Special Briefing
Michael A. Hammer
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Public Affairs
Moderator: Abigail Dressel, Director of International Media Engagement, Bureau of Public Affairs
Questions from Twitter
Washington, DC
October 11, 2012

This transcript is also available in Spanish.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HAMMER: Good morning and welcome to the Department of State here in Washington for our next question and answer session in Spanish via Twitter. Since we commemorate October as National Hispanic Heritage Month to honor the achievements of Hispanics in the United States, it is my pleasure to be here on this podium to answer questions precisely in Spanish. On behalf of the Department of State, we want to communicate with you and with everyone using the various platforms we have; using digital technology available in order to communicate and present our policies. As you may know, we have 10 accounts in different languages with which we can communicate with every corner of the world and I hope that you are following us via Twitter. Well, with that, allow me to go to today's first question.

MS. DRESSEL: The first question comes from @luistorresvas. What is the solution suggested by the United States to the various conflicts arising currently in Syria?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HAMMER: Well, thank you very much for that question @luistorresvas. As you may know, our policy towards Syria is clear. President Assad must leave; the violence and brutality that he has imposed on his people means he has lost all legitimacy and cannot be part of the future of that country. We have four important points regarding our policy. First, we want and we are putting economic pressure on Assad and his sidekicks to pressure them, and this is an effort through economic sanctions that we are implementing with many of our allies and other countries in the region, including working with the European Community and Arab countries and many other countries. Second, we are supporting the opposition in order to facilitate a political transition, this support amounts to 45 million dollars and we are continuing these efforts to promote a better outlook and a better country for the Syrian people. Third, we are duly focused on providing humanitarian aid to all those refugees who are in Turkey and Jordan and maybe in other countries, and for that effort, we have given 130 million dollars to support them, and finally, we are already planning for the day after Assad is gone. The key here is that there must be a future in which the Syrian people can express, to choose their leaders, obviously respecting all ethnic and religious groups. And in the United States, we are working with many countries, including the special representative of the United Nations, Mr. Brahimi, to see how we can make a better future for the Syrian people. Well, thank you very much and let's go to the next question.

MS. DRESSEL: The next question comes from @sergom68. Is the peace process in Colombia with a group considered as terrorist by you and in Cuba? What do you think?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HAMMER: Well thank you very much @sergom68. First, I will start by wishing President Santos a speedy recovery. As you know, the United States government fully supports the peace process launched by President Santos and Colombia to finally bring peace to the Colombian people. The key here is that the FARC must stop their terrorism and violence against the people, and to stop and cease their association with drug trafficking. We, the United States want to continue this great cooperation with Colombia and we want to see the people of Colombia living in peace and tranquility and hope that these negotiations are successful. Well thank you very much; let's go to the next question.

MS. DRESSEL: The next question comes from @delawarechai. What do you think about Peña Nieto's election?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HAMMER: Well, thank you very much for the question @delawarechai; as you may know, we have congratulated President-elect Enrique Peña Nieto, the next president of Mexico, and we look forward to working with him and his administration in the way we have been doing for many years with the Mexican government, including President Calderon's administration. We know that together we can meet the challenges that we know affect both Mexicans and Americans. And we want to work on that to promote our economies, to combat drug trafficking and the violence, and we see that the best way to confront these problems is with a deep cooperation that we have enjoyed and hope to continue. On behalf of the United States, we also want to congratulate the Mexican people for these well-run and transparent elections, and once again this shows that the Mexican people are very attached to their democracy and we all want to see further progress towards a democracy and a an economy that can benefit us all. Thank you very much and let's go to the next question.

MS. DRESSEL: @russfinkelstein wants to know what the Department of State thinks on talks about legalization of drugs in countries like Colombia, Ecuador, Bolivia and Mexico.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HAMMER: Well, thank you very much for that question @russfinkelstein. We understand and respect that one of the leaders in the region has expressed his worries with the effects of transnational crime fueled by the illegal drug trade. As you know, President Obama discussed these points very thoroughly at the Summit of the Americas in Cartagena Colombia, where he directed the American Commission for Drug Control, known as CICAD to perform a technical study to establish a clear base line from which all countries can start a drug policy. The key is to continue to support the work of the OAS. We continue to work in cooperation and collaboration with our partners in the hemisphere to see how ... how to deal with this problem, the real threat that is drug trafficking and the violence that comes from that crime. The United States, of course, takes responsibility for the demand issue and has been working hard to reduce that demand. As you may know, the administration has tripled the budget for demand reduction. This also includes efforts that we have ... in which we have participated in the region to strengthen the legal systems and also to promote the development of the entire region. So we believe that only by working together, the countries of the hemisphere and region can address these very serious problems and we intend to continually confront them by working with all governments who want to share this vision and defeat drug traffic. Well, thank you very much and let's go to the next question.

MS. DRESSEL: The next question comes from @luistorresvas who wants to know the position of the United States in the conflict between China and Japan over the island archipelago.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HAMMER: Well, thank you very much for that question @luistorresvas. The United States believes it is important to maintain good relations between Japan and China because that benefits the entire region. Secretary of State Clinton had the opportunity of meeting with the Chinese Foreign Minister, Mr. Yang, and Japanese Foreign Minister Gemba when we were in New York a few weeks ago and reiterated the United States’ position. Our view over the Senkaku Islands has not changed. The United States does not take any position on the sovereignty of the islands. We hope and we encourage that these issues be resolved peacefully through dialogue between the countries involved. Well, thank you very much; let's go to the next question.

MS. DRESSEL: The next question comes from @4ndr3s0n who asked, what is the relationship between the United States and Venezuelan opposition leader, Enrique Capriles?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HAMMER: Well, thank you very much Andres for that question. As seen in the results declared by the National Election Committee of Venezuela, President Chavez won the election, and after this result, Governor Enrique Capriles publicly conceded the election. So, from our point of view, the United States congratulates the Venezuelan people for the high turnout and the generally peaceful manner in which the election took place. And we believe that the opinion of the more than 6 million people who voted for the opposition should be taken into account for the future of Venezuela. Well, thank you for that question; let's go to the next one.

MS. DRESSEL: The next question comes from @luistorresvas. After almost a decade of launching the DR-CAFTA, how do does the United Sates evaluate the performance of this agreement?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HAMMER: Well @luistorresvas. Thank you very much for that question. In our view, the Dominican Republic- United States-Central American Free Trade Agreement has been a great success. The year 2011 saw a total of 58.6 billion in trade. And this year so far, in the eight months of 2012, we saw that level of trade still increasing. As you know, the Dominican Republic-CAFTA is the first free trade agreement between the United States and a group of developing countries. We concur that this agreement has created new economic opportunities, eliminating tariffs, opening new markets, reducing service barriers and promoting transparency. This agreement is facilitating trade and investment between our seven countries and progress in regional integration. And by the way, Central America and the Dominican Republic are the third largest export market for the United States in Latin America after Mexico and Brazil. So certainly, this has been a great success and we continue to work on it because free trade provides great opportunities and the economic opportunity for our citizens to progress. Thanks and I think we have answered the questions that have been submitted. Thank you very much again for sending us your questions. I hope you follow us on Twitter via USA in Spanish, or via @StateDept. There, everyone can follow our policies on a daily basis and learn what are the positions of the Department of State and the Unites States on important issues and topics. We love hearing from you, and please note that tomorrow we will hold our next conference in Spanish at two in the afternoon and I hope you will follow us. Well, see you the next time. It has been a pleasure being with you.