The President of the United States, Barack Obama, has been interviewed by the Colombian PRISA Radio journalist, Julio Sánchez Cristo, in regards to the VI Summit of the Americas that on the 14th and 15th of April in Cartagena de Indias (Colombia) brings together all of the Heads of State and Government of the member states and those of the hemisphere. The VI Summit of the Americas is one of the topics President Obama spoke about, along with the fight against drug traffic and the upcoming United States presidential elections, among other issues.
The interview with the President was transmitted throughout the 10 radio stations of PRISA Radio in eight different countries (Cadena SER in Spain, ADN in Chile; Caracol Radio and W Radio in Colombia; W Radio in México; ADN in Costa Rica; Caracol 1260 and W Radio in EEUU; Caracol Radio in Panamá and Continental in Argentina), reaching more than eight million listeners.
Below, the complete interview:
Question: Mr. President Obama, good morning.
Answer: Good morning, thank you so much for having me.
Q: Mr. President, what an honor. We are very excited about your trip to Cartagena. First of all, let me ask you something for our Hispanic listeners. Is it true that you believe that the Hispanic vote is going to be the vote that can keep you in Office four more years?
A: Well, obviously, I want every vote. But there is no doubt that the Latino vote in the United States is becoming more and more important. And that is not only because the population is growing, Latinos from both the Southwest and throughout the country. It is also because more and more Latino communities are recognizing the need to participate fully in the political process in order to promote the interests of young people who are trying to go to college, small businesses that are trying to get financing, job creation in their communities… but also to make sure that laws like those passed in Arizona, that have the potential to discriminate against Latino communities, are not passed across the country. So, I think you´re seeing a much more active Latino political base all around the country and fortunately I am very proud to have a long history of working with the Latino community in the United States in a whole range of issues.
Q: So Mr. President, maybe we can say that a combination of the Latino vote, economy growing, the unemployment rate (almost 8 flat %) is the combination that can keep you in the Office another four years?
A: Well, as I said, this is always going to be a close election. I think that there are a lot of people who are still recovering from the worst economic crisis that we have seen in a generation. There are a lot of people who are still looking for work. My goal is to make sure that every single day I am working as hard as I can to insure that people have opportunity and that everybody has a chance to succeed; for example, the work that we are doing to promote jobs and exports, one of the reasons I am going to be travelling to Cartagena.
Q: Mr. President, good morning. Many Hispanics think you failed them on your campaign promise of immigration reform. What would you tell them four years later when you need again to capture their vote?
A: What I would say is that I have been entirely consistent in believing in immigration reform and promoting it. One of the things that I think people always have to remember is that the President of the United States has to work with the Congress. The truth is that I have never wavered from my commitment to comprehensive immigration reform. I strongly believe in it, I believe that we can be a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants and I have consistently promoted comprehensive immigration reform. The challenge I´ve had is that nobody in the Republican Party has been willing to cooperate on this issue. Instead, you´ve seen the kinds of laws that we see in Arizona, designed to divide people instead of bringing them together. In that context, we weren´t able to get everything we wanted done through this obstruction of Congress and one of the things they were not willing to do is to move forward on comprehensive immigration reform. I think that if we have a strong turnout from the Latino community, if the Latino community is clear about why this is so important and hold elected officials accountable, particularly members of Congress, then we can get it done in the next few years.
Q: President Obama, we are expecting you for the second time this week here in Florida. Today, at the Port of Tampa, how important is the State of Florida for these trade agreements with Latin America, especially ports such as Tampa and Miami?
R: Well, as you know, Latin America is one of our largest export markets and we are increasingly importing from Latin America. We have seen consistent expansions of trade. It´s good news-story, both for Latin America as for the United States. Latin America is one of the fastest-growing regions of the world and we send exports of all sorts of goods to the region. On the other hand, increasingly, you´ve got countries like Brazil, that are doing very well, that see the United States as an important market for their goods but also for investment. So, through the trade agreements that we´ve signed now with Panama and Colombia, as well as some of the other agreements that are already in place, our goal is to expand on this powerful trading base. I think Colombia is a great example of a country that has overcome a lot of challenges over the recent years, mostly having to do with security issues and now you´re seeing that they are making improvements in their labor laws, and you´re seeing their economy begin to grow at a good clip. This is particularly good for Florida because Florida ends up being the pathway through which a lot of this trade flows and when we visit the port in Tampa, this is the place where all those goods going back and forth between Latin America and the United States often times end up.
Q: So, do you agree with Time magazine of this week, who has on the cover our President and says “The Colombians come back”?R: Yes, I think it is a good news story. I have great respect for President Santos and, prior to him, President Uribe. Both of them I think were willing to make very difficult decisions around security issues, around ending some of the divisions between left and right in the country and dealing with the drug cartels. Obviously challenges remain, but I think it´s an example of how the United States, partnering with a country around citizen-security issues, around democracy and around economic development, can be a good partner. One of the things that I´ve said consistently since I came into Office is that our goal with respect to Latin America, Central America and the Caribbean is to be a good partner, to be able to work with countries on the basis of mutual interest and mutual respect. We want to see a thriving Latin America because, the faster Latin America grows, the more opportunities we have to make business with Latin America and that will create jobs here in the United States.
Q: Mr. President, we´ve seen how the United States, your country, has to work with problems in other countries. With such a very fast reaction with in Libya, why so slow with what is happening today in Syria?
R: Well, these are two very different countries. First of all, in Libya we had a consensus in the International Community and the Security Council passed a resolution authorizing us to protect cities and innocent civilians inside of Libya. We had a broad-based coalition. The size of Libya’s army and the geography of Libya allowed us to, in a very surgical and careful way, intervene and minimize civilian casualties. When it comes to Syria, it is a very different country: much larger, you have much more dense populations, you have sectarian divisions, the military forces in Syria are much more coherent and you don´t have an international consensus. You have countries like Russia, China and Iran that have decided to stand with the Regime instead of standing with the Syrian people. All these things mean that what we need to do is bring to bear non-military pressure, humanitarian pressure. There is a tentative ceasefire that has been brokered by Kofi Annan inside of Syria. So far, the Government has observed it only partially. We are continuing to mount pressure, apply sanctions and hopefully we can start seeing a peaceful transition in Syria, but obviously the death there, the killing of their own citizens by the Regime has been terrible to watch and we have to continue to keep international pressure to see if we can deliver a better outcome for Syria.
Q: This is the last question, Mr. President; I know that Navy One and Air force One are waiting for you. You already said that you´re very happy about talking in Cartagena about drugs, this war that all our countries are losing. But also, you already said that you do not agree in this moment with legalization or decriminalization. So, what is the B Plan to solve this problem?
A: Well, I think Colombia offers a good set of lessons. This is not easy. It involves a combination of effective law-enforcement; it involves strengthening law-enforcement institutions, not just police but also judiciaries and prosecutors so that there is rule of law and we are fighting against corruption. In the United States we have the responsibility to reduce demand for drugs and that is why I have put in billions of dollars in public health to try to encourage the treatment programs, the education programs and the prevention programs that can reduce drug demand since the United States is such a large market for the drug traffickers. We also have to cooperate to prevent the flow of arms and cash from the United States to the South and that involves effective regional cooperation. All these efforts have to be combined and the United States has to recognize that it has responsibilities, that it´s not just a problem for Mexico, a problem for Guatemala, a problem for Colombia. The United States is part of the problem and it has to be part of the solution as well.
About PRISA Radio
PRISA Radio, the radio division of PRISA Group, is the leader in Spanish broadcast radio worldwide and is centered on informative activities, music, entertainment and sports. PRISA Radio operates over 1,200 radio stations in 10 countries (Mexico, Colombia, Argentina, Chile, Costa Rica, Panama, Ecuador, Guatemala, Spain and USA) and has over 26 million people tune into programs every day and more than 7 million unique users on the Internet. Some of the most recognized radio brands are Caracol Radio, W Radio, Cadena SER, ADN Radio Chile, Radio Continental, Caracol 1260, Radio Panama and ADN FM Costa Rica.
PRISA is the world’s leading Spanish and Portuguese-language media group in the fields of education, information and entertainment, thanks to its multi-channel offer of high-quality products. Present in 22 countries, it reaches more than 50 million users through its global brands El País, 40 Principales, Santillana and Alfaguara.