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Remarks Following Discussions With President Rafael Calderon of Costa Rica

October 10, 1991

President Bush. It's a great honor and pleasure to meet with you today at the White House. And I warmly remember my visits to Costa Rica as Vice President in 1986 and then as President in 1989. I will never ever forget the cheers, the genuine enthusiasm that the Costa Rican people showed for the United States of America when our flag was displayed there in that stadium. I'll never forget it. I know Barbara was touched by the warm hospitality extended by you and Mrs. Calderon and the Costa Rican people at your inauguration last May. There can be no doubt, Mr. President, that the people of Costa Rica and of the United States have a deep and abiding friendship, one for the other.

Costa Rica and the United States stand shoulder to shoulder for common values and aspirations. Our friendship is rooted in shared commitments to human rights, economic and social freedom, democracy, and peaceful foreign relations.

Costa Rica stands tall as a model of courage. For most of your lifetime, Mr. President, Costa Rica's neighbors have suffered from violence and instability, often under dictatorship. Political violence, border conflicts, death squads, subversion by Marxist guerrillas, all of these have scarred Central America and the Isthmus. Through all of this, without an army, Costa Rica stood fast. Costa Rica is a rock of stability in Central America because its people believe in permanent things: the sanctity of the person and of the family, the centrality of human freedom.

Almost half a century ago, the Costa Rican people made a civilized political and social compact. Costa Ricans strictly limited the power of government to interfere with civil liberties. Against all threats, domestic and external, Costa Ricans have kept faith with that promise. Costa Rica practices robust competitive politics, peacefully transferring power from party to party, from person to person. With its independent judiciary and limited public security forces, Costa Rica is a model civil society based on the rule of law.

Your country keeps faith with its international commitments, even when doing so is costly. Through all of the Central American turmoil during the 1980s, Costa Rica gave safe haven to refugees and respected universal human rights.

Mr. President, we strongly support your efforts, courageous efforts, to renew Costa Rica's economic strength. You've put together a very effective economic team. You've shown personal courage and impressive skills of leadership in advancing such reforms as price deregulation, privatization of government agencies, and tax reform. And I applaud these efforts which will help assure prosperity for the Costa Rican people.

And yes, I know that sacrifice by the people of Costa Rica is involved here. But I also know that the difficult economic decisions that you have taken will pay off for the wonderful people of Costa Rica.

I encourage you to continue to exercise the leadership necessary to complete the reform effort. We are recognizing that leadership today in making available $24 million in economic support funds. I promise to work unceasingly with you to let the liberating power of free markets help your country and mine and our neighbors as well.

Already we're working together to promote the Enterprise of the Americas Initiative for expanded trade and investment in the hemisphere. And I thank you, sir, for your very strong support of this initiative. The framework agreement for trade and investment between our countries will join with other accords to create new jobs and improve living conditions throughout the Americas. Our common efforts will hasten the day when the Americas will become a flourishing trade area from the Arctic Circle to the Strait of Magellan.

Mr. President, Costa Rica is a haven of peace, and Costa Ricans have always helped to resolve conflicts in your region. Today, we see the best of the Costa Rican tradition in your efforts to help bring about a just and peaceful solution to El Salvador's civil conflict. Fundamentally, all these efforts have been possible because Costa Ricans have labored for decades to cultivate the habits of civil society, habits of freedom and responsibility. Because of this abiding faith, Costa Rica is assisting in a new birth of freedom, prosperity, and peace for all of Central America.

Thank you again, Mr. President, my friend, thank you for your visit. And may God bless the people of Costa Rica.

President Calderon. Mr. President, Mr. Secretary, we are extremely thrilled today. I must recall that during an entire lifetime we have had the best relations of friendship, solidarity, and cooperation with the United States. It is not in vain that the United States is the oldest and most solid democracy in the Americas, and Costa Rica is the oldest and most solid democracy in Latin America.

On a personal note, I am so very pleased with the relationship of affection which binds you, Barbara, and your entire family to me and my entire family. And also on a personal note, just as you and I are standing here, my father stood here 51 years ago with President Roosevelt, strengthening the ties of friendship and solidarity binding the United States and Costa Rica.

As one governing a Latin American country, I have come here to express my thanks for your idea and your program of the Enterprise for the Americas Initiative. I have affirmed, and I repeat, that the history of the economic relations of Latin America and the United States will be divided into two phases, pre- and post-Enterprise for the Americas Initiative.

We have come here not out of a desire to ask the United States for economic assistance, but rather armed with a desire to come over the next few years to a free trade agreement with the United States which will increase the number of jobs, the amount of investment, the amount of exports, and the amount of wealth and employment of our country. We hope that by the first quarter of 1992 that we will be eligible for the Enterprise for the Americas Initiative facilities, having by then reduced considerably our external debt, and being ready by that time to take advantage of a free trade agreement.

Thank you once more, President Bush, for your support, your backing, your warmth, and your affection toward us and toward the entire Costa Rican people. Thank you once again for the cooperation of you and of your Government in the various international organizations in which the United States is represented.

Thank you once again for your cooperation in terms of equipment for our fight against drug trafficking which is a major concern of both of us. We are bound to be the first line of defense of American youth against drug trafficking, as well as the first line of defense of our own youth.

Thank you, finally, for continuing this endless, ceaseless struggle that the United States and Costa Rica have been waging and continue to wage for freedom and democracy in the world.

Thank you once again, President Bush.

Note: President Bush spoke at 1:18 p.m. on the South Lawn at the White House. President Calderon spoke in Spanish, and his remarks were translated by an interpreter. Prior to the remarks the two Presidents met privately in the Oval Office.

George Bush, Remarks Following Discussions With President Rafael Calderon of Costa Rica Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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