Jimmy Carter photo

Caracas, Venezuela Remarks Before the Venezuelan Congress.

March 29, 1978

Senor Presidente del Congreso, Senor Vice Presidente, Senores Senadores, Senores Deputados, Senora Blanca de Perez, senoras y senores:

I'm honored today to stand in this free assembly of one of the greatest nations on Earth, to bring warm greetings from the people of the United States, whose love of liberty is as deep as your own.

Our nations are joined not just by common interests but by the strongest and the most lasting bond of all—that of shared ideals.

Venezuela stands high among those who have defended the cause of democracy.

A century and a half ago, you gave to the world Simon Bolivar, a symbol of liberty whose example reaches far beyond the Americas. Now Venezuela provides unmistakable proof that political liberty and economic progress need not be conflicting ideals, but can strengthen one another.

Nearly 200 years ago, General Francisco de Miranda traveled through my own country as he prepared for the struggle to free Venezuela. And last year, your President and my friend, Carlos Andres Perez, retraced that journey, and with each step he took in my own country, he understood even better our traditional, common commitment to democratic values.

Your country has worked tirelessly and with success for wider adoption of the American Convention on Human Rights and strengthening of the Inter-American Human Rights Commission. We believe, as you do, that none of us can enjoy true liberty when others are oppressed.

Your country and others in Latin America and in the Caribbean have taken the lead in another area, which will have an equally profound effect on the world of the future: the relationship between the advanced industrial nations which have the greatest share of influence and material goods on the one hand, and the poor and developing nations of the world, who are understandably seeking a larger and more equitable share.

Before the Organization of American States last year, I stated that the economic issues of central concern to the United States and to Latin America are global issues and that they need to be addressed in a continuing dialog between the rich and the poor nations.

Closer consultation among our nations would lead to greater harmony, better collective judgment which can avoid mistakes, and the prevention of inadvertent injury to those who are weak and most vulnerable.

Today I would like to discuss with you the responsibility we share—developed and developing countries alike—for creating a more just international order.

I want to discuss a vision of what our world can become—whether it will be a world of inequality and want, or one of partnership and fulfillment; whether we anticipate the changes that must inevitably come and adopt them, or turn our backs on the future, vainly believing that change can be forestalled.

Last night, as President Perez said in his eloquent and significant address, and I quote him, "Of all Utopias, the most dangerous is the one of those who think that the world can continue as it is or as it was conceived 30 years ago."

These reflections lead us to the fundamental statement that the crisis that affects the world now has very deep roots. We are living through a moral crisis, a crisis of ethical principles.

Political, economic, and social changes have already transformed our modern world. The old colonial empires have fallen, and more than a hundred new independent nations have risen in their place.

Our nations are more dependent on one another economically, more willing to deal with each other as equals, more able to influence one another—either for good or for ill—than ever before in human history.

We must all acknowledge this basic fact: that we share responsibility for solving our common problems. Our specific obligations will be different, our interests and our emphases will, of course, vary, but all of us, North and South, East and West, must bear our part of the burden.

If the responsibility for global progress is not shared, our efforts will certainly fail. Only if the responsibility is shared may we attain the goals that our people want and that our times demand.

We share three common goals: first, to accelerate world economic growth through greater involvement of the developing nations, for their progress is essential to global prosperity for us all; second, to make the most beneficial use of the world's greatest wealth, its human potential; and third, to ensure that all nations participate fully in basic decisions about international economic and political affairs.

Only by acting together can we expand trade and investment in order to create more jobs, to curb inflation, and to raise the standard of living of our peoples.

The industrial nations share the same problems and cannot by themselves bring about world economic recovery. Strong growth and expansion in the developing countries are essential, and as they succeed, they must be prepared—and this is difficult—for the responsibilities of success in this highly competitive world economy.

There are five steps we must take together: increasing capital flow to the developing nations; building a fairer and a more open system of world trade; working to moderate disruptive price movements in the world economy; cooperating on energy conservation and development; and strengthening technological capabilities in the developing world.

None of these tasks is simple, and each demands efforts from all sides.

Private institutions and investors will continue to play the major part in increasing capital flows, but capital supplied by public institutions and governments is also, of course, critical to development.

We in the United States will do our part. In managing the international economy, we place particular importance on the expansion of the International Monetary Fund, which helps both developing nations and also the industrial nations to overcome their balance of payments problems.

We in the United States will press for swift congressional approval of our own substantial contribution to the supplementary financing facility, $10 billion, recommended by Mr. Witteveen.1

1 H. Johannes Witteveen, Managing Director and Chairman of the Board of Executive Directors, International Monetary Fund.

The international development banks are fundamental to the health of the world economy. They contribute to the growth and development of many nations and thus to the expansion of world trade.

In the years ahead, the United States plans to increase its contributions, and we will work with other nations to ensure that these institutions receive the support they need.

Bilateral economic assistance also has a major role to play. I've requested, for instance, that Congress approve a 28-percent increase in our program just for the coming year alone.

I applaud the efforts of Venezuela and other developing countries to expand your own programs of economic assistance. All of the OPEC nations have a responsibility to use their surplus wealth to meet the human needs of the world's people.

In some cases, the burden of repayment of official development aid has become an impediment to development. My administration is supporting legislation, now before the Congress, which will allow us to ease the terms of past American aid loans to some of the least developed nations.

We must work towards an expanded and more equitable trading system. In no area of economic relations is the opportunity of Latin America greater—nor the responsibility more serious—than is expanded trade.

The multilateral trade negotiations now going on in Geneva are the focal point of continued efforts to liberalize trade and to strengthen the rules for international commerce. Both developed and developing nations have an enormous stake in the success of these negotiations.

We must all resist the temptation to impose new restrictions on imports. We must all strive to reduce existing barriers to trade, both tariffs and other measures, while giving special consideration and benefits to the developing countries.

We must also work to moderate disruptive price movements in the world economy and to stabilize the prices of primary commodities. Reasonable and stable export prices can hold down inflation and encourage better income and a more regular flow of new investment capital to those who produce raw materials.

All nations can therefore gain from the negotiation and effective implementation of commodity agreements and from the creation, with the help of the United States and other major countries, of a common fund for price stabilization.

We've already begun to cooperate and plan for the wise use of the Earth's limited resources, such as food, and now we must do the same with energy.

Both the industrial and the developing countries must conserve energy and devote more of our vast technological efforts and resources to worldwide efforts to develop new sources of energy, such as the Sun and, as Latin American nations have already shown us, even from sugar and from other agricultural products. We must do so without either destroying our environment or creating a world of proliferating nuclear explosives.

For the rest of this century, the greatest potential for growth is in the developing world. To become more self-reliant, developing nations need to strengthen their technological capabilities. To assist them, I am proposing a new United States foundation for technological collaboration.

Through private and public foundations and through our increasing participation in the United Nations conferences, we can make technical and scientific cooperation a key element in our relationship.

Our main task as members of a world community is to work toward the day when every person has a fair chance to achieve a full measure of human potential.

The population of the world is increasing rapidly, and within two decades, it is expected that two-thirds of the world's population, even more, will live in Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

We want every child to be a wanted child, and we realize that already three of every five children in the developing world do not receive the basic requisites of a healthy diet, and nearly two-thirds of the world's population in the Third World do not have access to water that is safe to drink.

These conditions and others offend the conscience of mankind, for the human rights we believe in so deeply include not only the right to be free and to avoid mistreatment from government but also the right to a fair chance for a decent life.

Throughout the world, the fruits of growth have been very unequally distributed. Among nations and within nations, wealth coexists with abject poverty and suffering.

Our economic progress is inadequate if its benefits do not reach all the people. Rich and poor nations alike should devote more attention to raising the minimum standards of living for the poorest of our fellow human beings.

The United States will increase its efforts, particularly in those countries where governments are themselves most committed to meeting the basic needs of their people for health, education, shelter, and to increasing their own food production.

We will contribute, for instance, a minimum of 4.5 million tons of grain to a new food aid convention. We support the international food aid target of 10 million tons, and we are willing to join other nations in increasing the amount, particularly in years of severe food shortages.

As for the political liberties that are also part of basic human fights, we believe that democracy provides the best system to attain this goal and that the international community has a special responsibility to support countries that are moving to institute democratic procedures and institutions.

There can be no question that the institutions we have created must adapt to a changing and diverse world. And that is our third goal.

The individuality and the sovereignty of nations must be respected. Intervention in the internal affairs of others must be opposed.

There must also be a reversal in the massive and excessive weapons sales that are being made from my own and from other industrialized countries to the poorer nations, which still have profound and unmet social and economic needs.

Just as all people should participate in the government decisions that affect their own lives, so should all nations participate in the international decisions that affect their own well-being.

The United States is eager to work with you, as we have in the past, to shape a more just international economic and political order.

Both the industrialized nations, which have greater influence in institutions like the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, and the developing nations, with great influence in organizations like the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, must share. the responsibility for opening the international system to different views.

The Conference on International Economic Cooperation, in which Venezuela, as you know, played such a major and pivotal role, was a useful start toward the global dialog which we seek. A newly created committee of the United Nations General Assembly will carry on that work.

As we move toward an improved international economic order, we must think beyond institutions and measure the impact of change on the daily lives of people. We recognize our differences, but we cannot allow them to blind us to the problems and the tremendous opportunities which we share.

When I was growing up in the Deep South of the United States, we farmed exactly as our grandfathers had farmed, rising before dawn and laboring manually until sunset. We had no tractors and little machinery of any kind, and even as we worked, we often knew that we were reducing our future yields, that the richness of our land was blowing away in the wind or washing away in the rains.

When we farmed out our land, we had no choice but to keep on farming it and working in the same fields, because many of us lacked the knowledge or the means to make it fruitful again.

I remember the almost unbelievable change the coming of electric power made in the farm life of my childhood. Electricity freed us from the continuing burdens of pumping water and sawing wood and lighting fires in the cooking stove. But it did even more—it gave us light by which to read and to study at night. It gave us power—not just to perform the old exhausting tasks, but power to make our own choices. Because electric power came to us through cooperatives, in which we all had to share the responsibility for a decision, it changed our lives in other ways.

Farmers began to meet together to discuss local needs and national issues and to decide how to influence government and to negotiate with large, far-off companies that provided their supplies. I've seen the farm life that I knew in my childhood transformed by energy and by technology and increased knowledge, and by the opportunity to participate in the decisions that affect ourselves and our families.

I can understand the unfulfilled yearnings of other people in developing nations to share these blessings of life. All nations must work together to acknowledge the validity of these yearnings, to take into full account the need and diversity of developing nations, and to promote mutual participation in making the international decisions that affect us all.

I've spoken to you of shared obligations. The industrial nations must provide long-term capital and reduced trade barriers. The developing nations must assume the obligations that accompany responsible participation in an evolving world economy.

Real progress will come through specific, cooperative actions designed to meet specific needs—not through symbolic statements made by the rich industrial nations to salve our conscience, nor by the developing countries to recall past injustices. We need to share a responsibility for solving problems and not to divide the blame for ignoring the problems.

I believe that your great country and mine share a vision of an international system in which each individual and each nation has a part, in which each individual and each nation has the hope of a better future. Only in such a world can life be good for all its people.

Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 8:30 a.m. in the Senate Chamber of the Congress. In his opening remarks, he referred to President of the Congress Gonzalo Barrios and Vice President of the Congress Dagoberto Gonzalez.

Following his remarks, the President proceeded to the Palacio de Miraflores for meetings with President Perez.

Jimmy Carter, Caracas, Venezuela Remarks Before the Venezuelan Congress. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/244752

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