93/06/03 Statement before Organization of American States (OAS) Foreign Ministers' Meeting on Guatemala (Washington, DC)  Return to: Index of 1993 Secretary of State's Speeches/Testimonies || Electronic Research Collections Index || ERC Homepage

Note: This Electronic Research Collection is an archive site. For the most current information, please visit the State Department homepage.
U.S. Department of State
93/06/03 Statement before OAS Meeting on Guatemala, Washington
Office of the Spokesman

Statement by
Secretary of State Warren Christopher
before the 
Organization of American States (OAS)
Foreign Ministers' Meeting on Guatemala

Washington, DC
June 3, 1993.

Mr.  Chairman, Mr. Secretary, fellow Foreign Ministers, and friends:  
First, Mr. President, I want to congratulate you on your election as 
President of this meeting.  I also want to give great credit to our 
Secretary General and the other distinguished members of the mission who 
traveled to Guatemala.  They expressed our unswerving commitment, the 
commitment of this organization to the restoration of democracy, and I 
know that we are all grateful to them for doing so.

The events of this past week teach an important lesson for our 
hemisphere.  When democracy is at risk, we must rush to its defense 
immediately and strongly.  When we do, and when the people of the nation 
affected rush to its defense as well, the defenders of democracy 
prevail.  The prompt, unequivocal, and effective condemnation by the 
nations of the Western Hemisphere is a strong warning signal for the 
future to those in the region who might seek to derail democracy.

President Serrano's actions of May 25 did not stand.  They met a firm 
response from the people of Guatemala and from the entire inter-American 
community.  The United States and other nations suspended bilateral 
assistance and placed trade relations under review; the OAS quickly 
called for the meeting of Foreign Ministers that we are holding today; 
the Presidents of Central America convened an emergency meeting in San 
Salvador.  The people and the institutions of Guatemala spanning the 
political spectrum rallied to the defense of their hard-won democracy.

Now President Serrano himself has left office.  Many questions remain, 
but we hope that Guatemala is on the path to restoring constitutional 

These events would not have been possible if the inter-American 
community, through the OAS, had not taken an historic, unanimous 
decision in Santiago in June of 1991 to come collectively to democracy's 
defense--whenever and wherever it is threatened in our hemisphere.

Still, Mr. President, it is premature to claim victory.  Events continue 
to unfold in Guatemala.  Let there be no doubt about the resolve of the 
United States and the inter-American community.  There must be a full 
and immediate restoration of constitutional democracy and basic human 
rights.  Unless and until democracy is fully restored, Guatemala will 
find itself isolated.

Hence, we must remain vigilant and engaged.  For the United States, 
there is nothing we wish to see more than the immediate restoration of 
constitutional democracy through legal, peaceful, and constitutional 
processes.  Until that occurs, Mr. President, our aid will remain 
suspended--and we will weigh suspension of trade preferences under the 
GSP system as well as the Caribbean Basin Initiative.

Our organization must remain vigilant and engaged.  We urge the Inter-
American Commission on Human Rights to ask the new Guatemalan 
authorities for authority to travel to Guatemala immediately to monitor 
and review the progress made in protecting human rights and restoring 
constitutional guarantees.  The Unit for the Promotion of Democracy 
should also offer its cooperation.

We urge, Mr. Chairman, that the Secretary General continue to monitor 
Guatemala's rapid return to democracy, to return there himself, as has 
been proposed by Mexican Foreign Secretary Solana, and to inform the 
General Assembly on progress to date when it convenes next week in 

We urge as well that once constitutional democracy has been restored, 

the new Guatemalan Government should make its first priority the renewal 
and revitalization of the peace process.  There is no step that will 
strengthen democracy more than negotiating an end to Guatemala's 33 
years of conflict.  The time has come in Guatemala not just for a return 
of constitutional rule, but also for the establishment of peace.

We urge the Secretary General, in consultation with the Presidents of 
Central America and Friends of the Peace Process, to offer their good 
offices to the Guatemalan parties.  Their objective should be to assist 
and promote a rapid and successful conclusion of the peace process.  
There was a chance for progress in the last round that unfortunately was 
not seized upon by the URNG.  The parties to the process will bear a 
heavy responsibility before the Guatemalan people and before history if 
they squander this new opportunity for peace.

If peace comes to Guatemala, then all of Central America can unite in 
working to fulfill the possibilities for expanding development and 
trade, strengthening democratic institutions, regional arms reduction, 
the return of refugees, and attention to the problems of poverty.

The OAS must renew our debate about how to strengthen the instruments 
available to defend democracy.  We must recognize that after elections 
are held and power is transferred peacefully in this hemisphere, the 
struggle to consolidate and institutionalize democracy has only just 
begun.  Basic institutions, like the judiciary, legislatures, law 
enforcement, and human rights, must be strengthened and 
professionalized.  The armed forces must function under strict and 
unchallenged civilian authority.  New threats to democracy, from 
corruption to narco-trafficking, must be met and overcome.

Mr. President, we are reminded that an extensive and complex agenda is 
before us.  Let us seize from the developments which have prompted this 
meeting an opportunity to redouble hemispheric efforts to confront the 
broad range of problems.  Let us use this opportunity to consolidate 

Thank you very much, Mr. President.


To the top of this page