PRESIDENT SANTOKHI: Good afternoon, all of you. Welcome once again, Secretary of State, Mr. Pompeo. Welcome our members of the press media, ministers. The delegation of the United States, welcome.
Ladies and gentlemen, it is a profound honor and privilege to have hosted the Secretary of State of the United States of America, His Excellency Michael Pompeo, for an official visit. On behalf of the Government of Suriname and the people of Suriname, I have conveyed a warm Surinamese welcome to Mike Pompeo and his delegation.
This historic visit reflects the strategic importance of the longstanding bonds of friendship and cooperation between our two nations. As you know by now, this is the first visit of a secretary of state of the United States of America to our country since we became independent. I certainly hope that we will continue this dialogue at a high level in the coming years as well.
The bilateral meeting with a guest of honor, the Secretary of State and his delegation, was held in a friendly atmosphere, based on mutual understanding and respect, with the interests of both countries at heart. During our deliberations today, we have reiterated the important of this visit and further deepening political dialogue, reviewing bilateral ties and cooperation. We also used this occasion to exchange views on international and multilateral development.
Ladies and gentlemen, as countries of the Western Hemisphere, we look forward to creating synergies in terms of the defense of democracy and strong democratic institutions, the rule of law, good governance, and human rights. And I thank the Secretary for the expressed support to our government toward democracy and a sustainable future.
In this regard, I express appreciation to the Government of the United States of America for the congratulatory message on the victory of the democratic process in Suriname of May 25 this year and the smooth transition thereafter. I am confident that the bilateral cooperation in various fields such as trade and investment, combating transnational organized crime, health, military investments, defense, and justice and police as well will strengthen the political dialogue and will add to a strengthened relationship. In the coming days and weeks, designated teams of our two ministries of foreign affairs will be working on fleshing out those proposals further.
In closing, I extend gratitude to the Secretary of State for his visit to Suriname and for having constructive discussions on how to further strengthen the cooperation between our both countries, based on the guiding principles of the government under my leadership, namely democracy, good governance, rule of law, human rights, as well as peace and security. Suriname and the United States of America will continue the long-lasting partnership for the betterment of their countries and prosperity of their peoples, and, where possible, cooperate effectively and diligently on strengthening our regional system based on shared values and norms.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, thank you and please convey my regards and best wishes to the President Donald Trump. Thank you very much. Thank you very much.
MODERATOR: Thank you, Your Excellency. May I now invite the Secretary of State of the United States of America, His Excellency Mike R. Pompeo, to address the audience.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you. And thank you, Mr. President. Thank you for hosting me today. President Trump sends his greetings to you and to all of the people of Suriname. I’m glad to be here today, and I’d like to note that today is a day of firsts. It’s the first stop on a four-country tour through South America. And this is the first time, as the president said, that a secretary of state has been here in now four and a half decades.
President Santokhi, you have been incredibly gracious in hosting my team and me. This visit is the sign of our growing ties between our two nations. This visit is also a sign of growth in the ties between the United States and the Caribbean that I spoke about in Jamaica, back in January of this year. We are serious about this effort, and I saw today that you are, too.
I had a great meeting with Foreign Minister Ramdin and we talked about lots of important issues that gave me confidence in the future of our constructive partnership, based on democratic values and the protection of human rights and our ever-deepening economic ties.
I want to start, too, by thanking and congratulating President Santokhi in person for your victory back in May and the people of Suriname for the peaceful transfer of power that has followed. Like your neighbors in Guyana, the people of Suriname spoke clearly in choosing a new leader and in securing your future as a democratic nation.
I know that COVID-19 and the pandemic have been difficult – it’s been difficult for many countries all across the world – and it complicated the election, too. But the United States was there to help by working with the Organization of American States Electoral Observation Mission. These independent observers monitored the election closely to make sure it was fair, transparent, and reflected the will of the people, a process that is increasingly the standard expectation for elections in our shared hemisphere of freedom.
When democratic institutions succeed, sovereignty is respected. When the rule of law flourishes, good things follow. This is an exciting time for potential economic growth in Suriname. The United States is eager to partner to ensure that it’s sustainable, that it benefits all people, and brings our nations closer together.
And we know, too, that the private sector is the best engine of economic growth. Nothing beats free enterprise for making lives better for people all across the world. That holds true for Suriname. No state-owned operation can beat the quality of the products and services of American private companies. They operate with the highest standards of accountability and transparency. All they ask for is a level playing field and clear rules of the road, and the president and I discussed that today.
I’ll be meeting, just a little bit after this gathering with U.S. business leaders to discuss how the Trump administration can help them thrive in Suriname and the region. I’m also very proud of the Trump administration’s commitment to lifting up entrepreneurs, particularly women, in the developing world. And we’re doing this work right here. We’re currently helping to launch a training program for female entrepreneurs in the city of Nickerie. Suriname’s future is being built by capable, smart, talented young leaders.
Mr. President, it’s been a pleasure meeting with you today and with your team. Suriname has a firm friend in the United States of America. Thank you.
MODERATOR: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. We have now come to the part of this press avail where the Surinamese part will be given the occasion to direct one question to the President of Suriname and the Secretary of State of the United States. May I invite Ms. Carla Boetius to direct this question?
QUESTION: Thank you. Let me say beforehand that the Surinamese press is not very content that they can only ask one question, because they thought this is a very historic – the fact that you’re here is very historic to Suriname, so they have a lot of questions.
But let me ask the question. Is the essence of your visit to seek support from the Surinamese Government, and thus the region, for the American position towards Venezuela and thus in favor of Juan Guaido and against Maduro?
Also I want to know if you look at the foreign policy of the USA, what is the position of the CARICOM but most importantly of Suriname? Does Suriname has a special role to play? And if yes, how come Suriname was not invited to your last visit to the CARICOM? What changed in a year?
And to our president, Mr. Santokhi, President – shall I do that in Dutch, or – okay. President Santokhi, (Via translation) will the Surinamese government cooperate that the Surinamese territory and the airspace be used to conduct U.S. military operations in Venezuela, did you made any promises in this regard?
MODERATOR: Can I invite President Santokhi to answer the first question?
PRESIDENT SANTOKHI: Thank you very much. I’m looking to my guests and also the delegation of U.S. and the media present from abroad, so allow me to address your question in English and we can have some interpretation on that.
Thank you for your question. The discussion today with the Secretary of State was focused on strengthening and expanding the bilateral relations between Suriname and the United States. The meeting did not address what your question is alluding to.
We are aware of the challenges in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, and the government of the Republic of Suriname is of the view that the political leaders in Venezuela have to principally resolve their internal matters. Important principles of my government in this regards are democracy, democratic institutions, rule of law, good governance, human rights, as well as maintaining peace and security. And we will contribute to the dialogue and the work with all likeminded partners to ensure that the democratic rights of all the Venezuelan people are enjoyed. That is our position in this regard. Thank you very much.
MODERATOR: Secretary Pompeo.
SECRETARY POMPEO: So thank you. Thank you for the two questions that you provided. First, the question was about Venezuela and whether I was here today to talk about that issue. And look, the United States has been very clear about our view. We are supporting democracy, human rights, a return to the basic principles that can pull the millions of people in Venezuela out of the destitute situation they find themselves in today. We are determined to achieve that.
And our policies in the Trump administration have been focused on that. We’ve recognized Juan Guaido as the natural leader, the rightly elected leader of that country. We’ve indicted Maduro on narcotrafficking charges. We believe that the Venezuelan people deserve what the people of every country, including the people of Suriname, deserve. And the president has spoken to this clearly today – democracy, human rights, a chance to make a living. What we all want for all of our families we want for the people of Venezuela as well, and that’s what we’ve been working on in Venezuela. That’s what we’ll continue to work on as we try to benefit all the people, not only Venezuela but throughout the region and where I am today.
You asked about Suriname and whether it has a special role. I’m here today for an important reason. This country, the people of Suriname, have made a decision back in May. They made a decision that they, too, wanted democracy, that they wanted the rule of law, that they wanted a principled leader in Suriname. And the United States wants to support that wherever we can, and so I came here today to try to identify places where we can work together to support Suriname and the Surinamese people to make their lives better.
We count on Suriname to help in the region as well, to be a beacon for hope, a beacon for opportunity. This is a country with an enormous opportunity for the creation of prosperity and for wealth for its own people and for the region. And so we want to come alongside. Where there is needed assistance for security, we’re happy to provide it. Where there is needed assistance to use multilateral institutions to help finance needs here in the region, we’re happy to do what we can to support that. We want good things for the people of this country, and that’s why I came here today to congratulate the new president and the new leadership and to find ways that we can work together to make life better for the people here in Suriname and life better for the people in the United States as a result of our work together.
MR BROWN: For our second question, can we go to Shaun Tandon?
QUESTION: Could I ask you – you mentioned – the previous question was about Venezuela, but another country that might have some influence here: China. Mr. Secretary, you mentioned that American businesses – that you’re fighting for them. Do you think that they have a level playing field? Are there repercussions for Suriname or Guyana in terms of the U.S. relationship if they don’t go with American companies and if they do embrace the growing role of China and the Belt and Road Initiative?
And if I could ask the same thing to the president. Do you feel like you have a choice between growing ties with the United States and rising investment from China? How do you balance that? And did the Secretary make a convincing case for going with American companies?
Mr. Secretary, if just briefly I could follow up with something you said yesterday about Iran. You mentioned the enforcement of sanctions, of UN sanctions, as you called them, coming up this weekend. What do you anticipate from the United States coming at that point? Do you anticipate further enforcement by the United States of what you consider UN sanctions after snapback, and do you expect other countries to follow suit on that? Thank you.
MODERATOR: Excuse me for a moment. Could I ask you to – the question directed to the president, could I ask you to please repeat that question and please speak into the mike, because that question came over a little bit muffled.
QUESTION: Sure, I apologize.
MODERATOR: You could take off your face mask.
QUESTION: That’s a good idea. Mr. President, thank you. I wanted to ask you if you think that there is a competition between the United States and China here in Suriname and more broadly in the region. Did Secretary Pompeo make a convincing case to choose American companies as you go forward with your economic development, and do you feel that there is a choice that you have to make between the two countries, the United States and China? Thanks very much.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Mr. President, may I answer the first question first?
PRESIDENT SANTOKHI: Yes, yes.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Great. Actually, I’m going to take your last question first, because it’s not directly related to his. Yes, we expect every nation to comply with UN Security Council resolutions – period, full stop. And the United States is intent on enforcing all the UN Security Council resolutions. And come Monday, there will be a new series of UN Security Council resolutions that we enforce, and we intend to ask every country to stand behind them. The UN has done that, the Security Council has done that. We expect every nation to behave in a way consistent with what the United Nations mandates. And so I see it as pretty simple. It’s pretty straightforward what our expectations are.
As for being here in Suriname, what we spoke to the president about was making sure that there was transparency, and the rule of law, and fair opportunities, and that there was no corruption. We’re convinced that when that happens, the Western model, the non-authoritarian model, the model of democracy and human rights, the very things the president spoke about, will have enormous success, that it will be better for the people of Suriname.
We’ve watched the Chinese Communist Party invest in countries, and it all seems great at the front end, and then it all comes falling down when the political cost connected to that becomes clear. And we do our level best wherever I travel to make – to make the case for just making sure everybody understands what they’re getting into. We have – we brook no ill will towards true Chinese competition. If a Chinese company shows up and competes on a fair and equitable basis, and they’re the provider that provides the best value, that’s the company that the government ought to choose. That certainly holds here in Suriname as well.
But we’ve observed the Chinese Communist Party for these past years. Under General Secretary Xi, that’s not the case very often. They often show up in ways that are inconsistent with the value set that I’ve heard the president speak about, the things that are best for the people of Suriname. And so what we want is open, transparent processes, we want good value for the people of Suriname, we want jobs for the people of Suriname, we want companies that come here to obey environmental rules in the way that American companies will do when they show up.
We honor contracts. We have expectations that host nations honor contracts. We don’t engage in crony capitalism, We don’t engage in predatory economic activity. Our businesses come here to create value and jobs for the country in which they put foreign direct investment. We want America to show up with an enormous amount of foreign direct investment. The foreign minister and I have spoken about this. We want to show up, come here and compete, and make lives better for Suriname’s businesses and for its people. That’s what we spoke about today, and I am confident that we’ll have real opportunities to do that in the months ahead.
So thank you for your questions, Shaun.
PRESIDENT SANTOKHI: Thank you very much for the question. As regards the position of China and this relation, I can inform you clearly that this was not a topic of the agenda. It was not a topic of our discussion. So it is not a question of making choices.
Today’s visit with the Secretary of State Mr. Mike Pompeo – with his visit, we have made clearly that we’ll enter a new stage of strengthened cooperation in several areas of cooperation where the topics were discussed clearly and commitments were made. And sure, we have also good cooperation as so many other countries. Thank you.
MODERATOR: Thus we have come to the conclusion of this press avail.