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Diplomacy in Action

Remarks With Chilean President Michelle Bachelet


Remarks
Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Santiago Airport
Santiago, Chile
March 2, 2010

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PRESIDENT BACHELET: (Via interpreter) Good morning, everyone. I would like to, first and foremost, thank the international solidarity of the many neighboring and friend countries, and very particularly I’d like to thank the solidarity of the United States, of President Obama, and of Secretary Clinton. She called me (inaudible) very close moment, not only called me but she has come in person to express that solidarity.

At the meeting with the Secretary of State, we have discussed several specific subjects. We talked about the priorities identified by my government, and that we have conveyed to all of our embassies, governments, and international agencies.

Our objective is that cooperation will exactly meet and respond to our needs, our most urgent needs. And as I have pointed out already, these are satellite phones and we have already received yesterday and there is – there are others about to come. Also, temporary (inaudible) there have been announced and a field hospital with (inaudible) capability. Also, donations in money are very useful, very important, because we need to buy food and medication.

We have also requested power generators, desalination water treatment plants to purify water, saline water. And as to (inaudible), we need autonomous dialysis systems because dialysis, as you know, calls for pure water, and in those impacted areas there is no water.

There are other elements indeed that we have discussed with the Secretary, but mainly what we need is semi-temporary or temporary semi-permanent hospital facilities, as many, many have been destroyed. And we need to have them and they are – they will be arriving soon.

The government knows that people need water, food, and don’t think that – we do have them in our country, but how can we supply them if we don’t have bridges or roads? And we need to have authorities communicated with the people to know exactly what their needs are and get to them immediately. And that is why we have – I know that it’s important for the hospitals for them to care for the wounded and for all the victims. For that we have sought the support of the international community.

We are already, of course, distributing all these elements. We do have here in the back, planes with contingents and with food. But that – we need to do it very fast, get to the remotest corners of the country and get there soon.

PRESIDENT BACHELET: Thank you very much, Madam Secretary of State.

PRESIDENT BACHELET: (Via interpreter) Finally, I’d like to thank very particularly Secretary Clinton, President Obama, for the great support and friendship that they have given us and that the Chilean people will be eternally grateful. Thank you.

SECRETARY CLINTON: President Bachelet, I first come with the great sympathy and support from President Obama and the people of the United States. This devastating earthquake has wrought so much damage across your country. The ferocity was 800 times greater than the earthquake that hit Haiti, and your leadership and the extraordinary efforts of your government and the people of Chile are responding with resilience and strength. And the United States is ready to respond to the request that the government of Chile has made so that we can provide not only solidarity, but specific supplies that are needed to help you recover from the earthquake.

I was planning to be in Chile today anyway for a long-scheduled trip and I was so looking forward to meeting with President Bachelet who is a leader whom I admire greatly and consider a friend. And when I spoke with the president, I said, “I will not come if it will interfere in any way.” And we changed the itinerary so that I could come and I brought with me 25 of these satellite phones. We have identified 62 as the highest priority for the government’s request. I had 25 on my plane loaded on and I’m going to give this one to you, Madam President.

And let me just add after consulting with the president and her ministers, we are sending eight water purification units. They are on their way. We have identified a mobile field hospital unit with surgical capabilities that is ready to go. We are working to fill the need for autonomous dialysis machines. We are ready to purchase and send electricity generators, medical supplies and are working to identify and send portable bridges so that some of the places that are remote that lost their bridges will be able to be reconnected to the country. People are working. That’s a good sound.

And finally, Madam President, after discussing the needs that Chile has, we will look to see if we can provide additional equipments from portable kitchens to helicopters to assist you in this massive rescue recovery effort that you are undertaking. And additionally, we will let the people of America, who are very anxious to help Chileans, know that they can contribute to the Chilean Red Cross; that they can contribute to the Caritas Chile and the ONEMI programs. We will get that information and give our press the specifics.

QUESTION: Hello, Madam President. I’m over –

PRESIDENT BACHELET: Where are you? Oh, yes.

QUESTION: Madam President, you’ve described some of the things you need, but can you give us an idea of the scale; maybe billions of dollars or less that you need for –

PRESIDENT BACHELET: Forgive me, I didn’t hear the last part of your –

QUESTION: Yes, what is the scale –

PRESIDENT BACHELET: We can’t hear you.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Nearer. Closer. Go right up there, yeah.

QUESTION: What scale of things do you need? What dollar amount? Could it be in the billions of dollars? And what specifically can the U.S. do? Can it use – can it send some of the military over (inaudible) using the diplomats in Europe to get aid from them?

PRESIDENT BACHELET: Well, we are going to receive aid and support from many different countries and organizations but I would say we cannot give an exact and accurate figure right now on how much it will cost. I mean, there has been some estimation made. They talk about 30 thousand million dollars. But really, I mean, with some places, there’s still poor communications. So we are more focused right now in doing all the emergency, the short-term, I would say, initiatives that people need to assure food, water, electricity, and of course, public order.

But in the meantime, we will start doing the estimation. We have rough estimations, like we have two million people who have been damaged by the earthquake in different levels of damage. We have an estimation that at least 500 houses – 500,000 houses have damage. But we have to – we are now, in the meantime, sending experts: engineers, architects, and so on, to evaluate in the field the kind of damage and if those kinds of public works can be repaired or have to be completely rebuilt.

So until now, we don’t have the exact – I could not answer to you the exact – how much it will cost to rebuild, to reconstruct all the damage. But I can only say it will be a lot, because Chile has the capacity, we have the engineers, we have the people, we have the experience, we have people trained and all that, but I think it will take long and it will mean a whole lot of money. So we have been talking also with the Secretary of State of another kinds of initiatives in the financial – I mean, Chile today (inaudible) creditor, so we think we could be able to have also with the good credit from whatever, World Bank or – and we will discuss those issues with the future government so we can advance in that, too.

I do not have the exact figure. As you know, we have updates every two and three hours, and the Secretary of State also offered human resources, that is, experts, engineers, and others. And – but I will give the floor to her so she can (inaudible).

SECRETARY CLINTON: I think it’s understandable that what the president has said is there needs to be a very good assessment, and it’s very difficult to do that assessment while you’re still trying to help people get food where they need it, provide medical care, and even reach some of the more remote areas. And we stand ready to help in any way that the Government of Chile – and I will say this to the President-elect Mr. Pinera when I meet with him – any way that the Government of Chile asks us to. We are so grateful for what Chile did in Haiti. Your rescue teams were among the very best in the entire world. And we want to help Chile, who has done so much to help others. And I can only imagine the extent of the damage – 2 million people, at least, who are displaced.

So we stand ready to offer what we’ve asked for now and to stay, as your partner and your friend, for the long term. We’ll be there to be of help when others leave because we are committed to this partnership and friendship with Chile.

Thank you.



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