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Public Papers - 1990 - December

Remarks at a Luncheon Hosted by the Venezuelan-American Chambers of Commerce in Caracas, Venezuela


President Perez, you do us honor, sir, by being here today. And may I take this opportunity before my remarks to thank you for the exceptional and wonderful and extraordinary hospitality that you have given to me and to Dorothy and to all of the rest of the people traveling with me. I'll never forget it, and thank you, sir.

To John Werner, the President of VenAmCham, thank you, sir, for your hospitality and giving us this forum. And of course, thank you for that very special scholarship fund that has been set up in our names. It will mean a great deal to Barbara Bush, I can assure you. Her commitment to education, I think, is well-known. But in any event, this is such a generous and wonderful thing you've done.

To Secretary Brady and our Ambassadors and Dr. Morales Bello and Dr. Figueredo, the members of the Court, the chamber leadership, and all out here, thank you.

You know, in the last week, I've looked out my window of Air Force One and seen the jungles of Brazil, the snowy peaks of the Andes, the tropical beauty of the Orinoco Basin; but I have to say, among the great sights of all the Americas is your lovely city. As you know -- if you'll excuse me, a personal note; John and I were talking about this -- our son Jeb came here and opened an office here several years ago for a Texas bank. And he was a member of this distinguished Chamber of Commerce. He and our daughter-in-law Columba loved living here. I have been here several times, starting, I think it was, 30 years ago. So, it's a delight to return to this great capital, so well-known to the Bush family, so well-known and so highly respected all across my country.

This marks my last stop on the South American Continent on this trip, and so, I thought it only appropriate to speak today not just of the relations of our two countries but of our shared concern for the future of our hemisphere. After all, Venezuela has always been a South American leader -- and so, I might add, has this President of yours.

President Carlos Andres Perez is justly proud of his past successes. But again, CAP wants to do more than strengthen the democratic traditions of one country. He's a tireless promoter of universal liberty, and that's why he is respected and admired throughout the world.

Our working relationship as heads of state is strong; our friendship a bridge between our nations. But something even more profound is at work here. The United States and Latin America are developing a new understanding of each other. We are, at long last, working together in a spirit of mutual respect, for the greater good of the Americas.

This is only natural. Like your country, the United States won its liberty from European princes and powers. From the vision of Bolivar to that of George Washington, our nations were born for the sake of freedom.

As we near the 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus' epic voyage, we are making a discovery of our own, of a new relationship between North and South. As I've said during this journey, we should not speak of a First World or a Third World but of our New World.

No nation has been a stronger voice for freedom than Venezuela. It was, after all, here in Caracas that many of today's democratic leaders from across the continent found safe harbor. When Caracas looks south, you behold a continent in which all leaders have, for the first time, been chosen by their people and have faith in their people.

This trip has reinforced what I have long believed: Latin America today is a profile in courage because the people of this continent -- shopkeepers and students, political leaders and trade unionists -- have struggled, sacrificed, and died to restore the rule of law and to defend democracy. Cities once under martial law, peoples once living in fear are now reborn in hope.

Look at the recent flareup in Argentina. A handful of army officers tried to settle a dispute with superior officers by force. And President Menem moved quickly, and the people never wavered in support of their elected government. The vast majority of the Armed Forces defended their Constitution and obeyed their civilian Commander in Chief.

Latin America today is also a profile in courage because the leaders and people of this hemisphere have thrown off the shackles of an outmoded set of ideas about how to promote economic growth. They've embarked instead on a bold new course.

Two decades ago, Latin America followed an economic model based on the flawed idea that the people of this continent could not compete in a modern marketplace and that the state had to shelter local industries and protect them behind high tariff walls and protectionist barriers, and that an increasingly intrusive state, rather than a liberated people, was the formula for economic growth.

Those policies were promoted as the path to development, particularly for the poor. You and I know, regrettably, that the opposite was true. For the closed economic systems that were created smothered growth and thwarted upward mobility for ordinary people. They instead created a rigged system based on privilege in which only a handful could prosper through their connections with the state.

Today, throughout this hemisphere, a new generation of bold democratic leaders has confronted that sterile status quo, and they have breathed new life into Latin America. I've met with five of these leaders: Carlos Menem, Fernando Collor, Luis Alberto Lacalle, and Patricio Aylwin and, of course, here in your country, Carlos Andres Perez. You're the bold pioneers of a new path to development in this continent: stripping away state controls, selling off inefficient state-owned enterprises, realigning overvalued exchange rates, and bringing down tariff walls. These leaders understand that the road to growth, jobs, and rising income is through new investment, expanded trade, and unleashing the energy of entrepreneurs.

I want to work in partnership with this new breed of leadership. And that is why I have proposed our Enterprise for the Americas Initiative: to open doors to the free movement of goods and ideas between our countries; to work for a sound financial footing, reduce debt burdens, and increase trade, investment, and opportunity for all Americans. And so, the Enterprise for the Americas seeks to promote open investment policies through new lending in the Inter-American Development Bank, as well as the creation of a multilateral fund to support investment reform.

Venezuela has already embarked on the difficult path of economic reform. Your President recognizes these steps have created hardship for many Venezuelans. President Perez correctly believes that in the long run all Venezuelans will benefit and prosper from reform.

Trade ties between our nations also continue to broaden and to strengthen. And that doesn't mean only oil but an impressive array of new products that are helping to create jobs. And more, much more, lies ahead. Under the Enterprise for the Americas Initiative, we are negotiating a framework agreement on trade and investment to resolve specific problems and to identify new areas of cooperation. This is a first step toward free and open trade throughout the Americas.

Trade and investment are only two pillars of our Enterprise for the Americas Initiative. We recognize that the burden of external debt weighs heavily on efforts to breathe new life into Latin America and Caribbean economies. And for that reason -- as the third pillar in this comprehensive approach -- the United States will help countries committed to free-market reform shake loose this burden of debt.

You can be proud that, under President Carlos Andres Perez's leadership, Venezuela -- in the lead -- has reached a debt-reduction agreement with the commercial banks under the Brady plan. This agreement is a vote of confidence by the international financial community in Venezuela's economic policies.

Our Enterprise for the Americas Initiative is more than a slogan; it is more than just another program. It is a challenge to commit ourselves to free markets and to the free flow of capital, central to achieving economic growth and lasting prosperity. And that's why I've come to Latin America this week, to extend my hand in an offer of a new partnership, based on mutual respect and mutual responsibility. Ours is more than an economic partnership; it is a moral partnership.

Your President and I stand together on serious challenges facing all civilized nations -- challenges that ask us to choose, literally, between right and wrong, between good and evil. Our country is the world's largest buyer of cocaine, and so we're fighting hard at home to reduce demand. We're doing it through increased education and treatment efforts that are already showing positive results. Your neighbors are the world's largest suppliers. Little surprise, then, that as much as 80 tons of cocaine a year move through Venezuela. Carlos Andres Perez and I agree, there can be no compromise with this obscene traffic in human addiction and human lives. We are committed to nothing less than decisive victory over the drug lords. Just a few weeks ago, we signed a bilateral money laundering agreement to help sever the flow of cash from the back streets to the banks. President Perez and I are standing firm, and we will win this war on drugs.

On another important moral question, Venezuela has already shown magnificent leadership by working with the world community to counter the aggression of Saddam Hussein. You acted resolutely and responsibly in denouncing Iraq's conquest of Kuwait in the United Nations; and as a reliable supplier of oil, you have demonstrated determination at a time when the dictator of Iraq threatens the world's economy through economic blackmail. And I applaud your leadership.

Among the many shared challenges I've addressed today, there is one vision: In the Americas, we are many nations with a single destiny. We see a new dawn, where ordinary men and women decide who shall govern and where economic freedoms are not threats to privilege but keys to prosperity.

And that's what our Enterprise for the Americas is all about, and that is what the new partnership we seek is all about. It's a partnership with Latin America to strengthen democratic institutions and defend the rule of law; a partnership to move forward together to safeguard our environmental heritage, to protect the children of the Americas from the scourge of drugs, to prevent the spread of deadly chemical or nuclear weapons of war; a partnership to bring down debt, promote investment, and expand free trade so that all the citizens of the Americas can enjoy rising incomes and expanding opportunities. If we seize this opportunity, the partnership between the United States and Latin America can become a model for all nations into the 21st century.

Some may dismiss this vision as a dream. I am confident that it is already becoming a reality. You see, I believe the day will soon come when every man and woman in the Americas is a citizen of the world's first completely democratic hemisphere, a hemisphere in which human rights are respected -- the strong are just; the weak, secure; and the rule of law prevails. And I believe the day will soon come when Latin America and the United States unite together in the world's first hemisphere in which trade is free, technology shared, and the benefits of prosperity are open to all. This week in South America -- ending with this inspiring visit to Venezuela -- leaves me more dedicated than ever to work with you to make that dream come true.

Thank you for this warm welcome, and may God bless you all in your important work. Thank you very much.

Note: President Bush spoke at 1:43 p.m. in the Grand Salon at the Caracas Hilton Hotel. In his remarks, he referred to his daughter, Dorothy LeBlond; Michael Skol, U.S. Ambassador to Venezuela; Simon Alberto Consalvi, Venezuelan Ambassador to the United States; David Morales Bello, President of the Venezuelan Congress; Foreign Minister Reinaldo Figueredo Planchart of Venezuela; President Carlos Saul Menem of Argentina; President Fernando Collor de Mello of Brazil; President Luis Alberto Lacalle of Uruguay; and President Patricio Aylwin Azocar of Chile. A tape was not available for verification of the content of these remarks.

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