Originally: Confirmation hearing of Condoleeza Rice

January 18, 2005. Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on nomination of Condoleeza Rice as secretary of state.  

LUGAR: Thank you very much, Senator Murkowski. Senator Nelson?

NELSON: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Dr. Rice, Senator Dodd and Chafee and I just returned from visiting with four Latin American presidents in their respective countries. And we are certainly of one mind that we need to be more engaged in the region.

When a leader such as Chavez in Venezuela starts lurching to the left, and yet we have a dependency there of some 13 percent to 15 percent of our daily consumption of oil coming from Venezuela, clearly one part of our foreign policy ought to be that we ought to start planning on weaning ourselves from that dependence, not even to speak of the global dependence that we now have on foreign oil.

NELSON: But here’s one right in our neighborhood. And Chavez has threatened, from time to time, that he was going to cut it off. Now, that’s a hollow threat because there are no refineries that, outside of the Gulf coast, that can do it, although it would take them a year, maybe two, to build those kind of refineries if, for example, they struck a deal in China to take his oil. We clearly urge you that we need a Latin American policy that will get us engaged a lot more. And then, in the places where we see the presidents of those countries really trying to do something, and, in fact, having an effect, such as Toledo in Peru, such as Paraguay, such as Argentina’s beginning to have some economic uplift, that if America is more engaged, it’s going to be some wind under their wings. And it’s going to help stem that if a Chavez continues to go leftward, that we will enable those other countries, who are more centrist, to corral him in or at least have a chance of doing it. So that’s a little message that I bring you from the activities of the last week. Now, elsewhere in the hemisphere — and you can appreciate this since I represent the state of Florida — Haiti is a disaster. And it’s going to continue to be a disaster until we get engaged and do something seriously, along with particularly the other nations of the Western Hemisphere, financially and politically to help them. I’ve had a difference of opinion with the administration. And I think you did have a policy of regime change. And although Aristide was a bad guy — you know, it’s kind of hard to say we support democracy and elections and then we go and push him out. But that’s done. Looking forward, we’re getting close to the authorized support now under the U.N. peacekeeping force of 6,700 military and 1,600 civilian police. Do you think that’s an adequate number?
RICE: Well, I believe that the number that has been determined — 6,700 or so, led by Brazil, as a stabilization force now, after the initial stabilization was done by the United States and the French and others, is judged to be adequate to the task. The question has really been about more of what can that force do. And I think the expansion of it, of a more aggressive stance by that force in going into areas that are particularly violent and dealing with the violence and the militias in those areas is probably really the question that we have to deal with. I’m glad, Senator, you mentioned the police forces, because in the long run, what really will help Haiti is that it needs a professional civilian police force that can be counted on to enforce law, not to break law. And we have, as you well know, dispatched civilian police trainers from the United States and from other places to try and engage in that activity. But I agree completely. Unfortunately, Haiti seems to be a place where natural and manmade disasters have come together in a really terrible way for the Haitian people. They do have a new chance now. They have a transitional government that is trying to arrange elections in the fall. We need to support that process. And we have had a successful donor conference recently with a $1 billion commitment, the United States is about $230 million of that. And so…

NELSON: The problem is they never follow through.

 RICE: Senator, I agree. We have to press very hard on people to follow through on the pledges that they make. That’s a problem worldwide.

NELSON: And this has been going on for two hundred years of Haiti’s history. Now, when the U.N. comes up for reauthorizing, in the Security Council, that peacekeeping force, what’s going to be your posture about considering an expansion of that peacekeeping force? This is a country of 7.5 million and a lot of them are outside in those areas that are now defoliated, thus, the mud, the slides after the storms and so forth.

RICE: Senator, we’ve been focused now on trying to stabilize the situation with the stabilization force that is there. The Brazilians have done a fine job of leading that. And I just might mention that this is the first time that a lot of those countries, many of whom are from the hemisphere, have actually done peacekeeping in the Western Hemisphere. And so this is a step forward for the neighbors to embrace Haiti in the way that they have. What more will be needed, I have to demure. I think we need to look at the situation. But for now, I think we’re in the right place in terms of peacekeeping forces. We have been concerned about what missions they were prepared to take on. And that is being resolved. And there is a more aggressive posture. And we really have to put a major effort into the civilian police development. We also — as you are absolutely right, people pledge; they don’t follow through. And we have money to put Haitians to work. We have money to help restart the Haitian economy, but we’ve got to follow through.

NELSON: Well, then I want to suggest something to you. And it’s a bill that is sponsored by one of our Republican colleagues, Mike DeWine of Ohio. And it’s called the HERO Act, which is an acronym. But what it does is it allows textiles to come in, like we already have in the Caribbean Basin Initiative in other areas in the Caribbean, but it allows it for Haiti. And then they can come duty free into the U.S. It would foster an economic uplift by creating jobs. But we can’t get the administration to support it. It’s a Republican senator’s bill.

RICE: Senator, I think we believe at this point that the best course with Haiti is to work with them to take full advantage of the Caribbean Basin Initiative, to work with them on job creation through some of the programs that we have out of our economic support fund for Haiti. They will benefit in a secondary way from what happens in Central America with trade, if CAFTA can be passed. And so at this point, we think we have the right tools. We just have to make it work. I understand fully the concerns about Haiti both from a humanitarian point of view and also from a stability point of view. And we probably dodged a bullet in the earlier days with the ability to get Aristide out peacefully, because he had lost the ability to control that country, to govern authoritative authoritatively in that country. But we have a lot of work ahead of us in Haiti. I’d be the first to admit it.

NELSON: Madam Secretary-designate, you can make a difference. If you’ll jump on that horse and ride it and keep on it over the next four years of your tenure, it’ll start to pay huge dividends. And nobody’s done that. We go in and we fix a problem, then we turn around and we leave it, and so do the other nations, and then Haiti just goes back into chaos.