Ambassador Linda Thomas-GreenfieldU.S. Representative to the United Nations Quito, Ecuador March 31, 2023
QUESTION: Mrs. Ambassador, nice to meet you. Thank you. Welcome. It’s such a pleasure to have you here.
AMBASSADOR LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD: I’m delighted to be here.
QUESTION: Thank you. Please tell us, why – what’s the reason for your visit to Ecuador?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Well, this is not my first visit to Ecuador. I was here heading the presidential delegation when President Lasso was inaugurated 15 months ago. But I’m here today because Ecuador is an elected member of the Security Council, and as a permanent member of the Security Council, I have established as a policy to visit the countries of elected members to share common priorities, to talk about goals, and to pursue a closer partnership.
QUESTION: Just with this team, how do you see multilateral relations between Ecuador and the United States considering also what you said, that Ecuador is a member of the Security Council of the United Nations, and we need a lot of help with the fight against organized transnational crime?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Ecuador is a very strong partner of the United States. Bilaterally, we have always had a strong partnership, and multilaterally, that partnership has been enhanced with Ecuador on the Security Council. We have common interests. We have common values. We’re working together, for example, on Haiti – Ecuador is one of the co-pens of the Haiti resolution. So we’re working very closely with Ecuador on all of the issues that are important to them as well as issues that we prioritize.
QUESTION: Have you done something with the president or Minister Holguín, Mr. Holguín, about the fight against organized crime?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: In fact, I met with the – I met with the foreign minister today, and we talked about organized crime and the fact that organized crime does not recognize borders. They cross into other countries. They are involved in issues related to migration. They are pursuing goals that really undermine democracy, they undermine the rule of law, and we have to work together on those issues.
QUESTION: Mrs. Ambassador, also right now in Ecuador, politicians want to remove President Lasso, so he’s facing also a threat because of social organizations aiming to remove him from power. How do you see the democratic situation in Ecuador right now?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: I’m not here to involve myself in the domestic politics of this country. But as it relates to democracy, democracy is difficult. Democracy is always resetting. It’s always restarting. It’s recalibrating. We see it in many, many countries. But we know ultimately that democracies deliver for their people, and this is why the President is hosting the second summit of democracies which President Lasso participated in today.
QUESTION: Yes, and is democracy in the region at risk, do you think? What are you going to talk about this in this Summit for Democracy in Costa Rica?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: President Biden has said we are at an inflection point on democracy. And at this point, we need to reaffirm our partnerships and we need to reaffirm and strengthen our alliances, and we need to show continually how important democracies are for peace and security. They’re important for the well-being of our people. And this second Summit for Democracy will reaffirm commitments made during the first summit, but also look to further establish a stronger bond between those countries that are democratic.
QUESTION: Mrs. Ambassador, thank you. We continue with this interview. So you once said there is a direct relation, connection, between public service and human rights. So, from public service, how do you think it’s possible to preserve fundamental freedoms such as freedom of expression, opinion, movement, so on?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Well, as a public servant – and I’ve been one for almost 40 years, working on issues of human rights, humanitarian issues, working on issues of development of people, women’s peace and security issues, working in addressing new concerns – these are all issues that are important to our futures. They’re important to our country’s democracy. And any public servant, particularly in the United States, these are all priorities for us as we pursue our interests in public service, but we’re – as we serve our people and serve our countries.
QUESTION: And these freedoms are also important for democracy?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: They are absolutely essential for democracy. You cannot have democracy and not have human rights. You cannot have democracy and not have press freedoms. All of these are part of what we hope that countries that are not democracies begin to understand so that they can move toward becoming democracies.
QUESTION: As you told us, you have spent nearly half of for your professional life, helping others and supporting refugees. Ecuador has been receiving Venezuelan migrants for the last years. So, what can you tell us? How can we improve our treatment of Venezuelan migrants?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Ecuador is an example to the rest of the region for how immigrants, how refugees can be treated. You just instituted a law that regularized Venezuelan refugees in this country. I visited a program today where I saw refugees being welcomed, being served, being supported, being encouraged, and then I heard from some refugee women who thanked this country for what you have provided.
So again, Ecuador is a strong example of what we want to see when countries are put in the position of having to support vulnerable people, and particularly people who are coming from across the border. And what I heard today is that Ecuador had to depend on its neighbors. So, they’re paying it forward.
QUESTION: And you visited, as you told us also, Albergue San Juan de Dios this morning.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Yes.
QUESTION: So, what did you find? What can we do in order to do a better practice for helping others?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: I was so impressed with what I saw at that center, the quality of the services being provided to both refugees as well as to Ecuadorians. There was a program supporting eligible Ecuadorian people who were homeless. The program – the feeding program for refugees, and I had the opportunity to actually serve some of those refugees. And meeting with women who have come here to seek freedom that they didn’t have in Venezuela.
The center is extraordinary. I don’t know that I have any advice for how they can improve. My advice to them is to share their example more broadly with other organizations, with other countries, because I do think it’s a role model for what ought to be done for refugees when they’re seeking support.
QUESTION: Now, your visit will continue in Costa Rica, so thank you very much for being here and for your time, Mrs. Ambassador.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Thank you very much, and I very much appreciate having spent some time with you.
QUESTION: Thank you.