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Remarks Following Discussions With President Guillermo Endara of Panama

April 30, 1990

President Bush. Mr. President -- President Endara -- and distinguished members of the Panamanian delegation, friends, and colleagues: It's been a pleasure and, indeed, an honor to welcome President Endara to Washington. His struggle, the struggle for prosperity and democracy in Panama, has special meaning for all Americans throughout this hemisphere. It both inspires and reminds us that the cause of freedom is as hard as it is just. And many struggle for it; some pray for it, fast for it, are beaten, shed blood for it. Guillermo Endara and his people have done all of that and more. But while the challenges they face are daunting, the people of Panama remain steadfast, for theirs is a rare privilege: to be present and serve in the rebirth of a great nation.

Two hundred and one years ago today, George Washington was sworn in on the steps of Federal Hall as the President of a newly created nation, an office he didn't seek but felt compelled to serve. He was called into the service of his country "on the eve," he said, "of an arduous struggle for its liberties." While Washington was actually aware of the responsibilities of his office and the power that attended it, he once said that "The most enviable of all titles is the character of an honest man."

President Endara, freely elected and called forth on the eve of his nation's struggle for liberty, is renowned for that character. His intelligence; his grace; his ability as a leader, as conciliator, as consensus builder have won the confidence of Panamanians and all Americans. But the struggle is not over in Panama. While democracy has been restored and the peace is now preserved, we must see that prosperity returns to the people of Panama, and that's been the principal focus of President Endara's visit and our discussions.

And now that Panama enjoys freely elected, legitimate leadership in a democracy based on equality of opportunity, the United States is working to lay a foundation for cooperative relations that will serve both nations well into the coming century. And in that light, I'd like to emphasize our commitment to the Panama Canal Treaties as a framework for the smooth and orderly transfer of canal management responsibilities to a sovereign Panama. And I'm happy to announce today the nomination of the Panamanian Administrator of the Canal: Gilberto Guardia. I want to say that both countries are eager to look beyond the 1990's to begin to consider together the future of that vitally important path between the seas, the Panama Canal.

We're committed to cooperation with Panama across the entire range of our relations -- diplomatic, cultural, economic. And we're already beginning to see signs of a Panamanian renaissance, as ransacked stores are restocked and reopened, depositors and lenders are returning, and a new economic confidence is now emerging.

The four agreements that we sign here today -- three on drug cooperation, the other on reentry of the Peace Corps to Panama -- are evidence of this. And still it will take time to rebuild the economy and correct the economic distortions and social dislocations of a dictatorship's corruption. Too many now find their most basic needs for food and shelter still unmet. Unemployment in Panama remains unacceptably high. And we want to help President Endara reduce it and meet the rising expectations of a liberated Panamanian people.

The liberation brought with it high expectations for a prosperous and stable future, expectations that will be fulfilled over time as democratic processes are secured and the economy revitalized. There is no risk in rising expectations when people have the means and reason to succeed. In fact, high expectations are the best motivation for economic growth and Panama's very best hope for the future.

But in the near term, we must help ensure that unfulfilled expectations do not weaken the foundations of democracy so recently restored. America is committed to Panama's future, and that's why we proposed the aid package for Panama last January. Half of that package, our trade and credit guarantees, has been approved to the great credit of the Members of Congress; but it is time to finish the job. And just as you can't cross a chasm in two small steps, the people of Panama can't hope to make the leap to liberty and prosperity with only halfhearted support from her neighbors to the north. And so, today I want to appeal to Congress. I have asked and asked again that our aid package to the newly liberated people of Panama be passed and passed swiftly. And still it waits, and with it, the future of a fledgling democracy.

Many material things may now be in short supply in Panama, but freedom is there in abundance. And with freedom, everything else follows. Panama, a nation newly reborn in liberty, can count on the support of the United States of America. We were with you in times of conflict, and we will stand with you in peace. And I'm delighted, sir, that you came to the White House.

President Endara. I have had an important meeting, a working meeting, with President Bush, during which we have analyzed matters which are of interest to Panama, to the United States, and to both countries.

Democracy is on the upsurge in the world. It is being reborn in our America, and it has returned to Panama. We agree with President Bush that we must maintain it forever on the upsurge. We must nourish it always, and we must protect it day and night. It is only in freedom and as master of his own destiny that man can develop his potential in this life. The tyrannies of any kind, of any sort, must be relegated to the past. My people have suffered for 21 long years, but now it is nourishing hope and the possibility for a better future.

I have thanked President Bush on behalf of the Panamanian people for the hand of friendship which he has extended to us and the permanent consideration he has never failed to show us. On a basis of mutual respect, of serious intentions, and reciprocal trust, there are no limits at all to friendship and to understanding between the Panamanian people and the people of the United States. In this spirit, we are lighting the road to a new relationship of dignity, in equality and in freedom. And the designation of the first Panamanian Administrator of the canal is an act of justice which does honor to President Bush.

Mr. President, if you allow me, I would like to address you, my friend, President Bush. Let me, my friend, Mr. President, thank you for your kind and inspiring words. They fill our spirits with enthusiasm and optimism and gives us reason to face the future with added strength, knowing that we have such support behind our own efforts. The people of Panama will always be grateful for the support and friendship of the American people and for the sunshine of freedom we currently enjoy.

Thank you, and God bless America.

Note: President Bush spoke at 1:18 p.m. in the East Room at the White House. President Endara spoke in Spanish, and his remarks were translated by an interpreter. Prior to their remarks, the two Presidents met privately in the Oval Office and with U.S. and Panamanian officials in the Cabinet Room, and then attended a luncheon in the Old Family Dining Room.

George Bush, Remarks Following Discussions With President Guillermo Endara of Panama Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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