George W. Bush photo

Interview With TCS

March 20, 2002

El Salvador-U.S. Relations

Q. Ten years after the peace agreement in El Salvador, how do you evaluate the current relationship between the U.S. and my country?

The President. Muy fuerte. I've got, first of all, a good personal relationship with El Presidente de su pais. He's a very good man. He's a young, strong leader, and I'm impressed by him. And everybody in America who's met him is impressed by him.

Secondly, I believe we've got some great opportunities. There's a lot of people from your country living here in America, and so we get a better sense of your country from them—hard-working, good people. Secondly, obviously we've had a chance to cooperate during some of the unbelievable natural disasters that affected El Salvador— Hurricane Mitch. And our country was very glad to help. We—sorry it happened, but then it happened, glad to help.

And I'm going to go down and talk about trade and the ability for us to work together to put together a free trade agreement with Central American nations. I think it's a great opportunity. I'm really looking forward to the trip. I can't wait to go to El Salvador. It's going to be—it's an honor to go.

Central America-U.S. Free Trade Agreement

Q. Mr. President, do you consider that the free trade agreement between the U.S. and the Central American countries will indeed benefit the poorest people in our region?

The President. Por cierto, por cierto. That's why I'm so anxious to do so. The best way to develop jobs, the best way to develop hope and opportunity is through trade. A country which trades with the United States, for example, or any other country, a vibrant marketplace is going to get 8 times more benefit from that trade than they would through any foreign aid program.

Now, we're going to be generous with our foreign aid, and we'll help, but trade is really the best chance to help the poor. And that's what I'm interested in doing. I know that when somebody starts getting jobs available, there's better training. It will lead to better education; it will lead to better health care. And so we're anxious to promote prosperity, and the best way to do that is through a trade agreement.

Temporary Protected Status

Q. Deeply inside you, Mr. President, have you made a decision over the future of 250,000 Salvadorans currently under TPS?

The President. TPS? No, but I want— first of all, I was a strong supporter of TPS the last time it came up. The TPS authorization—or the renewal—won't come up until Septiembre. So this summer I, of course, will look at it. I haven't made up my mind yet, but I will tell you, the last time I was a strong supporter. I thought it was the right thing to do. And one might guess, if I thought it was the right thing to do last time—but I will make up my mind this summer.

War on Terrorism

Q. Does El Salvador have an important role to play in the global war against terrorism?

The President. Oh, of course, of course. And here it is: Al Qaida killers are trying to find places where they can move assets, train, move money. They're looking for weak spots. They found one in Afghanistan, and we're still bringing them to justice. Any country that appears weak or is welcoming to a terrorist organization is one where they're likely to go. And what El Salvador can do is continue to be strong and say, "We're not going to tolerate terrorism. We're not going to let people come to our country or our neighborhood." And they've been very strong. President Flores has been great on this subject, and I look forward to working with him.

You bet it's very important for all of us who love freedom to stand strong against terrorist organizations, so that they can have no place to go. We'll keep them on the run, and we're going to keep them running. And they're going to get tired of running. And then, when they do get tired of running, we'll bring them to justice.

El Salvador-U.S. Relations

Q. People is very anxious, waiting for you, Mr. President, in El Salvador. Tiene un mensaje para pueblo Salvadoreno?

The President. Si, al pueblo de El Salvador, quiero decir eso, tu pais es importante para el futuro de mi pais. Yo quiero decir que somos amigos, y muchos gracias para la opportunidad de viajar a este pais bonita, bella. Y quiero decir que tu Presidente—su Presidente es un amigo mio.

Q. Thank you very much, Mr. President.The President. Si, thank you.

NOTE: The interview was taped at 10:54 a.m. in the Map Room at the White House. In his remarks, the President referred to President Francisco Flores Perez of El Salvador. This interview was released by the Office of the Press Secretary on March 22. A tape was not available for verification of the content of this interview.

George W. Bush, Interview With TCS Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

Filed Under



Washington, DC

Simple Search of Our Archives