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The Legal Case For Planet Earth; Interview With Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs U.S. Division General-Director Carlos Fernandez de Cossio; Interview with James Thornton; Interview with Chase Boudin. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired July 28, 2021 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello, everyone, and welcome to AMANPOUR.
Here's what's coming up.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): A special report from Cuba confronting the most serious freedom protests since the Castro revolution.
From Havana, the Foreign Ministry's head of U.S. affairs joins me.
Then: apocalypse now, as extreme weather continues its rampage, an activist group making the legal case for our planet. James Thornton, CEO of
ClientEarth, joins me.
CHESA BOUDIN, SAN FRANCISCO DISTRICT ATTORNEY: Our old approach to locking as many people for as long as possible does not make us safe.
AMANPOUR: San Francisco's district attorney, Chesa Boudin, tells Michel Martin why crime there is rising and what he is doing about it.
AMANPOUR: Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
Where are our loved ones? That is the question for many families in Cuba. Two weeks ago, the country saw the largest anti-government protests in a
generation, and more than 500 of them are still missing, according to activists.
The July 11 demonstrations were unprecedented in a country where opposition to the communist government is swiftly shut down. Even though the
government has now taken back control, many people are still angry about the collapse of the economy, food and medicine shortages, lack of Internet
access and the record rise in COVID cases.
In a moment, my interview with the most senior Cuban official in charge of U.S. relations.
But, first, here's correspondent Patrick Oppmann in Havana.
PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When the largest protests since Fidel Castro's revolution swept Cuba, the Cuban government quickly
struck back, carrying out mass arrests. Some protesters were forcibly detained as they chanted "Patria y Vida," or "Homeland and Life," the song
that has become the anthem of frustration with the communist state.
One of those arrested was photographer Anyelo Troya, who filmed a part of the music video for "Patria y Vida" in Havana. Less than two weeks after
the protests, Troya was tried, convicted and sentenced to a year in prison. His mother says he told the court he did nothing wrong.
He said: "'How was this just when I haven't even seen a lawyer and I'm innocent?' he says. Immediately, one of the police in civilian clothes came
And handcuffed him. I said, 'My love, be calm. You're not alone.'"
The Cuban government refuses to say how many people have been arrested or face trial for taking part in the unprecedented protests. An activist group
put the number at almost 700. The government maintains those arrested are detained for attacking police, like in this video where protesters pelt
cars with rocks, and not just for challenging the rule of the Communist Party, the only political party allowed on the island.
"Having different opinions, including political ones, doesn't constitute a crime," he says. "Thinking differently, questioning what's going on, to
demonstrate is not a crime. It's a right."
But on the streets of Cuba, elite special forces commandos known as the Black Berets, who were recently placed on the sanctions list by the Biden
administration for alleged acts of repression, prevent further protests from breaking out.
(on camera): Many of the relatives of the people who arrested would not talk to us on camera. They were too afraid. But some did tell us that their
loved ones had done nothing other than peacefully demonstrate or simply record and upload videos of the historic protests as they took place.
(voice-over): Odet Hernandez (ph) was arrested days after the protests, her relatives say, for posting this video of the demonstrations to Facebook
that have now been viewed over 100,000 times.
Among the charges she and her husband face is instigation of delinquency. Odet's cousin spoke to several people who were around Odet's during the
protests and told us their accounts from his home in Paris.
"They weren't violent. They didn't throw rocks at anyone," he says. "Then special troops came to get them at their home, a commando unit with many
Many of Cuba's top artists have criticized the government crackdown and called for amnesty for nonviolent protesters. Amidst the mass trials, some
signs of leniency, as, a day after we visited his home, photographer Anyelo Troya was released on house arrest while awaiting appeal.
The government here, though, says it has only just begun to prosecute those who broke the law, as all of Cuba seemingly holds its breath and waits to
see what comes next.
AMANPOUR: Patrick Oppmann with the facts on the ground.
Well, the United States has imposed sanctions against some Cuban officials, alleging human rights abuses during the crackdown. Meantime, Cuba blames
the United States and its economic embargo for the protests and what's been going on.
Carlos Fernandez de Cossio is director-general of the U.S. affairs division at Cuba's Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
And I started by asking him about the so-called disappeared.
AMANPOUR: Carlos Fernandez de Cossio, welcome to the program. Thanks for joining us this evening.
CARLOS FERNANDEZ DE COSSIO, U.S. DIVISION GENERAL-DIRECTOR, CUBAN MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS: It's a pleasure. Thank you to be here.
AMANPOUR: So, let me ask you.
Two weeks after this eruption of protests across your country, there are still -- let's start with the many, many people who relatives say they
haven't heard from since they were detained in those early days. What can you say about the processing of protesters? And why are people not getting
any answers to their persistent questions?
FERNANDEZ DE COSSIO: Well, there's a lot of misinformation.
But I will tell you which is the situation today. As is natural, there have been detentions in Cuba, and there have been arrests and people have been
prosecuted. You have the example of January 6 in the United States, where hundreds of people were detained. Hundreds of people have been arrested,
and some are being prosecuted.
The same thing is happening in Cuba. Now, there are many allegations as part of a very strong, very intense campaign of misinformation about people
that have been disappeared, of people that have not been heard of. It is not true.
Everybody who has been detained, their family know about it, their people who are close to them know about it. They have been -- everything has been
done according to the law. And you cannot listen to allegations that are aimed and planned to discredit Cuba with a deliberative purpose.
AMANPOUR: You talk about due process. You're absolutely right. And we're watching the reckoning of January 6, and there are hundreds of people who
have been charged and many arrested.
But they do have due process, in terms they have lawyers. There are all sorts of rule of law efforts in place there, not the case in Cuba, at least
no lawyers, in some case, according to those who've actually been released to house arrest now, including a couple of journalists.
What is the situation for people who have simply protested what by your own admission is a failing economy, desperate needs, the lack of food, the
rising cases of COVID, the idea that they are not being cared for, they don't have the right vaccines?
Now, today, your country has announced a record number of daily COVID cases? Why are these people who simply shouted libertad or life and freedom
on the streets being put in jail?
FERNANDEZ DE COSSIO: I'm surprised about what you're saying.
Everybody in Cuba that has been detained or arrested has been done with due process. Everybody has had access to a lawyer. Everything has been done
according to judicial practice, which is in Cuba common to what happens in most countries around the world.
So I'm surprised that you're saying that this is not the case. Evidently, you are being misinformed, as a good part of the world is being
misinformed. As I said, there's a very intense campaign led by the U.S. government to misinform and to try to create a virtual reality that, though
widely spread, it is not the real world. It is not reality.
People in Cuba that have had shouted libertad or shouted whatever have not been detained for shouting that. The people that have been detained in Cuba
have been detained because they either broke the law, they vandalized, they practiced aggression against people, against the police. Those are -- they
broke shops. They destroyed private and public property.
Those are the people that have been detained in Cuba. And you would agree with me that that is natural. It happens in any country. In any law-abiding
country, people who do that are detained. The rest is fiction, deliberately said so, without putting forward one evidence, one evidence, one piece of
evidence, one shred of evidence of what is being alleged against Cuba.
AMANPOUR: Well, we have seen the videos. We're all experienced reporters. We have reporters on the ground who you accredit, and we have seen what's
We see what's happening on social media. We do understand that there will be a percentage, as always, of those who seek to violence, but those who
were simply protesting and being present in an unprecedented way in the 60 years since your revolution were rounded up. Now, we also understand that
many of those have been released.
But I guess I want to ask you, because I have heard and watched many of your interviews and the reaction, do you seriously believe that your people
believe that the United States has instigated these protests?
Is that not just some old revolutionary cover that your government has been using for the last 60 years? Clearly, there's a fight, a political fight,
an embargo, an economic fight between the United States and Cuba. But we have seen people react to desperate poverty, needs and shortages.
You think they believe that the U.S. instigated these protests?
FERNANDEZ DE COSSIO: Christiane, there's an evident operation of regime change led by the U.S. government today against Cuba, which is based on
lies, and it has to be based on lies.
You can remember the secretary of state, Colin Powell, in the Security Council speaking about weapons of mass destruction. You can make an analogy
of what's happening today with the powerful capacity of the monopolized influence of the United States on mass media and on networks.
In the videos that you have seen, you have not seen any police force which is greater than the one that you frequently see practiced in the United
States or in most cities in Latin America or in cities in Europe. You have not seen one. You can put them on television, and none of them is greater
than the violence that you see by police in the United States, in cities in Europe, or in cities in Latin America, or other parts of the world.
You have not seen one video of evidence of anyone being detained because of what they're shouting. People that have been detained, it is because they
have broken the law or they have instigated people to go out and break the law. Those people have been detained. They have been called in for
question, or they have been arrested, and there's evidence of having broken the law.
That's what's happened in Cuba. And there's no shred of evidence shown anywhere that shows the contrary. You have--
AMANPOUR: Sir, I need to interrupt you. Sorry. We have only got a period of time. You have made your point. Sir, I need to interrupt you. Sorry. You
have made that point. And I get it.
What I'm trying to say is that we have seen, and so have our reporters, the Black Berets coming and descending on those original protesters. We have
seen government supporters on the other side use wooden stakes to beat up those who are demonstrating against you.
But, beyond that, I want to get to what you're saying. The embargo, I believe most of the world thinks that it is a cruel and useless form of
collective punishment, that it doesn't topple the regime and the privileged people, such as yourself, but it does topple the very right to life of the
So I want to ask you to comment not on U.S. criticism or other outside criticism, but now criticism from within your own ranks, people who
describe themselves as communist diehards, as revolutionaries, as supporters of the Castro government and beyond now.
This is a sociologist who works as a researcher in a state-run institution right there where you are.
Luis Emilio Aybar has said: "What happened on the 11th of July is also because we communists and revolutionaries do not fight with sufficient
force and efficiency the harmful practices of the state. We uncritically follow our leaders, instead of rectifying their path."
What do you say to now increasing leftist, socialist, communist voices in your own island talking about your failures?
FERNANDEZ DE COSSIO: That is an opinion that I respect, though I disagree with, as I take exception with your personal attack that I'm a privileged
person. You have no evidence to say so. And there's no evidence that anyone said -- to say that I'm a privileged person. I resent that.
But taking that into account, people in Cuba have needs, as they have them in the whole world, as they have them in the United States, the
unprivileged people that live in the United States. You cannot tell me that in the U.S., in Europe, in Latin America, there are not people with strong
hardships that protest and that express their grievances.
The same happened in Cuba. And for expressing their grievances, nobody has been detained in Cuba. That's the point I'm making.
AMANPOUR: OK, let's -- I'm sorry you resent that. I obviously didn't mean personally. But I do mean that you occupy a position of privilege as a
member of the government. I think that's incontrovertible.
But let me ask you this, because, actually, your own president has said that we have not conducted the reforms that we said we would, we have not
met even the promises that we made.
So, again, this gentleman who you respect and who's a sociologist and researcher, he said: "During 2020, half the country's investments were
allocated to hotel construction at a time when there was a drastic decrease in international tourism and an acute shortage of investment in
So, my question to you, as a government -- and I know do you deal with relations with the United States primarily -- but are you not concerned
that unless these issues are addressed, there will simply be more protests? No matter how much you bash people over the head, most people are saying
that they have broken the fear barrier.
This has never happened since the Cuban Revolution of 1959 in this widespread, bold way. What do you say, if I could ask, in closed-door
strategy sessions about how you're going to prevent this uprising or this outburst in the future?
FERNANDEZ DE COSSIO: Contrary to the U.S., it is not practice in Cuba to bash people over the head. I can assure you of that.
But in addition to that, we need to invest in the future. This generation of Cubans cannot take the wealth of a country, satisfy it today, and forget
about our children, forget about the future of this country. This country depends on industry, depends on development. And we cannot only look at
today, and forget about the future -- about the future generations.
Of course, we have to invest in the future. Now, we could argue forever between economists if it's wise or not to continue to invest in hotels, and
not dedicate it to agriculture. But in Cuba, it's not one or the other. We are investing in hotels, and we are investing in agriculture, we are
investing in food production, we are investing in education, and we are investing in health.
Whoever says that we're doing one or the other does not know and does not understand what is happening in Cuba, even though I can respect that point
of view. I will not argue if that is an opinion.
AMANPOUR: I just want to say that I have been in Cuba several times as a reporter. And I have stood with people who are trying to fulfill their
monthly ration card. And I have seen with my own eyes, as our reporters do now, that they can barely get past week two with the state handouts. So
it's a real problem.
I do want to ask you about health, because Cuba does stand out as a country that invests so much in its health system. It's well-known around the
world, plus biomedicine. I know you have a contract or an agreement right now with a prominent U.S. health center about your COVID vaccine
production, et cetera.
So I want to ask you how that's going, in light of the fact that you are undergoing a massive third wave, that I said there was a huge record
outbreak of cases right now, today, has been declared. What about the vaccination process? And are you confident in your homegrown vaccines?
FERNANDEZ DE COSSIO: Yes, as you said, we have five. We're the only country in Latin America that has its own vaccine. We have five candidates,
two of which have been approved for emergency use already and are certified.
The level of 11 million Cuban, close to two million have already been fully vaccinated. As you might understand, and this happens in other countries,
you need a critical mass of vaccination concentrated for there to be an impact in the population. Still, it's growing.
And the Delta and the Beta strain are having in Cuba, as in other countries, a great impact. We are hoping that to curb sometime soon. It's
difficult to know when, as it's difficult to know in any country, but we have a great trust in our vaccine. It has been recognized as a powerful
solution or at least alleviation.
And, as in the rest of the world, the vaccine alone is not the solution. The vaccine does not prevent you from acquiring the virus. It helps you if
you acquire it, and it diminishes the spread capacity, but it does not stop it.
And until we have a greater mass, which is going quite fast, I would say, in our country, we won't have a curb in the amount of people infected, as
we have had up to today.
AMANPOUR: So, finally, then, because it took Raul Castro to come out and stand next to the current president to try to burnish some revolutionary
fervor, I again ask you then.
You no longer have a charismatic, powerful revolutionary leader at the helm. Fidel is gone, and there's a whole new demographic. Do you -- are you
concerned that the current crop of leaders can maintain that revolutionary fervor and keep a lid on all the things that you're trying to keep a lid on
in your country?
FERNANDEZ DE COSSIO: I'm sure that we can. I'm sure that we can.
Our major -- you spoke about crisis in other countries, including the U.S. None of them has had to face that crisis with a superpower bent on
producing regime change in our country, which is what's happening in Cuba today, with the weaponization of Internet, the weaponization of mass media.
No, the United States has not been forced to do that. In Cuba, in spite of that, in spite of that, we are sure that we can cope with this.
AMANPOUR: And, lastly, because you are the U.S. liaison, obviously, and in charge, do you foresee any change for the better with the Biden
administration, rather than the Trump administration?
FERNANDEZ DE COSSIO: It is difficult to say.
The Biden administration seems very similar to the Trump administration. It seems like the Trump administration mortgaged policy towards Latin America
and Cuba to the Florida politics. And it seems that the Biden administration is mortgaging it too.
And as happens with a bank, it will become the owner of the policy. And, today, it seems that electoral politics in Florida is governing Washington,
instead of the other way around.
AMANPOUR: On that note, Carlos Fernandez de Cossio, thank you so much for joining us from Havana.
FERNANDEZ DE COSSIO: It's a pleasure.
AMANPOUR: And now, after getting that rare perspective from Havana, we turn to a disaster without precedent.
That is what the president of Italy's Sardinia region is calling the wildfires ravaging the Mediterranean island this week. Nearly 1,000 people
have been forced to flee their homes. Sardinia is not the only European region suffering, though. Catalonia has managed to stabilize its fires that
burned nearly 2,000 hectares of land.
As Scott McLean reports, the fear among the residents there is palpable.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): We have felt very helpless not being able to do anything. We were here watching the flames. We're getting
closer and closer, and we cannot do anything.
SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Just over the Pyrenees in Southern France, it took 800 firefighters to bring a blaze under control.
They say they're still worried about the parched earth that could be jet fuel for a new fire.
And in Greece too, dozens of firefighters are battling an inferno just north of Athens, warning residents to close their windows and doors. It
comes, of course, just weeks after devastating flooding in Germany and Belgium killed more than 200 people, with over 100 still missing.
Droughts are becoming more frequent and more severe in Southern Europe. European environmental authorities say that this region is at greatest risk
on the continent as the impacts from climate change increase.
FRANS TIMMERMANS, VICE PRESIDENT, EUROPEAN COMMISSION: The fact that erratic weather patterns are going to be the new normal means that we need
to adapt to that, and we need to prevent things getting worse. And if we don't do something urgently -- and urgently, I mean now -- then the climate
crisis is going to get completely out control.
And our citizens do understand that we need to act now.
AMANPOUR: That dire warning from the E.U.'s climate chief.
So, action on the climate must come not just from individuals, but also companies and governments around the world. Lawyers and the courts are also
playing their part.
My next guest is the founding CEO of ClientEarth, a team of environmental lawyers dedicated to representing and defending the oceans, forests, air,
and the survival of our natural world. Right now, they have 166 active cases.
James Thornton is the CEO, as I said.
Welcome to the program. Thank you for being with us, James Thornton.
You heard -- you saw that report. You heard from Frans Timmermans, the E.U. climate chief. Do you think -- and we have watched floods in Germany,
terrible floods here in London over the last week or so -- the conditions are, I don't know -- I don't even want to use the word favorable.
But is there any hope that something might change, something might give on a policy level by time of COP 26, the next big world conference that's
going to be scheduled for Glasgow in November?
JAMES THORNTON, CEO, CLIENTEARTH: Well, I hope so, Christiane.
And you have very correctly pointed out that it is in everyone's face right now. So, if policy-makers have any brains about this at all, they will be
doing a lot in Glasgow.
But what's disappointing, however, is that the G20 did get together last weekend, and they were unable to agree to go off coal. So, the addiction to
fossil fuel is still there, from the point of view of the policy-makers in these governments. And that needs to change. We just need to stop using
fossil fuels, and we need to do it quickly.
AMANPOUR: OK, so that's really interesting you point out the G20, because just on the brink of it happening, I interviewed the U.S. climate czar, and
that is John Kerry, former secretary of state.
And he raises the dire warnings, but he's also trying to be hopeful. He did, though, say that the bottom line of many of these companies, these
fossil fuel companies, is still something that's ruling the roost, so to speak.
What are you doing, as ClientEarth, to particularly addressing that issue in your legal activism and in taking big players to court?
THORNTON: Well, because governments aren't acting fast enough -- see, if we do act, we can still very much reduce the worst impacts of climate
change. And that's very necessary.
We really are talking about, as David Attenborough puts it, saving civilization here. And since governments aren't yet acting fast enough,
citizens, ClientEarth, for example, using the courts can require the action that isn't happening fast enough.
So, we and many others around the globe are bringing climate change cases. As you mentioned, we have nearly 200 of them active at the moment. Since
the turn of the century, there have been something like 2,000 climate change cases filed around the world, and I would estimate probably, oh, 20
percent of those are were brought by ClientEarth.
Now, what's interesting is, in the ones that have gone through, that courts have heard, no court has ever said that climate change isn't a real
problem. And so there are no -- so far no climate-denying courts. That's very encouraging, because the law is an incredibly powerful lever.
I mean, just recently, we won a case against the worst polluting utility, that's an electric-generating plant in the world, in Poland, and we will
get them closed down. Very recently, in the last few months, other NGOs have won a very important case against Germany, a very -- so a country, and
another one very important case against Shell, one of the biggest polluting companies.
THORNTON: So cases are being won which are actually causing -- which will cause great change.
AMANPOUR: So, that's what I wanted to sort of drill down on.
AMANPOUR: Because that's a kind of for many people, I think, a whole new way of pushing forward the climate ball.
So what does it actually mean to the big picture if this German situation, as you point out -- let me just read the details, because it's quite
So, as you said, this historic ruling by the German court in April that the country's goals were not tough enough. And it appears that the legal case
were -- or at least the ruling was that people's fundamental rights to a human future were threatened.
And I think, from what I can gather, you're using that argument of right to life of future generations to make these cases. Tell me about that and that
process, because it's a really fascinating way of turning the right to life argument on its head for this crisis.
And you said many courts are not climate denying, but in -- but are German courts liberal courts? Were they bound to do this kind of thing?
THORNTON: Those are wonderful questions.
And German courts aren't liberal courts. I mean, they're not particularly progressive. When I started doing this work in Europe, German lawyers
explained to me that all judges were conservative. And that was actually news to me, because I knew judges in the United States that weren't
So these aren't particularly liberal or progressive courts. But they see the science. And the German court said that, even though the Paris
agreement isn't legally binding in this particular case, it sets the international standard. It's a globally agreed upon standard, and future
generations are being deprived of their rights now because the German law isn't good enough.
Now, what's interesting there is that, if you just looked at the German law, I mean, it wasn't that bad. I mean, it's better than anything the
United States has, by far. But what they said was, it was not restricting emissions early enough, so that it was putting too much of a burden on
Now, immediately, too weeks in politics, two weeks of meeting, the German political parties in the governing coalition fell all over themselves after
the ruling and tightened the law considerably. I think they were worried about the Green Party making headway.
But the result of that judicial decision was that the German government, the Parliament, passed a much tougher law, and it's now a remarkably good
So, Germany will--
AMANPOUR: So, you also just spoke -- I mean, it is pretty incredible.
And I guess I want to know, what does that mean in terms of precedent- setting and the ripple effect in other countries and in other instances? You talked about the Shell victory in the Netherlands. And I think,
essentially, that landmark case, the Dutch court ruled that Shell must cut its carbon dioxide emissions by 45 percent to 2019 levels by 2030.
And, I guess, do you foresee this being a significant game changer if it can be up scaled, if I could use the word, around the world? That the
courts might play a really big part where the governments are not yet up to the task or succeeding in the goals they set?
THORNTON: Well, yes, I do. So, you are right. Shell is a remarkable case because the court just didn't just say they need to do better. The numbers
you gave are the numbers. But what the 45 percent reduction by 2030 in Shell's emissions means when you drill down further even is remarkable.
Because what that means is 45 percent reduction in emissions from the consumer who is burn petrol of Shell in their cars.
Now, imagine that. So, what that means is that by 2030 Shell will have had to fundamentally change its business. That's what it means. So, it has to
reduce the amount of petrol it sells by 45 percent, for example, and do other things.
Now, what's exciting about that is that what we need in order to create an ecological civilization is to fundamentally change the way we do things. We
need to get off fossil fuels. And by the German court saying, you need to hit net zero, power of the new law, by 2045 in Germany. That is the German
economy hitting net zero by 2045. This is Shell reducing the tailpipe emissions even by 2030 by this large amount.
So, you begin to get these requirements of fundamental restructuring of how we do things. And you could see this as being confrontational. I don't. I
mean, I'm a litigator. I see this type of litigation as a way of making friends and saving people's lives. And what it does, these kinds of
rulings, this type of litigation, also gives power to the good people in all of these governments all over the world who want to do the right thing.
Because they are there and they are often being obstructed by incumbents of one type or another. And these types of legal rulings give them the space
AMANPOUR: OK. So, you just raised, obviously, the political issue and that you basically said you want to give power to the good people, while people
will start arguing about who is good and who is not and particularly in the Unites States. There's obviously going to be some pushback, perhaps a lot,
as to whether courts should overturn or interfere with the so-called democratic will of the people.
Do you see that ever coming into conflict? Is that a legitimate argument that the courts would, I don't know, take into consideration if it becomes
THORNTON: Well, I mean, that's always argument. What you have and what these courts are doing now is actually interpreting the law. They are not
making it up. So, in the Shell case, they were looking at the duty of care in Dutch law. And in the German case, they were looking at the fundamental
of law of Germany.
In a case that in which we -- that we brought as shareholders in Poland, we used standard corporate law and we said you, this company investing in a
coal-fired power station, are violating your duty of care to us as shareholders by making what's in fact a bad investment in coal.
So, all of these cases are -- and the court agreed. And the share price of the company went up after we beat them. Now, what all of these courts are
doing is actually still rather conservative and that they are not making it up. They are not fantasizing.
They're not taking control of governments but they are as interpreting the law according to the facts of the world on the day they make the decision.
And the facts of the world have changed as your report showed a few minutes ago.
AMANPOUR: You know, I want to go all the way back to, you know, what you - - what actions you took as a lawyer during the Reagan administration where the first case on your desk in that era was suing the administration for
failing to enforce the Clean Water Act. I guess I want to know how that case impacted you and that then become a lifelong dedication to this
environmental legal law.
THORNTON: Well, I mean, I was a very young man at the time. And what that work did was to show me that if you used the law as a tool on behalf of --
in this case, it was cleaning up the water, on behalf of the people of the country to clean up the water for them, it -- first of all, you could make
it happen. And then second, you asked in personal terms, I mean, it is the most rewarding possible thing. Because you see that the law has captured
what society needs at that moment.
Law reflects what a society thinks about itself. And when you could go to the law and find the remedies that you need for the problems that are
facing society in the moment you are working, by then you are making the will of the people active. You are satisfying the needs of the people and
taking care of them and taking care of the planet. And it is -- it has to go through the courts. So, it is not something you are forcing. It is an
argument you are offering on behalf of the wider community.
And that is what this public interest litigation is about. You know, it is not me looking for money on the contract, you know, it is defending the
rights of everybody.
AMANPOUR: And it is really fascinating. I read that ClientEarth is now trying to teach and train alongside, I guess, it is the Chinese Supreme
People's Court to train environmental lawyers there. In China. That's pretty amazing.
THORNTON: Well, it is amazing. You know, I may be the only person in the West you are going to be talking to who says they have good news from
China. But this is genuinely good news from China. You know, I've started working there about seven years ago. I was invited in to work with the
Supreme Court. And they have -- so, the Chinese really get it. I mean, they get, as they put it, in my first meeting with the Supreme Court, they said
our air is polluted, our water is polluted, our soil is polluted, and this is inadvertent.
We screwed everything up. We -- but this is inadvertent. We are trying to do and did do is bring up the largest number of people from poverty in
history. We were trying to raise 400 million people from poverty. We succeeded in alleviating poverty but we screwed up the environment. Now, we
need to clean up the environment. So, could you help us? First, could help us write a law, which I did, to allow Chinese environmental groups to sue
polluting company, including those owned by the government.
So, I did that and went back to the talk to the member of the Supreme Court and they said, what do you want to do next for the environment in China?
And I said, well, you have just created a group of 3,000 environment court judges. That is amazing. That's unlike anything else in the world. Nowhere
in Europe. Not the Unites States.
THORNTON: And I said, they need training. So --
AMANPOUR: Well, James Thornton, that really is -- I wish we had more time. But just to say, that is a really important, you know, progress because
China being the biggest polluter and also, you know, building more coal- fired power plants. This is really important and really fascinating.
Thank you for your unique perspective. Thanks a lot.
THORNTON: Thank you very much, Christiane.
AMANPOUR: Now, we're staying in the courtroom with our next guest. San Francisco district attorney, Chesa Boudin. Elected in 2019. His aggressive
platform centers on ending mass incarceration and addressing the root causes of crime. Well, just two years into his tenure, he is now facing a
recall effort to remove him from office. Here he is speaking to Michel Martin about rise in violent crime and how the jailing of his parents
informs his views on criminal justice.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHEL MARTIN, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Thanks, Christiane.
District Attorney Chesa Boudin, thank you so much for talking with us today.
CHESA BOUDIN, SAN FRANCISCO DISTRICT ATTORNEY: It's great to be with you, Michel.
MARTIN: So, obviously every community is different. Every local has his its, you know, particularities. But I want to start with a national
Something that, you know, cities, towns, suburban areas, small towns, big cities, something people across the country are dealing with, and that is
an increase in homicides and gun violence, and this comes at a time when lot of other major crimes have declined. But last year, throughout 2020 and
the first part of 2021, homicides are spiking like all over the country, including in San Francisco. And why do you think that is?
BOUDIN: Michel, there is nothing more important to me and my entire office than keeping San Francisco safe. And that is particularly true when it
comes to something as serious as homicides. Those are the most serious crimes that we prosecute. And just last week, we secured a conviction in a
murder case in front of San Francisco jury. So, we're doing the work every day to hold people who commit serious crimes accountable.
And tragically, as you point out, all across the country because of the proliferation of guns, because of the COVID-19 pandemic and a lot of other
factors. We've seen an increase in gun violence and homicides. As much as we're doing here in San Francisco to fight that, we're lucky that our
homicides have not increased the way they have in other parts of the country, in other big cities. But we have to remember, every single
homicide is one too many.
MARTIN: That's not actually true. I mean, homicides have spiked in 2020. That is in the Bay Area -- so, I think you're talking San Francisco proper.
But in the Bay Area, this is a trend just like it is like all over the country. You identified a couple of factors. So, why don't we take them one
by one. What do you think the COVID-19 pandemic has to do with that?
BOUDIN: Well, I think for one thing, we see a tremendous amount of anxiety and disruption of normal life, including disruption of the kinds of
violence interruption programs that we know are -- have proven really effective to prevent violence instead of simply react to it. So, we've got
groups like Street Violence Intervention Program here in San Francisco. And during the COVID-19 pandemic, a lot of those programs were shut down or
were scaled back or converted to electronic.
That means people were out in the streets. They couldn't go to work. They couldn't go to school. And young people in those circumstances sometimes
get into trouble.
MARTIN: What is your take on -- like how does this -- it is not just how does it start, but why does it escalate?
BOUDIN: The reality is there's never been more guns on the street and it's never easier for people to get access to guns. So, when you have young men,
primarily, who have beefs or disputes with each other, 30 years ago, they might have settled them with fists or with knives or with baseball bats.
Still criminal, still highly problematic. But now, everybody who gets angry can easily go find a gun.
The NRA and the folks who have dumped massive numbers, unprecedented numbers of guns, including untraceable ghost guns onto our streets are
responsible for this proliferation of gun violence.
MARTIN: How do you know that?
BOUDIN: Because 8 out of 10 guns that the San Francisco Police Department seizes today are unregistered, unserialized ghost guns. That wasn't true
even four years ago or five years ago. This is a direct result of intentional policy by the NRA and Trump administration.
MARTIN: How do you know that? I mean, what (INAUDIBLE) have a policy around ghost guns? I don't understand that. Explain that.
BOUDIN: The NRA has worked tirelessly for decades to undermine any effort by local or state government to regulate the distribution of guns. And the
result is, more guns on our street than there have ever been at any point in American history.
When young people who are angry, who are behaving irrationally or who are having arguments or disputes with friends or neighbors have easy access to
guns, people get killed. That's why in San Francisco, we're being creative and innovative in our ways to fight back.
We're looking at ways we can push back on the ghost gun manufacturers. We rolled out a gun violence restraining order program to help people who know
someone shouldn't have a gun get gun violation restraining orders against that individual. We're doing everything we can to get guns off the street
and prevent new ones from circulating.
MARTIN: You do acknowledge it is upsetting to people. It's not just -- obviously, it is deadly. It's devastating. It's sort of traumatic. But even
from sort of a policy standpoint you feel that you are doing everything, other people feel that not enough is being done. So, what do you say to
people who say you are just not doing enough?
BOUDIN: I 100 percent agree with you, Michel. We need to do more. Law enforcement needs to step up. We need to get more guns off the street. We
need to prevent new ones from hitting the streets. And every single use of a gun on the street, every single gun injury or gun death is a tragedy. And
it is one that we have a responsibility to prevent, to protect and to heal. That is why we're also being proactive when it comes to supporting crime
victims, victims who have been harmed by gun violence or other violent crime.
It is not enough for us to simply prosecute and hold accountable those who cause the harm. We do that to be sure. Like I said, last week, we secured a
conviction in a murder that involved a gun during the course of robbery. But we also need to make sure we're providing victim services as soon as
harm is done. Because you are right, it is traumatic. It is traumatic to the entire community. And when people are hurt and traumatized, they go on
to commit crimes and hurt other people themselves. We've got to break the cycle.
MARTIN: And when you say law enforcement should step up, what do you mean?
BOUDIN: I mean, we need to be proactive and creative in how we get guns off the street. It is not enough to simply stop and search every black and
brown van the way New York City did for so many years. We need to also go to the root of the problem. We need to make sure that illegal gun
manufacturing, illegal gun distribution is nipped in the bud. We need to go after the manufacturers and we need to get serious about regulation that
makes it harder for gun manufacturers to dump guns on to our streets when they get into the hands of people who aren't supposed to have them.
MARTIN: What do you say to people who argue that your progressive policies, you know, trying to deemphasize incarceration for example, trying
to hold law enforcement, you know, accountable, in part what's creating sort of the circumstances that are leading to these outcomes?
I mean, as you know, a lot of people around the country and also in your city are -- believe that these progressive policies on which you ran, have
kind of created a sense of anything goes. Anything goes. They feel like it is created a sense that we won't be held accountable. So, therefore, people
are trying to get away with a sense of chaos. And what do you say that?
BOUDIN: Well, it's simply not true. You can look at the evidence, you can look at the data and it speaks for himself. My first year in office, 2020,
overall crime in San Francisco down by about 20 percent. You look nationwide and you see that the cities that are controlled by Republican
mayors that have traditional tough on crime prosecutors actually saw gun violence go up as much or more than it did in other cities that are
controlled by former prosecutors.
And in San Francisco, for example, gun did go up substantially and tragically, but we're also far lower in our homicide rate and in the
increase in homicide rate than big cities around the Bay Area, including Oakland, Sacramento, where we're got a very tough on crime prosecutor, her
homicide rate skyrocketed in last year.
This is not about local policies made by reformers. This is about easy access to guns, about a year of people being pent up in their homes and
having no way to engage with the community that's productive, no way to go to school, massive increase in unemployment and wealth inequality, and we
see the outcome all over the country, not just cities where is we're implementing reform policies.
MARTIN: And you're -- you know, you are aware that for some this takes on sort of an ethnic queue as well, right? I mean, the fact is that, you know,
San Francisco is one of the cities in which there were a number of attacks on people of Asian descent last year. A lot of people felt that that was in
part of response to the context created by the prior administration, you know, referring to the coronavirus in racist terms, et cetera.
But nevertheless, these are some really, again, deeply disturbing when you see sort of elders being knocked down on the street and things of that
sort, and a lot of these incidents got a lot of play both in the mainstream media and also sort of on social media. And for some people, it just feels
like, I'm just going to be blunt about it, it just feels like, for some people, are reading that as these people don't matter and other people
matter more, particularly when you couple that with your emphases (ph) on trying to lessen the impact of incarceration. How do you respond to that?
BOUDIN: I want to be crystal clear, Michel. San Francisco is proud of our diverse communities. We are proud to be the city and country and 48 Unites
States that has the biggest Asian American population. We have the oldest Chinatown in the Unites States and we stand with and standby our Chinese
American and Asian American Pacific Islander communities.
The reality is, we have seen across the country a very disturbing increase in hate incidents and hate speech. And I'm proud of the work my office has
done. We've got a dedicated hate crimes prosecutor who handles every single hate crime investigation the police brings us from beginning to end.
We also have done a wide array of trainings to help police in San Francisco better investigate and gather evidence that allows us to prosecute hate
crimes. And I convened a meeting with all of Bay Area district attorneys to ensure our offices are coordinating efforts to push back and stand up for
our vulnerable communities, whether they be Asian, whether they be immigrant, whether they be limited to English speaking, whether they be
people of color.
MARTIN: You are elected on a platform of deemphasizing incarceration and traditional law enforcement approaches, that so-called (INAUDIBLE) and
exploring and implementing other strategies. I mean, is it possible that the ideas that you ran on and that you believe in are just not appropriate
to this moment?
BOUDIN: This moment more than any moment in American history is a moment that cries out for innovative, creative approaches to reduce crime and
build safe communities. We saw last year the rise of a national Black Lives Matter movement. A bigger grassroots social movement than this country has
ever experienced. It was a movement calling out for more effective approaches to law enforcement, for building trust between communities that
are impacted by crime and the law enforcement officials that have sworn to serve and protect those communities.
I am proud of the work we're doing in San Francisco. We're leading the way in police accountability. In equal enforcement of the law and independent
innocence commission to make sure nobody is serving time for a crime they didn't commit. And hates crimes -- a dedicated hate crime, the assistance
district attorney, and so many other ways that we're on the cutting edge of effective data-driven, root-cause focus criminal justice enforcement.
MARTIN: People argue that part of the social justice -- the consequence -- I mean, not the consequence, sort of the corollary to those social justice
movements is a damaging of morale among law enforcement. There are those who argue, and I know you have heard this argument, that law enforcement
just isn't stepping up to the degree that you think they should be in part because morale is poor because they feel that they are under attack. Do you
think there is any merit to that argument?
BOUDIN: I think it's been a very difficult 18 months for law enforcement. For all of us, right? Our social lives, our professional lives changed.
There's been an increased scrutiny of police and prosecutors all across the country. We're being held to an extremely high standard, and it's one that
I know most of the hard-working members of the San Francisco Police Department are eager to meet.
We are ready to rise to the challenge. We are ready to meet the high expectations and the high standards that the voters and taxpayers set for
MARTIN: Let me just ask -- well, again unique to California, unique to -- not -- it's pretty unique among sort of -- among government systems is
that, you know, California has the opportunity -- gives citizens the opportunity to recall elected officials. You are at present the subject of
a recall movement. What do you think that's about?
BOUDIN: We see a virus that the Trump administration left us with. It is not just a coronavirus. But we see across the country a virus of people who
don't like the outcome of election, refusing to accept the will of the people. We see about 30 percent of this country refusing to accept that
Biden won and Trump lost.
Here in California, we see Republican operatives using a recall to try and undo the election of Governor Gavin Newsom and all the way down to the
local level across the State of California, we've got about 70 different recall efforts under way all by disaffected, dissatisfied folks who simply
can't accept the outcome of the last election.
I refuse to be distracted. The work we're doing is too important. We will not be deterred. We will move forward with building policies that make and
strong communities in San Francisco.
MARTIN: I know you are aware of this. Some of the people who are funding the recall effort against you are Silicon Valley heavyweights/ And I wonder
what you think that means?
BOUDIN: Well, we know that the Silicon Valley venture capital community, the tech community in San Francisco is as diverse as any other area of
business or government. And what we see is some folks who are ultra conservative, who refuse to accept the outcome of elections, who believe
that every poor person of color should be in a cage, funding this recall. They're writing checks for $50,000, $75,000 each. That's not what I believe
and that is not what I know the majority of workers in the tech industry and leaders in the tech industry believe.
In fact, many of our biggest supporters are also in the tech community. Our folks -- our volunteers, folks who are helping to provide jobs for people
coming home from jail or prison are also leaders in the tech community. And we know that we work with our partners in tech to create innovative
solutions to issues of public safety, whether it have to do with video surveillance or risk assessment algorithms, we are working together with
tech leadership to find ways to build safer communities.
But there are those, sadly, who want to exploit every tragedy, who want to undermine criminal justice reform and police accountability and who want to
go back to an era of Jim Crow in this country. I refuse to be distracted by those folks.
MARTIN: That's some pretty strong words. I mean, you feel that mostly people are motivated by racism?
BOUDIN: I think some of the major donors behind the recall movement are. I'm sure there's other who are motivated by other things. We're living in a
difficult period. People are scared. There is a lot of anxiety. There's a lot of misinformation and disinformation especially on social media. And
so, people are being misled. They're being misled by folks who are exploiting strategies, who are spreading misinformation and who are
attempting to undo the will of the voters in San Francisco.
MARTIN: Can I talk a little bit for people who aren't familiar with your background just about your background? You know, of course, a lot of people
know you but a lot of people don't. You come to law enforcement from kind of a different place than a lot of people do. I mean, both of your parents
were, I don't know if you like this term, kind of political radicals in the 60s. They were both incarcerated throughout your childhood.
Do you -- could you just talk a little about how or whether that experience informs your approach to policing and to law enforcement?
BOUDIN: You know, like the majority of Americans, I grew up with an immediate family member incarcerated. The majority of Americans have an
immediate family member who is either currently or formally incarcerated. So, I have that in common with the vast majority of people in this country.
And it is a sad state of affairs when we as a country, the land of the free, lead the world in locking people up.
My earliest memories are going through metal detectors and steel gates just to see my parents. Just to give them a hug. I've now been visiting my
father in prison for nearly 40 years. So, that experience of seeing up close and personal, of being directly impact by this country's approach to
criminal justice has absolutely shaped my life and my perspective that I bring to the work as prosecutor.
I know because I've lived it and I've seen it professionally and personally that our old approach to locking as many people up for as long as possible
does not make us safe. It is not humane. It is not cost effective and it does not honor or dignify the suffering of crime victims.
MARTIN: How do you persuade people that your approach is correct who have not had the experience that you have? I mean, a lot of people are used to
this binary thinking. You know, there's the good people and then there's the bad citizens. And how do you persuade people who aren't that interested
in the humanity of incarcerated persons that your approach is correct? How do you persuade them of that?
BOUDIN: First and foremost, we do it through results. We do the hard work every day of building safe communities of implementing policies that
promote public safety. And second, we point out that the world is complicated and it's nuanced, and we need to recognize that most of the
people we are prosecuting in San Francisco and across this country have themselves been victims of serious or violent crimes.
In San Francisco, 75 percent of people arrest arrested are drug addicted, mentally ill or both. If we can get at the root causes of those crimes
rather than pretending that a cage is going to cure someone of mental illness, we will all be safer and we'll have more money to invest in the
things that reflect our values.
MARTIN: District Attorney Chesa Boudin, thank you so much for talking with us today. I do hope we'll talk again.
BOUDIN: Thank you so much, Michel. I look forward to next time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: An important way to look at continuing efforts of social justice.
Now, with that appeal for that new approach, that is it for our program tonight. You can always catch us online, on our podcast and across social
media. Thanks for watching and good-bye from London.