A Candid Talk of Rice with Brazil’s Veja Magazine

During her recent visit to Brazil, last week, U.S. Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice said, in an interview with Brazilian weekly magazine Veja, that she can see all the progress Brazil can make in the coming years, using it newfound economic power to give education and health care and make life better for all those Brazilians “who now live on the margins of life.”

Here is a transcript of Rice’s interview with Veja’s reporter Vilma Gryzinski, in its entirety:

QUESTION: President Chavez said that he’s convinced that the Americans are preparing an invasion to Venezuela. True or false?

SECRETARY RICE: It’s just outrageous. But, of course the United States is not going to invade Venezuela or any sort of thing like that. The United States wants good relations with Venezuela. This is about problems concerning the democracy in Venezuela. We need to support that democracy. This is a question of how the Venezuelan Government relates to its neighbors. But this is simply an outrageous, ridiculous charge.

QUESTION: But how do you deal with a character like Chavez, who sits on a seat of oil, who has the support of 60 percent of the Venezuelan people? What would you say is the best way to deal with that situation?

SECRETARY RICE: I think what we need to do is we need to have a positive agenda for this hemisphere and that’s what I came to talk about. Yes, we’ve talked about Venezuela but I can tell you it’s been a relatively small part of my discussions here because what we’re interested in is how this hemisphere, which has had remarkable, a remarkable progress in terms of democratic development in the last decade and a half, how it goes – it keeps its democratic transformation going, how it deals with the need to have economic growth not just for growth but to actually begin to affect the lives of the people, particularly people who are not yet benefiting, how we create circumstances where there can be better education for people, better health care for people.

We had the meetings in Monterrey and in Monterrey there was something – it’s now called the Monterrey Consensus – which is that both the governments and those who help through foreign assistance have a real responsibility to their people to concentrate on the development of human capital.

We have an agenda to talk about free trade in this hemisphere, because free trade is one of those engines of economic growth that then permits you to get enough growth to start to make a difference in people’s lives.

We have a positive agenda in trying to help fragile democracies and when there are crisis like there have recently been in Ecuador, it is a very good thing that you have South American countries that are willing to go and help, the so-called troika that’s been willing to help.

The Organization of American States needs to be strong and capable of helping. So. the way that we deal with the challenges in this hemisphere is to have a positive agenda.

QUESTION: As you know, there are many critics in Brazil to the FTAA, as they’re in the U.S., of course, because many, many people believe that major areas of Brazilian economy will be wiped out by the sheer power of American economy. What would you say, not in the sense of commerce, but as Secretary of State, to calm down these fears?

SECRETARY RICE: Yes, yes. I understand these concerns and I would say to people that, in general, free trade expands economies; it tends to give economies bigger markets and greater investment and greater growth. And I would ask people to look at what has happened to Mexico under NAFTA.

QUESTION: But some people think there are mixed reviews about it.

SECRETARY RICE: If you look at Mexico before NAFTA and you look at Mexico now, I don’t think there’s any doubt that there’s greater prosperity in Mexico. And the Mexicans will tell you that that is in very much part due to the free trade relationship that they’ve developed.

It’s produced new businesses in Mexico. And I mean not big business. I don’t mean the investment of big business. I mean small businesses, with people who are able to start businesses in an entrepreneurial way and they have new markets.

It does bring further investment. Free trade is a good thing. And for people who may not benefit, there is always the ability to help them adjust through better training and like in the parts of the economy that are growing.

QUESTION: And there was a recent poll – worldwide poll and it showed that 70 percent of Brazilian citizens have a negative perception about President Bush. If you had one minute to try to convince these people to change their minds, what would you say?

SECRETARY RICE: I would say I wish you could get to know this President, his commitment to a safer, more secure world, the challenges that he’s faced as America’s President after the United States was viciously attacked on September 11th – his desire for freedom, for all people, no matter where they live, and his compassion for people who are struggling to come out of poverty and disease.

This President has doubled American development assistance during his tenure in office. He has committed the United States to US$ 15 billion – over five years, $15 billion for AIDS worldwide – I’m sorry – in the most affected countries in the world.

He has put enormous resources into a development assistance program called the Millennium Challenge Account that makes available 50 percent more American assistance if countries will simply govern wisely and invest in their people and pledge not to be corrupt and root out corruption. I wish people could focus on that agenda of compassion.

QUESTION: Well, how does this explain this, such a widespread discontentment with President Bush?

SECRETARY RICE: I don’t know except that we’ve had to make in the United States and the President has had to make really tough decisions. After the attacks of September 11th, we had to fight the war on terrorism. And you cannot fight it by simply falling back and defending yourself.

You know, I often remind people that the terrorists only have to be right once. We have to be right 100 percent of the time and that’s not a fair fight. And so you have to take the fight to the terrorists in places like Afghanistan and Iraq and you have to insist that there is going to have to be a different kind of Middle East.

But look at what we’ve achieved in the insistence there needs to be a different kind of Middle East. I have been amazed that the Syrian pullout from Lebanon –

QUESTION: It’s a beautiful thing.

SECRETARY RICE: It’s an amazing thing. The Lebanese people probably never dreamed that, in reality, Syrian forces would leave. Now we have to monitor and we have to verify that withdrawal. We have to make sure that the Syrians withdraw their security forces. But the Lebanese people are about to get a chance for their first free elections, free of foreign interference, in almost 30 years.

QUESTION: But still, if you go to the Middle East you well know, you see people that are deeply convinced that all this democracy talk is a tool for American domination. They have these misconceptions – people in power positions and the common people as well – believe deeply that September 11th was done by CIA with Mossad. How do you face this?

SECRETARY RICE: You just have to keep trying to get the truth out. We faced a lot of propaganda during the Cold War, too, and we used public diplomacy and Voice of America and Radio Free Europe to break through that propaganda.

But you know, I think the pictures now from the Middle East are starting so strongly to tell a different story. I was just this morning watching as the Iraqis were struggling to form a government. But just think, the Iraqis are forming a government. Just those words would have been impossible to speak three years ago.

When you look at what is happening even in places like Saudi Arabia, where they’ve had municipal elections – albeit women need to be able to vote – but this is an amazing thing. And so I do believe that as it becomes clear that the only motive of the United States is to be supportive of those who want to have freedom and liberty, not, by the way, democracy American style.

Every democracy is different. The Brazilian democratic system is different than the American system or the Chilean system or the Canadian system. There are many, many different ways to be democratic.

But the United States stands for a world in which people are free to say what they think, where they are free to worship as they wish, where they can educate their children – boys and girls – where they have the benefit of – where they can benefit from their own labors in terms of economic prosperity and where they are free from the knock of the secret police at night. That’s what we stand for in the United States.

We don’t do it from a position of arrogance. We, more than any country, should do it from a position of humility because we know how hard the democratic path has been in the United States.

I often say that when the Founding Fathers said “we, the people,” they didn’t mean me. Many of my ancestors were slaves and in America’s it’s sometimes not known that in America’s first Constitution in 1789 there was a deal made by which slaves would be counted as three-fifths of a man. What did that say to a country that was built on principles of equality and freedom? It said that it still had a long way to go.

QUESTION: You cannot judge the past by the parameters of the present.

SECRETARY RICE: But it’s come a long way. And so my point is we don’t do this from arrogance, we do this from a sense of, yes, it’s hard but it’s worth doing.

QUESTION: But still, when the knock at the door at night is done by American troops, how do you morally justify 20,000 civilian casualties in Iraq? What’s the moral justification, the major moral justification for this?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, let’s remember who is responsible for most of those civilian casualties. People like al-Zarqawi and the terrorists who have come into Iraq because they do not want to see a better future.

QUESTION: No, these casualties are in military operations.

SECRETARY RICE: Well, the point that I would make to you is that civilian casualties in Iraq are not just a matter of war operations. The people in Iraq now are suffering casualties because there are terrorists who are determined they’re not going to have a better future.

And I would point people to the 300,000 people that we found already in mass graves in Iraq. It was time to liberate this country from this brutal dictator. And he was not just going to go away by force of more United Nations Security Council resolutions. It wasn’t going to happen.

I would point to Afghanistan, where, yes, unfortunately, there were civilian casualties in the military operations there. But would the Afghan people be better off living under the Taliban, which was executing women in soccer stadiums?

QUESTION: But still when you hear that Iraqi women have been forced to go back to the Hijab, how do you react to that?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, you talk to many Iraqi women and they are struggling to make sure that their rights are enshrined in a constitution, that their rights to – some will want to cover. That’s perfectly fine. Some will not cover. I’ve met with Iraqi women in my office – several groups of Iraqi women. Some were in full cover. Some are just like you and I are. I think that’s the future of Iraqi women.

But that’s a very different future and a very different set of questions than when the future of Iraqi women was rape rooms of Saddam Hussein; when they were lined up along with their husbands and their children and shot into mass graves, if you were a Kurd or you were a Shiite; where people were – had their tongues pulled out for criticizing Saddam Hussein’s regime. Sometimes, we don’t put things in perspective.

And I know that Iraq has a very difficult road ahead, as Afghanistan has a very difficult road ahead. But to say that those people were really better off under Saddam Hussein, under the Taliban? Certainly not.

QUESTION: But can you guarantee that Iraq is not going to be turned into Islamic republic like as soon as the Americans turn their backs?

SECRETARY RICE: Oh, no one can guarantee, but I can tell you that every evidence, thus far, is that the Iraqis want an Iraq that is modern, an Iraq that is democratic, an Iraq that is inclusive of all people. Now, a lot of people wondered when the Shiite won a large number in the election, given they had been so oppressed by Saddam Hussein, would they turn and become oppressors themselves? Quite to the contrary. They’ve invited Sunnis to be a part of the government, even though Sunnis didn’t vote in large numbers. The Iraqi people want to put their brutal past behind them and it’s not general –

QUESTION: You’re sure that this self-restraint is going to keep –

SECRETARY RICE: Oh, yes, it actually usually takes a dictator to make people turn on each other the way that the Iraqis turned on each other and, fortunately, they don’t have that dictator any longer.

QUESTION: Do you ever have doubts? Do you ever say to yourself, “I don’t know what to do with the situation.” Let’s say Haiti, which sometimes seems so hopeless that every solution has been tried and it didn’t work?

SECRETARY RICE: It’s hard, sometimes, because sure there are places and events that you think are we ever got a part of the solution. But it’s our responsibility, it’s my job, it’s my responsibility, not to dwell on the problem but to work toward a solution. And I very often say to people when they say, here’s the problem, and they’ll analyze the problem. And I’ll say that’s a very good analysis of the problem and if I were back at Stanford University, I would be very interested in the analysis of the problem.

But our responsibility is to find a solution and I do believe that through adherence to principles of democracy by bringing to bear the weight of the – all of those now who are democracies, that we will be resolving these problems and I am usually very much heartened by the fact that if I look back in time, there were problems that seemed insoluble.

There were problems that seemed that it could never find a resolution. When you look here in Latin America, 15 or 20 years ago, people would’ve told you there’s no chance that you were going to have democracies across this hemisphere. They would’ve told you there’s no chance. But in fact, it has happened and you just have to be steady and keep working toward it.

QUESTION: You said the magic word, it’s the word “power,” so everybody in Brazil is deeply in love with you forever.


That’s true. Looking at this country a little bit more as a professor of political science and then Secretary of State, where do you see Brazil, let’s say ten years from now?

SECRETARY RICE: I think ten years from now you could see a Brazil that is making real progress at home in terms of now taking it’s great economic growth and it’s – the fact it’s now, economically, more integrated into the international economy, it’s not a closed statist economy, taking that economic power and at home, making it possible for Brazilians who now live on the margins of life to really have education and access to health care and all those things.

And then from that powerful democratic base, I would see a Brazil that is a real factor in this region, in helping to spread democracy and prosperity and free trade in the region. And then from that base, in the world, a really major global actor, on behalf of democracy, on behalf of social justice in the world, on behalf of countries that, right now, could never imagine that they could get as far as Brazil has. I think there are a number of countries that are arising in this way.

I was just recently in India – this is another big multi-ethnic democracy emerging now as a global power. I think you will see from South Africa and Brazil and it is a wonderful thing from our point of view because the United States doesn’t fear others being important and powerful and able to do things in international politics, particularly when we share common values of democracy.

QUESTION: If you were the head of Itamaraty instead of the Secretary of State would you be adamant about seeking, looking for a seat, a permanent seat on the Security Council?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I know that the Security Council reform – or UN reform, opened up the question of Security Council reform. And I’m not all surprised that countries that are taking on a more global world – a role – are desirous of Security Council membership and are pressing their case with them.

And I think it’s a healthy debate that we’re having about the structures of the UN. It’s just that we need not to separate Security Council reforms from all of these issues of UN reform. We have to reform the Secretariat. We have to reform the organizations. We have to reform the Commissions. When you have a Human Rights Commission that Sudan sat on –

QUESTION: But as Security Council –

SECRETARY RICE: Security Council reform. We will get to that question. But I’m not at all surprised that it has become an issue in Brazil or India or other places.

QUESTION: But the Security Council with more people, members, would be weaker?

SECRETARY RICE: You know what, it’s a good question. We wanted it to be effective. I don’t think it would necessarily be weaker if it’s larger. But these are questions that clearly have to be examined very closely.

The one thing I will say is that the UN was formed in 1945 and obviously we have to start to look at these issues so that the UN can be updated to look as if it is really ready to deal with the 21st century, not the 20th.

QUESTION: Thank you.

SECRETARY RICE: Oh, thank you. We’ll do it again sometime when I have more time.

U.S. Department of State


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