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Fighting For Democracy; Interview With U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired June 04, 2021 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello, everyone, and welcome to AMANPOUR.
Here's what's coming up.
LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: If this last border crossing is closed, it will force people into making desperate
decisions about their futures.
GOLODRYGA (voice-over): The forgotten crisis in Syria. Millions face disaster if aid is cut off. America's ambassador to the U.N., Linda Thomas-
Greenfield, joins me on this and the many challenges facing the international community.
Then: killed fighting for democracy -- 32 years since the Tiananmen uprising, China continues to quell dissent. I will speak to one of the
activists from Tiananmen now in exile and a leader of the new generation fighting for democracy in Hong Kong.
DR. EZEKIEL EMANUEL, FORMER WHITE HOUSE SPECIAL ADVISER: Our social norm should be everyone has to assume their responsibility for our collective
benefit. Part of that is getting fully vaccinated.
GOLODRYGA: With vaccinations slowing in the U.S., getting the hesitant on board. Hari Sreenivasan speaks to public health expert Ezekiel Emanuel.
GOLODRYGA: Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Bianna Golodryga in New York, sitting in for Christiane Amanpour.
We begin our program with a story that's fallen off the radar, the forgotten tragedy unfolding in Syria.
Ten years since the conflict began, millions of Syrian refugees have been displaced, forgotten amid the bombs, as the world's gaze turned elsewhere.
They have sought shelter near the border with Turkey in the northwest, away from the control of dictator basal Bashar al-Assad. And now these people
face total disaster, as vital cross-border humanitarian aid is in danger of being shut down from July 10 due to opposition from Russia and China.
Linda Thomas-Greenfield, America's ambassador to the U.N., is in Turkey, where she's on a mission to see the aid operation for herself before a
likely showdown with Russia at the Security Council. She's a Foreign Service veteran with extensive experience in Africa. And, as a member of
President Biden's National Security Council, she's tackling a long list of seemingly intractable issues, from the Middle East to the Uyghur genocide
in China, to vaccine inequity.
Earlier, I spoke to Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield from Ankara, as she tries to bring the world's attention back to Syria.
GOLODRYGA: Thank you so much for joining us, Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield.
You just visited the last corridor providing aid to Syrian refugees there. I know you're in Turkey on this visit announcing that the U.S. will be
giving $239 million in additional humanitarian resources.
Can you tell us what you saw on the ground there?
THOMAS-GREENFIELD: What I saw was an extraordinarily effective humanitarian delivery program being managed by the United Nations, as well
as NGOs, and supporting refugees both inside of Turkey and IDPs on the border.
I had an opportunity to go very close to the border and look over the wall, where the refugees came right up to the wall. There are 1.2 million
refugees on that border. And, literally, people were wall to wall.
And what I heard was a sense of desperation by the refugees and the IDPs, but also by the humanitarian community, fearing that this last lifeline
that they have available to them to provide food and assistance inside of Syria would be closed if the Security Council does not make the important
decision to extend the resolution allowing this border to remain open.
So, I have completed this mission with a commitment to go back to New York and convince my colleagues, including the Russians, of the importance of
this border crossing remaining open, but also, as Secretary Blinken noted when he spoke to the Security Council in March, we need to reopen the two
other border crossings that were closed last year.
One border crossing is not enough to effectively provide the level of assistance that is required inside of Syria.
GOLODRYGA: And just to give our viewers a bit of history and a sense of what's going on right now, Russia is threatening to veto a resolution to
keep the corridor, that last remaining corridor where you visited, open.
But, back in 2014, the Security Council had voted to establish four corridors there to help and provide assistance for refugees. China and
Russia disputed that and pushed back, and thus we are last with one remaining here.
Why is it that China, and now specifically Russia, want to close this last pathway to providing aid to millions of refugees?
THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Well, first, let me just say Russia has not indicated that they will veto the resolution.
We're still in the early stages of the negotiation for this resolution. And it is my hope that those negotiations will lead to keeping this border
crossing open, but also opening the other border crossings.
The Russians have an interest inside of Syria. They want to boost up the Assad regime. They want to give moral support and international support and
legitimacy to Assad. And so having the international community providing assistance across the border is not in Assad's interests.
What we know is that these people are desperate. And they require the assistance that is being provided to them. And we have to do everything
possible to maintain the lifeline that this border crossing provides.
GOLODRYGA: This is your 100th day that you have just marked in office. And you walked into a hotbed of issues, whether it be Myanmar, whether it be
what's happening in Yemen and the crisis there, obviously, Syria, Israel and the Palestinians.
There is the sense that there's sort of a standstill in this period of not being able to move forward on resolutions within the U.N. body. Is that
frustrating for you? What can be done to break that and to have some tangible movement on these really important issues?
THOMAS-GREENFIELD: You know, being on the international stage can always be frustrating if you can't accomplish all of your goals as fast as you
want to accomplish them.
We're watching people die. And so we want to respond immediately to all of those crises as we see them unfolding. And the Security Council has been
able to have some very intense discussions on the situation in Myanmar.
We have had intense discussions on the situation in Yemen. We have issued some public statements on the situation. And even on Tigray, where we have
not had a public meeting, I have been pushing in the Security Council in private meetings for us to continue to engage on this situation.
And we actually did get out a public statement on that situation. So, while the negotiating and the context of a Security Council, where various
members of the Council, and particularly the P5, have different national interests, I think we have actually been pretty successful so far.
I think, certainly, there's a lot more that we need to do. And I think we need to be a bit more speedy in our responses to situations. But we have
had some intense discussions. And those discussions have led to actions by the Security Council.
GOLODRYGA: And so much of this body is made up of relationships and trusting one another and putting differences aside in the moment, as you
approach things from a humanitarian perspective.
I know you bring your special gumbo diplomacy from your native state of Louisiana. I'm a big fan of gumbo, grew up in Texas next door, so we had it
all the time.
But can you explain to our international viewers what that consists of and how important, it's even probably more important, to have these
relationships, even with adversaries than with close allies, to have real breakthroughs?
THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Yes, I talked about gumbo diplomacy, and I haven't yet shared the gumbo. So I need to start using it more.
THOMAS-GREENFIELD: But the concept is that you bring people together, and you get to know people. And the easiest way to get to know people is over a
And if it's a dinner table that's a steaming pot of gumbo, where you have put a melange of flavors and the holy trinity of vegetables, and you have
put your heart and soul into making it, because it requires your heart and soul to make, that people enjoy the meal, they enjoy the company, and they
develop relationships that transcend their differences.
And that's what I hope to do in New York, is transcend differences, so that we can bring people together and maybe come up with some common solutions.
And I think I have actually had some progress in this area. But I think I need to deploy the gumbo a little more often.
GOLODRYGA: Listen, I'm ready to help facilitate those dinners, as long as I get a bowl myself. But I agree. I mean, this is sort of what it is all
about and getting to know your partners here and working on these global crises.
There's no global crisis more important right now, obviously, than the pandemic and distributing these vaccines. Obviously, you know that the
Biden administration has said that they will be releasing 75 percent of their excess vaccines internationally to countries in need.
You were ambassador to Liberia. And Africa is really a troubling spot right now. Less than 2 percent of the population there has received even their
first dose. Can you tell our viewers why it is so important that Africa and the citizens there be able to get that treatment and the vaccines and the
medical help that they need? Otherwise, the rest of the world still remains in peril.
THOMAS-GREENFIELD: I was delighted with the announcement the president made yesterday regarding sharing of the vaccines.
And Africa will benefit from that contribution. It is important for us to share these vaccines, because a pandemic can't be controlled in one
country. So, we can vaccinate every single American, but, if the pandemic continues to exist in other countries, then we're not safe.
And the president made that clear in his announcement. And that's why we made the decision to contribute these vaccines. So, the first tranche is 25
million. And that's significant. And I would like to say there are no strings attached to this. We're giving this to people who need it because
we know it will help to control the pandemic.
And we look forward to continuing to support other countries as they address an issue and a crisis that we're all suffering from.
GOLODRYGA: Yes, that crisis being felt around the world, and refugee camps, obviously, where you are there, in Syria, where you were visiting,
and also in Gaza and the Palestinian crisis there with Israelis, obviously a lot going on politically in Israel right now.
We are about two weeks into a cease-fire between the Israelis and the -- and Hamas. There doesn't seem to be much of a resolution, however, other
than that fragile cease-fire. I would imagine this is still a top priority for you, to really get something tangible on the table in terms of longer-
The cease-fire was the first step. We had to stop the violence and stop the killing. But the next step is to provide support and assistance to the
Palestinian people. Secretary Blinken was in the region to -- and he announced $36 million in new assistance to the Palestinians.
But he also had meetings with Israelis, the Palestinians. He was in Egypt and Jordan. And that's about trying to start the process of moving toward a
political solution. And this is something that we know is important. Otherwise, we -- the possibility of violence starting up again is always
Our goal, as the president has said over and over again, is a two-state solution, in which the Israelis can live securely and the Palestinians have
their own nation. And we think that's possible. And that is something that we will be working aggressively to achieve.
But it can't happen if violence is taking place. And the work that we aggressively engaged in over the past month to bring us to this cease-fire
was a first step.
GOLODRYGA: Let me end this conversation a more personal note.
You, I would imagine, get a lot of pushback, especially from adversaries, when you are promoting, as a representative of the United States, democracy
and equal rights among all citizens, when so many can look at what's happening in the United States right now, with police violence,
particularly against black Americans, an increase in racial violence and attacks here.
As somebody who grew up in the segregated Louisiana, one of eight kids, I know you went to Louisiana State University. David Duke was also a figure
there. What do you say in response to sort of a whataboutism that you may hear from some of your colleagues about what's transpiring in this country?
And what is being done right now to address some of these real issues?
THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Well, clearly, I -- what I have said -- and I gave a speech on that to the United Nations.
We are a country that continues to evolve. We're not perfect, but we are willing to acknowledge our foibles. We are willing to talk about it in
public. And we're willing to move forward in addressing those.
And I think my life story is very much an example of what is possible in the United States, growing up in the South and achieving what I have
achieved, in the context of a country where segregation existed. I think our country has so much to be proud of.
And we have so much more work to do to make it into a stronger, more inclusive democracy. And the foundation for that is in all of the
institutions that we have. So we're seeing some difficulties now, but I am confident, and I feel strong about what we will face in the future.
The United States is a positive example for other countries to follow. And those countries who have dealt with issues of racism, dealt with issues of
ethnic tensions, they can look at our country as an example, when your institutions work, of what can be achieved.
And our institutions, while they were tested, and they were tested aggressively, those institutions continue to make life better for the vast
majority of Americans. And, again, I know that so much more work needs to be done. I'm not Pollyannish. But I am absolutely confident and proud to be
GOLODRYGA: Few people embody that dream better -- more than you. I mean, it is an amazing accomplishment that you have achieved in your career.
And I know you attribute a lot to your mom as well. I'm just going to end by this quote you gave to a TED Talk. You said: "I had the hopes and dreams
of my mother, who taught me at a very early age that I could face any challenge or adversity put in my path by being compassionate and being
I guess that does embody the best of America as well.
Ambassador, thank you so much for joining us. And thank you so much for bringing us this important story.
THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Thank you very much.
GOLODRYGA: And now to another important story that goes to the heart of human rights and repression.
In Hong Kong, a massive police presence is blocking commemorative gatherings on the anniversary of the Tiananmen massacre. For 32 years,
crowds have gathered in Hong Kong to remember those killed protesting for Chinese democracy. Now, with the passage of China's national security law,
dissent is criminalized.
Most of the city's prominent opposition leaders who normally organize the vigil are either in jail or living in exile. Authorities say the crackdown
on the vigil is due to COVID restrictions.
Democracy activist Wu'er Kaixi played a prominent role in the Tiananmen uprising in 1989. He now lives in exile in Taiwan. And Finn Lau leads a new
generation of dissenters fighting for liberty in Hong Kong. He comes to us from exile in the U.K.
Wu'er, let me start with you on this anniversary; 32 years ago, you were there in Tiananmen Square fighting for democracy among thousands of others.
I'm curious to get your thoughts on where things stand 32 years later and China's attempt to erase that date from history.
WU'ER KAIXI, CHINESE DISSIDENT: Oh, it was a turning point, for sure, but not for good direction.
We hoped for it. We demanded for it. We took the street in Beijing and then set down in Tiananmen Square to demand the Chinese Communist Party to
fulfill their promises that they made to Chinese people, the political freedom.
We also -- we were also inspired by Poland and thinking solidarity movement can may be emerge in China. But then, 32 years later, we see China is now a
very direct threat to the civilization, to the freedom that we're living in the whole world.
So, that turn -- it's a turning point. And that turning point started from Communist Party's decision of suppressing the peaceful protesters sending
military troops, and with real ammunition, and including tanks rolling over people. So, 32 years later, I'm sitting here in Taiwan deep down with
anger, with -- I have been just deprived an opportunity to see my parents, to live in the country that I was born and raised.
But I'm hoping, in the 32nd anniversary of the Tiananmen, we can see some sign of another turning point.
GOLODRYGA: And, of course, so many are joining you in being hope--
KAIXI: Hopefully, a turning point.
GOLODRYGA: No, no. Go ahead. Do you want to finish?
KAIXI: Yes, I say another turning point. I'm hoping that this time it's turning again, change it to the positive direction.
The reason, this last 32 years, China has become what it is, I often point my fingers to the West or the democracies. Let me make it more clear, the
United States-led Western democracies. i often say, you betrayed democracy, you betrayed us, and then you enabled China by this trade, instead of human
rights policy, the China policy.
And that China policy, United States call it engagement policy. I call it appeasement policy, and there is nothing but. This appeasement policy, it
took you a businessman president to realize it's a lousy deal for the United States to -- it didn't deliver what it's supposed to, arguably
supposed to deliver for China of social evolvement.
And then it wasn't even a beneficial deal for the United States either. So, we saw, in the last administration in the USA, there has been some strong
change in the China policy. And we see from President Biden he is going to stand by those changes, maybe even expand it to allies, that giving me some
hope in the 32nd anniversary maybe this is a turning point again in this middle of the COVID situation, that the world has come around to its sense,
and then stand strong against China.
GOLODRYGA: And without getting too much into U.S. politics, you did mention that the turning point being the Trump administration.
And, Finn, I want to get your take on this as well, because, for sure, we did see a sharp shift from the Trump administration, becoming much more
hawkish towards China, and particularly economic ties, not so much, though, because of human rights issues.
And when it comes to Hong Kong, President Trump in particular did not do enough, from many people's perspective, to support those who were battling
and fighting for democracy in Hong Kong. And I want to get your take on what's transpired there between the sort of one country/two systems model
that seemed to just vanish within a matter of a few months.
FINN LAU, HONG KONG PRO-DEMOCRACY ACTIVIST IN EXILE: So, I agree that--
GOLODRYGA: Finn? Yes, yes.
LAU: So, yes, I agree that the Trump administration has been changing the U.S. policy, and shaping the -- or changing from the so-called engagement
policy to a more hawkish policy. And this is a good sign.
So, from the 1980s, or maybe the -- perhaps the last 30 years, we have been quite frustrated by the situation or the oppression by Beijing. So, I will
say that Hong Kongers see the hopes when we see the changes in the international politics since 2019.
And I think it took -- and it will take time for different democratic countries like the U.S., U.K. and the E.U. to wake up and change their
engagement policy to a more proactive one.
So, I think that a tough China policy is the only way out, because, if we look at the history of South Africa, so--
GOLODRYGA: No, I'm sorry. I'm sorry. We just have a delay. So I apologize. Finish your thought, please.
LAU: Yes. Yes.
So, if we look at the history of South Africa, we could see that a collective economic sanction regime is the only way out that could drain
the financial resources of the -- of the regime or dictatorship.
So, I think that the world should reference to that history and make the same right decision again.
GOLODRYGA: I know that you and your colleagues would organize some of these vigils, in particular in commemoration of the Tiananmen massacre in
Hong Kong, up until just a couple of years ago.
Obviously, last year, there was COVID. And that's being used as an excuse this year as well. However, we have to acknowledge that new draconian law
that bans any sort of this activity in both China, obviously, in Hong Kong as well.
We can't overlook the fact that you're -- both of you are in exile.
But, Finn, as you're there in London, we have seen arrests made in Hong Kong for those that have tried to participate, despite the threats and
dangers that they face. What are you hearing on the ground from your colleagues?
LAU: I would say there are different aspects of the June 4 vigil or commemorative events around the world.
So, in Hong Kong, I would say June 4 vigil has become more than a commemoration in Hong Kong, because it has become another fight against the
same oppressor, which is the CCP.
So, in Hong Kong today, we have seen a number of arrests, including some peaceful protesters and even high school students, just because they are
holding some candles, maybe they were just wearing some black shirts. We don't even have the freedom to wear black shirts in Hong Kong now.
So -- but, on the other hand, I think, this year, commemorative events all around the world will show Beijing that it cannot stop history, however
many surveillance camera is installed and tanks and missiles it has.
GOLODRYGA: And, Finn, those protests that we saw transpire the last couple of years in Hong Kong received worldwide attention.
But there was some pushback, not just, obviously, from China, but those that, while may be sympathetic with your cause, thought that some of the
tactics and strategies that you took were a bit too extreme, they went too far, too violent, hurt the economy, to a point where those who typically
might have been sympathetic became more silent and reserved.
Do you have any regrets or any thoughts now in reflection upon your commendable protests?
LAU: I would say what has happened to Hong Kong in 2019, 2020, and 2021 actually is what we may see in a parallel universe in the 2040s or in 2047.
The difference -- the only difference is that we have so many different generations of Hong Kongers trying to fight against the CCP. And there has
been a doctrine called lam chau, which is Cantonese language, in Hong Kong.
And it could be translated as, if we burn, your burn from us. And it emphasized the cause or the reason behind our strategy. For example, since,
I would say, from the 1960s, or maybe 1967, the CCP has been trying to so- called burn Hong Kong in different aspects. They deter the U.K. governments from introducing democratic reforms to Hong Kong.
They take away the -- they took away the self-determination rights of Hong Konger. And they even forced or warned or frightened the U.K. that they may
send troops to annex Hong Kong if the British government refused to hand over Hong Kong sovereignty to Beijing.
So -- and after the 1997 handover, we have seen that the academic freedom, freedom of the press, freedom of speech, legal system, et cetera, we have
lost, and they are all gone now.
LAU: So, because of this, I think we have to think about why the Hong Kongers is trying to take their last breath to fight against CCP.
GOLODRYGA: And, Wu'er, as you there watch what is going on in China and the oppression and the genocide that we now label the treatment of the
Uyghurs in China, I'm curious as to your take, A, how the U.S. has finally come around, as well as many other countries, to responding and identifying
this, but also how China has defended its actions.
First, I want to play to you some sound between Christiane Amanpour and the Chinese ambassador to the U.S. on this issue.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CUI TIANKAI, CHINESE AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED STATES: What we did was not to start a war there. We did not use missiles or drones. We set up efforts
for education and training, help people to learn more about the law, to acquire good skills to improve their lives, find good jobs.
And all this has made a huge difference. There's been no single terrorist attack in the last few years.
And, in terms of the population, the population -- the Uyghur population has more than doubled in the last four decades. So, how can people talk
about so-called genocide?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: Well, just before I get your thoughts on this and we should note, that this is very personal from you, not just somebody who is from
China or a human being, but you are also a Uyghur descent as well. But just to get stats, because we heard the ambassador say that population is
growing. Just looking at the sterilizations in Xinjiang, in 2014, there were 3,200, in 2018 over 60,000. Your reaction?
KAIXI: Well, doubling an ethnic group's population in four decades is very generic. It's happened around the globe. And then at the same time, in
Xinjiang area, the population of Uyghur people from 80, 90 percent descending to less than 50 percent, the mass immigration of Chinese people
into Xinjiang Uyghur autonomous region. And then depriving Uyghur people from their rights economically, politically, culturally has directly --
that is the genocide we are talking about in 21st century.
And then -- United states and then world should not lower the bar that low to say, if you didn't kill, if you didn't pick up a gun and kill people,
then we leave you alone. That's what the Chinese ambassador was saying, we didn't kill anybody. We -- but the world order today is no longer just to
prevent government from shooting people. And the matter of fact, in Chinese government also have done that shooting their own people 32 years ago to
us, to the Chinese students.
And then in the many cases that we are blanked from in Xinjian, in Tibet, that we will not have access to find out. We know that the Chinese
government have also conducted that kind of atrocity. So, it really is -- OK. China has its own narrative to say, we didn't do this, we didn't do
that, but the world should come up with its own narrative to say, but you did this and that's unacceptable.
And that kind of narrative has not yet emerged, which is disappointment. But I hope millions of Uyghur people in my -- yes, like you said, this is
one issue, very next to my heart. I am a Uyghur myself, and then I have friends and family that they have their friends and family put into
I hope that their sacrifices can ache our heart a little, not just me, but the whole world. We're in the 21st century. I mean, our civilization level
have elevated so much. We shouldn't be able to accept this is happening under the daylight. And then I want the world to see what's happening in
Hong Kong and realize this was one of our cities. This is one of our -- the city of the free world. Now, it has fallen to our enemy.
And then the brave Hong Kongers have been fighting on the street for two years. We have been supporting them. So, what was the answer from Chinese
government to our stand, the national security law to Hong Kong? I would say that is not just direct suppression to Hong Kong people, it is also a
clear slap on the face to the world. And then let's face -- let's sense that sensation, burning sensation on our face and decide how much we're
going to let Chinese communist go.
GOLODRYGA: And obviously a threat --
KAIXI: One point I have learned.
GOLODRYGA: I was just going to say, we are tight on time. But we should note, this is also a threat to Taiwan, another democracy where you are
there right now. I was really moved by a statement that you gave in an interview.
KAIXI: Yes, yes.
GOLODRYGA: You said you have to worry about democracy even when you're living in democracy as China is building up militarily. Listen, this is a
date we will continue to commemorate, it is important, it's important that the world know about it. And we will continue, obviously, to cover this,
not just on June 4th every year but throughout the year as well.
Finn Lau and Wu'er Kaixi, thank you so much for your time.
KAIXI: Thank you, Bianna.
Well, this weekend, Mexicans will go to the polls in the biggest election the country has ever held. It may also be the bloodiest. At least 88
politicians or candidates for office have been killed since last September, that's according to a Mexican consulting firm. On top of this, there are
significant fears for Mexican democracy if the current president holds onto to his super majority in Congress. Correspondent Matt Rivers explains in
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (Voice over): Mexican president, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, AMLO for short, a man who depending
who you ask is either a demagogue or a deity.
Plenty here love him. His consistently high approval ratings built on a folksy image, a champion of the poor bashing Mexico's elite and promising a
redistribution of wealth.
We said even before taking office that a transformation was needed to reverse Mexico's breakdown, he said. And the way he wants to solve the
myriad problems is by centralizing power in the presidency. Mexico's democratic institutions are so broken, his argument goes, that only he and
his party can be trusted to fix things. Disagree, and you're the enemy.
Among the independent institutions are groups that AMLO has attacked recently, the judiciary, independent election officials, the central bank,
a government transparency database, opposition candidates, the free press, feminists and green energy supporters.
If that all sound strikingly familiar to the play book of a recent U.S. president, well, it is. And yet, the Biden administration has stayed very
quiet about AMLO's assaults on Mexican's democracy. A few hours ahead of a virtual meeting last month with Vice President Kamala Harris, AMLO accused
the U.S. of "promoting coup plotters" because the U.S. provides some funding for a Mexican anti-corruption group that's been critical of AMLO.
At least, in public, Harris didn't take the bait.
KAMALA HARRIS, U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: This partnership, I believe, couldn't be more important today. Our nations face serious challenges.
RIVERS: Challenges like migration, as hundreds of thousands of migrants arriving at the U.S. border pose a big problem for the U.S. Some believe
staying quiet on democratic abuses helps ensures AMLO's cooperation in one key area.
JORGE CASTANEDA, FORMER MEXICO FOREIGN MINISTER: Keeping the central Americans out, basically doing the United States' dirty work for it. I
think that was Trump's quid pro quo. And for all appearances, it's Biden's quid pro quo.
RIVERS: At least for now. The Biden administration might be waiting to see what happens on June 6th when the Mexico midterm elections will help decide
if Morena, AMLO's pollical party wins super majorities in Congress. That could mean pushing through constitutional reforms that might even include
extending AMLO's time in office.
CASTANEDA: This kind of power grab, this kind of concentration of power in a country like Mexico can only lead to economic collapse, to further
violence, to further corruption.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: Our thanks to Matt Rivers for that reporting.
Now, to the U.S., where another 18 million adults need to get their COVID shot in order to reach President Biden's vaccination goal. The
administration wants 70 percent of all adults to have at least one dose by 4th of July.
Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel is a bioethicist and oncologist. He served on President Biden's COVID-19 advisory board and was a White House health policy adviser
during the Obama administration. Here he is talking to Hari Sreenivasan about vaccine hesitancy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HARI SREENIVASAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Bianna, Thanks, Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, thanks for joining us.
First, here we are in the middle of quasi return to normalcy and we seem to hit a little bit of stumbling block here in what sort of authority,
employers, community organizations, universities, should exercise when it comes to mandating vaccines?
EZEKIEL EMANUEL, MEMBER OF BIDEN'S TRANSITION COVID-19 ADVISORY BOARD: Well, let's be clear. On April 13th, we hit a high point in terms of giving
out vaccines to people with about 3.4 million doses delivered on that one day. And we are down to 1.1 million doses with only about 50 percent of the
total population vaccinated. So, we need to get it up.
Employers have authority to ask their employees to be vaccinated as a term of future employment. My institution, the University of Pennsylvania, just
put out a requirement. Students are going to be required to be vaccinated, but so are staff, faculty and post-doctoral fellows are going to be
required to be vaccinated. So, employers can do this, and I think they probably should for a safe environment.
SREENIVASAN: Should we be looking at this similar to how workplaces and schools and so forth have looked at the flu vaccine? I mean, this is a more
effective vaccine than what you get on an annual basis from -- you know, when you go for the flu shot.
EMANUEL: Absolutely. A lot of work places, especially health care work places, require their employees to get the annual flu vaccine because they
don't want to spread the virus to their patients and other workers. And they require it. This, as you point out, is way more effective, fewer side
effects, and the disease which you are protecting people from, COVID, is a lot worse than influenza.
And so, I think that the logic of requiring vaccination in the health care setting extends to this. But also, we should recognize lots of states
require children, students, under 18, to get vaccinated for a whole series of conditions. And there are states like Mississippi, like California that
say none of this philosophical objection, I just don't like it, I am worried about autism.
You have to get -- the children have to get vaccinated because it protects people. Those states typically have had very severe outbreaks of illnesses
like measles, and one of the major reasons they had outbreaks despite effective vaccines is because a lot of people acting out on this
"philosophical ground or personal grounds."
SREENIVASAN: So, do you think we should mandate that, come this fall, kids should have a COVID vaccine if they want to be in the classroom?
EMANUEL: I do think that is appropriate. I also -- I argue it is appropriate for health care workers who are going to come in contact with
patients, whether they're physicians, nurses, phlebotomist who draw blood, respiratory therapists, they should be vaccinated. I think that's an
important measure to reduce the spread of the virus, which has been, remind ourselves, very, very deadly and very -- have severe economic dislocations
for millions and tens of millions of Americans.
SREENIVASAN: One of the things that concerns parents, especially on school age children getting vaccinated, is just that there is not enough long-term
data for them to get comfortable with it. If they -- if you say, hey, look, the MMR vaccines that you gave your kids when they were tiny, they say,
well, yes. There's 30, 40 years' worth of data says that the stuff works. This is just the first time this vaccine has been rolled out. What's the
harm in waiting? What's the case that you make to those parents?
EMANUEL: COVID is the harm that's waiting out there for you. So, look, it is not like we haven't used the vaccine. 2 billion doses have been given of
various kinds of this vaccine. That's the first thing. We haven't seen lots of side effects. That's the second thing.
Third, to the extent that we see side effects like blood clots, it's been in a very small group of people and it's occurred rapidly after the
vaccine. When you give someone the mRNA vaccine, that mRNA that excites the immune system, that is gone within 48 hours of injection into the person's
body. That's not integrating into cells. It's not causing other types of problems. It is really chewed up by enzymes.
And we have begun to follow people out more than six months, and we're not seeing any increase in some unknown serious side effect. And then when you
compare that to COVID with, you know, serious risk of hospitalization and death, serious risk of long hauler syndrome, it seems that it is -- the
cost benefit ratio here is weighed in the event that the vaccine. And, again, we just haven't seen those kinds of hypothetical long-term
complications from the vaccine.
SREENIVASAN: We've also seen the amount or a number of people who are hesitant toward vaccines rise. And what do you do about those people for
whom it might be a religious conviction, it might be just a personal belief, but they feel like their freedoms are being encroached on if they
are asked to get a vaccine by an employer?
EMANUEL: For the people who say, it is my freedom, frankly, I thought we were a country where individual responsibility was important. If you don't
get vaccinated, you are not taking responsibility for your health and for the impact you might have on other people. It is not just your freedom.
After all, if you get infected and spread the infection, you are impacting other people, and you're not taking responsibility for your influence on
In addition, if you get sick, require hospitalization, you're impacting everyone, who is going to pay the bill? It's not like you're paying your
hospital bill. It is collective, whether you have insurance or you get a government program, we are all pitching in money to pay your bill. And
again, that's not taking minor preventative action that you can take to not impose burdens, whether burdens of infection or burdens of cost on other
Those people who champion their individual freedoms also typically have to champion their responsibility for exercising freedoms. And I don't think
they're doing that in equal measure.
SREENIVASAN: Is there a potential for kind of a free rider problem here, where the number of people that eagerly got their vaccine, who feel like it
is their part to help society overall, right, I gain a level of confidence once I get the shot in my arm to go and start engaging in life because I
feel like, well, the threat to me is much, much lower, and the idea that I'm going to infect somebody else even if I had COVID is much, much lower,
right? But there's going to be people who decided to sort of ride this entire thing out and say, well, Hari is getting a shot and everybody else
around me is getting the shot, I'm good?
EMANUEL: Yes. I think this goes back to the whole issue of individual responsibility and social norming. Free riders is basically people saying,
look, I'm not taking responsibility. I am letting other people take the burdens of decreasing the COVID infection rate in society and I'm going to
benefit but I'm going to take no risks when it comes to decreasing that burden. That is not a matter of individual responsibility, that's not
freedom, that is simply putting the cost of controlling this pandemic on someone else. That is very anti-American.
And it is one of the reasons I actually object to this sort of philosophical or personal reasons not getting the vaccine. That is a total
free rider problem. It's not assuming individual responsibility. Our social norm should be, everyone has to assume their responsibility for our
collective benefit. Part of that is getting fully vaccinated. Part of that is doing the right thing, especially when the burdens of getting vaccinated
and the risk of getting vaccinated are so low.
SREENIVASAN: You've called for a standard when it comes to a vaccine mandate. So, if I'm traveling across these 50 states, there are potentially
50 different sets of rules that I have to deal with on a state-by-state basis. So, how would it even work if I had to prove that I have been
EMANUEL: Well, right now you pull out your piece of paper from the vaccine site. That's really your vaccine certification at the moment. That's what I
have and that's what anyone who's been vaccinated. Most of us recognize that's not very adequate.
It does have essential information like the (INAUDIBLE) you got and the type of vaccine you got, but it's as many people have noted, easily forged.
And that is not a good place for the country to be. And databases that have real reliable information have not been joined together and people given a
way of certifying that they've been vaccinated that can't be forged, is easily accessible and can be shown to people.
SREENIVASAN: It seems almost an exercise in how you position this, and if you say, you know, vaccine passport from the government, it sets off alarm
bells to some people, whereas if you create enough FOMO, fear of missing out, OK, this is just one thing that I needed to do in order to be able to
do all this other stuff, right? So, if you want to go to an amusement park, you want to go stay in a hotel, if you want to get on an airplane, if all
of those different vendors say, hey, can you show me your vaccine card or your most recent PCR test, maybe we -- and I don't know, maybe we think
about it differently.
EMANUEL: Well, look, we've understood a lot about human behavior, and one of the things we do understand about human behavior is that we all socially
norm. That is, we look around at what other people are doing to determine what the right thing to do is. And I think we haven't used social norming
enough in this pandemic to get people to do the right thing.
We learned about this with masks. You know, if you're in a place where 90 percent of people are wearing mask, you're going to wear a mask because
that's the social norm. That's what everyone else is telling you and you want to be in step with other people. When we social norm on everyone is
vaccinated here, we're going to check and everyone is going to be vaccinated, you're going to be reassured, everyone else is going to be
reassured, people begin to understand that's the right thing to do.
So, what other people do communicates to us what the right thing to do is. And I think we need to use that technique to increase the number of
SREENIVASAN: If we stayed under whatever that threshold is for herd immunity, if it's 70 percent of if it's 65 percent or if it's 80 percent,
if we don't get there as a country, spell out what can happen to us?
EMANUEL: Well, the big worry is that we're going to have pockets where we're not at high levels of vaccination. We have seen nursing homes, you
can drop the hospitalization rate, you can drop the death rate substantially by getting vaccinations way up. We have seen in the country
as a whole, we are at 50 percent of people having one dose. And we have seen the hospitalization rates come way down, the case rates come way down
and death rates come way down.
But they're still higher than annual flu cases and deaths, and the reason is 50 percent of the population isn't vaccinated. And if we don't get
there, we're still going to have substantially more people dying from COVID, maybe 100, 150,000 per year.
That seems to me unacceptable. And, you know, it may not rise to the level of a national emergency, but it is an avoidable death rate. And we -- with
one vaccine. And we should really push the country, get people to recognize their responsibility for reducing the mortality here from COVID.
SREENIVASAN: This pandemic has opened the eyes to a lot of people on just gross inequities that exist around the planet, not just where the vaccines
are created, how much they cost, how they get delivered. The White House just announced that they're going to donate another 25 million doses of
vaccine to COVAX. What should the White House be doing? What should America be doing right now?
EMANUEL: Well, look, we've distributed 370 million or so vaccines. We've administered nearly 300 million vaccines. We have 70 million surplus
vaccines in refrigerators right now. And the companies, Moderna, J&J and Pfizer that are authorized for use in the United States are producing more
than 4 million, 5 million doses collectively every day.
We have more than enough vaccine to send to other countries. And we've got all that 60 million AstraZeneca waiting that still hasn't been approved by
the FDA, checking that it's efficacious and doesn't have infectious contaminants in it.
I think we have to step up our shipments. I agree with shipping some vaccine to COVAX. I disagree with the way COVAX is distributing the vaccine
but we do need to support COVAX. And I think it's very important to ship vaccine to countries that are having serious surges and are just beginning
on the upward swing.
Latin America is still having serious problems. You have problems in places like Mongolia and other parts of the world. And we need to do our part. I
mean, if America is back, as President Biden says, part of being back is to lead the world in COVID vaccines.
SREENIVASAN: So, what's the problem with global distribution today and how would you alter it?
EMANUEL: So, COVAX, this international organization that was created by three groups has got countries contributing, buying vaccines from them,
they're meant to have fair and equitable vaccine distribution, and they, without much ethics input, I might say, said that we should distribute the
first 20 percent of the vaccines on the basis of population rather than on the basis of what you might call COVID burden or COVID need. I think that's
I agree with COVAX, it shouldn't be money, it shouldn't be the wealth of the country that determines how much vaccine they get, but I disagree, I
don't think it should be population either. I think it should be the burden of COVID. Take countries that really aren't having a big explosion of
COVID, Ethiopia, Ghana, lots of countries that are poor aren't having a big explosion of COVID. I'm not sure we should prioritize sending vaccines to
Other countries are having big explosions of -- are real hot spots for COVID, and they should take priority. I mentioned Peru is one example, but
almost all of Latin America is having serious, serious outbreaks. The United States is probably the most efficient producer of these vaccines. As
I said, we're well north of 4 million and we're going to be well north of 5 million by end of the month, and we need to begin exporting because we're
only vaccinating 1 million Americans. That's a 4 million per day surplus.
We are -- supply is outstripping demand. And I think it is our responsibility to distribute that, to have the biggest impact on the
SREENIVASAN: Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, thanks so much for joining us.
EMANUEL: It has been my pleasure. Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: Another reminder there that no one is safe until we're all safe.
And finally, ever dreamt of having breakfast in London and then lunch in New York? Well, that pastrami pitstop may soon become a reality. United
Airlines announced plans to restart supersonic travel by 2029, marking the first sonic boom on a commercial flight since the Concorde.
The planes will be able to travel at nearly twice the speed of sound, meaning that you can hot step from London to New York in just three and a
half hours. Welcome news for many jet setters as we wait for COVID travel restrictions to ease.
Well, that is it for now. You can always catch us online, on our podcasts and across social media. Thanks so much for watching and good-bye from New