U.S. State Department Geographic Bureaus: Latin America Bureau

U.S. Department of State
95/12/05 Asst Sec Watson at Miami CLAA Conference
Published by the Bureau for Inter-American Affairs

Remarks by
Ambassador Alexander F. Watson
Assistant Secretary of State for
Inter-American Affairs
Miami Conference on the Caribbean
and Latin America

December 5, 1995

It is a pleasure once again to attend this Conference and to see so many friends who have worked so hard and so effectively to strengthen hemispheric cooperation.

I am sure many of you will recall the euphoric atmosphere of last year's conference which came just after the conclusion of the historic Summit of the Americas. In the intervening year we have made considerable progress, but we have also debated the -- meaning of the Summit, the direction of Latin America's reforms, and about the U.S. role not only in Latin America but in the world as a whole.

Certainly debate about our relationships with Latin America, the Caribbean and the world is healthy -- even essential to the success of foreign policy in a democracy. The debate now underway about our role in Bosnia is an example. That debate reveals clearly both the risks and the opportunities which we face there.

As a result of President Clinton's initiative, the fighting in Bosnia has stopped. We now have an opportunity to secure an enduring peace because of U.S. diplomacy and U.S. strength. The parties have taken risks for peace, and we must continue to support them. And in the choice between peace and war, the United States must choose peace. We must protect our interests. We must uphold our ideals. We must keep our commitments.

When we talk of taking risks for peace, certainly one of the most prominent figures who comes to mind is our honored guest tonight, whom it is my great pleasure to introduce. President Chamorro, or Dona Violeta to her countrymen and her many admirers overseas, embodies the indomitable spirit and will of the people of Nicaragua -- indeed of the hemisphere --to work together to find a future of peace, understanding and cooperation.

We are living in a time of momentous change around our world, as dictatorships and tyrannies give way to more open, tolerant societies and new respect for human rights. Under President Chamorro, Nicaragua has played a vital role in the march to democracy that has transformed this hemisphere and is transforming the world. Over the past five years, she has guided Nicaragua from war to peace, from division to reconciliation, and from conflict to tolerance. During her presidency, democratic institutions have taken root, instances of human rights abuses have greatly diminished, and political violence has virtually disappeared.

Under President Chamorro's leadership Nicaragua has made great strides in moving from economic stagnation to recovery. She has had the courage to take the difficult but indispensable actions to restore the confidence of investors and build the foundations for self-sustaining and broadly based growth. Just last week, she signed the telephone company privatization law -- a first rate modern piece of legislation which shows Nicaragua's commitment to attracting foreign investment, and with it contributing significantly to resolving the property problem. Together with the other market-oriented policies implemented by the Chamorro government and with the hard work and unflagging spirit of the Nicaraguan people, these actions should push Nicaragua's economic engine forward at a faster rate.

The progress we have seen in Nicaragua is part of the extraordinary story of the region as a whole -- a story of deepening democracy, continued economic reform and strengthened commitment to social progress.

The prevalence of democracy in the hemisphere today is unique worldwide. No other region of developing countries is committed to democracy as its "central priority" -- as was cited during the Summit. No other region has so many business leaders who understand that democracy is crucial to the stability that a good business climate demands. No other developing region has a regional organization (the Organization of American States) explicitly committed to democracy, is creating a network of non- governmental organizations with the aim of exchanging ideas and increasing public participation in policymaking, or is taking such strong initiatives against corruption and trans-national crime.

The development of coordinated strategies to eradicate poverty and protect the environment is another milestone of the region's progress. In the year since the Summit, there have already been some extraordinary achievements -- such as PAHO's program, launched with the participation of our First Lady Mrs. Clinton and led by Dr. George Allegier, to eliminate measles throughout the hemisphere, the hemispheric Partnership for Education Revitalization in the Americas (PERA), the America Healthnet being discussed at this conference, or last month's Ministerial Symposium co-hosted by Venezuela and the United States to promote efficient and environmentally safe energy development.

Another often overlooked achievement of the past year is the continuing strength of the region's commitment to the market. Latin America and the Caribbean reacted to the Mexican peso crisis by deepening reforms, not abandoning them, as would have been the reaction a decade ago. As a result, the region's economic fundamentals are growing stronger, with good prospect for strong growth for the rest of the decade, with falling inflation, and a much improved external account and ability to service foreign debt.

The region's solid economic prospects, combined with the growing strength of democratic institutions, make Latin America and the Caribbean an excellent partner for the U.S. Our relations with Latin America are based on mutual benefits and mutual responsibilities.

President Clinton remains convinced that seeking closer economic ties throughout the hemisphere is in our deepest national interest. As Mack McLarty noted yesterday, this Administration remains determined to pursue this goal as an issue of prime importance to the U.S. which transcends domestic politics.

I began my remarks by noting the euphoria felt by so many of the Summit's observers and participants -- including of course our honored guest tonight -- as we attended last year's conference. I sense the mood this year to be entirely as positive, although somewhat quieter. Having begun a great enterprise, we are now engaged in its implementation, step by step down a long and occasionally bumpy road. But we are moving steadily forward. Most importantly we are moving together, in a joint effort among all the governments of this hemisphere, and among the public and private sectors.

No one can serve as a better example of the steadfastness, courage and vision which we need to achieve our hemispheric goals than Dona Violeta herself, whose spirited and compassionate leadership and her commitment to national reconciliation has made such a difference to her people and indeed to the hemisphere as a whole.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present the President of Nicaragua, Violeta Chamorro.


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