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U.S. Department of State

Great Seal Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright and
Guatemalan Foreign Minister Eduardo Stein
Press Conference, Camino Real Hotel
Guatemala City, Guatemala, May 4, 1997
As released by the Office of the Spokesman in Mexico City, Mexico, May 5, 1997

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SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I am truly delighted to be here in Guatemala and to have met with President Arzu and Foreign Minister Stein to reaffirm the friendship between our two countries. Earlier today I had the opportunity to visit a demobilization camp at Tululche. It is heartening to see the human consequences of peace as ex-guerrillas prepare to build a future for themselves and their families from within rather than outside society. It is heartening as well to note the high degree of international cooperation that has contributed to the peace here in Guatemala. The United Nations, the OAS, non-government organizations and the United States Agency for International Development have each played an indispensable role.
But let there be no doubt, this is a Guatemalan peace, built on Guatemalan courage, reflecting Guatemalan reality. We, in the United States, greatly admire President Arzu for the leadership he has displayed and we are pledged to assist in every way we can the full implementation of the peace accords.
During our meeting today, the President, the Foreign Minister and I discussed President Clinton's commitment to allocate 260 million dollars in assistance during the next four years to help the people of Guatemala to translate the promise of peace into the reality of schools, jobs, food, health and security. We understand in providing this assistance that reconciliation is not an event, it is a process that must be built through the full participation of individuals and communities throughout Guatemala.
President Arzu, Foreign Minister Stein and I also discussed a number of other bilateral and regional issues, including a frank talk about the United States' immigration statute. As someone who immigrated to the United States herself, I sympathize with those who have crossed the border in search of economic opportunity or political freedom. But every nation has both the right and a need to regulate immigration, to allow legal immigrants to remain and require those who are not legal to leave. We are exercising that right but it will be done in a manner that is gradual and humane.
I am pleased to note that INS Commissioner Meissner will accompany President Clinton to San Jose, where she will begin a dialogue with the governments of Central America on U. S. immigration policy. I also reaffirmed to President Arzu, President Clinton's intent to consult with Congress on the scope, implementation and consequences of the recent immigration legislation.
As you would expect, the President, the Foreign Minister and I reviewed the problem of illegal narcotics trafficking, which is a major threat to law-abiding people throughout the region. I told President Arzu that the United States appreciates the very strong effort his Government is making to prevent Guatemala from being used as a warehousing or transit point and that we are aware of the sacrifices that Guatemalan law enforcement people have made.
To emphasize further our cooperation on law enforcement, I was pleased just now to initial with Foreign Minister Stein the text of the recently concluded Stolen Car Treaty. I am also pleased to announce, as I told the President, that the United States has ended its five year GSP trade review of Guatemala in recognition of the steps his Government has taken to improve respect for the rights of Guatemalan workers.
Finally, I look forward to seeing President Arzu and the Foreign Minister again in just a few days at the Summit in San Jose where President Clinton and the Central American Presidents will focus on region-wide efforts to build prosperity, democracy and the rule of law.
I deeply appreciate the warm hospitality and courtesy I have been extended during my visit and after the Foreign Minister makes his statement we will be happy to answer your questions.
FOREIGN MINISTER STEIN: First of all, I would like -- in front of our friends the press -- to tell you again, Madam Secretary, that we are extremely happy with your visit. We are equally thankful for your kind words and praise for the actions taken by President Arzu and his government.
Perhaps an action that clearly exemplifies the effort of all Guatemalans is having gone up to the volcano, which is the highest one in our country and is located at the border with Mexico. Representative of the international community, representatives of the URNG, and representatives of other Guatemalan border-line stations walked to the top of the volcano to clearly demonstrate that there are absolutely no landmines. This took place on the same day that marked the conclusion of the demobilization and disarmament.
This process of demobilization ends in the 70 days that have been established as a deadline in the peace accords without ever having encountered any violent incident. You visited today one of the camps where the ex-combatants of the URNG gathered to carryout the demobilization and disarmament. And in that area of the highlands of Quiche, you were able to visit a place that before was a repository of weapons for war, and today is a place of training and reconciliation.
In those places of women, men and children is where the future of our country lies, and in great measure it is also in those places where the responsibilities of the Guatemalan government should lie in order to be able to fulfill all the different items of the agenda that you mentioned.
In closing, I would like to express deep thanks of the Guatemalan people to the people of the United States and its government. Thank you for the assistance and support that you gave us during the demobilization phase and especially thank you for the assistance today when we have to continue developing the peace process.
QUESTION: (Estuardo Zapeta, Siglo Veintiuno) Many refugees went to the United States due to political reasons and I would like to know if the new immigration statute takes into account the situation of these people given that now the war has ended? Also the same question with regard to the indigenous people that had to leave because they were considered as leftists because of their condition as indigenous people.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: As I mentioned in my opening remarks, the United States is the most open country in the world and last year we welcomed more than one million immigrants and I, as I said, am an immigrant myself and I can't tell you how much I appreciated the ability to live as an American. But every country does have a right to carry out its laws in a safe and legal and orderly way. There will be no mass deportations and each individual case will be handled on a case-by-case basis, including the ones that you have raised. We are listening to the concerns of our friends in Central America and elsewhere. We will engage in a permanent dialogue with the Government of Guatemala on this subject and we have suspended implementation of part of our new law because we wish to handle the situation in as humane way as possible. We will keep consulting with our Congress about the scope and implementation of the new law.
FOREIGN MINISTER STEIN: I would like to add a few words. Both through our Ambassadors of Central America in Washington as well as through meetings in Central America we have found a great level of openness in the executive branch of the United States. This has and will be one of the main items included in the agenda for the San Jose Summit and, as Secretary Albright just mentioned, the highest immigration official of the U. S. will be accompanying President Clinton to San Jose so that she can initiate a dialogue with the immigration officials of the Central American countries.
QUESTION: (Thomas Lippman, Washington Post) At the camp you asked and answered the question of why you, the Secretary of State, would go there and do that. Why don't you ask the same question about the ceremony that we just witnessed. Why would the Secretary of State come down here and go on television to initial a treaty about something that sounds so mundane as stolen cars?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think that the important point to understand here is that the level of relationships that we have with our closest neighbors in Latin America runs the gamut of issues where one issue is linked to another in terms of its importance to establish a rule of law in a hemisphere where now all but one country is democratically elected. Leaders are democratically elected and market systems are developing and every attempt is being made throughout to bring societies to a level of justice and cooperation. This particular treaty has to do with the return of stolen vehicles from the United States, a problem of quite large proportions for us and shows the kind of cooperation where nothing is too small and nothing is too big for us to talk about with our friends.
As I said in my opening statement, my visit here is to come and pay respect to the Government of President Arzu for the vision that he has had in signing the peace accords and in creating a road map for the future of Guatemala where he and his team are looking at every conceivable way in order to bring to Guatemala what it was not able to have for decades. I am very pleased to participate in a number of events that would indicate our respect for what is happening here.
QUESTION: (Miguel Conde, Agence France Presse) Your visit generated a lot of expectations with regard to the possibility of a new relationship between Guatemala and the U.S. There are many members of Congress and other people in Guatemala that consider that the U.S. government does have a moral responsibility with regard to Guatemala and other countries of Central America because this region was the place where the confrontation between the East and the West took place. I would like to know if the new immigration statute responds or is adequate for this moral responsibility that in view of some the U.S. government has?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: History will have to be the judge of what happened in the past, but I think for the future it is clear to me that the United States wants to have the most cooperative and respectful relationship with Guatemala as well as other countries in Central America or all of Latin America for that matter. You will see, as the President leads our Summit, what our intentions are in terms of the general aura of respect as well as particulars in terms of assistance.
FOREIGN MINISTER STEIN: I would like to add something to what Secretary Albright said. As a government, we do not leave aside the recent conditions of the Cold War that had a great impact on Central America. I would like to say something that President Arzu told Secretary Albright at lunch today: "It is not healthy for Guatemala nor for its people to take the attitude or the posture that our problems are in reality the responsibility of others. We have to assume our own responsibility of our own problems because otherwise we will not be able to solve them."
Thank you.


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