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Remarks by Adolfo Franco
Assistant Administrator for Latin America and the Caribbean

Caribbean Central America Action (CCAA) 28th Annual Conference on the Caribbean Basin

December 8, 2004
Miami, Florida

First, I would like to thank Prime Minister Manning for his timely comments. I would also like to thank CCAA for inviting me to address such a distinguished group of colleagues from around our region.

When I was considering my remarks for this afternoon, I wanted to focus on the theme of this year’s conference: “An Integrated Third Border.” President Bush has time and again reiterated his commitment to Latin America and the Caribbean, and his recent visit to Chile and Colombia are tangible signs of this support. With the President’s reelection, I want to assure you that USAID, as part of the overall United States Government engagement, will continue to pursue a wide variety of activities in our region, from the President’s vision for a Free Trade Agreement of the Americas, to increased assistance for disaster preparedness.

As I look around the room and see so many leaders in so many fields, I am struck by the fact that none of us can accomplish our goals alone. Essential to achieving our vision for prosperity in the Hemisphere is the notion of partnerships, and I wanted to focus on three important partnerships USAID has pursued and will continue to pursue in the coming years.

First, I would like to focus on our partnerships in pursuit of the President’s free trade agenda. Second, I will address USAID’s new partnerships with the business community to combat the stigma of HIV/AIDS in the region. Finally, I would like to tell you about USAID’s work to assist the victims of natural disaster in the region.

The concept of partnerships and cooperation is central to USAID. As assistant administrator of the Latin American and Caribbean bureau, I am constantly seeking ways to implement the vision of Administrator Andrew Natsios embodied in the concept of the “global development alliance,” or GDA. The GDA concept acknowledges that USAID can achieve much more if it works with partners from the private and non-profit sectors, as well as with sovereign governments. As a result of the GDA concept, USAID has partnered with Microsoft to bring computer training to disadvantaged youth in Brazil and has created an alliance with businesses and tourism representatives to protect the region’s fragile coral reefs.

I was pleased to see that many sessions at this conference will be devoted to discussion of the U.S.-Central America Free Trade Agreement. USAID played a pivotal role, along with the office of the U.S. Trade Representative, in helping the CAFTA countries plan their strategies for participating in the CAFTA negotiations, and USAID will assist CAFTA countries to develop regulations and the capacity to take advantage of the agreement once it is ratified. USAID will commit $507 million to trade capacity building in 2005, of which $75.7 million will be used for programs in the Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean.

At the moment, USAID also plays an ongoing and vital role with the United States Trade Representative and partners in the Andean region in trade negotiations being conducted with Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru. Our work related to CAFTA and in the Andean region is expanding as we partner with different governments, producers, associations, non-profit organizations, think tanks and especially corporations to promote an enlivened dialog about the role trade can play in stimulating economic growth.

Increasingly under President Bush, USAID is seeking ways to work with partners in the private sector and business community. One of the exciting new developments I wanted to discuss with you today is USAID’s recent engagement with the private sector to combat HIV/AIDS in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Most of you are aware that HIV/AIDS is an explosion waiting to occur in our region. The rate of HIV/AIDS infection in the Caribbean is second only to that in Sub-Saharan Africa, and the numbers are particularly alarming in countries like Haiti and Brazil. We can not allow the Caribbean to become the “sick bay” of the Americas, with all of the resulting impact on the economies of the region, from tourism to manufacturing to services.

President Bush has committed $15 billion over the next five years to combat HIV/AIDS in countries from Botswana to Guyana as part of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. In addition to this significant expenditure of resources, I have sought to build partnerships with the private sector in our region to combat HIV.

Starting last year, USAID began working with American Chambers of Commerce in Mexico and Brazil, and is exploring the possibility of expanding to Jamaica, to encourage employers to evaluate and update their policies regarding HIV/AIDS in the workplace and to make the necessary investments to educate employees about the disease, with a particular emphasis on reducing the stigma that hinders an effective response to the pandemic.

We have been particularly pleased to work with the AIDS Responsibility Project, under the leadership of Abner Mason, the chair of the international committee of President Bush’s advisory council on HIV/AIDS. USAID’s work with the AIDS Responsibility Project exemplifies the kind of partnership we are seeking to build and maintain.

I am gratified that the response has been encouraging, especially in Mexico, where a number of the largest employers in Mexico have formed a National Business Council on HIV/AIDS. Last week, I was in Brazil where I met with a similar group of businesses committed to ending stigma and discrimination in the workplace and educating their employees about the disease. By supporting and encouraging this initiative, USAID can reach many more people with a prevention message than if we worked solely in cooperation with governments, or only through non-governmental partners. I believe this initiative will have a long-lasting, positive effect in reducing the harm caused by AIDS in our region.

No discussion of partnerships would be complete without acknowledging USAID’s many partners who joined with us to combat the effects of this year’s hurricane season. Hurricanes Charlie, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne left a legacy of destruction and chaos in their wake—not only in the islands of the Caribbean, but here in Florida, as well. Governor Bush deserves great praise for marshalling Florida’s resources to respond to the great challenges these hurricanes posed to Florida.

As devastating as the hurricanes were here in Florida, they caused much greater damage in places less prepared to respond. The stories are familiar to all of us--ninety percent of the housing stock in Grenada was leveled by Hurricane Ivan. From Cuba to the Bahamas, from Trinidad and Tobago to the Dominican Republic, this year’s hurricanes destroyed lives and livelihoods across our region. In the tragic case of Haiti, Tropical Storm Jeanne left more than 3000 dead in landslides that buried much of the northern city of Gonaives.

Within hours, USAID mobilized all our resources and began to disperse emergency relief. President Bush took personal interest and with the United States Congress made available more than $100 million for hurricane response in the Caribbean. I was recently in Haiti where I signed a memorandum of understanding with Prime Minister Gerard Latortue for $34 million for Gonaives, and I visited our partners implementing relief efforts in Gonaives.

In addition to Haiti, USAID will commit $42 million for medium-term assistance, including housing and infrastructure reconstruction in Grenada. USAID even contributed $50,000 to help the people of Cuba after Hurricane Charley passed near Havana, although Fidel Castro thumbed his nose at the generosity of the American people and refused to allow us to do more to help victims of the natural disasters on that prison island.

Let me conclude with one thought -- that USAID is dedicated to the important goals we are discussing here this conference. We cannot nor do we want to do it alone. We have partnered with many of you already, and Administrator Natsios has instructed me to be aggressive in seeking new opportunities and new partners to help achieve our aims.

While much attention is focused on challenges in the Middle East and elsewhere, let me reaffirm the President’s commitment and that of Administrator Natsios and myself to doing all we can to promote development and prevent disasters, right here in our own Hemisphere. We have much work to do and I look forward to continue to working with you to achieve the goals we all share.

Thank you.

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