THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (Santiago, Chile) ________________________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release April 18, 1998
PRESS BRIEFING BY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR SANDY BERGER
The Hyatt Hotel Santiago, Chile
2:44 P.M. (L)
MR. BERGER: I've been told there's enormous popular demand for another briefing. (Laughter.) Let me give you the flavor of the second session, which dealt with democracy, justice and human rights. Let me make an overall point and then I'll go through the individual comments and the specific action items and then answer whatever questions you might have.
It was quite striking to me the extent to which leaders around the table accept the common premise that we are now at a different stage in democratic development; that the issue is no longer -- or not so much the institutionalization of democracy, the holding of elections and the creating of political parties, the recapturing of democracy from authoritarian rulers; the issue is whether, as some say -- whether democracy can work for it's people, whether it can deliver for its people, whether it can translate into practical results.
And that was not an abstraction in their mind. I think there was an apprehension in their mind, as I heard it, that unless we go forward with another generation of reform that focuses on education and focuses on health care and focuses on fairness of the judiciary and all of these things -- freedom of the press -- that there will be problems down the road.
And you'll hear that, I think, echoed in a number of these comments. President Cardoso was the first speaker -- and I'm simply going to pick out the highlights as I go through here -- and he said this is no longer -- the issue of democracy is no longer about the value of institutionalizing democracy. We all share that conviction; we've already decided that. Now the question is, what does democracy mean for our people. It must mean something for the average families -- a theme, as I said, many of them picked up on. He said that democracy means guaranteeing the rights of our families, human rights, health care, education, a way for the public and private sector and civil society to meet together. That is what democracy is about -- an ever more open society.
President Clinton was the second speaker at the session, raising the same question, what else besides elections is democracy about. And as he said in his opening remarks that you heard, it must be about societies that seem to work for their citizens. The President singled out three initiatives that are being taken at this summit for particular note in this area. One is the rapporteur for freedom of the press. This is an idea, as you may recall, that the President first discussed when he was in Argentina on our last trip to South America and has not been embraced by the summit, and is something that will be created -- a staggering number of your colleagues have been killed in this hemisphere for doing their work.
Second, a center for judicial studies, which will be set up in the hemisphere, location to be determined, but which will seek to be a means of training judges and prosecutors and others within the judicial system so that there is better capacity around the hemisphere to assure that justice is fair and honest.
And, third, the alliance against drugs, which was launched by the Santiago Summit, a multilateral effort at cooperation -- including as a centerpiece, at least at the beginning, a collective evaluation of how countries are doing in that progress. But certainly many countries I think will feel more comfortable cooperating in a multilateral context than in a bilateral context.
The President in the security area mentioned the idea, raised the idea of an OAS convention on transparency in the transfer of weapons -- that is, a convention which will require countries in the hemisphere to disclose sale or purchase of weapons. This would be sophisticated weapons as well as other conventional weapons, something that we intend to pursue -- and spoke also quite strongly about his desire to achieve a successful completion of the negotiations on the biological weapons convention protocol, which will give enforcement authority -- enforcement capability that does not now exist in the biological weapons convention.
The Chemical Weapons Convention does have this. The Biological Weapons Convention simply says that essentially biological weapons are bad, but this would actually have an inspections system, et cetera.
I will skip over -- I'm not going through every speaker, not because they were not all brilliant, but just because I want to condense the time here. The Prime Minister of Barbados spoke. He was the only -- to anticipate your question, he was the only person who brought up Cuba. He said that he believed it was important that there be constructive commitment with them, and that this should be the last summit without Cuba.
President Zedillo's comments focused broadly, but the center of them were focused on drug trafficking, which he described as the main threat to the rule of law in the hemisphere. He thought that our bilateral cooperation around the hemisphere was good, but we could do even more with multilateral cooperation through the alliance, and that drug trafficking affected all of us. The plan of action was, in his mind, extremely important, and was built around several principles, including respect for the sovereignty of countries and shared responsibility for this problem that he felt was quite important.
Let me step back a second here and comment. I think the second thing that struck me about this session was the number of countries that spoke to the drug problem. If you were at Miami, we did, we spoke to the drug problem. It was a kind of a "us versus them" discussion. This is clearly, much as open trade has become and the evolution of democracy have become now the agenda of the hemisphere, so, too, has the drug problem. As these countries become -- more and more countries, unfortunately, become both producer and consumer countries, some of the old distinctions between "us" and "them" break down.
Prime Minister Chretien spoke briefly and made a reference to -- said he was pleased at the action plan, made reference to the antipersonnel land mine issue. The President of Ecuador, President Alarcon, I think put this quite well. He said, democracy in this hemisphere is not in jeopardy in a traditional sense -- that is, rulers going beyond the law or seizing power, that's no longer an argument in the hemisphere. The question that our people are asking is the capacity of democracy for solving problems, particularly problems of poverty and underdevelopment. And that's the great challenge, how democracies balance economic growth and social justice.
He called for a new culture for democracy, a new culture of tolerance and peaceful resolution of disputes. I think he was referring both internally and externally at that point. And he was very grateful to the United States and to Argentina and Chile and Brazil for helping Peru and Ecuador make progress recently on the border dispute that has caused conflict.
The Prime Minister of Trinidad Tobago -- and, again, this is certainly different than 1994 -- most of the Caribbean speakers spoke right to the drug issue, which has become a very serious problem in the Caribbean. The Prime Minister said that lately they have been strongly threatened by drug trafficking and it's the scourge that threatens the fabric of our societies.
He talked about the diversion of resources that this means for these poor countries -- $200 million for Trinidad and Tobago in just the last few years just for law enforcement equipment, which, of course, is not money being spent on social progress.
The Prime Minister of the Dominican Republic again said this is no longer for the hemisphere an issue of elections. The threat here, the issue here is the governability. This is quite interesting, of course, because President Fernandez was elected recently after the long tenure of his predecessor, and is quite a dynamic younger man. He said that the problem is that for his country and for other countries, democracies come into power with accumulated social debts, the accumulation of poverty and the causes of poverty. He said the Dominican Republic grew at 8.3 percent last year. That's a very good rate, everybody would agree, but yet there was a general strike in his country. And he said, that seems incompatible. Why would there be social unrest when there was 8.3 percent economic growth? And, of course, the reason is that there still is an enormous degree of poverty. And today's democratic state has an extra burden of meeting social needs and maintaining economic stability. In other words, how do you both meet social needs and keep your economies fiscally responsible enough so that you can function and be successful in a global economy?
The Prime Minister of Honduras said, it is difficult to govern; to govern in a democracy is even more difficult. Sounds like a Benjamin Franklin quote, but it was the Prime Minister of Honduras.
The Prime Minister of Guyana, who is Mrs. Jagan, the late Prime Minister Jagan's wife -- I thought it was quite interesting -- she challenged the conventional wisdom in the room of saying, we no longer have the traditional threats to democracy. She said that, my democracy is very fragile, it's only five years old and threats do exist. And she asked her other colleagues in the room to be very vigilant about what is happening in her country, which I thought was a quite extraordinary moment.
That really was the ebb and flow of discussion. Let me just highlight -- I'll mention them and you have the fact sheets. In terms of the specific elements here, I think the things that we would consider are the key, in addition to the commitments that are made in the summit documents to strengthening local government and civil society and promptly ratifying the Inter-American Convention on Corruption.
The three, I think, important new things in this area are the multilateral alliance against drugs being launched; second, the rapporteur on freedom of the press; and third, the judicial center, which will be established I think in terms of concrete results. There is a plethora of other things in your fact sheets that I'm sure you will read religiously.
Q Sandy, yesterday, Congressman Gilman and Pastor put out a statement criticizing the administration on its drug policy certification process and calling the other member nations the "blame America crowd" and stuff like that. Is the administration -- do you view the OAS thing as a supplemental to certification process or are you still committed to the certification process?
MR. BERGER: I think the alliance is a supplement to the certification process. Let us see how it evolves. I think it can be -- the objective of both is to increase and intensify cooperation within the hemisphere, among the countries of the hemisphere, in the fight against drugs. And I think this will be another instrument at our disposal.
Now, we would have to obviously have a long discussion with Congress before there were any changes in U.S. law. I think that's not contemplated at this point. I think it is not -- as to the specifics you referenced from that press release, one of the other things that is very striking about this meeting is that -- I don't know exactly who the press release described as the "blame America crowd," I guess the other countries -- but there is none of that.
This is 32, 33, whatever actually came, leaders around a table. There is no sense of an America trying to dominate their countries. Think of the history of the hemisphere. Think of where we were 20 years ago or 10 years ago or even in Miami. There is a genuine spirit of partnership in this meeting that that press release does not capture.
Q To follow up, you're saying you need to supplement the certification process. Does that mean it's not working well?
MR. BERGER: I think whatever we can do to get the countries in the hemisphere to work together on the fight against drugs is good, and I think that many countries -- we have bilateral drug cooperation with most of these countries, and with most of these countries are bilateral cooperation is very good. I think that if we can also do things multilaterally, which is not just in the U.S.-country X capacity, but is in a hemispheric context, I think there are things that they may be able to do in a hemispheric context that they have a harder time doing in a bilateral context. So it's not an either-or proposition now.
Q Did President Zedillo refer to certification during his speech? And did the issue of certification come up in the meeting that Clinton and Zedillo had today?
MR. BERGER: It did not come up. I was not in the first session -- you'd have to ask the people who are no longer here; I would not imagine it came up in the education session. It did not come up in the session dealing with drugs, and President Zedillo and President Clinton I think are sitting next to each other at lunch, so there is no -- they're talking as we're talking.
Q Sandy, when the President meets with Chretien this afternoon, do you expect him to warn him against giving Castro any mixed messages about what his visit to Cuba means, particularly since the concentration here is on democracy? Does that undermine the collective --
MR. BERGER: I am sure that the President will say what he said to the Prime Minister in the past about this, and that is that we need to keep our eye on the goal here that I think we share. The goal that we share is promoting democracy in Cuba, and doing things that will advance that objective.
Now, we would certainly expect that when Prime Minister Chretien goes to Cuba, if that is ultimately his plan, that this would be a centerpiece of his trip.
Q How were you informed that he was going? How did you learn that he was going?
MR. BERGER: He spoke to the President a few days ago.
Q Is it the administration's feeling that Prime Minister Chretien's visit to Cuba will advance democracy in Cuba? And just generally, what has been the reaction of the administration to this news?
MR. BERGER: We have not seen much evidence that constructive engagement with Cuba has produced any material results with respect to human rights or democracy, but I would hope that Prime Minister Chretien would pursue that agenda.
Q But you said that the Pope's visit was an improvement.
MR. BERGER: The Pope's visit, I think, was important because it gave energy and vitality and legitimacy and some space to the Catholic Church in Cuba, not because the government of Cuba in any kind of sustained way has done much as a result of it, except release some few prisoners. So I think the Pope's visit was useful in strengthening what might be called civil society -- I'm not sure whether you call the church part of civil society, civil and religious society -- and in the steps that the President took a few weeks ago in making it easier for food and medicine to be sent to the Cuban people and allowing Cuban families to send remittances back to their families in Cuba. Both of those are directed towards strengthening civil society in Cuba, strengthening people-to-people relationships -- because we, unfortunately, have not seen much from the government.
Q Is there going to be an important meeting between Menem and Clinton?
MR. BERGER: Yes, there was.
Q One of the subjects was going to be Cuba. Do you know if this is --
MR. BERGER: There was a meeting just at the end of the session between President Menem and President Clinton. They discussed a number of subjects: Haiti, Iraq, Cuba. I would rather let President Menem and the Argentines speak for themselves, although I don't think there is a substantial difference between our policy and theirs.
Q Still on Cuba. There is -- from Mexico to Canada and Brazil to call for a vote in the OAS to reinstate Cuba as an active member. I wonder if there was any discussion formally about the necessity to make a vote at the OAS.
MR. BERGER: I have heard that question repeatedly and I've heard that issue raised repeatedly from your colleagues and others. I have not heard it mentioned at all by any of the leaders. But we would be against that. Last year all of the leaders, all of the nations of the OAS signed a protocol to the 50-year-old OAS charter, giving the OAS the authority and the right to dismiss, to throw out members who -- where a democracy was overturned and were no longer democracies. It would strike me as mighty ironic if the following year the OAS were to admit the only non-democracy in the hemisphere.
Q But the OAS says if the majority of members of the OAS approve to reinstate Cuba as an active member, Cuba can be an active member again. So you are saying that the United States is going to impose its power as it did in 1962, when Cuba was suspended?
MR. BERGER: You must be at a slightly different briefing than I'm at. I don't think I said that. What I said was that we would oppose it. We do have a vote and we do have a voice and we do have a right to express that. We certainly would not impose it.
Q Sandy, can you elaborate on this OAS transparency proposal?
MR. BERGER: Well, there are various instruments that require -- the U.N., for example, has for certain weapon systems a registry, essentially, in which you have to notify the U.N. of the transfer. I think this is basically a confidence-building measure. It doesn't say countries shouldn't buy or should buy, but it says that their neighbors should know that -- particularly for advance systems, for significant systems, so that there is a greater degree of awareness within the hemisphere of the capabilities of others.
Q Is there a lack of that now? Is that a problem?
MR. BERGER: I think there has been in many cases, yes.
Q About the rapporteur, could you explain a little bit about what the role of this new position will be and what exactly have the Presidents agreed to regarding this rapporteur? An example would be if President X doesn't like what television station B reports and somehow engineers for that television station could be taken over, what would be the role of the rapporteur?
MR. BERGER: Well, this will be part of the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights. And the rapporteur will seek, obviously to defend the rights of and raise issues of press freedom where there are individual particular problems, bring them to the attention of other countries, bring them to the attention of their colleagues, to help resolve cases where there is a conflict between a government and a reporter or a government and a media outlet, and generally -- they don't like the word "ombudsman" I'm told, in the context of the OAS, but I think for those of us either in Sweden or the United States, that's the closest concept that I can think of to this.
Q The Presidents have agreed to cooperate with this rapporteur, or --
MR. BERGER: They've agreed to establish the rapporteur, just like there is an International Human Rights Commission. They sometimes agree and sometimes don't agree with its results.
Q Sandy, why do you think the "blame America crowd" isn't here, or why there is no sense of America trying to dominate? Has the President become slightly weakened because he doesn't have fast track?
MR. BERGER: No. (Laughter.) Hard to get an idea out of your heads once it's there. The President clearly is, along with President Frei, the central figure at this summit. The agenda is an agenda that reflects our agenda -- democracy, human rights, education, alliance against drugs. The dynamic of the meeting is one of partnership. And I think President Clinton has -- the reason is I think that President Clinton has tried very hard, starting in Miami, to create a different kind of relationship between the United States and Latin America, overcoming what the gentleman over here was referring to in terms of several decades in which consultation and partnership were not exactly the watchwords of our relationship.
So I think there is enormous respect for the President, for the United States, and I think the outcome here is one that we're extraordinarily pleased with because it is the logical succession from Miami to Santiago.
Q Sandy, would you say that more equal partnership that you've talking about would lead countries to feel more free to speak out on things such as Cuba, where the United States is a little bit isolated?
MR. BERGER: I think countries have had different views than ours for some time. They have not been reluctant to express them. Listen, there are some realities that exist. We are -- of $9 trillion of this hemisphere's economy, we're $7 trillion. I don't want to make animal references here, but I think the point is that we are obviously a country who is for most of these countries the largest trading partner, the largest investor, their closest collaborator in terms of security issues. So I think America's leadership has not been stronger in this hemisphere for over 30 years as a result of the three trips that the President has taken in the last year.
Q Is there any enforcement mechanism that goes along with the rapporteur? And is Sid Blumenthal going to be the rapporteur, or what is his relationship with that?
MR. BERGER: You're kidding me. The rapporteur is established by the Inter-American Human Rights Commission, something that we strongly support. It will be independent, as a press rapporteur should be. And I have no idea who their rapporteur will be.
Q Who is a possible candidate?
MR. BERGER: I have not been part of any conversation in which that's been discussed.
Q Sandy, on a different subject completely, is there any doubt in the U.S. mind that the body that turned up in Cambodia was Pol Pot's? And what do you make of his cremation today and the refusal to allow an autopsy?
MR. BERGER: Well, we as you know, had called for an autopsy, so that at least the last chapter of this bizarre and horrifying life would have clarity and certainty. I'm sorry that that did not take place. But I think the evidence is pretty strong that this was Pol Pot and that he is dead and he is now cremated.
Q The President has set very high standards for democracy in Latin America. Still you have the policy of engagement with some countries in Asia which are not democratic. Is the United States more demanding with Latin America, and why?
MR. BERGER: Our goal in every part of the world is the promotion of democracy and human rights. I think this hemisphere is obviously of particular importance to us and I think the fact that it is now the democratic hemisphere is an extraordinary part of the way it defines itself, the way it defines its future and the way others will look at it. And we think it's extremely important and, clearly, the other leaders do, too, that this be preserved -- not just out of some principal, but because ultimately we do believe that, as the President said, quoting Churchill, democracy may be the worst form of government, except for all the others.
MR. TOIV: Thanks, Sandy. At the end of the day we're going to make -- I don't know if Sandy knows it, yet, but we're going to make Sandy available for just a gaggle, an informal gaggle around here to update you on the rest of the day's activities, including the other pull-asides.
The second thing I need to do -- and far be it from me to correct Sandy on something, but I'm told that I need to -- on the issue of the human rights rapporteur. As many of you know, that was actually created by the OAS and the leaders today endorsed it. They did not actually take the action today, they endorsed it today.
Anything else on any other issues?
Q How do the leaders endorse all these things? I mean, these are going to be part of the communique tomorrow, is that correct? Or do they vote?
MR. TOIV: I think that's correct and I think you have a fact sheet that talks about this.
Q There were no votes, it was just because it was in the documents that had already been agreed to --
MR. TOIV: No, I don't know if there were any specific votes.
Q Do you anticipate briefings tomorrow like this?
MR. TOIV: Yes, we're going to have a wrap-up briefing tomorrow. We haven't set the time yet, but we're definitely going to do that. We'll have a little bit of a time problem because of the President's schedule, but we are going to have a briefing.
Q About what time, Barry, do you think we'll have this wrap-up briefing today -- or gaggle?
MR. TOIV: Well, whenever he gets back, whenever Sandy is able to get back. That would be probably somewhere around 7:00 p.m. or 7:30 p.m., unfortunately.
Q Before the dinner?
MR. TOIV: Yes, before the dinner. It's after the last pull-aside I think is really the determining factor.
Q Could you clarify something on this drug certification thing?
MR. TOIV: You're probably better off doing that off-stage with Eric.
Anything else? Okay.
Q Do you consider this discussion of Cuba as being the Cubanization of the summit? I mean, there is a lot of discussion about Cuba, you cannot deny the issue.
MR. TOIV: No.
END 3:18 P.M. (L)