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Secretary of Defense Remarks at Joint Press Conference in Brazil

Presenters: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld and Vice President & Defense Minister Jose Alencar
March 23, 2005

Ministry of Defense at Brasília, Brazil

 

            Vice President Jose Alencar: Well, my friends we are welcoming with great satisfaction and great honor the illustrious visit by Mr. Rumsfeld and obviously we only have a very brief amount of time available, because he is leaving to the Amazon today and now he has a meeting with President Lula. So I would ask for your understanding so that your questions to him are objective so that we can all take advantage of his visit to Brasília as much as possible. Thank you.

 

            Secretary Donald Rumsfeld: Thank you very much, Mr. Vice President, Mr. Minister, and the distinguished officials from the Brazilian armed forces.  Let me first express my appreciation to the people of Brazil for their warm hospitality. It’s always a pleasure to return to Brazil. I first came to this country in the 1960’s when I was a member of the United States Congress and have been able to come back over the decades for government visits, as well as private visits.

 

            The Vice President and I have had good discussions about our growing bi-lateral relationship, building on the positive discussions that we held at the Defense Ministerials meeting not too long ago in Quito.

 

            I look forward to my meeting with the President later this morning. The friendship between our two countries is long-standing and highly-valued.

 

            Brazil, of course, was one of the first countries to invoke the provisions with the Rio treaty and later to the collective self-defense after the attacks of September 11, 2001. We appreciate that a great deal. I was reminded again today, that long before that, we were allies in the Second World War and partners in helping to shape key post-war institutions including the United Nations.

 

            The American people do honor the memory of a great Brazilian diplomat, Sergio Viera de Mello and his important work for the United Nations and for the world, including his activities in Iraq. The advance of democracy in Iraq exemplified in the historic elections on January 30 is certainly a tribute to his vision and the work he began. Brazilians can be rightly proud of that legacy. 

 

            They also can be proud of the leadership that Brazil is demonstrating in the region and across the globe. I mention particularly Brazil’s leadership role in Haiti and in assembling the unprecedented coalition of Latin American nations for that mission. It’s a welcome contribution to stability in our hemisphere and certainly a credit to the people of Brazil.

 

            Our two countries are looking at ways to work together more closely to confront the anti-social threats posed by organized crime, by gangs, drug traffickers, hostage takers and terrorists. Brazil understands well the vital inter-relationship between security, economic development and opportunity and the spread of freedom.

 

            Brazil has also shown important leadership in science and technology. Our growing cooperation in this area holds promise for our two countries. We look forward to deepening our cooperation in these fields.

 

            Mr. Vice President, I thank you very much for your hospitality.

 

            Q: Good morning. The Argentine newspapers yesterday published protests on the part of the Argentineans with regard to the information that the United States is going to begin monitoring Argentine airspace as a preventive measure to avoid trafficking and terrorist movement. I would like to know Mr. Secretary, have you spoken to any Brazilian or [inaudible] views to the Vice President or President of the Republic about the possibility of carrying out this type of control of Brazilian border areas and other border areas in Latin America; Colombia, Bolivia and other countries? Do you have any intentions to monitor our airspace and our borders? What would be these borders if you do have this intention and what type of control would you exercise in this case?

 

            Rumsfeld: You don’t believe everything you read in the newspaper do you?   She didn’t have her earpiece in.  I’ll repeat that.  You don’t believe everything you read in the newspaper do you?

 

            Rumsfeld: What did she say? I know nothing of what you’re talking about.  Roger, do you? I’ve not seen the article.  Insofar as, if you correctly and fully characterize the article, then I can say that it is inaccurate. Because had there been anything like that, I would have heard something of it, and I’ve never heard of anything like that.  So, you can disabuse yourself of that concern.

 

            And no, we’ve had no discussions of that type here either. 

 

            So, that’s one question down.

 

            Alencar: If you would allow me to, I would like to recall here a passage in 1770, 1780 when President Thomas Jefferson stated that not always when you read newspapers are you well informed.

 

            Q: I’d like to ask.  Are your governments concerned about charges of political meddling or perhaps trouble-making by President Chavez in the region? Are you worried about the purchase of 100,000 AK-47assault rifles?

 

            Alencar: The question was asked in the plural, and so I think that the question should be answered in the first place by the most important individual here.

 

            Rumsfeld: Mr. Vice President, you just passed the buck. Certainly I’m concerned. If one thinks about it, the discussion that’s taking place,  as I understand it, is concerning something in the neighborhood of 100,000 AK-47s to be moved from Russia possibly to Venezuela.  I don’t know if it’s firm, but I’ve read about it and heard it discussed.  Not just in the press, but bilaterally.  I can’t imagine what’s going to happen to 100,000 AK-47s.  I can’t imagine why Venezuela needs 100, 000 AK-47s.  I just hope that, personally hope, that it doesn’t happen.  I can’t imagine that if it did happen, that it would be good for the hemisphere.

 

            Q: Mr. Vice President, how concerned are you about President Chavez?

 

            Alencar: Brazil has always defended and will continue defending the self-determination of the different peoples and non-intervention in the affairs of other countries. Obviously, here in Brazil, which is a country historically pacific (peaceful), obviously we would like to increasingly deepen our diplomatic and trade relations with our countries, with the objective of achieving the common good.

 

            Q: I am from Valor Economico, an economic newspaper. I would like to ask the Secretary about the comments made by the director of the FBI that terrorists are utilizing the tri-border region for the counterfeiting of passports to get into the United States under false names. What are the concerns of the American government with the tri-border region? Are you entirely satisfied with the cooperation with the governments concerned, and how did you raise this question in the conversations today with the Vice President? And to conclude this, I would appreciate it if you could say something about Brazil’s leadership in Haiti and Latin America. Does this prepare the country for a permanent seat on the Security Council, in your opinion?

 

            Rumsfeld: First, I have not seen the remarks that you’re commenting on from the director of the FBI.  Obviously, if anyone is counterfeiting passports to facilitate people getting into the other countries that they shouldn’t be getting into, that would be a concern. But, I have not seen the comments. Second, it did not come up today in our discussions.  And third,  I’m happy to comment on Brazil’s role in Haiti.  I think I did in my opening remarks. I consider it to be an important leadership role. The stability in this hemisphere is something that concerns all of our countries. Our country, and I know other countries in the hemisphere are grateful to Brazil, and the people of Brazil, and the government of Brazil, and the military forces of Brazil that are providing that leadership with that multi-national force, the U.N. force that is currently there. It is an example of Brazil’s role in the world and role in the region.

 

            Q: And the Security Council, Mr. Secretary?

 

            Rumsfeld: The Department of Defense does not have a voice or a role in that, and I think I’ll leave that to the President of the United States and the Secretary of State.

 

            Q: A question for the Vice President of Brazil. The Presidents of Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela and Spain are meeting later this month in Guyana. What proposal will Brazil take to the meeting to deal with the FARC given recent evidence of the FARC’s involvement with the kidnapping of the daughter of the former president of Paraguay and the capture of a senior FARC leader in Venezuela? Is Brazil considering declaring the FARC as a terrorist organization as the United States has done? Are you concerned with the FARC infiltration in Brazil?

 

            Alencar: Brazil is always concerned with any type of criminal activity. We cannot in any way whatsoever provide any type of support to criminal activity. With respect to this meeting, obviously we are going to prepare our participation. At the moment I could not advance to you any details on this position unless…except in very philosophical terms. We support peace and we repudiate any form of narcotrafficking.

 

            Q: Pardon, President, but can the FARC be considered terrorists?

 

            Alencar: Obviously, from a distance we cannot make a final judgment with respect to this question. However, if the organization adopts crime as an instrument for raising resources, obviously it is something that must be combated.

 

            Moderator: Thank you.