Press Conference with Mexican President Vicente Fox
Palacio de Gobierno
March 22, 2002
6:57 P.M. (Local)
FOX: Good afternoon. Thank you very much. Yes, in fact, it has been a very productive
meeting, a meeting where we have touched upon three subjects, three chapters.
One deals with what we have called the border alliance, more intelligent borders
and the "smart border" initiative.
The purpose is, firstly, to introduce the safety factor and hold it as an important
priority, and at the same time, with the same emphasis, to seek for efficient
borders, customs that are efficient, as well, for an expeditious flow both of
people, merchandise, products. And in this sense, what we seek is for those
using these crossings, which are hundreds of thousands of people every day,
to do so with that efficiency we are talking about.
Likewise, within this same sense, we talked about a program to modernize, technologically
speaking, our borders. And this would promote that efficiency.
Among other points within this same category, we have also spoken about opening
in airports that have high traffic, both in the United States and Mexico, a
line to take care of the Mexicans and Canadians coming into Mexico, and in the
case of Mexico, taking care of U.S. citizens and Canadian citizens.
The second topic is what we have called the Partnership for Prosperity, where
there are plenty of topics, but the specific purpose is to generate opportunities
for advancement, opportunities for income, and mainly, in communities with high
migratory rates in Mexico. For this purpose, we have spoken of joining efforts
to facilitate resources for micro, small and medium-sized companies who are
the ones generating the highest number of jobs.
We have spoken of also working to bring down the cost of migrators' remittances
to their families in Mexico, and this way facilitating those resources becoming
productive projects toward important generation of employment and opportunities.
We talked about important program of scholarships where, on the U.S. side, there
will be investments up to $50 million, precisely to promote these scholarships
and promote to the state level the creation of scholarships for universities.
This is important in the purpose of creating, forming human resources.
And, on the other hand, we have also spoken of generating and facilitating resources
for infrastructure, especially at the border, infrastructure for an efficient
use of water, for water treatment plants, infrastructure for ecological or environmental
purposes at the border, and some other investments in infrastructure along the
same lines, the border.
On the other hand, I believe it is very significant, and we have talked about
it again, to have this great drive that has been announced by President Bush
at the Financing for Development Conference. And it's the purpose to try to
increase important resources for countries that are not as developed, for poorer
We have heard from many leaders present, many heads of state, who truly expressed
this was welcome information, a welcome announcement. And, of course, same goes
for us. We are not a country to receive the help, but we clearly understand
that there are countries who require this help to combat poverty very close
to us, such as the case of Central America.
So we hope that these additional funds, I repeat, have been very welcome, well-received
by the community of smaller countries present here. This time these same resources
also, part of them, to be used in these countries of Latin America or Central
This effort of what has seemed to be called the participation in the Millennium,
the Challenge of the Millennium, is important for us. And we have verified this
importance it has for the community of countries.
Thank you. Now Mr. Bush will speak.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Thank you for your hospitality and thank you for hosting the
important Conference on Reducing Global Poverty. It was a success, thanks to
your leadership and your vision.
I'm so glad that the world could see Monterrey, Mexico. It is a really dynamic
city. It's important for the world also to realize that, as a result of President
Fox's vision, this country is reforming. It's a vibrant place; it's an exciting
place for people to live. People are finding jobs in Mexico.
And, Mr. President, I am grateful to call you friend. Thank you for your leadership,
I try to remind people in my country as many times as I can, a vibrant, prosperous
Mexico is in the best interests of the United States of America.
We were at the White House on September the 5th, and here's what I said then.
The United States has no more important relationship in the world than the one
we have with Mexico. I believed it on September the 5th, I believe it today.
And since September the 11th, those words have been tested and proven.
I deeply appreciate President Fox's early support and his continuing advice.
And on behalf of the American people, I thank the people of Mexico for their
support and sympathy.
The relationship between the United States and Mexico is very strong, is very
important, and it's growing stronger every day. America respects Mexico's culture,
and Mexico's achievements. By embracing markets and fiscal discipline, Mexico
has created one of the most resilient economies in the region. And through NAFTA,
our nations have forged one of the world's most dynamic trading relationships.
Every day we exchange more than $650 million worth of commerce, creating wealth
and opportunity for consumers and workers and families on both sides of the
border. President Fox and I are determined to extend the benefits of free markets
to all our citizens. As part of our Partnership for Prosperity, we'll help focus
private investment on less developed parts of Mexico, creating more jobs and
more opportunities for more people.
President Fox and I are determined to make our shared border modern, efficient,
and secure. The Smart Border Declaration our countries have just signed will
move us toward this important goal. Our common border must be closed to drugs
and terrorists, and open to trade and legitimate travel.
America is grateful for Mexico's fight against the drug cartels, and I salute
your many breakthroughs this year, Mr. President. President Fox and I talked
about migration. Last year we established a process to address this issue. We're
making good and steady progress. Migrants make a valuable contribution to America.
It's also important for our nation to recognize as we discuss immigration, Mexico
has got a unique place in this issue. Mexico is different from other countries,
not only because of our proximity, but because of our special relationship.
We made some progress this year on an issue called 245(i). It's an important
piece of legislation. It allowed families to stay together. It passed the House
of Representatives. Unfortunately, it got stalled in the United States Senate.
And my hope, Mr. President, is we're able to get it out of the United States
Senate and to my desk so I can sign it.
President Fox and I agreed on measures to reform the North American Development
Bank, known as NAD Bank. We will increase the bank's ability to make low interest
loans to address urgent environmental priorities along the border. We also agreed
to expand the bank's range, so more people can benefit. Mexico and America are
proud nations, united by timeless values: by democracy, by faith and by freedom.
We have a modern relationship sustained by a mutual respect and trust.
We've entered a new era of trade and cooperation and prosperity. And the United
States and Mexico are building an historic partnership, one which will benefit
both our peoples and provide a good example for the rest of the world.
QUESTION: President Bush, have you or General Zinni heard anything from Chairman
Arafat that indicates that a meeting between him and Vice President Cheney could
help -- Israeli- Palestinian troops? And honoring President Fox's request that
we focus on poverty over this summit, could I also ask you to explain why your
administration is withholding the $34 million that Congress appropriated to
the United Nations Population Fund -- this year's budget.
And, President Fox, do you have any thoughts on -- administration's decision
on the United Nations Population Fund?
PRESIDENT BUSH: Let me start with the later. That violated the one-question
rule, but -- I said we're not going to use taxpayers' money to fund abortion.
And we're going to make sure before we spend taxpayers' money that we're not
And as to your first question, as I have said all along, General Zinni will
assess the situation in the Middle East. And a meeting could happen if and when
Chairman Arafat performs -- does what he's supposed to do. Those conditions
have been laid out by Vice President Cheney. And now General Zinni is trying
to determine whether or not he is going to do what he said he would do.
PRESIDENT FOX: The second question, what is the question to me?
QUESTION: Your reaction to President Bush's decision to withhold $34 million
from the United Nations Population Fund and their family planning work around
PRESIDENT FOX: None. No comment. His decision is totally independent. No comment
from my side.
QUESTION: My question concerns both Mexico and the United States in a way. President
Bush, the Cuban government claims that President Fidel Castro's early departure
from the summit is a result of pressures from your government. And, Mr. President,
I want to know if you really would have felt uncomfortable to encounter Fidel
Castro here in Monterrey?
And for President Fox, Mr. President, what is the relationship between Mexico
and Cuba now after Ricardo Alarcon made the government of Mexico responsible
for President Castro's early departure?
PRESIDENT BUSH: First of all, I know of no pressure placed on anybody. I mean,
Fidel Castro can do what he wants to do. And what I'm uncomfortable about is
the way he treats his people. There's only one country that's not a democracy
in our hemisphere, and that's Cuba. And it makes me uncomfortable to realize
that there is still one country that doesn't have free press, freedom to speak,
freedom to realize your dreams. And I feel strongly about that, and I'm going
to continue to speak out on the fact that this island is a place of repression,
a place where the people don't have hope.
QUESTION: Did you pressure anybody?
PRESIDENT BUSH: I don't know what you're talking about, about pressuring anybody.
I just said that.
PRESIDENT FOX: There has been no modification in our relationships. We said
good-bye to Mr. Fidel Castro. His visit ended. And there is no modification
QUESTION: Mr. President, President Bush, are you prepared to offer Peru new
military assistance to help crack down on terrorism in the wake of the bombing
in Lima? And is it time to resume drug surveillance --
PRESIDENT BUSH: On the drug surveillance issue, we have yet -- not made up our
mind yet. We're analyzing not only what took place in the past, but the most
effective way to help Peru fight narcotics.
The first part of the question? I'm sorry, Steve.
QUESTION: Helping Peru with terrorism with new military assistance.
PRESIDENT BUSH: We're going to analyze all options available to help Peru. But
the first place we need to help Peru is to get the Andean Trade Preference Act
out of the U.S. Congress. One of the messages I'm taking to not only Peru, but
the other Andean nations, is ATPA is important -- it's important to my administration,
it's important to their future, and I'd like to see it renewed as quickly as
QUESTION: Thank you. Good afternoon. The Cuban government says that the Mexican
government was pressured. The Mexican government said they had no pressure.
Who is lying, Mr. President Fox? Who is lying, Mr. President Bush? The Cubans
or the Mexicans? Thank you.
PRESIDENT BUSH: I thought I just answered that question. (Laughter.) Maybe I
missed it -- or you did. (Laughter.)
PRESIDENT FOX: There is no such thing. Mr. Fidel Castro visited Mexico, visited
the conference, the U.N. conference. He was here, he participated in the conference
and he returned to Cuba; nothing more.
QUESTION: President Bush, good evening. During his recent trip to the Middle
East, the Vice President made it very clear that at each stop he told our Arab
allies that no military action against Iraq was imminent. Isn't it also true
that this administration is telling our allies, Arab allies and others around
the world, that this government is, however, committed -- as committed to removing
Saddam Hussein from power as the administration was for removing the Taliban?
PRESIDENT BUSH: Let me put it to you this way, David -- what we're telling our
friends is that Saddam Hussein is a man who is willing to gas his own people,
willing to use weapons of mass destruction again Iraq citizens. Evidently, there's
a new article in the New York magazine or New Yorker magazine -- some East Coast
magazine -- and it details about his barbaric behavior toward his own people.
And not only did he do it to his own people, he did it to people in his neighborhood.
And this is a man who refuses to allow us to determine whether or not he still
has weapons of mass destruction, which leads me to believe he does.
He is a dangerous man who possesses the world's most dangerous weapons. And
it is incumbent upon freedom-loving nations to hold him accountable, which is
precisely what the United States of America will do.
I haven't had a chance to explain this to our Mexican friends, but a nightmare
scenario, of course, would be if a terrorist organization, such as al Qaeda
were to link up with a barbaric regime such as Iraq and, thereby, in essence,
possess weapons of mass destruction. We cannot allow that to happen.
And so, David, what I've told others, including President Fox, is we have no
imminent plans to use military operations. We'll be deliberate; we'll consult
with our friends and allies. But we'll deal with Saddam Hussein. And he knows
that. And this is exactly what I've been saying ever since I've been the President.
QUESTION: Does that mean you will remove him --
PRESIDENT BUSH: As I said, yes, we'd like to see a regime change in Iraq. That's
been the longstanding policy of the U.S. government. Nothing is new there. That's
precisely what has been said since I became President of the United States.
But close consultations with our friends from all around the world -- and they
-- I think people have got a pretty good sense of how I view him. And I hope
that, of course, he allows inspectors to go into his country, like he promised
he would do. Not for he sake of letting inspectors in, but to showing the world
that he has no weapons of mass destruction.
QUESTION: Good evening, Mr. President, if truly your government has contemplated
some date about the migratory agreement with Mexico? And also here at the Forum
there was something from former President Carter for amnesty for 3 million Mexican
workers in the U.S. Your government would consider legalizing them, or are you
PRESIDENT BUSH: I think the best way to describe what is possible in the United
States is that beyond 245(i), which is the family reunification, is, first of
all, understanding the unique nature of the Mexican in our country; that the
Mexican national is different by virtue of the fact of the proximity to the
United States, and that we do have a special relationship between our countries,
not only defined by NAFTA, but defined by cultural ties and historic ties. And
so I think that ought to be a part of any discussions.
But here's my attitude. I think what our country ought to do is help match any
willing employer with any willing employee, so that if somebody is looking for
somebody who wants to work and somebody wants to work, we can facilitate that
And we've got a lot of discussions and work to do. But what I've assured President
Fox and his administration is that we will continue working on this issue. We've
got technical groups working on it and he and I will continue working on it.