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Remarks to a Joint Session of the Congress in Buenos Aires, Argentina

December 05, 1990

Thank you, Mr. President of the Senate, Eduardo Duhalde. Thank you for those wonderful remarks. To the President pro tem of the Senate, Senator Menem; and the President of the Chamber of Deputies, Dr. Pierri; distinguished members of the Supreme Court; distinguished members of the military; distinguished legislators and government officials; and ladies and gentlemen: I am honored to be with you in this very beautiful Hall of Democracy, with so many Members of your Congress. And I am privileged to be with you at this special time in history -- both your own history and the history we share as members of the same hemisphere -- for we live in an era of dramatic change.

Some may have thought that the events of Monday would make me change my plans. To the contrary, they strengthened my resolve to come to Argentina, to stand shoulder to shoulder with President Menem and the Argentine people, who love democracy and refuse to see it subverted.

The message today from Argentina is clear: Democracy is here to stay. Too many brave people sacrificed and died to bring democracy back to Latin America. Let those who would attack constitutional democracy understand: In Latin America the day of the dictator is over. Violent assaults upon the rule of law represent the old way of thinking, the old way of acting this history has left behind. It is time to think anew.

No longer should we think in terms of the Old World, where our roots lie, or of the First World or the Third World. No, we must move beyond the labels that once separated us to grasp the common future that unites us. Argentina, the United States, and the other nations in this continent share the promise of a new dawn in a new world.

So, I have come to Argentina to speak about change -- you heard it first from the Vice President -- the kind of positive, hopeful change symbolized by the Sun of the Spirit of May in your dramatic seal.

There's an old saying that when North Americans meet Argentines, they look into a mirror. I've felt that. Much here seems familiar: the cattle, the seas of grass, the love of liberty, the shared belief in the dignity of the individual, our common European roots and shared colonial past, the warm energy and the spirit of the people, even our interest in sport -- we look forward to welcoming your team to the United States in 1994 for our first hosting of the World Cup, for example. But above all, above all, we share a devotion and a commitment to our respective nations that would have pleased General San Martin, who wrote: "Love for one's native land fuels noble souls."

All of this is part of the unique bond between our countries, but it's also recent history that unites us. Your return of democracy has brought our peoples closer than ever before. Your sacrifice during past decades caused us deep anguish and concern. But your people did not lose faith in the democratic ideal, and the United States did not lose faith in you.

As we prepare, with optimism and anticipation, for the challenges facing this hemisphere and the rest of the world, some things are clear. We all know that we want to live in a new world that is a model of security and stability. This means regional arms control -- as well as nuclear, missile, and chemical nonproliferation -- and the collective determination to face down aggression.

As I said the day before yesterday in Brasilia, the United States applauds the decision announced November 28th by the leaders of Argentina and Brazil to move forward on nuclear safeguards and to bring the Treaty of Tlatelolco into force. We hope you will move quickly to realize both of these commitments, as they have a direct, measurable impact on regional and world security. Such action will also allow the United States and other countries to expand significantly the range of our nuclear and other technical cooperation. We are eager and we are ready to do so.

In the current crisis halfway around the world in the Gulf, you have also shown strength and vision by helping to lead international efforts to stop Saddam's brutal aggression. Your contribution to the multinational force in the Gulf is a statement of your commitment to peace and a commitment to the rule of law and a clear sign that you are assuming your rightful place as a leader among freedom-loving nations.

Argentina and President Menem have not limited their efforts to promoting international security. Here in this great country, you have embarked on another courageous action: the restoration of your economic dynamism. Your President, Carlos Menem, has defined the challenge that we face to day. He said: "To take advantage of democratic experiences, to propel economic growth and progress, is the principal crossroads and challenge for our peoples and governments."

It is a difficult challenge, as I believe few Presidents have ever taken office under more testing circumstances than did President Menem. And yet he and his colleagues in this Congress did not shrink from the task at hand. Instead, you've set into motion a forward-looking structural, economic, and social transformation of this great country.

We know of the painful short-term sacrifices that you are being called upon to make, in what your own President has called surgery without anesthesia. For this tremendous undertaking to succeed, it will not take miracles; it will take work. But know that the United States is prepared to work with you every step of the way.

Just yesterday we signed two new agreements, a mutual legal assistance treaty and a mutual customs cooperation agreement. And last June, to help this movement in your nation and the others of this continent, we proposed the Enterprise for the Americas Initiative, which calls for a major hemispheric effort to expand trade and investment and to reduce debt; to unleash energy; to encourage initiative; and to let the incentive of reward inspire people to better themselves, their families, and their futures. We are absolutely committed to this initiative as a major priority. It will give impetus to the essential economic restructuring which you already have underway, and it will sustain and deepen this process in tangible ways.

The initiative is our hemisphere's new declaration of interdependence. For economic revolution is the equal of political revolution, and economic cooperation must be embraced not as a threat to privilege for a few but as the key to prosperity for all. We know that prosperity in our hemisphere depends on trade, not aid. And it is within our power to make our region the largest trading center of sovereign nations in the world. Already, the Southern Cone common market is moving us closer to our ultimate objective: a free-trade system that links all of the Americas. We support you in this and look forward to completing a framework agreement on trade and investment between the United States and the Southern Cone.

But to promote long-term growth, we need the successful conclusion of the Uruguay round. The negotiators must succeed in their efforts to reduce or eliminate tariffs, subsidies, and other barriers to agricultural products. This will mean new market opportunities for the farmer in Buenos Aires Province, the agricultural workers in Jujuy, and the engineer in Rosario.

No act could be more significant for your nation than the move toward a market-oriented economy, a move crucial to attracting foreign investment. You see, it lays the groundwork for your future, building a road that leads to a modern, growing Argentina. A free-enterprise economy will encourage capital investment, greater individual initiative, and real prosperity for this and future generations. With the help of the Inter-American Development Bank, we want to encourage the reform and the opening of investment regimes. The spirit of enterprise will unleash your great potential and assure this nation of its position as one of the most vigorous nations in the world.

The reforms that you are carrying out in your economy, including your bold program of privatization, are not only the key to economic growth and expanded opportunity; they are also the first crucial steps under the Brady plan to achieve debt reduction with your commercial creditors. I understand the burden of debt that weighs on Argentina, but I believe that today -- like Mexico, Venezuela, Uruguay, and Costa Rica -- Argentina is on the right road to reduce that burden under the Brady plan.

The way we deal with our common economic realities can be a stepping-stone to a permanent partnership among all the nations of the Americas. I believe we are on the brink of something unprecedented in world history -- the first wholly democratic hemisphere. Think of it: the first hemisphere devoted to freedom -- to free speech, to free elections, free enterprise, free trade, free markets.

And that's why I've come to your country: to celebrate what we share, to recommit the United States of America to the movement toward democracy and prosperity all throughout the Americas, to stress the vital importance of mutual cooperation and understanding among traditional friends. For we read in Martin Fierro: "brothers should stand by each other, because this is the first law." And he goes on: "keep a true bond between you at each and every time."

You know, Argentina is a great nation with enormous resources, but none more impressive than the Argentinean people themselves. When this century began, Argentina was among the most prosperous and productive nations in the entire world. And I am totally confident that Argentina will be such an economic leader again and continue to lead this hemisphere.

Together, yet from our own beloved lands, we will watch freedom, democracy, and prosperity grow. We will watch it from the vantage point of two countries strong in liberty and expanding in economy. And we can look forward together with shared optimism to the 21st century, to the brilliant new dawn of a splendid new world.

Thank you all very much for this warm welcome. I am delighted to have been your guest here today. Thank you.

Note: The President spoke at 4:45 p.m. in the Congressional Chamber at the Palacio del Congreso. In his remarks, he referred to Eduardo Duhalde, President of the Senate and Vice President of Argentina, and President Saddam Hussein of Iraq.

George Bush, Remarks to a Joint Session of the Congress in Buenos Aires, Argentina Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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