United States Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, says that she was able to make one of her lifelong dreams come true while on an official visit to Brazil: visiting the capital of the northeaster state Bahia, Salvador, one of the global centers for African culture outside of the African continent.
"Coming to Bahia was a personal desire," Rice told reporters. "I had been hearing about it for years; Salvador is a great city and all this is due to the Afro-Brazilian community here. Of course, I am of Afro-descent and I have always believed that Brazil and the USA, in certain aspects, are more alike than any other two countries in the world."
And continued: "Here we find the traditions of the European, Latin and African, everybody living side by side. So I wanted to come to Bahia and I can tell I was not wrong. It is beautiful here. I only regret having taken so long to come."
Rice's trip began with a ceremonial dinner with key leaders and Brazilian officials, including the Governor of Bahia, Jacques Wagner, and the Brazilian Minister of Tourism, Mrs. Marta Suplicy. Highlights included performances from two famous Brazilian musicians, Minister of Culture Gilberto Gil and singer/composer Carlinhos Brown.
Rice's cultural tour also involved a visit to the famous Nossa Senhora do Rosário dos Pretos, a church built in 1704 which serves as an important symbol for the Afro-Brazilian community. She also visited the Afro Museum of Bahia in Terreiro de Jesus where she watched a performance by Olodum, one of the most famous Afro-Brazilian music and dance groups.
Upon the conclusion of her trip, Rice promised to promote Bahia and Brazil in the United States. Brazilian Minister of Tourism, Marta Suplicy, highlighted Brazil's comprehensive communications strategy that promotes its cultural diversity in the American market.
"Bahia is an important tourism destination for ethno-tourists and the African community, as it combines the historical and cultural sides to an impressive range of attractions, such as beaches, gastronomy, artistry and sports," explained Suplicy.
The Brazilian Ministry of Tourism is promising to invest US$ 16 million to promote Brazil and its culture to Americans in 2008. Brazil's Watercolor PlanÂ calls for generating consumer awareness worldwide about Brazil and attracting more tourists.
The established target for the U.S. sector is increasing the annual numbers for tourists entering the country to 9 million, and attracting a total amount of US$ 8 billion in revenue.
There are eight Embratur offices globally: New York (US), Tokyo (Japan), Lisbon (Portugal), Paris (France), London (U.K.), Frankfurt (Germany), Madrid (Spain) and Milan (Italy) There is also a Bureau for Tourism for Latin America, based at the Embratur office, in the city of Brasilia.
Rice Interview with William Waack of Globo TV
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, in terms of the capacity of your government to influence positively events in this region, under President Bush, what's your assessment? This capacity has increased or decreased?
SECRETARY RICE: In many ways, our relations have never been better in many parts of the region. With Brazil, we've developed a very important and strategic relationship where we're cooperating together on projects in Africa, where obviously we have the biofuels initiative. Brazil is such an important actor not just in the region, but globally.
And I spent a long time today talking to the Foreign Minister, for instance about the Middle East – Brazil was a participant in Annapolis – and even on issues that are not of high politics, but I think that touch the lives of people. The United States has doubled foreign assistance to Latin America and we are trying to do more about education and healthcare because ultimately, this president cares about social justice in this hemisphere; democracy, good economies and social justice.
QUESTION: I read your remarks at the OAS as recently as last October when you said this is a change in history. This president, for him, it's not important where you are, your ideological background, whether you are leftist or rightist. But after we heard from President Bush yesterday, Wednesday about Chavez, this position has changed.
SECRETARY RICE: No, this is – we are sitting here in Brazil. Brazil has a president from the left. He's one of America's closest friends and partners in the region and on the globe. I will go on to Chile, another country where the president is from the left and again, we have excellent relations with Chile.
And so this is not about where you are on the ideological spectrum. It's a question of: Do you respect democratic values and democratic institutions; are you working for the good of your people; are you working for the good of your neighbors. Those are the issues that are important to the United States, but it's certainly not a matter of whether you come from the left or from the right.
QUESTION: So definitely, you can work with Chavez?
SECRETARY RICE: This is a question of what policies the country pursues, what interests the country pursues. We've had good relations with Venezuela historically. We would like to have good relations with Venezuela again. The question is: Are countries and are leaders working for democracy and for free trade and for prosperity and for social justice for their people and are they respecting their neighbors.
QUESTION: Now the United States is involved directly in armed conflict in Colombia. How seriously do you take the allegations that the FARC would be defeated were it not for the help it's getting from neighbors like Ecuador and Venezuela?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, the United States is involved and has been, on a bipartisan basis going back to the Clinton Administration, in helping the people of Colombia deal with what was a terrible situation in which insecurity was a daily matter for the Colombian people; kidnapping and bombings along roads, roads that no Colombian would even go along, narco trafficking and terrorists who were killing innocent people, paramilitaries who were involved in all kinds of crimes.
And President Uribe, following on President Pastrana, has carried out what he has called a program of democratic security. And indeed, life in Colombia is much better. I was in Medellin just a couple of months ago and I'll tell you something about Medellin. This is a name that used to be synonymous with trouble and now, it is a city that is booming and where prosperity is coming again and where people are beginning to feel safe. That's the partnership that the United States has engaged in with Colombia.
Now to the degree that the FARC, a terrorist organization by U.S. designation, is operating someplace outside of Colombia's borders, Colombia's neighbors owe it to the people of Colombia to deal with that problem, not to allow them to operate on their territory. And it is, by the way, a UN requirement of member states to do everything that can be done to prevent terrorists from using irregular groups, from using financing, from using ungoverned territories to attack innocent people. And so we've worked very closely with Colombia. Colombia is a good partner and Colombia is a good partner in the region for a better Western Hemisphere.
QUESTION: In your assessment, Madame Secretary, why are so many South American and Latin American countries shy or reluctant to adopt the same designation to the FARC as the U.S. does?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, we have different histories. We have different tasks to where we are now. But I don't think that many would deny that the FARC has been associated with some of the most horrendous violence against the people of Colombia. If we were sitting here with my Foreign Minister colleague from Colombia, we would be sitting with somebody who was six years in captivity because of the FARC. So whatever one wants to call them, and we designate it as a terrorist organization, the FARC has had a horrendous impact on lives – for the lives of ordinary Colombians.
QUESTION: Would you call Brazil a leader in this region?
SECRETARY RICE: Brazil is clearly a leader in this region. Brazil is looked to, President Lula is looked to for his wisdom, he's looked to for his ability to bring the region together, he's looked to for his vision. And by the way, not just his vision for the region, but because he has been effective here in Brazil in helping to deliver a better life for its people, in having relationships now with countries like the United States that I think will put biofuels on the map as a way to deal with the terrible problems that we face in energy supply and climate change.
So President Lula is looked to as a leader and Brazil is looked to as a leader. I think increasingly, Brazil will be looked to as a global leader as well, not just a regional leader.
QUESTION: On the other hand, the branch of government that you lead, the State Department, as recently as the day before yesterday was worried about the level of corruption in Brazil, stating – well, in a country report that Brazilian authorities are not doing enough. Is that impunity what worries you?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I don't believe for one moment that there – that it's a question of impunity. I know that it's very difficult when corruption gets rooted in, to get it out, to root it out. But I strongly believe that the Brazilian Government understands the connection between corruption and growth. Corruption is attacks on the poor. Corruption is a sure way to kill international investment and I know that those things are understood by the Brazilian Government and that efforts are being made to fight out – to fight corruption.
QUESTION: So it – apparently, it was one – a personal wish from your side to be in Bahia. And why?
SECRETARY RICE: It was a personal wish of mine to be in Bahia. First of all, I've heard so much of Bahia over the years, of Salvador as a great city, but also because of the Afro-Brazilian community here and the expression of that culture here. I am, of course, myself of – partly of African descent and I've always believed that Brazil and the United States, in some ways, look more like each other than any two countries in the world; great European and Latin and African traditions all living side by side.
And so I was – I wanted to come to Bahia. I can see I wasn't wrong. It's absolutely beautiful here. I'm just sorry I don't have longer to be in Bahia.
QUESTION: You do feel at home?
SECRETARY RICE: I feel right at home and as we came through the streets, you can see the wonderful mixture of people. I'm a great believer that the future is in big, multiethnic democracies like Brazil and India and the United States and South Africa, where all kinds of people find their place and all kinds of people find opportunity and they live together.
In so much of the world, difference is still a license to kill and when you drive along in Brazil or in the United States and you see that there are people whose faces look like the world, but they speak the same language and they want the same things, it's really quite affirming of our common humanity.
Interview with Isabel Clemente and Rodrigo Rangel of í‰poca Magazine
QUESTION: Do you believe that Brazil should act more actively in regional affairs?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I believe that Brazil is very active. It's looked to as a regional leader here in South America and in Latin America as a whole. It's one reason that the United States has valued its relationship with Brazil, because I think here in the region there are many things that we can do together. I would speak to the biofuels initiative, for instance, which is going to give us an opportunity to help many countries in the region attain energy independence and reduce their emphasis on fossil fuels. So I think everyone does look to Brazil as a regional leader, and it's a good one because it's a good, strong democracy.
QUESTION: Talking about biofuels – we have an agreement but our products face barriers in the States. Isn't that a contradiction?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, at this point, the tariff has gone up for review for a little while; and secondly, it isn't a real barrier at this point because the export isn't there. But this is something that can be reviewed over time. But for now, I think the tariff is going to remain, but we need to develop the technologies, we need to develop the relationship, we need to develop the markets, and then we can see where we go from there.
QUESTION: President Chavez insists that the U.S. is his enemy. Does the U.S. consider him to be the same?
SECRETARY RICE: We've always had a good relationship with Venezuela, and I want to be very clear the United States has a broad policy in Latin America where we stand for social justice based on economic growth and economic development, where we stand for equality for women and for people of different racial backgrounds. Today, I'm going to be signing an agreement in which we look to alleviate all forms of discrimination. That's the positive agenda. The United States doesn't have enemies in Latin America. So we – no, we don't have enemies in Latin America.
QUESTION: But is Chavez a threat for the stability and peace for the region?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, the problem is that some of the activities of Venezuela, I think, are questionable in this regard, and we watch it carefully. But we build on our strong relationship with our allies, and we don't have an ideological test. We are absolutely able to work with countries from the left, countries from the right.
QUESTION: What about the alliance with Uribe's government, some people believe that this is a factor for stability, too. Is American presence really necessary in Colombia?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, the United States and Colombia have worked together, and it's a policy that's had bipartisan support in the United States that goes back to the Clinton Administration, to try to help Colombia deal with the effects of terrorism, with the effects of coming out of what was essentially a civil war. And in 2000, many people were talking about Colombia as a failed state. That would not have been good for the whole region – bombings all of the time in Bogota, kidnappings.
Colombia is a different country now. It is more secure for its own people. It's developing economically. The United States and Colombia have a free trade agreement that we want very much to see passed by our Congress. So I think that the work that we've done in Colombia has been very beneficial to Colombia, to Colombia's citizens, but also to the region.
QUESTION: Many Latin American countries, including Brazil, are held by leftist parties that refuse to classify the FARC as a terrorist group. Is it a problem?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I – you know the United States classifies the FARC as a terrorist group, and I would simply look at the behavior. If you were sitting here with me and my colleague, the Foreign Minister of Colombia, you would be sitting with someone who was held for six years in captivity by the FARC. Now, to my mind, that is a form of terrorism – going and kidnapping people, bombing innocent civilians. But perhaps the most important thing is that I think we all have to have an understanding that the killing of innocent civilians is simply unacceptable, and countries must protect their citizens.
QUESTION: The States have a historic track of getting involved in Latin American. Doesn't the recent Colombia crisis show the American influence waning across the region?
SECRETARY RICE: I think just the opposite; the United States believes strongly in regional solutions. And why wouldn't nations in South America take the lead? The United States doesn't have to be in the lead in everything. But I would note that we are, of course, members of the Organization of American States, that we were active with the OAS in helping to work through this crisis. But from my point of view, it's terrific if others can sometimes take the lead. This is a situation that I think was very much handled well by many leaders, including President Lula.
QUESTION: In terms of investments, people say the Chinese and the European are taking lead. So have the States turned away from the region?
SECRETARY RICE: No, we're here in large part and large numbers. I often ask people, just look at the numbers. The United States has strong trading partners here, strong foreign direct investment. We're always going to have that. We also are active politically. The President has been here several times. We have these strong partnerships with democracies like Brazil. The United States has doubled foreign assistance to Latin America during the President's term. So I don't think anybody is going to "replace" the United States, but we look to open markets where everyone can compete openly. The United States competes quite well in Asia, it competes quite well in Europe, so we're a global economy.
QUESTION: So as we look to the U.S. future, there's just one certain thing: We'll have a new president next year.
SECRETARY RICE: Right.
QUESTION: And if it's not Mr. McCain, it'll be either the first woman or the first African American to ever be in power. Which one moves you the most?
SECRETARY RICE: Oh, I'm telling you, I'm not going to tell you who I'm voting for – no, not by any means. (Laughter.) Look, it's a great thing that America has a system that is open this way, and after our own long history, particularly of discrimination that dates back to our founding really, these are wonderful developments. But you know, when Americans go in the voting booth, they're going to ask the same questions that they've asked in every other presidential campaign: Does this person share my values? Is this person going to pursue policies that are in my interests? Do I trust this person? And I think the wonderful thing is that those questions, I believe, will really transcend race and gender.
QUESTION: The U.S. has been quoted as an interested player in the internationalization of the Amazon. True or false?
SECRETARY RICE: False. Brazil is a sovereign country that's blessed with this great natural resource, the Amazon. Everyone in the world wants to see it protected and everyone wants to see it develop and be this great natural resource. But it would be working with Brazil in any way. But no, this is a false rumor. The United States doesn't stand for the internationalization of the Amazon.