Secretary of State Pompeo refers to Orbán as a “bad actor” and a danger to democracy

Secretary Michael R. Pompeo’s Remarks to the Press (from the official transcript)

04/07/2020 02:34 PM ED

Washington, D.C.

QUESTION:  How concerned are you about leaders using coronavirus to weaken democracies in their countries?  There is this specific example of Hungary, which the State Department has commented on.  Are you seeing that elsewhere, and what tools does the U.S. Government have at its disposal or would consider using to prevent that democratic backsliding?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  So, Rich, I – we talked about that particular situation.  We hope that doesn’t happen anywhere, and we’ll do the thing that – the normal toolkit that we have in diplomacy to respond where we see that taking place.  There will be bad actors try to use this outbreak of virus for nefarious ends.  We’ve seen that.  We’ve seen it in tactical ways, as well as you describe, when it’s political.

But there is a thought that’s there that I think is important.  I hear people saying that, boy, autocracies sure respond to crises well.  I have to tell you they got the wrong end of the stick.  It’s democracies that respond to crises well.  They protect liberty; they protect freedom.  What do autocracies do in the face of crisis?  They become more aggressive, they deny people their rights, they lie more – right – they do all – all the things that are the negative aspects of autocratic nations are exacerbated in times of crisis.  And while they may in some instance solve a particular problem in a particular way that facially resolves the crisis that’s in front of them, in the end they do enormous harm to the people of their own nation and put the rest of the world at risk as well.

What democracies do is what you see the United States doing.  I talked about it today.  They get their people home, they become very generous, they share their resources, they help the entire world fight the global pandemic.  You’ve seen the President and his task force talk about all the remarkable work we’re doing on therapeutics, all the remarkable work that the United States is doing towards delivering a vaccine.  And we’re working with our democratic partners around the world to help deliver that.

No, democracy is the answer in times of crisis, not moving in an autocratic direction.  It’s just the reverse of what I think you described having seen there.  I hope every leader around the world will see that when times are tough, what you really want is you want peoples of a nation to understand that their fundamental rights are going to be respected, that their liberty will be preserved, that those democratic values will be adhered to.  And when you do that, you get a free press, you get a free, active academia. You get all the things that ultimately resolve these crises in a way that’s good for the nation that the leaders represent and good for the world as well.

Statement on Governmental Responses to COVID-19

April 1, 2020

US Embassy, Budapest

Leaders around the world are grappling with unprecedented challenges as they tackle the COVID-19 global pandemic.  As governments around the world respond, we urge them to avoid restrictions on essential human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the ability of the free press to provide information to the public about the crisis and the government’s response.  Restricting these rights and freedoms would harm the public’s trust in us as leaders, at a time when trust is most needed. Transparency and reliable data are essential to health and human safety during a pandemic. A government has no higher duty than the security and safety of its citizens. Any emergency measures taken should be targeted to address the COVID-19 crisis. Governments should ensure such powers are restricted to the period of time needed to address the current crisis and lifted as soon as they are no longer needed.

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