MIKE HAMMER: Hello, good afternoon. This is Mike Hammer, Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Public Affairs, and welcome once more to our conferences via Twitter in Spanish. I hope you take advantage of this opportunity and ask us many questions. Now let’s see how many we can answer; and follow us at @USAenEspanol. Okay, let’s go to your first question.
MODERATOR: The first question comes from @Cubas_Gloria: Why now is President Obama taking into account the Central American and Latin American agenda? Have there been changes?
MIKE HAMMER: Well thanks for this question @Cubas_Gloria. In fact, as you would recall, President Obama launched a new phase with when he attended the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago in 2009. All the work he performed was continued very recently this year in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia. The President and the Secretary will work as partners with governments in the hemisphere on issues that we all know are problematic for our citizens. These are issues on the economy; we want to generate employment and we want prosperity. These are social inclusion issues that need to be dealt with. There are issues on climate, issues of interest to citizens and obviously, we always want to deal with these issues to strengthen any democratic implications. So, on the part of the United States, we have a very full agenda we would like to move forward together with the governments in the region. We believe that it is extremely important for the future of our citizens to continue working, and we know that if we all join together, these problems can be overcome, and we can create a stronger future for our citizens. Thank you very much; let’s move to the next question.
MODERATOR: @CarlosPepin asks: What would be the United States’ plans to encourage foreign tourism in your country?
MIKE HAMMER: Well, thank you for this question @CarlosPepin. I’m glad that you’re asking about tourism, because as you know, President Obama has launched an initiative to promote tourism. We would like to try, from the United States, to attract more visitors, because it is very important for our economy. It also promotes a better understanding of the United States society and our democracy. In fact, we have been working with our consulates around the world in order to facilitate faster procedures. This year, even in Brazil, processed applications increased by 44%. In Mexico, this also has increased 56% [sic], and we have launched many initiatives around the world through our consulates in countries such as China, India; and we are sending more consular officers to these consulates so they can issue visas, so they can process applications, so that the interviews can be obtained more easily. So, and definitely, we want to ensure the country’s security and only allow people who have good intentions, who want to come to our country and enjoy their time here; and thus, we will be working on this issue, and it is a very important priority for the State Department, and something that you will see when you visit our embassies, and hopefully you will receive good service, and enjoy a good visit here in the United States. You will always be welcome. Okay, with this, let’s move to our next question.
MODERATOR: @Ambitocom asks: Has YPF’s expropriation and the ban for money transfers overseas had an impact on US private investment in Argentina?
MIKE HAMMER: Okay, thank you @Ambitocom for that question. It is an important issue, an issue that we are following very closely, and that we are monitoring. It is important for Argentina to develop an open investment climate in which foreign investment is promoted. So, in fact we have had discussions; it is an issue that we have discussed thoroughly with the Argentine Government, because we want to make sure and we are urging the Argentine Government to meet its international obligations and to normalize its relations with the financial community. So, on behalf of the United States, we want to have good relations with Argentina, but it is important for them to deal with the issue, that the issue is resolved, and to have a better dialogue and an effort to make this work, to make progress in the interests of both countries. Well, we are moving to the next question.
MODERATOR: @CarlosPepin asks: How is the U.S. supporting Caribbean countries to eradicate drug trafficking?
MIKE HAMMER: Okay @CarlosPepin. Thank you for that question, because the issue of combating drug trafficking is an extremely important subject on which we are working with Caribbean and Latin American countries and with countries around the world. As you know, we have an initiative with Caribbean countries, we have provided US$ 203,000,000 to move forward with joint efforts to combat drug trafficking. This is an issue that was also discussed at the Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia with President Obama, who met with Caribbean leaders to see how we can work together to improve this situation, because drug trafficking is like a poison and we need to work jointly, not only the United States, but also in the countries of the region to see how, on our part, we can reduce demand, but with the countries of the region working so that this can end, this drug trafficking, and how judicial institutions can be strengthened. So, we have many cooperation programs, and we believe that together we can overcome this issue that causes so much violence and corruption, and of course, we have to deal with this issue. Okay, thank you and let’s move to our next question.
MODERATOR: @jmnievas asks: What is the state of civil liberty/rights in Argentina, in particular, in regards to means of expression for media critical of the government?
MIKE HAMMER: Well thanks @jmnievas. This is an issue of utmost importance, and the United States has always sided with freedom of the press, freedom of expression and support for civil society. This is an issue that is dealt with in the Inter-American Democratic Charter, which deals with the key aspects these freedoms represent for democracy. We are working and dealing with this topic with the governments of the region and around the world. In fact, I was recently in Honduras where I had the opportunity to meet with journalists and governments to emphasize with all of them that they need to protect that freedom of the press and freedom of expression, and they should allow for a vibrant civil society in relation…that any issues of concern can be dealt with. So, you can be sure that this is an issue that we discussed with all the governments, and we have always been on the side of supporting the freedom of the press. Thanks for that question; let’s move to the next one.
MODERATOR: @luistorresvas asks: What U.S. measures are being promoted in order to prevent Europe’s financial crisis from affecting America?
MIKE HAMMER: Okay, thank you for that question @luistorresvas. The issue of the economy is an extremely important topic which I have discussed with President Obama, with Secretary Clinton and it is necessary that we face these economic issues and deal with them. In regards to the economic situation, we know that it is a matter of concern and that it is being dealt with at all levels in our government to see how Europe can tackle this problem. We are confident that Europe can take adequate measures to deal with the problems that exist in their economy. So how… we, on our part, the State Department, we have also decided to see how to improve the economy of the United States, as a high priority. And through all our embassies and our ambassadors, we are promoting investment and supporting our companies in order to generate employment. This is an administrative issue we are dealing with on a daily basis, because the issue of the economy is extremely important. Therefore the only critical issue here is that there should be international cooperation for governments to take the appropriate measures-and this is something of great interest to us-, so that it all goes well and so that our citizens enjoy economic prosperity, employment opportunities and move forward with their economic opportunities. Okay, thank you and let’s move to our next question.
MODERATOR: @severorivera asks: I would be grateful if you could elaborate on the United States government aid to the Republic of Haiti.
MIKE HAMMER: Okay, thank you for that question @severorivera. In fact, it is a very current issue since Secretary Clinton met with Haiti’s Prime Minister yesterday and discussed these issues. As the Secretary stated, she wanted to move forward with a new stage of joint work with Haiti before that terrible and tragic earthquake occurred in 2010. Since then, the United States has provided more than 3 billion dollars in assistance to try to work with Haiti to rebuild their country, and to provide a better future for Haitians. We are working on four important areas: agriculture, health, infrastructure and respect for the law. We are doing a lot in that. And in fact, there have been projects such as the Caracol Industrial Park in the North, an industrial park that supports some 20,000 jobs and I think it will provide even more benefits to the people of Haiti. It is a new model to try to provide investment for work in Haiti. As you know, the United States has great interest in working with the Haitian Government, so that they can do this; and you will be able to see on the screen where you can go to get more information about all the assistance we are providing to Haiti; on a blog we recently created. Thanks for that question; let’s move to the next one.
MODERATOR: @jmnievas asks: How is Washington dealing with the growing ties that Argentina, Venezuela and Bolivia are developing with Iran?
MIKE HAMMER: Okay, thank you @jmnievas for that question. The issue about Argentina’s relations with any other country is only for the sovereign Government of Argentina. The only thing we would say is that the Iran issue is one that we are following very closely. It is known that the international community is very concerned, demanding Iran to halt its development of nuclear weapons. This is a matter of great concern. We also know that in the past, Iran has supported terrorism. We know about the very tragic event in 1994, the AMIA center attack in Buenos Aires. So this is a matter of concern that we are following very closely here at the Department. And if there is any kind of relationship with Iran, they should be told to stop their support for terrorism and that they have to immediately stop this nuclear program with nuclear arms ambitions. So, from the United States, this is the message that we send, that one must be very concerned about Iran’s activities and take into account that if you are talking to them, you should urge them to follow the international request to change their course. And as you have seen, the strongest sanctions in history have been imposed against Iran to halt this nuclear weapons program. Okay, thank you and let’s move to our next question.
MODERATOR: @VOANoticias asks: Is the U.S. State Department going to launch any investigation on the death of Cuban opposition leader Oswaldo Paya?
MIKE HAMMER: Okay, thank you @VOANoticias. First of all, we just want to express our condolences to Oswaldo Paya’s family, to his wife Eugenia Acevedo, and to his children. This is a very sad loss – an individual with such courage as Oswaldo Paya – defending human rights and fighting for a better democratic future in Cuba. This is a great loss and we honor his memory. The issue of the circumstances surrounding his death and his accident should be investigated. The Cuban government should carry out a thorough and transparent investigation, because we should know what happened. And we also have heard news that some people who attended his funeral were arrested, and the Cuban government should set them free immediately. There cannot be situations in which people cannot express themselves, particularly, in a situation as tragic as a funeral for an individual so important to the life of Cuba. So I hope these people are set free immediately and that the Cuban Government begins to respect the human rights of its population, the rights of free expression and allow for a better future, for a democratic future. This is what we are hoping for, and hopefully it happens soon.
Thank you; okay, with this we conclude the questions that we have received in this session, a Twitter session in Spanish and we intend to keep publishing these opportunities to communicate with you, to have a dialogue on topics of interest. It is something that we want on behalf of the State Department and we want to carry out in your language. We believe that this is important and I hope that you continue to follow us always on @USAenEspanol so that we can continue this dialogue to better explain our policies; so that you understand that the United States wants to have a better relationship with countries around the world and that we are moving forward with issues on prosperity and peace.
Thank you for your time and I hope you enjoyed this opportunity with Twitter, this exchange, and until next time; thank you very much, here from the State Department.