Before I turn to the matters discussed today, let me give a brief update on the ongoing U.S. response to the protests in the Middle East and elsewhere. I’m sure as you know already, we are taking aggressive steps to protect our staffs in embassies and consulates worldwide. That includes reviewing our security posture at every post and augmenting it where necessary. And we are working closely with the Libyan Government in our efforts to bring to justice those who murdered our four American colleagues in Benghazi.
The FBI is now in Tripoli to join the investigation with Libyan officials, and there is nothing more important to us than ensuring the safety of our American representatives worldwide. At the same time, as I have said to State Department employees, the incidents of the past week highlight how important our work is. The United States must and will remain strongly engaged in the world. Our men and women risk their lives in service to our country and our values, because they know that the United States must be a force for peace and progress. That is worth striving and sacrificing for, and nothing that happened last week changes this fundamental fact.
Now, turning to our friends and partners in Mexico, we are always pleased to have a chance to discuss matters of mutual interest and concern between us. Mexico is one of our closest friends as well as partner on dozens of critical issues. So we talk about every kind of issue you can imagine, from education and healthcare to poverty alleviation to the environment. But today, we focused on a top priority for us both – security.
We just co-chaired the fourth meeting of the U.S.-Mexico Merida High-Level Consultative Group. This is the last one we will hold during the Calderon Administration. And I want to offer my personal appreciation to President Calderon and to Foreign Secretary Espinosa for their leadership and commitment to this partnership and to all on both sides of the border in our governments who have been deeply engaged and committed to it. The Merida Initiative represents an unprecedented level of security cooperation between Mexico and the United States.
As our countries continue to deal with the serious challenge of transnational criminal organizations, including drug traffickers, illegal arms traffickers, money launderers, and violent gangs that threaten people on both sides of the border, we well know there is no quick and easy way to stop these criminals and bring them to justice. But nevertheless, during the past now nearly four years, our countries have collaborated to an extraordinary and unprecedented degree. We have brought together policy makers and experts from across our governments and societies who have worked hand in hand to keep our people safe. And I think the habits of cooperation we have built are among our most important achievements, and we will rely on them for a long time to come.
Today, our delegations reviewed the gains we've made on key priorities, including improving law enforcement coordination, reducing the demand for drugs, modernizing our border infrastructure, strengthening the rule of law, and building more resilient and empowered communities. We also discussed the lessons we’ve learned and the work that lies ahead in these and other areas, which our joint statement will reflect. I want to underscore how important our security relationship with Mexico is to the United States.
The Government of Mexico and the Mexican people have faced the threat posed by these criminals with courage and resolve, and we remain committed to doing everything we can to support Mexico as it continues to work to bring those criminals to justice. This is a transnational problem, and it calls for a transnational solution, and the United States believes this is a matter of shared responsibility. That was the first message I brought as Secretary of State when I came to Mexico, and it continues to be the hallmark of our efforts together. Making sure our people are safe and our neighbors are safe is of the utmost importance to us.
Now, our two countries share many other priorities, and one of them, empowering women and girls, was also addressed today. We took the opportunity, the Foreign Secretary and I, to sign a Memorandum of Understanding between our countries to work together to advance gender equality, empower girls and women, promote their human rights, and enhance their security.
So again, Secretary Espinosa, let me thank you for years of work and effort, for our productive conversations in many places around the world and again today, and for being such a valuable colleague and partner. The United States deeply, deeply values our relationship with Mexico and the ties of family and friendship that connect so many millions of our people.
And we look forward to the future. We believe strongly that presidential administrations may change, elections will come and go, but we have established a firm foundation for cooperation that has already benefited both our countries and which will continue to benefit both of our countries for many years ahead. So thank you very much.
FOREIGN SECRETARY ESPINOSA: (In Spanish.)
MS. NULAND: We’ll take (inaudible), Margaret Brennan, CBS News.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, thanks for your time. Are you any closer to finding who killed Ambassador Chris Stevens? Libya’s President says this attack was planned for months. Are you confident he’s wrong and that security measures were appropriate? And will you leave justice to the Libyans?
SECRETARY CLINTON: As I said at the outset, we are taking aggressive steps to protect our people and our consulates and embassies around the world. We are reviewing our security posture at every post and working with host governments to be sure they know what our security needs are wherever necessary. We are also working closely with the Libyan Government to bring the perpetrators to justice so that we can be assured that we have found who murdered our four colleagues and under what circumstances. As I said, the FBI has joined the investigation inside Libya, and we will not rest until the people who orchestrated this attack are found and punished.
It is also important to look at this strategically and understand what is going on across the region. In a number of places where protests have turned violent, we are seeing the hand of extremists who are trying to exploit people’s inflamed passions for their own agendas. But overwhelmingly, we have found that the people of Egypt, of Libya, of Yemen and Tunisia are not prepared to trade the tyranny of a dictator for the tyranny of a mob. They want to turn their attention to the future to provide better opportunities for themselves and their children, and they want a strong partnership with the United States and the American people based on mutual interests and mutual respect.
This is part of a larger debate that is going on inside these societies. In Libya, for example, in their first free elections, moderates were successful at the polls. But look, there are extremists in all of these societies and on the outside who are working to take advantage of broad outrage in order to incite violence and specifically incite violence against Americans and American facilities.
And as I have said to many of the leaders I have spoken to over the past week, these extremist efforts are a threat to the people of the societies and the governments of those societies as well as to the region and the United States. And I think it’s important at this moment for leaders to put themselves on the right side of this debate – to speak out clearly and unequivocally against violence, whoever incites it or conducts it.
And in a struggle like this, there can be no doubt where the United States must stand. We support those who are fighting for the same values and rights that we believe in – in democracy, in freedom, in universal rights for men and women, for justice and accountability. And I want to underscore that the United States will continue to work with partners and allies in the region and around the world to help bring security to these nations so that the promise of the revolutions that they experienced can be realized.
And finally, on your specific point about Benghazi, we obviously never talk publicly about security at any of our missions for obvious reasons. But that said, let me assure you that our security in Benghazi included a unit of host government security forces, as well as a local guard force of the kind that we rely on in many places around the world. In addition to the security outside the compound, we relied on a wall and a robust security presence inside the compound. And with all of our missions overseas, in advance of September 11th, as is done every year, we did an evaluation on threat streams. And the Office of the Director of National Intelligence has said we had no actionable intelligence that an attack on our post in Benghazi was planned or imminent.
But let me state the obvious again. Our diplomats engage in dangerous work, and it’s the nature of diplomacy in fragile societies and conflict zones to be aware of the necessity for security but to also continue the important diplomatic work that has to go on. There is risk inherent in what we do and what these brave men and women representing the United States are up against every single day, and we do our very best to limit that risk by ensuring that our security protocols reflect the environments in which diplomats work and the threats that they are presented with.
MS. NULAND: Last one today, Santiago (inaudible) from (inaudible), please.
QUESTION: Yes. For both of you, thank you for your time. As both governments are reaching their end, which is a bigger challenge that incoming government have to deal with regarding bilateral security issues? And also, if you can give us an update of the Tres Marias incident, what kind of measure are you taking to prevent these kinds of incidents and to promote more trust, more confidence, and more law enforcement in both sides of the border?
FOREIGN SECRETARY ESPINOSA: (Via interpreter) As we said, we’ve undertaken a review of the cooperation that has taken place under the framework of the Merida Initiative, and we have reached an agreement that we need to continue this broad cooperation based on the principles of shared responsibility, mutual trust, and justice for both countries and the respect for the sovereignty of both countries. And we’ve also agreed on the fact that this cooperation scheme that has yielded great benefits domestically for both countries, which has in turn made us more effective in the fight against transnational organized crime.
And so we’ve agreed, in this sense, to conduct a review of the progress that we’ve achieved in all areas and also to develop a roadmap that will guide our work into the future, which Mexico – this current Administration and Mexico will present to the incoming administration as a suggestion/recommendation for their work.
As to the issue of Tres Marias, you are all aware – well aware of the fact that Mexico, from the very first moment, and its government has pointed out that we deeply regret this incident. At the same time, we have reiterated our willingness and our interest to – on behalf of the Government of Mexico – to conduct an exhaustive investigation, an investigation that will shed light on the facts and that will allow us to apply punishment to those responsible and bring them before the law.
We have also expressed our willingness to undertake ongoing engagement and dialogue with U.S. authorities in this case, and in all cases under the purview of our law enforcement authorities.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, let me emphasize how much progress has occurred in the last three and a half-plus years with the Merida Initiative and enhanced cooperation regarding security between our two countries. The United States has invested more than $1 billion in equipment training and capacity building since the Merida Initiative began. And the Mexican Government has brought even more of its resources to bear on combating drug trafficking, criminal cartels, as well as improving judicial and correction institutions. And we expect that this high level of cooperation and this belief in shared responsibility will continue in the next Mexican administration.
And we regret any incident of violence wherever it occurs – inside Mexico, on our borders, or inside our own country. And we will continue to work closely to investigate these tragic incidents and try to come to conclusions about who is responsible and use our legal systems to hold them accountable.
Thank you all very much.
FOREIGN SECRETARY ESPINOSA: (Via interpreter) Thank you.