By Maria Peña.
U.S. President Barack Obama on Thursday here, in an exclusive interview with Agencia Efe, Spain's international news agency, defended his reform agenda designed for the Nov. 6 election, an agenda based on protecting and defending the U.S. middle class.
Here is the full text of the interview with the president:
Q. Thank-you very much, Mr. President. It's an honor for me to be here.
A. It's a pleasure to see you again.
Q. Foreign policy has been creeping onto your campaign trail recently. You know, the crisis in Libya, the ambassador being killed, what do you have to say about how your administration is handling the crisis in the Middle East? It seems that there's no end to the violence there.
A. What we've done is to not only strengthen our security around the region, but I've also sent a very clear message to the leaders in the region, saying that we expect them to protect our embassies, to protect our consulates to cooperate with us fully, and to the Libyan government, in particular, I expect them to work with us to bring the perpetrators of this terrible crime to justice.
My expectation is that we will continue to see protests over the course of the next few days but what I want to emphasize is that our diplomats are in harm's way every day in many of these posts but they do outstanding, heroic work.
The United States can't withdraw from the region, that would hurt our safety and our security, and so we will continue to do what we've always done which is to work with those countries on issues of national security and issues of common interest.
We'll be clear in our voice for individual rights and freedoms and we will continue to make sure that our presence in the region is constructive.
Q. You've accomplished a lot but then critics, Republicans, and even people from your base, criticize you for making promises that you weren't able to fulfill, like immigration reform.
Do you regret having made that promise and not being able to deliver it in your first term?
A. No, because what a president does, or what a candidate for president does is you lay out an agenda of where you want to take your country, a vision for how we would strengthen the country and, in my case, my vision has always been: how do we create a strong middle class, ladders of opportunity into the middle class.
And the agenda that I put forward is one that is designed to make sure that anybody who works hard in this country, can make it. Regardless of race, religion, background, that they have access to a good education, that they can get the skills they need, that they can find a job that pays the bills, they can own a home, send their kids to college.
If you look at the promises that I made back in 2008, we have achieved many of them: ended the war in Iraq, saved an auto industry on the brink of extinction, passed comprehensive health care reform which will provide millions of more people access to health insurance, including nine million Latinos who work so hard and have difficulty getting health insurance on the job, reforming our student loans program so that millions of more young people are able to get the support that they need.
There are some things like comprehensive immigration reform that we have not got done yet. But in 2008 I didn't promise that I would have everything completed by the end of the first term. I said that we would begin work on all these things.
I'm confident that the agenda I've put forward now, bringing ... manufacturing jobs back home, making college more affordable, continu(ing) to reform our schools, rehiring teachers so that we don't have overcrowded classrooms, continuing to develop clean energy that reduces our dependence on foreign oil, ending the war in Afghanistan, these are all things that we can accomplish. It's in stark contrast to the agenda that's being presented by the other side.
Q. Many Hispanic voters, talking about international crises, feel that you have somehow put Mexico and other hotspots in Latin America on the back burner. So I'm wondering, should you win a second term, if you plan on making a tour of the region, reemphasizing the ties between the U.S. and Latin America?
What is your message to Hispanic voters who are constantly following the news in their home countries?
A. Keep in mind that I've taken a number of trips, to participate in the Summit of the Americas, most recently to Brazil, Chile, and El Salvador, and I was just in Mexico for the G20 summit.
And throughout these trips what I've emphasized is the importance of strengthening bonds and ties between the U.S. and all the countries throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. In very concrete terms, we have partnered on security issues, to dealing with (the) transnational drug trade, to energy issues focused on how we can develop greater energy efficiency and more clean energy, expanding trade by signing free trade deals with Colombia and Panama, and really emphasizing exchanges between young people which create such a strong bond between the U.S. and the region. So we have (not) only not neglected it, we've actually been very aggressive in trying to expand those relationships. Trade is significantly up between the U.S. and Latin America since I took on the presidency.
I expect that I will travel there again. This is going to be a huge growth region with enormous opportunities but also enormous challenges.
So, for example, our cooperation with Mexico on dealing with (the) transnational drug trade is unprecedented and we'll continue to build on that with the new administration.
Q. You've been criticized for not selling your agenda for a second term very clearly, so what are you doing to sell your agenda for a second term?
A. Anybody who was listening to the (Democratic) convention, I think, had a very clear sense of my agenda: I want to create a million manufacturing jobs, double our exports, stop giving tax breaks to companies that are shipping jobs overseas, I want to make sure that every young person in this country gets a good education, reducing (the) cost of attending college, I want to develop American home-grown energy sources, including clean energy, like wind and solar, that are already creating tens of thousands of jobs.
I want to use the money that we've been spending on war over the last decade to put people back to work, rebuilding our roads, our bridges and our roads, and our schools, which would particularly help Latinos, who are disproportionately impacted by the drop-off in construction jobs and the housing market bust.
We want to reduce the deficit in a sensible way, which means not just spending cuts but also asking the wealthiest individuals to pay a little bit more, and that allows (us) to continue to make the investments we need to grow.
And I intend to end the war in Afghanistan by 2014, and bring our troops home while continuing to focus on terrorists who are potentially threatening us.
So, we've got a very clear agenda and - for the Latino community - obviously, they have heard repeatedly and I'll repeat once again the importance of us getting comprehensive immigration reform done.
We need a partner in the Republican Party who is willing to work with us on this. In the meantime, what I'm going to continue to do is to take administrative actions where I can to make our system smarter and more effective.
The deferred action that we took with respect to the Dream Act kids is already moving much more smoothly than people anticipated and lays the groundwork for us to getting a more permanent solution.
Q. What do you want your legacy to be?
A. In terms of my legacy, I hope that at the end of our many years I have as president, people will look back and say we fought for ordinary families, we fought for middle class families, to create an economy that continues to give opportunity to everybody who's willing to work hard.
And legislatively, I think, five years from now people will look back at our health care reform and say that this was a critical piece of middle class security that is helping millions of people across the country.