Press Release – US State Department
MODERATOR: All right. Good afternoon, everyone. Were en route to Antigua, Guatemala for the OAS General Assembly. Well also have a bilateral program with the Guatemalans. And here we have a Senior State Department Official to go ahead and give us an overview …Background Briefing en Route to Guatemala
Senior State Department Official
En Route to Guatemala
June 4, 2013
MODERATOR: All right. Good afternoon, everyone. We’re en route to Antigua, Guatemala for the OAS General Assembly. We’ll also have a bilateral program with the Guatemalans. And here we have a Senior State Department Official to go ahead and give us an overview of the Secretary’s participation over these two days. So I’ll turn it over to you.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Thank you. So this is the annual event, big event, of the OAS, the General Assembly held every year in May. I think the Secretary’s participation really does speak to the importance of the OAS. It’s the only organization in the hemisphere that has universal membership. Remember, of course, that Cuba is still a member; it’s just suspended. So it is all of the countries of the Western Hemisphere.
This General Assembly, I think, is particularly important. You may remember that last April at the Summit of the Americas, the leaders decided that there was a lot to talk about related to counter-narcotics policy and the drugs issue in the hemisphere, and that therefore, they would ask the OAS to produce a study on the issue. The OAS did that. They released their study in mid-May, and so that is the theme. Every host country of the OAS General Assembly can select the theme, and Guatemala selected approaches to the drug problems.
So Secretary Kerry will be going to talk about the U.S. approach to the issue, the way we work in cooperation with countries around the hemisphere. The OAS study, if you take a look at it, while the headlines and the sound bites were all about the one part of the report that dealt with the possibility of legalization of marijuana – in fact, most of the report talks about policies and options that are very much part of the Administration’s approach, which is very comprehensive, deals with demand, prevention, treatment, and as the President has said, we can’t incarcerate our way out of it. It is not just about law enforcement. It’s about a public health approach. And there’s a lot of information in the OAS study to support that approach.
So that’ll be the main subject, and that is – clearly, it is in our interest, and I think Secretary Kerry wants to go to contribute to a really good conversation about this, because frankly, up until now, especially last year when this started, there was a lot of buzz about legalization, but there really wasn’t much behind it. There weren’t a whole lot of facts in that conversation.
The other things that I think the Secretary is going to want to focus on in this General Assembly: One is the election that’ll be held on the 6th just after we leave for the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. The Inter-American Human Rights System is really the crown jewel of the organization. It contains the commission and the Inter-American Court. You may know that the Inter-American Declaration on the Rights of Man actually was implemented seven or eight months before the Universal Declaration on Human Rights at the UN, so it was the first of those human rights treaties. And it’s been under attack. The Inter-American System on Human Rights has been under attack by lots of countries over the last year or two, and we feel very strongly that we need to support that organizational structure – the commission, the court, the special rapporteurs that have been selected on various issues. And one of the things that we’ll be talking about is the election.
There are three slots open in the Inter-American commission this year. There are six candidates running. The U.S. has an outstanding candidate, a guy named Dr. James Cavallaro from Stanford Law School. He’s a recognized expert in this field. We’ve all talked to many of our neighbors about him. He is widely recognized as the most qualified candidate among the six who are running. And I think it’s really important that the U.S. remain with a presence on the commission. We’ve had a commissioner, I think, since the commission was founded, except for a three-year period under the Bush Administration. So Secretary Kerry will be talking with lots of his counterparts about Dr. Cavallaro’s qualifications and trying to ensure that we can get Dr. Cavallaro elected to the commission.
The third aspect, I think, is always a part of the OAS General Assembly, but is even more important to Secretary Kerry because of what he has said about the organization, is the reform effort we’ve been undertaking with the OAS to try and make it do really two things. One is focus on its core missions, its core missions being democracy, human rights, security issues, and development. And the second is to ensure that it focuses on those things in the most proficient and cost-effective way. The U.S. obviously pays the largest share of the OAS’s budget, and it’s particularly important to us in a time of budget constraints that the OAS be using those funds responsibly. So the Secretary will definitely talk about the importance of focus and efficiency at this organization.
Obviously, while he’s met with about, I think, five of the foreign ministers in this region, this is also an opportunity for him to see so many of his counterparts who come to the OAS General Assembly at one time. He’ll be having bilateral meetings, obviously, with the hosts, the Guatemalans, and that’s at the presidential and foreign minister level.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: (Inaudible.) He’ll also be seeing Colombian Foreign Minister Holguin, the new Peruvian Foreign Minister Rivas – what other ones we’ve got set up – and he’ll see others, obviously, during this.
He will probably speak briefly with the Venezuelan Foreign Minister. We’ve said, obviously, that we’d like a positive relationship with them, and Foreign Minister Jaua, I believe, is coming to the OAS. So those are the other bilateral meetings.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: No, I think that’s it.
MODERATOR: He’ll meet with the Secretary General.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Of course. He’ll meet with the Secretary General of the OAS, Secretary-General Insulza, today.
QUESTION: Is (inaudible) Venezuela (inaudible) on a formal bilat?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I think it’ll be a short meeting, yeah.
QUESTION: So —
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: And then the other thing I should say is there are – there’s a dinner tonight and there’s a lunch tomorrow. In each of those, he will have almost certainly additional conversations with other foreign ministers. I know that he’s going to be seated next to the Salvadoran Foreign Minister Martinez in one of those meals, I think maybe lunch tomorrow. And there’s actually a lot going on in our relationship with El Salvador that we want to talk about. Foreign Minister Martinez has been a great ally, so I’m sure that he’ll talk with him. But to be honest, I expect that he’ll talk with many of the foreign ministers as part of the day that he’s there.
MODERATOR: In the bilateral agenda, he’ll also have a chance with the Attorney General.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Oh, that’s right. He will do a brief photo with Claudia Paz y Paz, who’s the Attorney General of Guatemala. I think everybody knows that we strongly support her work. She’s been remarkable. Obviously, this is a time in which a lot is going on in the judicial system in Guatemala, whether it is the trials of – the trial of Efrain Rios Montt, or whether it is the just completed extradition of former president Portillo, and our cooperation with Attorney General Paz y Paz has just been outstanding.
Then he’s also going to do – I think before departure, he’s going to be doing an event in Guatemala (inaudible), near Antigua, that will emphasize the work that we’re doing with Guatemala on education and working with young people and the President’s initiative on 100,000 Strong with student exchanges.
MODERATOR: One other thing to highlight, the Secretary is going to swear in a class of the Peace Corps, which is, I think, the first time he’s done that. So he’ll swear in a class of the Peace Corps, as well, ahead of the embassy meet and greet tomorrow morning.
QUESTION: I interested in asking about the reform of the OAS, I mean, this is a big issue and I think clearly the Secretary’s been talking about it for a long time. What kinds of steps would like – is he going to be pushing for now? I mean, because it seems that the election of this human rights committee falls into that whole —
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: It does. It does. But I think when we talk about – the first two things I mentioned as core missions of the OAS were democracy and human rights. There’s nothing that exemplifies that better than the commission. The commission, for example, I think this is an important distinction, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has universal membership. Everybody’s a member. We have many, many cases against us, and we engage in that process very actively. So it isn’t a question of us not being part of that system. The court, on the other hand, is only for those members who’ve ratified the convention – the Inter-American Convention – which, as you may know, the U.S. signed in 1977, but has never ratified. So we are not members of the court, but we are members of the commission.
And I do think that is a quintessential part of the OAS that needs to be strengthened. That’s why we participated in that special General Assembly back in March where we were very pleased with the outcome. But the question is: Is the OAS doing other things that really aren’t central to its mandate? And I think that has been the case on occasion in the past.
The other thing is, this is also the time every year when the budget comes up for passage. Our strong belief, and I think this is probably how it will come out because it’s trending this way, is that the OAS right now has to have a zero-growth budget. There aren’t, as far as I know, any countries in the hemisphere who are keen to pay a lot more. So we’ve got to work with what we’ve got. We have to have a no-growth budget that focuses on those four priority areas of the OAS, and that’s what he’s going to be trying to advance.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) you may be cutting back some of the U.S. contribution.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I don’t know of any initiatives for us to cut back on our contribution. I think that we’re willing to comply with our contribution but not see it go up at this point. There’s huge pressures on the budget; as you know, the sequester. Whether we can make our full contribution given the budget constraints, I’m not absolutely certain. But our hope would be that the OAS can pass a zero-growth budget, which allows all of us some certainty of what those levels are going to be. And I think that’s going to be sufficient for the OAS to do its work.
The other area that we’ve been focused on for the last couple of years is, frankly, the OAS’s personnel structure. Do they need as many people as they have? More people over the last number of years have been moved into – I’m not even sure what the category’s called – it’s the Secretary General’s sort of personal staff, if you will, who are not part of the formal structure where you compete for entry, et cetera. That’s not the most efficient way to run the office. So it’s those kinds of things that I think we’ll be looking at. It’s the same kind of scrub, frankly, we’d give our own budgets.
QUESTION: About the meeting with the Venezuelan Minister, who’s idea was it? Was this issued from you, through the State Department? Or was it his idea to meet?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I think the Secretary is interested in trying to find out, as we’ve said, if we can have this positive, more functional relationship. The Venezuelans did seek a meeting, and so we said we we’re willing to do a brief meeting.
QUESTION: But what is going to be the subjects? Is it something to do with the return of ambassadors? Do you think it’s too soon? Oil? What is –
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Well, I think one of the things we’ve said is we want to try and find a way forward with the Venezuela. We want to see if there are areas that we can discuss. We’ve mentioned that they’re not necessarily exclusive. We mentioned counternarcotics, counterterrorism, the commercial relationship, including energy. We’d like to have those conversation on things that are of mutual interest. If the Venezuelan Government has other subjects that they want to bring to the table, we’re willing to consider that. Whether we start with ambassadors right away or return ambassadors later, I don’t know the answer to that yet. I don’t think that – I think we’ll have to see how the conversation goes.
But I also think we’ve made very clear that we’re not going to pull our punches on democracy issues. That’s a clear part of our agenda all over the hemisphere, and we still have concerns about how the deep divisions in Venezuela after the last elections get resolved.
QUESTION: I believe they have requested (inaudible), considering all the things that you have on the table to settle – a lot of things – and especially a lot of statements, quite harsh from that side. What do you expect? I mean, what are you getting ready for? Do you expect another speech – aggressive speech? Or do you think that this time they are ready or they are willing to move forward?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I think my answer to that is: I certainly hope they’re ready to move things forward. I’m an inveterate optimist. I don’t think you stay in this business for as long as I have if you’re not. I also don’t expect that we’re going to have an encounter (inaudible). If that’s the attitude that our counterparts come to this meeting with, it won’t be very productive. And I think we want a productive meeting. So I think it’s going to be a conversation. That’s what I’m hoping for.
QUESTION: It’s a pull-aside. How long it’s going to take, do you think?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Oh, I really don’t know. I can never predict Secretaries. I mean, right now I don’t know how long we may have on the schedule. It’s not scheduled for particularly long, but if it’s a productive conversation, we’ll have more of that conversation. And it depends a little bit on the tenor of how they approach the conversation.
QUESTION: On the headline-making part of the drug report —
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Of the what?
QUESTION: The headline-making part, the part you don’t want to talk about, the part that everyone else is talking about – I don’t understand. You go down there with the idea that you don’t want countries in the hemisphere to move towards legalization. That’s correct, right?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: We go down there with the view that legalization is not, to us, the answer to this problem.
QUESTION: Right. So how do you do that when state after state in the U.S. is legalizing it?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Well, look, I think the Administration has been very clear on the fact that federal law has not changed and isn’t going to.
QUESTION: I know, but you have – I mean, the problem is —
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: But I think what we go to this General Assembly with, quite honestly, is something that looks very similar to what’s happening in many other countries in the hemisphere, and that is a debate is underway on these issues, and that debate is taking place in the United States. Whether or not the federal government is going to change its rules, which we aren’t, the states are having their own debate. That debate is taking place in Uruguay, that debate took place elsewhere in the hemisphere. We’re all having that debate.
QUESTION: Right, but it’s not problematic for you to go down there and say we don’t think legalization is the right thing to do when, if I’m Foreign Minister of country X, I’m going to say, well, you know what? That’s great you don’t think it’s a good thing to do. I’m going to go to Colorado —
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: But two of your states do.
QUESTION: — and I’m going to – and we’re going to start selling pot in Colorado and Oregon. And what are you going to do about it?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Federal law won’t have changed, and remember that drugs have to get from one place to another, and that’s still problematic.
QUESTION: That’s right, and we’ve been very successful at stopping them. (Laughter.)
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: But trafficking is still going to be a crime into the United States.
QUESTION: Right. I just don’t understand – you don’t see this as a – you’re not prepared for push-back from —
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I see it as a debate that’s taking place in the United States, and when those kinds of policy debates are underway, whether it’s immigration reform or the death penalty or – they obviously are things that have to be factored into your foreign policy. They make it more complicated.
QUESTION: Right. Well, exactly. So that does – when Texas —
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Yeah, but it’s not —
QUESTION: — runs around executing Mexicans, it also makes it very hard for —
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: And the Avena case, which I worked on for years – I mean, absolutely.
QUESTION: So I mean – but the bottom line on drugs is that you don’t want to see the elements – the headline-making parts of this report come to (inaudible) – you don’t want to see that come to —
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Actually, what I’d prefer to see the headline be is that —
QUESTION: Not what you’d prefer to see as the headline.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: — “OAS Endorses Comprehensive Approach to Transnational Narcotics Organizations.”
QUESTION: Unfortunately, you get no readers after that headline. (Laughter.)
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: This is news. This is news.
QUESTION: I’ve got one other thing if I could.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: How about “OAS Agrees with Obama Administration Approach”?
QUESTION: But that would be just a lie. (Laughter.)
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: No, it wouldn’t. That’s right. Have you read the report? It wouldn’t be a lie. Two-thirds of the stuff that’s in there is exactly what we’re doing.
QUESTION: But you —
QUESTION: “Venezuela-U.S. Best Friends Now.” (Laughter.)
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Probably not.
QUESTION: I just want to ask about election for the commission.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Yeah.
QUESTION: Who is the big – is there someone who’s actively opposing your candidate?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I don’t think so actually. There were six candidates.
QUESTION: But is there a chance of a (inaudible)?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Brazil, Mexico, us, the Colombians, the Peruvians, and Ecuadorans.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Brazil, Mexico, Peru, Colombia, Ecuador and the U.S. One of the things that we’ve heard from just about every single country that we’ve talked to is how incredibly well qualified Dr. Cavallaro is. I mean, it’s just – he’s done an incredible amount of work on the commission itself. He’s been an advocate and a lawyer who has represented clients in front of the commission, speaks Spanish and Portuguese. I mean, this is what he does. He’s really good. He also, by the way —
QUESTION: So he’s anti-Haitian.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: He’s anti-what?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Actually he may speak French, but I’m not sure about the Creole. But he also doesn’t agree with the United States Government position on certain issues, like the ratification of the convention, which I think speaks to the fact that this is a commission where members —
QUESTION: You mean he wants it to be ratified?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Correct.
QUESTION: Well, he doesn’t agree with the Congress.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Well, correct. Not with the executive branch, which obviously signed it. But let me just say this is one of those structures, and each commission is different in the UN and the OAS, where your members are not members representing governments. Governments propose the candidates, but the members serve in their individual capacity. So independence from the government, it’s actually quite important that he have credibility on that.
QUESTION: But why such a big push, or is this something you do every – I mean, are you concerned that he might not —
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: You have to push a different amount depending on the election in part, because it depends on your competition.
QUESTION: Well, I understand that, but I mean this is number two on your list of three, so it’s —
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I can move them around. No, I mean, honestly —
QUESTION: No, no, no. But I mean, are you worried that he’s going to – is there —
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Oh, sure. It’s not a sure thing.
QUESTION: Because of —
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: It’s not a sure thing.
QUESTION: Because of just anti-U.S. sentiment?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I will tell you right now – yes. There has been a concerted effort – and we saw it last March at the special General Assembly – did you stay in there all night? You were in there all night. No, you left.
QUESTION: No, I missed that.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: You weren’t even there. Some of us stayed there till one in the morning. There has been a concerted attempt by some countries, especially those in ALBA, to push the U.S. out of the commission because we have not ratified the convention, which is completely contrary to the rules of the commission. The commission is universal jurisdiction. The court is only for those members who ratified. So they have mounted an effort to keep the United States off the commission because we’re not part of another body. That makes no sense, but frankly, that’s something that we have to worry about because we don’t believe that’s a valid argument, and most other countries don’t either. But we’ve had push-back.
QUESTION: Okay. So there’s three spots, and the top three vote-getters get it?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Yeah. The way this works apparently is you go into the first round, if you will, where everybody is up for election – the six candidates – and everybody gets to vote on three. The guy – if there are three candidates that get 18 votes, that’s it. Right? We’re done, because 18 is what you need to get in. If there aren’t – let’s say two of them get in, one of them has 14 – then you go to a second round. The guy with the lowest number of votes drops out, and you vote for the remaining whatever.
QUESTION: And the opposition – you said it’s almost – the usual suspects who are opposed to the – and they’ve said or told other people, “We’re not voting for” —
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Yeah. And in fact, some of those countries have stimulated meetings over the past six months of only those members of the OAS who have ratified the convention to talk about how they line up support for only members who have ratified the convention. They’ve been working at it.
QUESTION: So you have a rough – what’s your estimate of the vote?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: You know, it’s still so much in flux. I think we have pretty good numbers, but I don’t know that we’re at 18 yet, so that’s why we’re going to keep pushing.
QUESTION: All right. So after the Canadians and the Colombians – or the Colombians have their own candidate.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: We’re good with the Canadians. The Colombians have their own candidate. Not everybody gets to vote for three, so —
QUESTION: So what happens if you are off? Would you consider that as sort of just a disappointment?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Would I consider what?
QUESTION: Do you consider that as sort of – just disappointment or is it something more alarming for —
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Well, it would be a disappointment, but I have to say I think it would weaken the commission. This guy is incredibly qualified. I think he would bring instant prestige and an elevation of the debate to the commission. So I think the disappointment – and on a policy level, the disappointment would be that the commission would be missing out on somebody who’s truly spectacular. And frankly, we have always made it a priority to be a member of the commission.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) international institutions over the last 10 years, I know that you would lobby for backing for this candidate. So —
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: And the other interesting thing is he’s traveled all around the hemisphere, talking to governments, and pitching his own candidacy, which all the candidates do. And the interesting thing is, in so many ways, he’s an even better – I’m sorry, we’re making this hard on you – in so many ways, he is the best possible salesman for his own candidacy. Because I’ve had a number of foreign ministers – when I was on the Vice President’s trip last week and in working for this trip the last couple of days, I’ve had a number of ministers say to me, “I really wasn’t sure that I was going to support you, but he’s incredibly impressive.”
QUESTION: So you think (inaudible)?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Yeah. I feel like if people do look at his capabilities and his qualifications – and I think that’s what most people will do – they will support him.
QUESTION: Just looking at the reform issue again, is there specific areas that you think this human rights commission should be focused on?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Well, I think the one thing that I would say, which we were clear about back in March and we remain very firm on, is we feel really strongly about the special rapporteurs. The OAS has special rapporteurs. I’m not going to remember them all, but they’ve got on minority rights, I think, and women’s rights and they have on indigenous.
But for sure, one of the largest rapporteurs and the most active is the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression, and she has just been – Catalina Botero – she has been really, really effective on an issue that we think is very, very timely right now. There are places in the hemisphere where that issue is clearly under threat, and she has an important role to play. So, her – not only keeping that special rapporteur and keeping her strong, but keeping her independent, keeping the commission independent; those things are really important. They have to be autonomous. If they are not autonomous, if they become mechanisms or tools of governments, then we’ve defeated the purpose.
QUESTION: (Inaudible), how about a special rapporteur for Guantanamo (inaudible)?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I think the UN has one of those, don’t they?
QUESTION: Not at the UN, but (inaudible). Is there an outcome that you’re expecting (inaudible)?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Well, there’s two things.
QUESTION: Not on that (inaudible).
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Other than that election —
QUESTION: Make sure the General Assembly —
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I mean, I think what I would say on that is there is always a declaration that comes out of these General Assemblies. It’s the Declaration of Antigua. It was – last year, it was the Declaration of Cochabamba, God help us.
I think what we’re looking for is that declaration is actually quite good; we’ve worked on it for weeks. And I think a lot of what it says about the complexity of the narcotics issue and the importance of cooperation – because these guys don’t respect boundaries – and the importance of a comprehensive approach that looks at public health and prevention and treatment, as well as law enforcement cooperation, a strong statement on that is what we’re looking at to come out of this General Assembly.
QUESTION: So you don’t expect there (inaudible)?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: And let me just – actually let me not – let me bring it back to the Secretary and sort of the personal. We’re also obviously looking for the Secretary’s first trip to this region to be one in which he’s able to engage in something he’s clearly been passionate about for quite a while, and get to know his colleagues so that he can work with them on lots of other issues.
MODERATOR: (Inaudible) the context you have of the President’s visit, the Vice President’s visit and the Secretary’s visit.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: It’s been a great month.
QUESTION: In terms of the drugs, though, you don’t expect there to be any further endorsement of the idea of legalization?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Of legalization? I don’t.
QUESTION: Is that because (inaudible), because you guys are (inaudible)?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: No. I expect it will be similar to what President Perez Molina said when the President – our President – was in Costa Rica a couple of weeks ago, which is there’s no consensus on this issue.
QUESTION: And there’s also (inaudible).
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: He has promoted it. But his comment was there’s no consensus on this issue, and as long as there’s no consensus, it doesn’t make sense to try and move ahead on this individually. And I think he’s right about that.
QUESTION: Unless you’re an individual state or province, and then you can go ahead and do —
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I work federal – (laughter) – and international.
MODERATOR: You remember we also have the ONDCP Director with us. He’ll be engaging with other countries, and part of that is to explain our overall federal strategy, which includes demand.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Right. Right. And I mean, I think, for example, one of the things —
QUESTION: If he leaves his job and goes home to Seattle, he can buy pot legally.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Do you know Gil Kerlikowske? That is so unlikely.
QUESTION: Just for clarity —
QUESTION: Right. I’m just saying you could.
QUESTION: — what do you mean by a comprehensive – just for clarity, what do you mean by a comprehensive approach?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I mean not just a law enforcement approach. Because we are often painted as if we have only a law enforcement approach, which is so not the case. Even if you look at our security initiatives in the hemisphere – the Central American Regional Security Initiative, the Caribbean Basin, the Merida Initiative – all of them have demand reduction components, they have job creation components, they have rehabilitation and penitentiary components. So I think it’s really important to understand that that side of public policy, the public health and prevention side, is just as important as strengthening police forces or military or interdiction, which is obviously a really tough game.
QUESTION: The problem is, of course, that prior to five years ago, there wasn’t any real acknowledgement of that. So I know you (inaudible) —
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I don’t actually think that’s – yeah —
QUESTION: Oh, you don’t? It wasn’t until Obama and Clinton (inaudible).
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I mean, no, I think – no, no. I just don’t know if that’s, like, particularly relevant to this moment when we’re having the debate. What we did in the past and what we may not have done now and since the Administration’s beginning of its first term, where they increased the demand, reduction, and prevention side to over $10 billion, that’s where we are. And we’ve seen a 50 percent reduction in cocaine use in the last five years.
QUESTION: Oh, I know. I’m just (inaudible) the history – but the history was of basically denial that demand (inaudible) – was a contributing factor.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: So aren’t we glad we don’t have that now?
QUESTION: Well, maybe so. But people can look at that and say, look, this is relatively new.
QUESTION: Excuse me.
QUESTION: Maybe it’s five years old for the U.S. and it’s going to take a long – much longer time. And who knows?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Well, look, I don’t disagree.
QUESTION: When Ted Cruz becomes President of the United States, you might go back to that.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I do not disagree at all with the notion that this is a long, hard slog. And I think the Secretary has made that clear in lots of statements over the years, and I think the countries in the region know that too. If you look at Colombia over 12, 13 years, you know.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: No, no. That’s – this is a long, hard slog. And frankly, you never get rid of it altogether. You try and reduce it to a level at which law enforcement can cope with it, the institutions are strong enough to cope with it. You don’t obliterate it. I wish you could.
QUESTION: Can I ask about another issue? It’s —
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Sure. I’m going to just slide in here because I’m feeling guilty about —
QUESTION: There are increasing rumors about Insulza is leaving after this – after he has some (inaudible), because he’s going to be a candidate in his own country. So what do you know about it? What do you know about his intentions? Has – expressed something to the U.S.?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: No. No. I think —
QUESTION: (Inaudible) Secretary Kerry could bring this (inaudible)?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I think Secretary General Insulza will convey to all the members of the OAS his intentions when he’s ready to do so. Right now, our conversation is going to be focused on this General Assembly and on the reform efforts within the OAS. I don’t know what he’s going to do.
QUESTION: How do you qualify, I mean, his tenure, his —
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Well, I think it’s pretty clear we think the OAS has more work to do on reform and management issues. I think there are some cases in which the OAS really did great work. If you look – even though it wasn’t a huge public profile, but if you look at what the OAS did on Paraguay, on the impeachment in Paraguay, was a great response, it was an excellent report. I think we saw Paraguay move back into the democracy, the full democracy column, with its elections in April. I think the OAS was very important in Honduras a couple of years ago.
There are other places where we’ve been disappointed. So I think it’s a mixed record, but we still think there’s a lot more to do, whether that’s with this Secretary General or when the next one comes in 2015 or sooner. That’s up to the Secretary General.
QUESTION: Just looking again into Venezuela, what is likely to be Secretary Kerry’s message to the Venezuelans right now?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I think his message is going to be that we would like a more positive, functional relationship on issues that we both are interested in talking about and that we would also like to see a process for addressing the concerns of 7-plus million voters who don’t yet feel like their aspirations, their democratic hopes, are being addressed by the government. So the message will be both on principle, on democracy, and on functional sort of practical steps that we can take to —
QUESTION: So just for guidance, the Administration’s nowhere near recognizing the government in any way?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: We don’t recognize governments.
QUESTION: No, no, (inaudible).
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Are we talking to this government representative? Yes. Do we still have an Embassy open in Caracas? Yes. I don’t know what recognition means. If it means pronouncing on who won Venezuela’s election, that’s for the Venezuelans to do.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) is the status now (inaudible) internally in Venezuela?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I actually saw something yesterday or the day before about their CNE, their electoral tribunal, saying I think they had just about finished or almost finished their recount. I know that the opposition does not believe that the recount was fully done, that it was properly done compared with non-machine tallies. So I don’t know exactly where that stands. But my point is still the same. You still have a dispute, if you will, between a very large percentage of Venezuelans who voted one way and don’t yet feel that this is resolved.
STAFF: Excuse me, ma’am. We’ll have to stop the conference because we’re in meal service (inaudible) shortly. We’re trying to give it to you (inaudible).
QUESTION: That’s fine (inaudible).
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: They want you guys to eat.
QUESTION: Just very briefly, anything (inaudible) work on trade?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: On trade?
QUESTION: Yeah. On the TPP or anything?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: It may in the bilaterals. But I don’t expect that it will within the OAS. But certainly we talk trade with almost all of the bilateral partners, and obviously Peru is in the TPP so we do expect that to come up.
All right. Thanks.
QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.