Office of the Press Secretary
(Caracas, Venezuela)

For Immediate Release October 13, 1997


Plaza El Panteon
Caracas, Venezuela

11:10 A.M. (L)

THE PRESIDENT: Mr. President, let me begin by thanking you for your warm introduction and your invitation to speak at this sacred place. I am deeply honored to be the first foreign leader ever to address the people of Venezuela at the Tomb of Simon Bolivar.

To the people of this city, I thank you for the extraordinary welcome you have given to Hillary and me, and to our entire delegation. Todo esta chevere en Caracas. (Applause.) Todo esta chevere en Venezuela. (Applause.)

Let me welcome especially all the young people who have come here today and say a special word of appreciation to the National Youth Orchestra, which played our National Anthems and my favorite march so magnificently. It is to the young and their future that I wish to speak on this day. (Applause.)

It is especially fitting that we meet here at the Panteon National, for the liberator belongs not only to Venezuela and the other nations of the Andes, Bolivar belongs to all the Americas. He stands alongside Washington and San Martin and the pantheon of liberty's heroes. He was the first to imagine a hemisphere of democracies, united by shared goals and common values. His example stirred the hearts of men and women throughout our region. Indeed, today we in the United States can still mark the frontier of our nation in the 1820s by finding our towns, our counties, our villages named Bolivar in the states of Missouri, Ohio, Tennessee and West Virginia.

When the liberator died, his vision of freedom and

peace in the Americas seemed an impossibility. How I wish he were here today to see his spiritual heirs here in Venezuela and throughout the Americas turning his dream into a reality.

Our hemisphere is growing closer every day. Driven by shared values and common purposes, we have put the age-old dream of a democratic and prosperous family of the Americas within our reach. In the last decade, every nation in the Americas but one has embraced democracy, giving its people a vibrant free press, free elections and the rule of law. Decades of coups and bloody civil wars have given way to the peaceful transition of power. Stifling command economies have been replaced by free markets, giving innovation and more jobs and higher incomes. We are joined in the search for social justice within market economies. And we are all working to leave our children a planet as healthy and bountiful as the one we inherited.

I come here today to salute the people of Venezuela for the extraordinary part you are playing in this quiet revolution of the Americas, and especially to salute President Caldera for a lifetime of leadership for liberty. You, Mr. President, have carried the torch that Bolivar lit for more than half a century, and we are all in your debt. (Applause.)

Other nations in our hemisphere have been drawn to the path you have blazed. For Venezuela is a world center of energy -- oh, yes, petroleum, but also energy for peace and freedom; energy for democracy and prosperity; and I might add, energy for world-class baseball players. (Applause.)

Your democracy has weathered powerful challenges, but never wavered. Under the leadership of President Caldera, you are building a state that is popular, just and moral; a state in which, as Bolivar said, the rule of law will signify the triumph of equality and freedom.

Americans look to Venezuela and see a growing economy, renewed and strengthened by sacrifice. We know the hardships you have endured, but look what you have achieved. you have cut your debt and cut inflation by more than half. You are moving industries into the competitive free market. You are opening your doors to foreign investment to create new opportunities for Venezuelan workers. And your determination will pay off, in more jobs, higher incomes, and better prospects for your children in the coming century.

We Americans also look to Venezuela and see an example of how different people can come together as one community and one nation. On this day, we recall the moment when Columbus joined the peoples of the Old World and the New World. Venezuela shows all of us how we can draw strength from the joining of different peoples.

From Bosnia to Central Africa, from Northern Ireland to the Middle East, one of the greatest challenges to peace and freedom in the world comes from people who hate others because of their religious or racial or ethnic differences. And they claim

those differences as justification for taking away their political rights, their homes, their freedom, sometimes even their very lives.

Venezuela has shown us a better way. Here, the children of Europeans, indigenous Americans, and Africans live together as one people. Here, every Venezuelan is a ciudadano. (Applause.)

For all the progress we have made together to advance democracy, free markets and full citizenship, we much acknowledge that a great challenge remains to make these forces work to the benefit of all our people. To do that we will have to intensify our efforts for economic growth, social justice and environmental protection and against the common threats to our security.

At the Summit of the Americas in Miami, our nations pledged to create a free trade area of the Americas by 2005, uniting the creative energies of 800 million of us, from Alaska to Argentina. We will tear down the barriers of the past and open wide the doors of the 21st century. (Applause.)

The speedy exchange of goods, ideas and investment will bring benefits of the new economy to all people, including the people of Venezuela -- from the oil workers of Monagas to the ranchers of Llanos to the entrepreneurs of Maracaibo.

I want the United States to do its part, and I am seeking the fast track negotiating authority from Congress that every American President has had for over 20 years, so that we can work with our partners to open markets, create jobs and raise living standards for all. (Applause.)

We must also recognize that no democracy, including the United States, has yet found the perfect formula for growing a free economy while preserving and extending the social contract for all our people. That is why we must work harder together to alleviate poverty, lift the conditions of working people throughout the hemisphere and give everyone a chance to be a winner in the new economy.

While we do not have all the answers, we do know we must begin with the reality that whether we all like it or not, global economic integration is on a fast track. And, therefore, we must give all our people the tools necessary to compete and succeed in it.

Because we want all our people to succeed we have, from the Summit of the Americas in Miami to next year's summit in Santiago, put education at the center of our cooperation. All our children must be ready for tomorrow. (Applause.)

And we owe it to our children to see that today's

progress does not come at tomorrow's expense. We must do more all across the Americas to improve our stewardship of the

environment, clean our air, clear our water, keep toxic chemicals out of our soil and reduce the volume of greenhouse gases we put into our atmosphere, risking dramatic and dangerous changes in the climate for our children and our grandchildren. (Applause.)

And just as we work together to seize the opportunities of this new era, so we must also move together swiftly and strongly against the new threats it has produced. In both our countries drugs poison our children and threaten our neighborhoods. The United States is working to reduce drug demand at home and to attack drugs all along the pipeline that brings them into our streets and our schools. Today our government signed wide-ranging agreements that join us in an alliance against drugs. Thank you, Venezuela, for the tough stand you are taking in this fight for our common future. (Applause.)

And I thank President Caldera for leading this hemisphere in the fight against corruption. Corruption destroys confidence and fragile democracies, erodes free markets, saps the strength of law enforcement. It undermines all we are working so hard to build. Venezuela's leadership has lead to a common commitment to fight corruption, to beat it back, to stamp it out. (Applause.)

To the people of Venezuela, I want you to know the United States is determined to work with you in a spirit of respect and equality, as friends and partners, to claim the benefits and carry the burdens of this new era. (Applause.)

Now, on this day when we remember Columbus' remarkable arrival over 500 years ago in the Americas, we embark on a new voyage toward a new century and a new millennium, steering our course by the stars of freedom and democracy, partnership and respect, prosperity and security, not for just a few, but for all our citizens. (Applause.)

Here, before the Tomb of Simon Bolivar, let us pledge to redeem in full the vision of the liberator. More than 160 years ago, he spoke to us of a Western Hemisphere that commanded envy and respect, as he said, "not so much by virtue of her ahead and wealth, but by her freedom and her glory."

Today, I pledge to you, hijos de Bolivar, that by our work, now and into the new millennium, we will secure that freedom, and with it, the glory of all the people of the Americas.

Thank you and God bless you. (Applause.)

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