THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
(Guatemala City, Guatemala)
For Immediate Release March 11, 1999 10:36 A.M. (L)
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
IN OPENING REMARKS
Casa Santo Domingo
THE PRESIDENT: President Arzu, President Aleman, President Flores,
President Calderon Sol, President Rodriguez; President Fernandez, Prime Minister Musa. First, President Arzu, let me thank you, your government, and the people of Guatemala and especially the people of Antigua for the wonderful welcome and hospitality I have received here.
When Hillary came back from her trip to Central America last November, she told me about the devastation she had seen in four nations, but she also said, at the end of the trip you have to go to Antigua.
You know, this is the first time the President of the United States has been anywhere in Guatemala outside of the airport in Guatemala City. President Johnson visited there 30 years ago. This visit is long overdue. More importantly, this moment in history is long overdue.
I came to the presidency in 1993 determined to establish a new partnership with the peoples of Latin America and especially to reach out to our neighbors in Central America. At long last, Guatemala and all its neighbors have a chance to prosper in freedom and peace, in a hemisphere united by shared values.
We have come together in this old capital to find new solutions. The damage the hurricanes left, some of which I have seen, of course, has increased the urgency of our deliberations and our action. We are determined to respond to this calamity so that what was destroyed will be built back better than ever. We commit today to build a common future here in Antigua, a city that knows a great deal about rebuilding.
Our challenge is to consolidate the remarkable achievements of Central America in the last decade, to build on them, and to accelerate them. I am committed to lowering trade barriers between us, both to speed recovery and to build a free trade area in this region that will benefit all the citizens of all the countries.
I am committed to a common struggle against violence and drug trafficking and drug abuse; to shared responsibility for the care of our environment, for the education of our children, for the health of our people. I am committed to justice and to institutions which will maintain it. I am committed to fair immigration laws, fairly enforced, and especially to the principle that we should treat people from Central America equitably, whatever their country of origin, and recognize the special circumstance of those nations that Hurricane Mitch hit the hardest.
Our new partnership has made quite a bit of progress since our last summit in Costa Rica. We still face daunting challenges. But now we face them with a unique sense of solidarity and a common commitment to freedom, to democracy, to open markets; and to meeting the demands of our people for better schools, safer streets, wider opportunities.
Even before the United States was created, a North American poet, Ann Bradstreet, complained about the harshness of our weather. But, she added, "if we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant." Well, Central America has had a long and difficult season, aggravated by the recent hurricanes. But we can truly rejoice the that the springtime of renewal and rebuilding is here. The sun shines on us today, in Guatemala and throughout this region. For all the problems that people face, we must never forget how far they have traveled. And we must never lose sight of the path that leads to a brighter tomorrow. We must go on that path together, to build a new American century for all the people of the Americas.
Thank you very much. (Applause.)