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

U.S. Department of State
96/06/19 Remarks to Hispanic Council on International Relations
Bureau of Inter-American Affairs

JUNE 19, 1996

Thank you very much. I'm delighted to be with you today to help to publicly launch the Hispanic Council on International Relations and honor the Latin American diplomatic corps in Washington.

The Hispanic Council on International Relations follows in a great American tradition: the free association of men and women to pursue common goals and objectives.

I wish you great success as your organization grows and develops, and projects its voice in the making of U.S foreign policy. I assure you that those of us here at the State Department will always be attentive to your ideas.

By far the best way to inaugurate publicly the Hispanic Council on International Relations is to emphasize the importance to the U.S. of our neighbors and partners in the Western Hemisphere.

While the interests of the Council and its members spread far beyond the confines of this hemisphere, I know that everyone here shares a special understanding of the critical nature of our relationship with the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean.

All of us are part of the intricate tapestry of American culture and society, but each of us still retains a pride in our heritage that readily translates into an interest in how our nation relates to the lands of our ancestors.

For that reason, those of you whose roots lie in Latin America or the Caribbean have an essential role to play in advancing Hemispheric relations. You are both a bridge that can help span the differences that still exist among our nations and an engine which will power our efforts to advance democracy and economic freedom in our part of the world.

I am pleased to say that the State Department shares your belief in the current and future importance of our ties to Latin America and the Caribbean.

In fact, I would maintain that through such actions as the passage of NAFTA, the restoration of democracy in Haiti and the quiet, persistent advancement of the important goals established at the Summit of the Americas in Miami, the U.S. has brought about an unprecedented new era of cooperation among the nations of our hemisphere.

Working with our regional partners we have created something truly grand. Together the 34 democracies of the Americas are building a future based on free trade, strong civic institutions, economic growth that protects the environment, and a shared commitment to reduce poverty and corruption.

All of us can be proud of the journey that we began a little more than a year and a half ago at the Summit of the Americas.

The Summit, as President Clinton said, "affirmed the growing unity of values and interests among our nations" and "charted a course for achieving unprecedented economic growth across the region." This included committing ourselves to the creation of a Free Trade Area of the Americas to unite the region's 850 million people into a 12 trillion dollar market.

Let me just mention some of the things the nations of our region have done to achieve the Summit's objectives since that historic gathering in December 1994.

First, we have moved forward with our trade agenda. Through the Denver Trade Ministerial meeting last June and the Cartagena Ministerial this March, working groups have been established to gather the necessary information for laying the groundwork for starting negotiations on FTAA 2005.

At the next Trade Ministerial in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, early next year we will be in a position to determine on what basis negotiations will proceed.

In the past year we have also held ministerials on energy, transportation, science and technology, money laundering, and capital markets development. These meetings have produced steady progress on our Summit agenda as well as plans and follow-up actions.

One of the most important accomplishments to date has been the conclusion of the Inter-American Convention Against Corruption, which Deputy Secretary Talbott signed for us at the Organization of American States General Assembly meeting in Panama two weeks ago.

The Convention is a powerful statement by the governments of the hemisphere that corruption will no longer be considered business as usual. Over time, it will help our companies compete on a fair playing field. It will help bring to justice those who flout the rule of law. It is an historic step in our collective efforts on behalf of open markets and open societies.

These are all major milestones on the road to 2005. Since the Miami Summit, we have also passed with flying colors a series of events that threatened our progress and tested our resolve.

When Mexico was plunged into financial crisis, President Zedillo acted boldly to stabilize the economy without reverting to the discredited policies of the past. President Clinton mobilized the United States and the international financial institutions to stand by Mexico in its time of need.

When armed conflict broke out between Peru and Ecuador, the United States, Argentina, Brazil and Chile acted quickly to help end the fighting and begin a peace process that we hope will produce a negotiated settlement of this dispute once and for all.

Events in Paraguay this April also demonstrated our newfound hemispheric ability to take united action against those who would turn back the clock to the decades of dictatorship in Latin America.

While the United States played an important part of efforts to ensure the continuation of Paraguay's democracy, a democratic resolution of the crisis was also a result of the concerted efforts of the OAS and, in particular, the MERCOSUR countries.

By going to Asuncion during the crisis, Secretary General Gaviria and the foreign ministers of Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay demonstrated not only the region's support for President Wasmosy's government, but also made clear that Paraguay's closest neighbors and trading partners would not tolerate any break with democratic rule and civilian authority over the military.

This was the fourth time since 1991 that the nations of this hemisphere, through the OAS, have joined together to repel a challenge to democracy.

Moreover, the inauguration of President Rene Preval in February -- the first peaceful transition of power from one civilian elected leader to another in Haiti's almost two hundred years as an independent nation -- was further proof that these efforts in support of democracy are paying dividends.

Unfortunately, despite our accomplishments, there is still one country that remains resistant to joining the hemisphere's movement towards democracy and prosperity: Cuba.

Under the Castro government, Cuba continues to fall farther behind, while suffering under a new wave of repression that has seen pro-democracy activists imprisoned and innocent men ruthlessly shot out of the skies. President Clinton's unequivocal response to the shootdown of two civilian planes sent a clear signal to Castro that we will do all we can to ensure the triumph of democracy in Cuba.

Just as the hemisphere must stand firm against threats to democracy, we also must join together to confront the other challenges before us, including the problems of drug trafficking, environmental degradation and poverty. As countries with a common belief in democracy and free market economics and a common interest in improving the lives of our citizens, we are in a unique position to take cooperative action on these global issues.

I am confident that we will continue to move forward. Each day gives us new momentum and a new sign that the Spirit of Miami -- the vision of a hemisphere united in democracy, stability and prosperity -- is alive and well.

However, we need your help to get to where we want to go. I said earlier that all of you associated with the Council are not just a bridge between countries, but an engine to move relations forward.

If you believe, as I do, that the agenda we are pursing is in the best interests of our country, I encourage you to work actively to support it.

The Hispanic Council on International Relations as well as the businesses and organizations for which each of you works must be involved in moving the Summit process forward if we are to meet our 2005 goals.

In the future, we look forward to having the advice and support of the Council to ensure that the United States leads the way toward achieving our common objectives in this hemisphere and beyond.


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