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U.S. Department of State

Great Seal Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Press Conference
Caracas, Venezuela, June 2, 1998
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State, June 3, 1998

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SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Good afternoon. I am very glad to be back in Caracas for the OAS General Assembly, and to be here with Ambassador Victor Marrero, the U.S. Permanent Representative to the OAS, and Mack McLarty, the President's Special Envoy for the Americas.

I want to begin by expressing my deep appreciation to our Venezuelan hosts, who have done a superb job in making arrangements for our discussions. I greatly enjoyed our lunch hosted by President Caldera, and my meeting with Foreign Minister Burelli.

I am also both delighted and very proud that Venezuela decided to present the Francisco de Miranda Award to Mack McLarty. This is a very special honor and I can tell you that the United States is extremely proud of the service Mack McLarty has performed. No one from my country has done more to build bridges of understanding among the nations of our hemisphere and, by so doing, to strengthen the entire inter-American system. Mr. McLarty has devoted a great deal of energy to his job, and a great deal of love and devotion. I think that he symbolizes the "good American," and we're very grateful, Mack, for everything that you've done.

For my part, despite the press of events elsewhere, I very much wanted to attend this meeting. Because the United States is deeply committed to sustaining the progress that has been made towards peace, prosperity and democracy throughout this hemisphere.

And to this end, the OAS is indeed playing a critical role.

It is increasingly recognized as one of the world's most effective regional organizations, as a leader in promoting economic and political reform, and as a supporter of high standards of respect for human rights and the rule of law.

In Santiago, at the Summit of the Americas, our leaders underlined the value of the OAS by asking it to take the lead in implementing 22 specific mandates. This week, we began to develop concrete plans for achieving those tasks.

Before the General Assembly concludes tomorrow, we expect to have taken a major step toward putting the OAS's path-breaking convention on firearms into action.

We will have examined ways to improve the administration of justice.

And we discussed this morning a U.S. proposal to improve the coordination and management of OAS technical cooperation programs.

In addition, tomorrow, we expect that OAS members will once again make clear that this hemisphere is firmly opposed to the proliferation of nuclear arms, and will condemn in vigorous and forthright terms the dangerous nuclear tests recently conducted by India and Pakistan.

Finally, I am pleased that I had a chance this morning to hold good bilateral meetings with the Foreign Ministers of Ecuador and Peru, to encourage progress in resolving the differences between their nations. I have also had discussions with Mexican Foreign Secretary Green, Argentine Foreign Minister DiTella and Brazilian Foreign Minister Lampreia. And I look forward to meeting with Foreign Minister Arias of Panama later this afternoon.

All in all, I believe this will prove to have been a very productive day in reinforcing and deepening the partnership between the United States and our neighbors in the hemisphere.

Now, before taking questions, I would like to yield the floor to our always very special, and now formally decorated, Special Envoy, Mack McLarty.

MR. MCLARTY: Madame Secretary, thank you for your very kind words. I am indeed delighted to be back in Caracas and I am very honored and humbled by this special award. Let me just say very quickly that a critical element in the President's policy toward this hemisphere has been one of sustained engagement beginning with the convening of the Summit in Miami and then traveling the road to the promise of Santiago where we recently concluded the Summit of the Americas only a few short weeks ago.

I think reflecting that sustained engagement is not only the efforts of the President who has had three presidential visits to the region inside of a year, unprecedented in many ways, and the engagement of the Vice President. But certainly the commitment of our distinguished Secretary of State and other members of our Cabinet; Secretary [of Defense] Bill Cohen just returned from Argentina, Brazil and Chile.

So, I am very pleased that the Secretary made a particular effort to join Assistant Secretary Davidow, Ambassador Romero and others here, at the OAS meeting. I think a second fundamental point needs to be underscored in terms of the outlook for the hemisphere. It is the institutional support at the OAS, the IBD, the Pan American Health Organization, ECLAC, and the World Bank, critical to the implementation of the Summit's initiatives.

So, I think we are seeing not only economic integration take place with the launching of the free trade area, but also a broad range of issues, including the second generation of reforms: Stronger judiciary, freedom of the press, certainly the strengthening of the educational system -- the only way to inclusive growth. This meeting is very important in that regard, with the fundamental tenet being the reform that is taking place politically, with working democracies, and the opening of markets. Thank you.

QUESTION: I was wondering whether -- in your conversations with Foreign Secretary Green -- whether Mexico plans any legal action against the United States or U.S. officials because of Operation Casablanca?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Foreign Secretary Rosario Green and I had a very good meeting last night when I arrived. We obviously discussed the issue of Casablanca and there obviously needs to be a better coordination in our joint efforts dealing with money laundering and narcotrafficking. What has been very heartening, I think, is the fact that for both countries this is a high priority and we are devoting a great deal of attention to it.

We obviously do need some more coordination. We are also looking forward very much to the binational which will take place in Washington next week and both the Mexican Foreign Secretary and I have decided that there are so many highly important issues in terms of what is a crucial bilateral relationship for both countries that we need to look forward, we need to dedicate ourselves to dealing with those issues and work out ways to try to coordinate more across the board.

QUESTION: Was this same topic discussed with President Caldera, since there were Venezuelans involved in Operation Casablanca? And, following up on the question of my colleague, the Mexican Foreign Minister emphasized that the officials who took part in the investigation would be prosecuted in her country and according to their laws, since they violated international agreements. Will the officials involved in the Operation Casablanca be prosecuted?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think I got the first part of your question. When I met with President Caldera, we talked about our excellent cooperation in dealing with issues of narcotrafficking and money laundering and the dedication of this government to dealing with the problem. We talked about the usefulness of additional cooperation and coordination. I congratulated President Caldera on the remarkable reforms that are taking place in Venezuela in terms of their judicial system. And we agreed that having an independent judiciary and a well-functioning judicial system is one of the major institutional underpinnings of democracy and, therefore, the role that he and his government have taken in bringing about judicial and justice reform here in this country is very important.

Clearly -- following up on the question -- we have our laws and Mexico has its laws. This is going to be a legal issue and lawyers will be handling it. But what I feel very heartened about is that the basic relationship between the United States and Mexico is very good. We both understand the importance of dealing with each other on a whole host of issues in the best of spirits and comity. And I think that it is probably no secret that Rosario Green and I are very close friends. And I think that our friendship, in addition to the friendship between President Clinton and President Zedillo, will make a big difference in overcoming this particular issue.

QUESTION: One of the subjects you didn't mention in your intervention this morning was that of Cuba, although a number of Ministers yesterday said that they thought it was possible a future return to the OAS should be at least debated, and Minister Green floated a proposal to create a small group of Friends of the Secretary to look into this. What do you think of that idea?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: First of all, I think that the issue of Cuba has not dominated the discussions, and I don't expect that it will. What I believe is that it is very important to remember that the OAS is the first of the post-World War II international organizations that came into place. It is a very important one and one that the United States respects and enjoys membership in.

It is not only a geographical organization, but perhaps even more importantly, it is an organization that is based on the fact that it is composed of democracies. I think that everybody would agree that Cuba does not meet those credentials.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, I want to follow up on the Casablanca case and, taking into consideration that some Latin American countries are considering proposing forceful action against drug trafficking, but especially with respect to consumption, at the next session of the United Nations. Would the United States be inclined to support these Latin American countries, or at least some idea that would focus on a greater sanction for consumption?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: We are looking forward to the meeting in New York on drugs on Monday. It is one that we consider very important and the United States has in fact worked very hard both on supply and demand. We fully understand -- General McCaffrey has spoken to this point many times, as have the President, Counselor McLarty, Ambassador Marrero and I, noting that it is important to deal with the production and distribution of drugs but also that there has to be a very responsible route taken towards that issue of demand. I'm not prepared to discuss a specific resolution or how it might come up but I can assure you the United States is very concerned about the issue of demand; that is, consumption.

QUESTION: Secretary Albright, the United States has denied a visa to Hugo Chavez, the former coup leader here, who's leading the presidential race. Yet, the U.S. has also granted a visa to Emmanuel Constant, a leader of the paramilitary squads in Haiti who were accused of torturing and murdering several thousand people. He's now living openly in Queens, New York. Also the U.S. has granted visas to Salvadorian military officials who have been accused of covering up the rape and murders of U.S. churchwomen in El Salvador in 1981. How do you explain this?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: We have a law, which we have the right to apply. Under U.S. law Mr. Chavez has participated in a violent effort to overthrow a democratic government and so he is ineligible for a visa. We make our determination on how we have applied our law; this is our position.

QUESTION: Continuing with the same topic, you didn't explain how it is possible that Yasser Arafat was for some time an accused terrorist and now has a visa to enter the United States. Similarly, Governor Arias Cardenas, who also was involved in that coup attempt, also has a visa for the United States. We still don't understand why Commandante Chavez is denied a visa. And a second question: Would you consider the possibility of granting the visa to the commandante if he becomes president of the republic?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I'm not to get involved in the election process here. It is up to the people of Venezuela, and I'm not going to answer any hypothetical questions. The United States has the right to apply its laws according to our determination of who we think falls in the category, and this has been our decision.

QUESTION: Thank you. The government of the United States has a commission on the problem of Jewish gold that was in the hands of the Nazis since the Second World War. This commission is headed by Mr. Eizenstat, and he says that at the end of the war, the United States did not lend much support to the Jews as a whole, since there were only 21,000 refugees in the United States. I would like to know your comment on this.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I'm very proud of the work that the United States has undertaken in terms of dealing with the very complicated issue of Nazi gold, and generally with the problems associated with that. Under Secretary Eizenstat has taken a leading role in this. We will pursue the subject; he issued a report today or yesterday in which he talked about the importance of countries following through with their responsibilities, and the United States will follow through in our responsibilities also.

QUESTION: What would be the position of the United States with respect to the proposal by Costa Rica to demilitarize the hemisphere?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Costa Rica has take a leading role in this subject. We are very pleased with the steps the OAS is taking now on the issue of firearms. We have also generally supported efforts to try to de-escalate in terms of various military conflicts. I am very proud of the role this hemisphere has taken in terms of issues of nuclear nonproliferation, and the example of Brazil and Argentina, who had the possibility of having nuclear weapons; their example of having eschewed that possibility in favor of joining the NPT and CTBT as an example to India and Pakistan. I admire Costa Rica generally on a number of their positions. I think it's important for us to pursue the issues of how to have this hemisphere cooperate better across the board. I do not, however, think that it is at this stage realistic to talk about demilitarization. Thank you.

[End of Document]

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