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Remarks to a Joint Session of the Congress in Montevideo, Uruguay

December 04, 1990

Mr. Vice President, distinguished Members of Congress, ladies and gentlemen, and citizens of Uruguay:

First off, all of us have been deeply touched by your warm welcome. From the minute I've gotten here, I've felt at home. And indeed, Montevideo is graced by images that were once familiar features in our own nation's frontier tradition: the dramatic statues of Belloni and Zorrilla depicting covered wagons, a stagecoach, the gaucho himself. For a moment, I thought I was back home in Texas.

The peoples of our two countries have long been linked by bonds of tradition and belief. Both emphasize equality. Both place their trust in the individual. Both are deeply rooted to the land. Indeed, Uruguay is blessed with some of the best farmland in the world, and flying over it this morning, it reminded me of the fertile heartland of the United States. But the truth is, there is no place quite like Uruguay, this heart-shaped country that's not only at the heart of the Southern Cone but at the heart of South America's exciting new movement towards free markets and free ideas.

Uruguay appears small on the map, but looms large in real life -- large in land, large in character, large in heritage, and large in dreams. More than a century ago, W.H. Hudson crossed Uruguay's rolling grasslands and purple banks and brought them vividly to life in his epic saga "The Purple Land." The Uruguay he saw was a trackless prairie of vast spaces and limitless horizons. Today the horizons of Uruguay once again open up to a future without limit. Just look around. Behind me, Jose Artigas, father of a modern nation. And before me, the Uruguayan Congress, a new generation of pioneers seeking not to tame a land but to build a nation.

Our visit comes at a time when the Western Hemisphere looks out upon a new era, an era not for the First World or the Third World but an era that marks a new dawn for the New World. Together, we're embarked on a journey spurred by profound worldwide changes: political renewal, economic restructuring, social realignment. And together we're leading the way.

We have a unique chance to realize the dreams and ambitions of the people who came to the Americas, north and south, seeking a better life for themselves and for those who followed. Like the United States, Uruguay is a nation of immigrants, and the history of our Republics is told in the history of our families.

One such family was the MacGillycuddys of Ireland, who left the shores of Europe in the last century. One went north, and one went south. Both worked hard, prayed to the same God, learned the language of their adopted countries. And today their grandchildren are the children of the Americas: Eduardo MacGillycuddy, Uruguay's Ambassador to Washington, and Cornelius MacGillycuddy, better known in my country as United States Senator Connie Mack -- common dreams, common bonds, common families.

This is my first trip to Uruguay, and yet I feel I know your President, President Lacalle, well. We met in Washington last February, and again in October in New York. Not only does your President have a vision for his country, but he has the rare talent of being able to act on his vision for the benefit of the people.

Last June I announced the Enterprise for the Americas Initiative, an ambitious new plan to increase trade, investment, and growth throughout the hemisphere. It is a major step in our shared dream for the world's first completely democratic hemisphere. And President Lacalle was the first, the very first leader, to call me to discuss how we could work together to realize its objectives.

The world is changing faster than anyone believed possible. Fundamental changes are sweeping Uruguay and Latin America. From Tierra del Fuego to the Texas border, old ways of doing business are being reexamined, and new ideas are on the march. The democratic form of government has come to be recognized as the heart of political legitimacy. The democratic ideal has not triumphed everywhere and, to be sure, not all men live today in total freedom or in democracy; but we've reached the point where all are demanding to live in freedom as their God-given right.

The Western Hemisphere can take pride in having launched this worldwide transformation from dictatorship to democracy. And nowhere has the process been more impressive than right here, where your people have demonstrated the courage, cooperation, and self-sacrifice necessary to win success. The transition was difficult, but the potential rewards are great. The conversion of the hemisphere to representative government and to rational economic management opens up the possibility of unprecedented mutual respect and common purpose across the Americas.

Here in Uruguay, President Lacalle has set forth a bold program to restructure the economy, changes which will improve Uruguay's overall strength and prosperity. In time, the economy will produce more goods and services, provide more jobs for all and, in short, improve Uruguay's very quality of life.

But look, fundamental changes often involve costs. There are no easy solutions, no quick fixes. But you are not alone. Our Enterprise for the Americas Initiative is aimed at extending a helping hand to our neighbors in South America on trade, investment, and debt reduction.

I know some in Latin America fear we've become preoccupied with the dramatic developments in the Old World. Let me assure you today that we have not. The Enterprise for the Americas Initiative represents a fundamental shift in our relationship with Latin America. It recognizes a simple truth, a truth President Lacalle recognized last June at the Organization of American States, a truth that has now been heard and embraced throughout the Americas. "Prosperity in our hemisphere," he said, "depends on trade, not aid."

In order to promote trade, we are working toward a framework agreement with Uruguay, Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay that commits us to explore practical ways to reduce trade and investment barriers. A strong multilateral trading system is the cornerstone of a healthy, expanding world economy, benefiting both developing and developed nations alike. That's why I have made the successful conclusion of the Uruguay round of the GATT a top trade priority, and that's why it has such a prominent place in my Enterprise for the Americas Initiative. It presents us an extraordinary opportunity for unparalleled economic growth for all nations, well into the 21st century.

In the final talks at the GATT this week, we stand firmly with you and other Latin nations in insisting that countries sharply reduce the agricultural subsidies that distort world trade. The land has historically been at the heart of both our economies; and from Montevideo to Montana, our farmers and our ranchers enjoyed shared traditions, shared interests, and shared concerns.

As our trade ministers meet in Brussels this week, I want to speak to them from the place where the round began. It began with a commitment to expansion of world trade, so let us finish the round in the same spirit, translating good intentions into firm commitments that will benefit us all by substantially expanding world trade. As the traveler in "The Purple Land" says: "We lose half our opportunities in life through too much caution." The new dawn is breaking. The stakes are high. Let's successfully conclude the GATT round -- and that means opening up Europe's market to this hemisphere's agricultural products.

The Enterprise for the Americas Initiative also acknowledges that improved trade must be bolstered by assistance with investment and with debt. To promote investment, we've been working with the Inter-American Development Bank to create a sectoral loan program. The IDB's response has been outstanding. That's no surprise; it's led by an Uruguayan, Enrique Iglesias. We will also help countries committed to economic and investment reform to shake loose the burden of debt.

First, I want to congratulate President Lacalle on his successful negotiation of a debt agreement with the commercial banks under the Brady plan. That is a vote of confidence in Uruguay's economic policies by the international financial community. And we've also asked our Congress to approve a new package to reduce Uruguay's official debt. This will allow us to convert other payments to investment in industry and to swap debt for nature to protect your natural beauty. Environmental destruction knows no borders. And it is our responsibility to leave future generations not only a more prosperous world but a cleaner and a safer world.

A safer world also means a world free from the scourge of this hemisphere, the scourge called cocaine. And for the sake of our kids, every country must do its part to stop the explosive cycle of drugs, dependency, and dollars. And let me assure you, we are doing our level-best to reduce demand in the United States for these outrageous illegal narcotics.

And finally, a safer world also means a world safe for freedom, a world governed by the rule of law. And just a few minutes ago, I was privileged to meet with your Supreme Court. A free, honest, and impartial judicial system is fundamental to the freedom of a democracy, just as the rule of law is fundamental to the freedom of the world.

What the world faces in the Persian Gulf, believe me, is fundamental. We will not -- we must not -- reward a nation that would wipe another country off the face of the Earth. We will not reward a nation that has literally -- and the tales are agonizing -- has literally raped and terrorized its smaller neighbor. We will not reward a nation that kidnaps people and holds them hostage, staking them out as human shields, a nation that violates the sanctity of foreign embassies. And we will not reward a nation whose unprovoked aggression is driving economies all around the world into ever-greater financial distress.

I want to just say a special word in tribute to your President and to your proud democracy. Uruguay has shown great courage and commitment in support for United Nations sanctions against Iraqi aggression. Some may not realize this, but Uruguay paid a double price, a double price for upholding these sanctions: first, in higher oil prices, but also in substantial markets lost, for now, for your products. And yet you never flinched; your country never flinched. You never wavered in support of these U.N. sanctions.

You know, some seek to portray the crisis in the Gulf as a conflict between Iraq and the United States. In truth, as your example clearly demonstrates, it is a conflict between a united world community and an isolated, brutal dictator; the rule of law against Saddam Hussein's brutal aggression. And that's why I'm convinced, totally convinced, that the world community will prevail in the end.

The U.N. sanctions in their entirety will be upheld, and aggression will not be rewarded. That -- and it will come -- that will be a great victory for peace and global security. And I want to take this occasion, once again, to salute you, to salute your nation for your leadership in this struggle.

You know, in Czechoslovakia, President Havel told me the cost to his country was $1.5 billion. In Brazil yesterday, President Collor told me $5 billion is his estimated annual cost. And here in Uruguay, President Lacalle said the impact is substantial. All because of Iraq's determination to violate the sanctity and the sovereignty of little Kuwait.

No one in your great country needs to be told about sovereignty. In 1811 Artigas and his gauchos led an exodus of free Uruguayans who refused to submit to the control of foreign despots. His demand was simple: complete autonomy for Uruguay. His dream was not realized overnight, but today many believe that had it not been for Artigas' brave stand Uruguay would surely been absorbed into another nation.

Exactly 30 years ago, President Eisenhower spoke to the people of Uruguay from this very podium. Our message hasn't changed. He said: "The United States does not covet a single acre of land that belongs to another. We don't wish to control or dictate to another government." And he went on, "We believe that the people of every nation are endowed with the right of free choice and that the most sacred obligation of the world community is to guarantee such choice to all."

A generation later, Juan Lavalleja and the 33 Immortals completed Uruguay's transition to sovereign freedom. Today their legacy has fallen to you -- an inheritance from Uruguay and for all of the Americas. Today the new 33 Immortals are the very nations of this continent, the OAS nations, now barreling in confidence towards the new century. All of us have a stake in working together. Our goal is to work with Latin America to build a hemisphere where trade and investment are unfettered, private enterprise can flourish, and individual rights are respected.

I see a hemisphere with strong democratic institutions and leaders and ever-expanding economic opportunity for all members of society, a society free of drugs and crime, a cleaner environment, and a new era of cooperation between Latin America and the United States.

Yours is a colorful land of spectacular beauty, from the lush green expanses outside Salto to the purple banks of the Yi River to the white beaches of Punta del Este. And as a new dawn breaks over the New World, Uruguay and all the hemisphere will continue on our voyage of discovery guided by the true colors of the Americas -- the colors of free ideas, free markets, and free trade. And as you travel, we will be watching with great hopes, and we will be standing with you. God speed you on this journey, and God bless the wonderful people of this country.

Thank you very, very much.

Note: President Bush spoke at 4:37 p.m. in the Salon de Actos at the Edificio Libertad. In his remarks, he referred to Vice President Gonzalo Aguirre of Uruguay and President Saddam Hussein of Iraq.

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

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