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National Archives

Public Papers - 1989 - November

Remarks to the Organization of American States


Thank you, Mr. Secretary and distinguished Members of the U.S. Congress. I really wanted to come over here to salute your work and to suggest that, after these few brief remarks for those Ambassadors and Foreign Ministers here, I'd love to be able to just shake hands individually. And maybe we could impose on you to suggest we file through out there and have a quick picture and a handshake, if you're agreeable. But I want to add my voice of welcome to that of the Secretary and of Larry Eagleburger and everybody else here. Welcome to Washington, to those who have come in for the meetings.

I am pleased, also, to see many faces that were in San Jose last month -- a meeting that I thoroughly enjoyed, and I know Jim Baker did, too. I wanted to emphasize here the importance that we place on multilateral diplomacy, particularly in this hemisphere. I have tried very hard, and I will continue to try, to reach out to the various Presidents of the democracies here in this hemisphere and to establish the proper respectful lines of communication. And I can tell you that -- I don't know how your Presidents feel, but I have learned a great deal from the consultations that I've had, and I am going to continue that practice. And we will not neglect the neighbors to our south.

I will say this, that the OAS seems to be a very special organization. I think Canada's addition, as I said down there, is a very healthy thing for the Organization. We have so much in common, and we have special relationships. And if we properly exercise the OAS, those relationships will not be taken for granted.

I hope that at this session the OAS will demonstrate to the hemisphere and, indeed, to the entire world that it does indeed have a capacity to deal effectively with the problems its members face in our common objective: the promotion of democracy. And I believe that Latin America and the Caribbean are reaching out to the U.S., as I hope we are to you, in a new partnership: a partnership based on, as I said earlier, mutual respect and, I would add now, mutual responsibility. We've stopped pointing fingers of blame at each other, and instead, we're trying to cooperate and to defend and advance democracy and development. We've got to join together to combat these narco traffickers, and I think we're moving in the right direction there. And obviously, we're all committed to building a lasting peace.

And I must say that I want to tell you how upset I am that, in a time when we're all trying to build peace in Central America through diplomatic means, the FMLN in Salvador, aided and abetted by Nicaragua and the Cuban Government, regretfully has reverted to senseless bloodshed and gross violation of all the agreements reached to promote peace in Central America.

And for those who were in that meeting in Costa Rica, you will know that there was an embarrassing moment when President Cristiani [of El Salvador] turned to Comandante Ortega and said, ``Stop sending these military weapons across in contravention of our agreements.'' It was a dramatic moment, and the President was absolutely right in his insistence that that stop. And so, we support President Cristiani. After all, he did go through what many of us have gone through, many of us in this room: certifiably free elections. He's made a determined and politically courageous effort to talk to the FMLN; and I just think that, if we're democrats here, we ought to be supporting the concept of stopping the weapons going in there -- senseless violence today in a country that I'm convinced wants peace.

I'm committed to working, as the Secretary is, with all the nations in the hemisphere in building this new relationship, this new partnership, if you will. That is why, in the first place, I went to San Jose. And that's why I wanted to take this time to come over and just give you that assurance, or in some cases, reassurance. I want to tell you, as I told the Presidents there in San Jose, that I am delighted with the new moves towards democracy in Eastern Europe. We're all caught up in this; I'm sure the people in every country here are caught up in this fantastic change that's taking place. But despite the excitement about those developments, we are not going -- and I'm speaking for the United States -- we are not going to neglect this hemisphere. And I want to continue to make that point to the leaders of these various countries: We are building the world's first democratic hemisphere. We're close to achievement there -- the help of so many here on the cutting edge that have done your parts in this.

And so, I just want you to know, as we work with the problems of Eastern Europe and as I go to meet with Mr. Gorbachev in Malta not so many weeks from now, there will be nothing in all of that that will adversely impact on the democracies in this hemisphere. Indeed, I hope maybe we can have some action from him that will help the democracies in this hemisphere. So, this will be very much on my mind. And I simply do not want any of the Presidents in the countries you represent to think that because we're paying a lot of attention to the change that's taking place there, trying to figure out how we can facilitate the change, that that means a lack of interest in the Western Hemisphere.

Thank you all very much for being here. Good luck in your meetings. And for those who do have a minute, I'd love to have you step outside through this magnificent room and say hello. Thanks a lot.

Note: The President spoke at 2:45 p.m. in the Thomas Jefferson Room at the State Department. He was introduced by Secretary of State James A. Baker III. In his remarks, the President referred to Deputy Secretary of State Lawrence S. Eagleburger.

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