President Sanchez, fellow Presidents, distinguished heads of the Central American institutions, gentlemen:
I am grateful to you for inviting me to meet with you and to share in the promise and the challenge of this great adventure.
I bring with me the best wishes of the people of the United States:
--their admiration for what you have accomplished in the past 7 years; and
--their hope that these accomplishments will be the foundation of new economic progress and social justice for all of your people.
We are very proud to have been a part of this adventure.
But this was--and this is--your vision. What you have made of it is now a vivid example for all the world to see. In 7 short years:
--You have established a common market.
--You have founded a bank.
--You have created an organization of Central American states, to oversee your joint enterprise.
--You have established a monetary council.
Because of what you have built m these years:
--Trade among your countries has multiplied almost seven times.
--The average annual growth for the region has been 6 percent.
--Investment is already up 65 percent.
--Four thousand miles of roads have opened new marketing for your people.
--Expenditures for education are up 50 percent. There are half again as many children in primary school. Enrollment in secondary schools has doubled.
The effects of what you have done will one day be felt in the most remote mountain hamlet. They will give men and women now bent under the weight of poverty a chance to lead lives of dignity and security.
That is what you build for. That is why we have helped. And that is why we will help even more. We believe that no investment we could have made in these years could have been better spent than it has been here.
The total of our assistance since 1961 today reaches $634 million. I am proud that more than two-thirds of that amount came during my administration. For I know that that is yielding rich dividends, not only in the Americas, but throughout the world.
For the developing nations, your example is particularly important. The world can find here a testament to regionalism. That is an abstract word--but its power is not abstract, nor its promise, nor its achievement.
We have already learned many of its lessons--here and in other parts of the world.
First, no country in the world is so large or so rich that it cannot benefit from cooperation with its neighbors.
Second, there is no single path to regional progress. United effort can be as broad as a common market or it can be as narrow as a postal union. Integration may be sudden, or it may come in stages.
Third, successful regionalism requires fair sharing of costs. That is the price of progress. Old quarrels must be put aside.
Fourth, regionalism thrives when it includes a solid economic base.
Fifth, regional institutions are vital--as are men of good will and judgment who are necessary to manage them.
Sixth, the benefits of regionalism go far beyond the specific returns of joint projects. It strengthens the sense of community, which is mankind's best hope for peace.
These are the lessons that we--and you of Central America--took to Punta del Este last year. Together we began the historic march toward Latin American economic integration. Six governments have joined to form the Andean Development Corporation--as the first step toward general integration. They are now approaching the final stage of negotiating a treaty to establish an Andean common market.
This natural cooperation between neighbors-in some cases only a promise, in others taking the first difficult steps toward reality, in still others already forged and working for common progress--is not limited to the Americas.
In Africa, for instance, the last year has brought an East African Economic Community which is in many ways very much like your own. Groundwork has been laid for a West African common market. The African Development Bank has opened its doors and has already made its first loan. Informal groups are being formed all over the continent to begin joint development of water and power resources, transportation, and communication networks.
In Free Asia, regional creativity has flourished:
--The Asian Bank, with $1 billion worth of assets, is now in full operation.
--The Asian and Pacific Council has been founded to provide a forum for discussion.
--The Association of Southeast Asian Nations has joined ancient enemies in a common pursuit of security and progress.
--The education ministers of Southeast Asia have joined in an assault on ignorance and illiteracy. Transportation ministers are organizing in the same way.
--The Mekong Coordinating Committee has completed 10 years of survey works on that mighty river. It will soon propose a system of projects which, with those now under construction, will eventually tame and harness this Mekong giant.
So it is our hope that as the nations and peoples of the Middle East find their way to stable peace, they, too, will find dignity and hope in working together on a regional basis. They will have to solve unique problems, but the resources available to them also offer unique possibilities.
These diverse efforts are built on a common understanding among the developing nations. Great powers, however enlightened or benevolent or rich, cannot solve their problems for them. There is no mythical benefactor who will appear out of the mists to spread plenty. Nor is there any all-powerful keeper of the peace who can solve all the family quarrels or offset the effects of prolonging them.
It is a great tribute to the human spirit that the fruit of this understanding is neither despair nor recklessness.
It is, instead, a great outpouring of energy and will to make a better life possible for their people. It is willingness--even the eagerness-to cooperate with neighbors who share the same problems and the same resources and the same destiny. The single strand is weak; the woven strands will endure and clothe the coming generation.
Your example has given hope and given guidance to a movement that now reaches every continent. You know better than I that much remains to be done here in Central America. The gap between what exists and what ought to exist is still unacceptably wide. But you are moving--you are moving to close it in the only effective way to move-and that is to move together.
We in the United States want to move with you. We want to help you. I have listened to your plans for strengthening your national economies and common market. I have talked with each of you individually and collectively. Today I have brought with me approval of a $30 million loan to the Central American Fund for Economic Integration, to assist in completing your regional transportation system, and to try to help you create a regional telecommunications system.
I have also approved loans totaling $35 million more to help you carry forward programs of social justice and economic progress.
--in El Salvador, a loan to establish a pilot instructional television station;
--in Guatemala, a loan to improve the primary education system in the cities and rural areas;
--in Nicaragua, a loan to launch a rural electric cooperative program;
--in Honduras, a loan to increase food production and marketing facilities; and
--in Costa Rica, a loan to promote the establishment of agricultural industries.
I believe that each of these loans is needed, and I believe it is needed in each country where they will be used and will be used profitably. I believe, too, that the power of our assistance in each country has been multiplied because each of you has committed yourself to cooperation for progress.
One day, the material needs of the Central American people will be met. But I believe it can be said that the spirit of Central America has already triumphed and is very much in evidence here today. It is a spirit of accommodation, it is a spirit of confidence, it is a spirit of dedication to humanity that embodies-but also surpasses--the interests of each individual nation.
I consider myself honored to have met with you today. I shall consider it a great privilege to work with you as long as I have that chance.
Thank you very much.