I'll speak with her in a moment. But first, a look at what's coming up later in the program.


AMANPOUR (voice-over): "Sometimes we must interfere." So said Elie Wiesel when he accepted his Nobel Peace Prize.

Now 26 years later, I'll ask the man who survived the Nazi death camp. Is it time to interfere in Syria?

And from those death camps to the massacres in Syria --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You can see the blood splatter up the wall. It is unimaginable.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): Journalists, eyewitnesses on the front lines, how history repeats itself.


AMANPOUR: We'll get to that in a bit, but first to my exclusive interview with Christine Lagarde. I sat down with her as she was working on Spain's bailout and we talked about some of the worst-case scenarios for Europe. But she started out by outlining what she sees as Spain's must-do list.


CHRISTINE LAGARDE, INTERNATIONAL MONETARY FUND: What's really important and probably lacking at the moment is the backstop, backstop meaning, you know, a strong sense that there will be enough always if more funds, more capital is needed to strengthen the system.

There is a minority of the system that needs strengthening in order to address vulnerabilities, weaknesses of the system and that's really essentially our conclusion.

AMANPOUR: Do you agree with George Soros' assessment that there's three months to save the euro?

LAGARDE: He's -- George's is very good at setting, you know, sort of deadlines and attracting the attention, which is good, because the -- you know, there has to be attention paid to the current situation.

But I think, you know, it needs to happen -- various things need to happen shortly.

AMANPOUR: Such as? Or what we've just been discussing?

LAGARDE: Shortly. Yes. More shortly than three months, I would say.

And it's not to say that there is a deadline and that the whole, you know, situation is going to unravel. I think the -- you know, the construction of the Eurozone has taken time. And it's a work in construction at the moment. And it keeps being improved and amended and strengthened over time. Markets are finding it too slow and, clearly, that's the message that is being delivered.

AMANPOUR: Do you think Greece is going to exit the euro?

LAGARDE: My hope is that Greece, once it has resolved its current election situation and has a government in place, based on a coalition, I suppose, can actually restore the conditions of a good dialogue and will implement the reforms, and will put in place the measures that are necessary for that country to stay within the Eurozone.

AMANPOUR: Do you think it's possible, where they are right now?

LAGARDE: It's going to be a question of political determination and drive to actually do so.

AMANPOUR: You've been asked about what is ailing Greece and you've been asked to comment on the personal pain that many Greeks are feeling. And you commented that, you know, from your point of view, it would be much better if the Greeks paid their taxes and that that would -- that would -- that would fix things.

Do you still stand by that?

LAGARDE: Let me put it that way, I have respect for Greece, for the Greek population. And I'm very sorry that my comments were taken in a very -- you know, in a very inflammatory way and created offense. That I very much regret.

But equally, I think that tax compliance is a necessary tool to restore any country's situation, Greece, like others.

AMANPOUR: There's a -- the front page of "The Economist" is showing the ship of the economy, the ship of state of the economy sinking. You can see right there. And on it is said, "Ms. Merkel, can we start the engines now?" A lot of the onus is on Angela Merkel. Is that fair?

LAGARDE: Germany is the largest country in the Eurozone that has been very successful because of the measures that have been taken, because of the sacrifices made by the German population to contain its salaries and to improve productivity and to drive its economy through exports.

So now, a lot of the pressure is on Germany to actually help out. But I fully understand, as well, that Germany, in consideration for the help that it could give in starting the engine, will expect that others are also doing, you know, what they had to do.

AMANPOUR: Do you think if Angela Merkel wasn't a woman, she would get this amount of push back?

LAGARDE: No. I think it -- well, I think she's a very strong leader. She's a very courageous woman. She's always very keen to understand fully the situation and I think she has a very solid sense of balance, you know. It's a give-and-take process. It's a two-way street. And, you know, what's in it for her, for Germany, what's in it for others and how do we balance out the situation?

AMANPOUR: But you think she wouldn't be under such global attack if she wasn't a woman?

LAGARDE: Hmm. Well, Germany is Germany and the economic forces are the same. But I think that there is a slight tendency to actually maybe overdramatize, and maybe the media participate in the process, the pressure under which she is. And it's, you know, surprisingly, and very practically, a male-dominated world, where she stands out.

AMANPOUR: President Obama today addressed the world. He did an appearance at the White House, talked about the economy and focused a lot on the crisis in Europe. Listen to what he had to say.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If they are just cutting and cutting and cutting and their unemployment rate is going up and up and up, and people are pulling back further from spending money because they're feeling a lot of pressure, ironically, that can actually make it harder for them to carry out some of these reforms over the long term.


AMANPOUR: Do you agree?

LAGARDE: Countries cannot carry on growing, creating jobs, if they carry on their back a huge amount of public debt. So there is no doubt that public debt has to be gradually, over time, reduced. How do you reduce public debt? By having less deficit.

How do you reduce deficit? By either having significant growth and therefore revenues, or cutting spending. And you probably need to do a combination of both in order to reduce deficit, which will reduce debt, which will allow, in turn, economies to grow and create jobs.

AMANPOUR: Isn't it, though, about the timing and the -- when you do it? I mean, Paul Krugman, who's been like a Cassandra, has actually seemed to have got it right, that austerity should happen in boom times and not in bust times.

And if we look at some of our graphs that we have, for instance, let's look at how austerity has affected the unemployment rate. If I do this, you'll see the unemployment rate has been quite low in 2008. What happened then? We had a recession.

So it rose right up to here until there was a recovery. And then unemployment, sort of leveled off a little bit and then this happened, austerity. And this happened to the unemployment rate, all the way up again. What do you say to that, though? I mean is it -- does Paul Krugman and the Keynesians, do they have a point?

LAGARDE: You need to reduce the fiscal deficit gradually, steadily. It doesn't have to be this belt-tightening that everybody is talking about, but it has to be solid.

It applies to the United States of America, by the way. It also has to indicate how, in the medium- and long-term, it is going to reduce its deficit and reduce the volume of its debt. So that's what needs to happen.

At the same time, there has to be encouragement for the growth.

AMANPOUR: Is it about not having the funds or is it about not having the political mechanism and the political will to deal with this?

LAGARDE: Everybody has skin in the game. Everybody has a stake in this being resolved, because all the economies are vastly interconnected. That's what President Obama has indicated. There is a clear connection and vulnerability to what is happening elsewhere in the world, particularly when it's the Eurozone, which is a major trading partner.

AMANPOUR: Christine Lagarde, thank you very much, indeed.

LAGARDE: Thank you.


AMANPOUR: And from the economic crisis, we'll turn to Syria and the perspective of Nobel prize winner Elie Wiesel. He was a child in the Nazi death camps of World War II. When we return, I will ask how long the world can allow the Syrian atrocities to continue.


AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program. There are grim new warnings about another potential massacre underway being planned in Syria. As the Assad regime escalates its offensive using helicopter gunships in the town of al-Hafa.

The United States and the U.N. say they are gravely concerned. The mass killings of civilians in two villages over the last two weeks left nearly 200 people dead, many of them women and children. NPR's Deborah Amos is one of the few journalists inside the country and I spoke to her on the phone just a few moments ago.


AMANPOUR: Deborah Amos, thank you for joining me from Syria. I want to ask you about what you have witnessed in the countryside, particularly the latest massacre and the aftermath.

DEBORAH AMOS, NPR CORRESPONDENT: We went with the U.N. to this isolated farming hamlet called Kubair (ph). The scene there was horrific, Christiane. The buildings, two of them, were filled with the aftermath of a massacre, blood-soaked carpets, a wall where the children were killed, low down, these children, obviously were crouching as they were killed.

You can see the blood splatter up the wall, dead animals, fresh graves at the mosque, bodies burned, still body parts inside some of these houses. It is unimaginable, the horror that that must have been in that village as they were attacked by apparently, as we were told by people who came to us, when we were there, from villages surrounding them, people who were their neighbors before this started.

And that was also part of the horror of what happened in that village. This is neighbor against neighbor.

AMANPOUR: Deborah, some senior Syrian insider has described what is emerging to be a pattern of ethnic cleansing to try to get rid of the Sunni villages and for Assad to carve out for himself a sort of mini-Alawite romp (ph) state. Does this fit with what you're seeing?

AMOS: I can't say if it's that organized. But it is certain that these militia, these people called the shabiha, the ghosts, can act with impunity. We've had two terrible massacres in the last two weeks. There will be and there has been a price for those massacres.

For example, in Damascus for the first time ever, you had merchants, Sunni merchants, the backbone of this regime go on strike in the old souk, the old market downtown, unprecedented for business men to take that kind of position.

And people here talk about before Houla and after Houla. And that was the first big massacre, that that changed so much about how Damascus is reacting to the regime and the underpinnings of the regime are crumbling over these kinds of massacres. It is at a price to have that kind of sectarian cleansing.

AMANPOUR: You're talking about the underpinnings of the regime. Of course, everybody is looking at the capital of Damascus. You're seeing the fighting approach the capital, if not entering the capital already.

AMOS: It was in three neighborhoods, not in the suburbs, where we have seen it for almost a year, but now in neighborhoods that are close to the center of the city. And when I say see, I mean I saw as we drove into town, coming out from the village up north.

We could see smoke billowing on the skyline. You can hear it and you can feel it, 1:30 in the morning, something will go thud, and you know that that's been an explosion somewhere in the city. I was here six months ago. That was not happening then.

AMANPOUR: And you even said that you could have conversations about what was going on that you couldn't have some time ago. Do you think people are getting more emboldened against Assad in his heart of power in the capital?

AMOS: You know, I spoke to an opposition man today, and he said I believe that most Syrians feel in their bones that the regime is over, it's only a matter of time. And what Syrians understand in the capital is they can't arrest everybody. It was extraordinary to watch people break through that wall of fear here in the capital.

We've seen it outside of this capital, but we haven't seen it here where the security is very, very tight. So it feels like a new phase, even though the offensive from the Free Syrian Army was, in fact, a military failure. But it changed the tone of this city.

AMANPOUR: Incredible to have your eyewitness report from there in Damascus. Deborah Amos, thank you very much.

AMOS: Thank you.


AMANPOUR: And now we turn to Nobel peace laureate and Holocaust survivor, Elie Wiesel, who's become a leading moral voice in our world today. Nineteen years ago, he challenged then President Clinton to do more to stop the atrocities in the former Yugoslavia, in Bosnia.


ELIE WIESEL, HOLOCAUST SURVIVOR AND AUTHOR: Mr. President, I cannot not tell you something. I have been in the former Yugoslavia last fall. I cannot sleep since for what I have seen. Some -- as a Jew I am saying that. We must do something to stop the bloodshed in that country!



AMANPOUR: And today, Wiesel is challenge President Obama to do something in Syria.

Elie Wiesel, thank you for joining me.

WIESEL: Thank you, Christiane.

AMANPOUR: You have written a very powerful piece recently, as well as everything that you've said publicly, calling what's happening in Syria not just a tragedy but a scandal as well.

What do you mean by the scandal?

WIESEL: Scandal is that the world is not doing enough to stop it. I invited the president a few weeks ago to visit the Holocaust Museum in Washington and in my introduction -- I already mentioned Syria -- Syria was then as it is now a symbol of mass murder.

And the fact that we know, the fact that we can see from television, the fact that we can speak about it and nothing is being done, that is a scandal.

AMANPOUR: I am fascinated by what you said specifically in that regard. You said that the Holocaust, even that could have been stopped because people knew in '39, '40, '41, even '42, and you said particularly that each time in Berlin, when Goebbels and the others always waited to see what would be the response in Washington or London or other capitals, and they were emboldened when there was no response.

WIESEL: No doubt about that. When you read the memoirs of those men who committed the murders, who gave the orders to commit murders, they speak about it, that the world doesn't care, and they mention Washington.

And they mention the White House. And they mention really all those people who were supposed to be the descendants of democracy, the great heroes of moral values and saviors of victims. They did not do anything.

Oh, yes, there was a war going on. Let's be honest. Of course there was a war. But the words, the words were missing. They spoke about war, but they did not speak about what Hitler has done to the Jewish people.

Day after day, at one point, when Hungarian Jews were targeted, I, one of them, 12,000 a day were gassed and murdered, every single day. And now look, the -- look at Syria. It's part of the same thing. I never compared any tragedy to that tragedy, of course. But it's happening. And thank you for mentioning it again and again. And it reminds me, really, of Sarajevo --


WIESEL: -- when both of us were also involved then in trying to alert the world --

AMANPOUR: It does --

WIESEL: -- what has happening.

AMANPOUR: And it reminds me of -- we played what you said, and challenged President Clinton then, and I want to play what President Obama said in response to your introduction at the Holocaust Museum this spring.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: "Never again" is a challenge to nations. It's a bitter truth -- too often, the world has failed to prevent the killing of innocents on a massive scale. And we are haunted by the atrocities that we did not stop.


AMANPOUR: Are they words? Do you believe that that's going to be put into action?

WIESEL: I don't see. I don't see it happen yet. And it should.

Look, I don't have the information that we should have. Maybe (inaudible) how many people do we need to send to Syria? Must we send what, whom, what troops, with whom, with what other country? I've been assured that the White House knows, the Pentagon knows, the State Department knows what to do. We don't.

One thing we do know, the something must be done to stop that tragedy, that mass murder. It's only one man for the moment, who's a symbol of all that, is Bashar al-Assad, and this man, what does he want? What does he want? He's afraid of death? It cannot be, because he is inflicting death to so many people, his own people, after all. And we are supposed not to do anything?

AMANPOUR: One of the things President Obama said, he said that I am the first president to make this declaration and to declare that preventing mass atrocities and genocide is a core national security interest. And he launched an Atrocities Prevention Board. What does that mean to you? It sounds very bureaucratic to me.

WIESEL: Oh, the president is listening. He's a very good listener. But I know him as a very good listener. And I am convinced that he wants to do something. And my idea is that he together with some other Western leaders will come up with a plan, at least a plan, a warning (ph), as I said in my piece that to warn Assad that once this is over, he will have to face the heart, (ph) international core.

AMANPOUR: And The Hague, yes.

WIESEL: And The Hague, charged and indicted for mass murder and crimes against humanity. It will happen. It will have to happen.

AMANPOUR: When you look out and you see this and you remember your own experience, I don't know what lesson do you take for the condition of us, of humankind?

WIESEL: Look, you speak to millions. I speak to my classes. I'm a teacher. I love teaching. And really, when it comes to that, I'm so discouraged because now, again now we know -- and some of us have access to people who have power and could do something and if all this, and with passivity, (inaudible) and every day, while we talk here, how many people are being killed?

How many children are being massacred in Syria, how many? Many. Too many. Every one is too many.

AMANPOUR: Well, your voice is exceptional and powerful and loud, and you keep spreading that voice. Thank you for being in.

WIESEL: Thank you.

AMANPOUR: Thank you.

An impassioned appeal indeed for action. And when we return, a journalist's view of man's inhumanity to man, the images may change but the face of evil remains the same.



AMANPOUR: And finally, we have just listened to Elie Wiesel's clarion call for action. We have heard the chilling eyewitness account from Deborah Amos of the latest massacres in Syria. Imagine a world where history keeps repeating itself.

Over 60 years ago, BBC reporter Richard Dimbleby first told the world about the horrors of the Nazi death camp, the voice is calm but appalled, and the gruesome images will always have the power to shock us.


RICHARD DIMBLEBY, BBC CORRESPONDENT: I have just returned from the Belsen Concentration Camp, where for two hours I drove slowly about the place in a jeep with the chief doctor of Second Army. I find it hard to describe adequately the horrible things that I have seen and heard.

Beyond the barrier was a whirling cloud of dust, the dust of thousands of slowly moving people, and with the dust, was a smell, sickly and thick, the smell of death and decay, of corruption and filth. I passed through the barrier and found myself in the world of a nightmare.


AMANPOUR: It is not a perfect parallel, as even Elie Wiesel said, but a nightmare appears to be happening again in Syria, as it did in Bosnia.

That's it for tonight's program. Meantime, our inbox is always open, Thank you for watching. Goodbye from New York.