JIM LEHRER: The Cuba story and to Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. She joins us now from the State Department.
Madam Secretary, welcome.
SECRETARY MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Good to be with you, Jim. Happy New Year.
JIM LEHRER: Thank you. Same to you. What's the purpose overall of these steps you announced today?
SECRETARY MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Well, the purpose is to try to create some space for the Cuban people to be able to undertake some activity independent of the repressive state and to try to get some money to some of the families and people and entities, the private entities there, nothing to the regime, to make sure that there can be more travelers to Cuba, licensed travelers, and to establish direct mail service. But it's all an attempt, Jim, to try to create space for the Cuban people so that they can act bravely. The pope, when he was there a year ago, said to the Cuban people that he they shouldn't be afraid. And what we want to do is to support the independent activities of the Cuban people.
JIM LEHRER: Now when you say independent activities, this is not - this is not something that the U.S. negotiated with the Cuban government?
SECRETARY MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Not at all. And we today informed the Cuban government of what we were doing. This is something for the Cuban people. We want to make sure that the independent sector is in some way capable of flourishing and giving some capabilities to the people to act independently of this repressive regime.
JIM LEHRER: Now, speaking of the regime, is this designed to undermine the regime, undermine Castro specifically, or does it have any aim at all in that direction?
SECRETARY MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Well, the purpose here, we've talked a lot about the fact that it was important to have a democratic transition in Cuba, that we want Castro to allow the people of Cuba to have free elections and to be able to operate in a way as do people throughout the world. And the purpose here is to press the democratic values, humanitarian values, and to allow the people to act independently. That's the purpose and Castro needs to understand that the only way to normalize relations with the United States is if indeed he moves towards a democratic transition and allows the people to have independent activity. One of the things that's happened, Jim, is we had hoped very much that after the pope's visit, a lot of the people actually and the dissidents would improve. It has not, frankly. People have been arrested and re-arrested. And Castro is not getting the message. And what we're trying to do is to follow up on what the pope was doing there, his message of hope and liberty, and freedom, and to try to give some space to the Cuban people.
JIM LEHRER: So this shouldn't be seen in any way as some kind of reward to Castro for any lessening of anything, right?
SECRETARY MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: On the contrary. This has nothing to do with rewarding the regime. The embargo is the law of the land, it is in place. We are going to be licensing on a case by case basis. The possibility of sending agricultural inputs in food to various entities on a case by case basis and not -- and making sure through the licensing procedure that the regime does not benefit in any shape or form from this.
JIM LEHRER: Now, for instance, one of the things - one of the five things in this - says increase educational athletic exchanges. Now this has been read immediately as the Baltimore Orioles are going to go down there and play baseball in Cuba. Is that for real?
SECRETARY MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Well, what we're doing here is basically expanding the people-to-people exchanges, which is to have arts and culture and sports. The Baltimore Orioles have been interested in having an exhibition game in Cuba, they have been granted an opportunity to go down to explore it. And we'll see what comes of it. This is something that the Baltimore Orioles have wanted to do.
JIM LEHRER: But that would be permitted under this, right?
SECRETARY MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Well, it would be permitted if they can work out the arrangements and whatever profits come from the game would be given to a Catholic charity, Caritas, so that there would be no profits to the regime or to anyone. It would go directly to this Catholic humanitarian organization, so that it can help the people. The main emphasis, the constant kind of imperative here, is to do everything that we can to help the people of Cuba.
JIM LEHRER: Now, on these flights, what kind of flights are you talking about that can now be - the expansion of these flights, what are they, what kind?
SECRETARY MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Well, these are charter flights, and thus far, Jim, what they've been is from Miami to Havana. What we're going to do is - and we're working out all the details of this now -- is to expand the number of American cities from which these charter flights for licensed travelers could be started and then also expand the number of cities beyond Havana in Cuba, where these would go.
JIM LEHRER: Now, you said today that you informed the Cuban government of this. What was the reaction?
SECRETARY MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: There has been no reaction thus far.
JIM LEHRER: Could they stop any of these things, if they don't like it?
SECRETARY MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Well, I think that basically we - obviously they can - and the question will be is what they will react to. But the bottom line here is we think that they have - they -- a lot of the measures that we announced in March are going forward. We've had now 15,000 travelers go there. There's been something like $60 million in additional remittances being sent to Cuba. One of the things we're doing now is expanding the possibility for more remittances being sent to Cuba. So I think that we hope very much that this will go forward. We think that it's a very important set of measures and I'm very pleased that the president accepted the recommendation to go forward with them.
JIM LEHRER: Now when you say remittances, let's explain what that means. Up till now if you had a relative in Cuba, you could send money; this expands that, right?
SECRETARY MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Right.
JIM LEHRER: In other words, any ordinary American citizen can send money to a needy Cuban, correct?
SECRETARY MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Correct, that is correct. And there's also the possibility of having organizations send to organizations. We're going to be exploring possibilities here. But I think the very important part - and there was some very interesting coverage during the anniversary of the Cuban revolution where you could see that people who had dollars and were able to participate in a dollar economy just had a greater sense of freedom, had the ability to feed their families, had the possibility of expressing themselves. And I think that the presence of these American remittances is very important to our overall goal of expanding the space for the Cuban people.
JIM LEHRER: What would be the U.S. reaction -- if any - if Castro says - the Cuban government says, forget it, we don't want anymore planes to come in here, we're not going to allow these remittances, or just go down through the list, is there anything the U.S. can do about it?
SECRETARY MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Well, I think that we will continue to press for the possibilities of people to express themselves. We are also asking for additional funding for Radio Marti and for broadcasting, TV broadcasting generally. We want to see - we're going to keep our pressure up against Castro. I think he would be making a big mistake not to accept the possibilities of humanitarian assistance to the people of Cuba. They - I think we need to be able to do this. He has thus far allowed a lot of these measures. We have bipartisan support for these measures. And I'm very glad that we're going to be able to go forward with this.
JIM LEHRER: Do you have any reason to believe that he will not permit these things to happen?
SECRETARY MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: I don't know. You know, it's very hard to read his mind on this.
JIM LEHRER: Sure.
SECRETARY MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: I think that we'll have to see.
JIM LEHRER: Quickly, before we go, a final question on Iraq. This exchange today of fire in the air over the southern no-fly zone, is that -- should that be viewed as a new major escalation, or what is that?
SECRETARY MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Well, I mean, we are determined to enforce these no-fly zones. They were set up by a Security Council resolution to protect the people in the North and the South of Iraq, and we intend to enforce them. And I think that some of the actions of Saddam today and his rhetoric, calling on people in Arab countries to overthrow the governments that do not support him really shows Saddam's increasing isolation and desperation. We intend to enforce the no-fly zones.
JIM LEHRER: Madam Secretary, thank you very much.
SECRETARY MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Thanks, Jim.