Washington — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is calling for unity among the nations of the Western Hemisphere to confront problems plaguing the hemisphere as a whole.
“Whether we are from North America, Central America, South America or the Caribbean, we are all Americans,” said Clinton. “We share this home, this hemisphere and a future that will be what we decide to make it.”
On April 17, in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, Clinton held a digital town hall meeting of the Americas and spoke to citizens representing the hemisphere and people watching the event on the Internet.
Held before the fifth Summit of Americas, Clinton discussed the themes of the summit: human prosperity, energy, security and environmental sustainability.
The summit was an important moment for the Obama administration, which has been trying to strengthen ties with Latin America and change anti-American perceptions in the region. Clinton said the presence of President Obama at the summit and her presence in the region were meant to “clearly illustrate the change in American policy” by engaging and consulting with other nations.
This shift in U.S. regional foreign policy was illustrated when Clinton said, in response to a question regarding Cuba, that the United States welcomed the comments of Cuban President Raúl Castro and was “taking a very serious look at how [the United States] intends to respond.” Castro’s comments were made after Obama lifted some U.S. restrictions on travel to Cuba and the transfer of money to the island nation. (See “Obama to Allow More Travel, Money Transfers to Cuba.”)
EDUCATION ESSENTIAL TO PROGRESS
During the town hall session, Clinton addressed questions previously submitted on education, the drug war in Mexico, trade, the current financial situation and the environment.
Calling education “the linchpin of progress,” Clinton announced that the United States will commit $30 million to the region to support education programs. Clinton also cited ongoing U.S. Agency for International Development education programs in Mexico and Brazil, and the Expanding Education Horizons Project in Jamaica.
“We believe in education; we have invested in education in the region. We want to make sure that our investments are as effective as possible,” Clinton said.
Answering a question on trade protectionism, Clinton said hemispheric leaders will work to uphold the G20 Summit pledge to protect vulnerable populations from trade protectionism and trade barriers. All countries should do the same, she added. She also said the United States will work to strengthen its own economy to “contribute to prosperity in the region.”
Clinton acknowledged the responsibility the United States has for helping to combat the region’s illicit drug trafficking and said the United States would do more to address domestic consumption of illicit drugs. She also advised citizens in the region to address the production of these drugs through public objection.
“If times are tough or [drug traffickers] want to make extra money, they don’t have to think about the United States market; they can think about the market nearer to home,” Clinton warned.
Emphasizing partnership, Clinton called for an end to corruption within “the police forces, in the military and in government” and announced a Summit of Security, to be held in May, where hemispheric leaders will make plans to address the security issues confronting the area.
In response to a question on the environment, Clinton outlined steps that the Obama administration will take to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, including being a presence at the U.N. meeting on climate change in Copenhagen in December, pursuing domestic legislation, utilizing stimulus money to weatherize buildings and implementing a system that would “reduce emissions by 80 percent by 2050.”
Clinton also stressed the importance of preserving rain forests in the region. Calling them “the lungs” of the world, she said the rain forests are areas that absorb much of the world’s carbon dioxide, but were being sacrificed for agricultural uses that emit more greenhouse gases.
“We need to do more to figure out how to protect these very precious resources that are within national boundaries but have global consequences,” said Clinton.
A transcript of the digital town hall is available on America.gov.
For more information on the fifth Summit of the Americas, see Summit of the Americas: Advancing Prosperity.