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Remarks at the Welcoming Ceremony for President Carlos Andres Perez of Venezuela

April 26, 1990

President Bush. Welcome, all of you. It is my great honor to welcome the leader of one of South America's oldest democracies and one of Latin America's most respected statesmen, Carlos Andres Perez, President of Venezuela. And I am especially pleased that we welcome him today. He's just come here from Managua, just hours after attending the inauguration of Violeta Chamorro as the new President of Nicaragua -- democratic Nicaragua. A great day for democracy and a great advance for the cause of freedom in our hemisphere.

President Perez, on the morning after Nicaragua's recent elections, I remember calling you to discuss the stunning victory the Nicaraguan people had won at the ballot box. I called to confer with you because I knew how long and hard you personally had worked to bring democracy to Nicaragua. From the final days of the Somoza regime to your efforts on behalf of the Contadora group, and now to the moment of freedom's triumph, your deep personal commitment to the advance of democracy has never wavered.

Today another nation has joined freedom's ranks. For the people of all America, all the Americas, this is a time to celebrate. More than that, it's a time to dedicate ourselves to the day, perhaps not so distant, when all the people of this hemisphere live in freedom and democracy.

Mr. President, in just a few moments we'll move inside to the Oval Office and begin our consultations. But before we do, let me just say a few words about the new course your nation has chosen, about the changes your nation is making in its economic orientation, and about Venezuela's version of what I have heard described as "Perezstroika."

In the past year we've seen the thirst for freedom transform the world, and with that unquenchable desire for political freedom has come a realization that freedom is also the key to economic development. From Moscow to Managua, we've witnessed a shift from the teaching of Marx to the lessons of the free market. That shift parallels the one you've begun in Venezuela by stripping away the layers of state control that stifled development in favor of free market principles that experience proves provide fertile ground for growth.

I know this transition, with its difficult, short-term effects, has meant some pain for the people of Venezuela. But it is the kind of new beginning that will lay the foundations for future growth. It isn't an easy path, but we're convinced it is the only path to prosperity and better lives for all Venezuelans.

That's why I'm pleased to see that Venezuela and its main creditors have reached agreement under the Brady plan for dealing with debt burden, a plan that opens the way for opportunity and growth. With this agreement, Venezuela can take the next step forward toward economic vitality and growing prosperity for all its people.

That, Mr. President, is not only a testament to Venezuela energy and enterprise but, clearly, sir, to your vision and your courage. I am really looking forward to our talks. On behalf of all Americans, it is my great pleasure to meet with you here at the White House.

Once again, welcome, and may God bless the Republic of Venezuela.

President Perez. Mr. President, Mrs. Bush, I come from a continent, Latin America, and from a nation, Venezuela, whose citizens strive to consolidate their economic and social progress and their democracy. It is to speak of these efforts that I have accepted your kind invitation, Mr. President. We will talk to each other with the same friendly sincerity that has become customary in us. I shall also meet leaders of American economic and political life, as well as outstanding representatives of your intellectual and cultural world. To all of them, we will want to express our joy at the new surge of democratization which is sweeping today's world and undoing in its wake the age of cold war and bipolarity.

We rejoice at the fact that time has come now for detente and a great joint effort aimed at facilitating economic development, social progress, equilibrium, and cooperation among nations. Latin America has much to contribute to today's world. Our continent wants to participate in shaping a world of peace -- of peaceful neighborliness and respect of human rights and the rights of the nature that is to be the heritage of our children -- so as to set the foundations of a democracy and a quality of life consonant with the yearnings and possibilities of mankind.

Latin America has made progress. We have become free of dictatorships, and our democracies are being consolidated. Currently, all the countries of the region are waging their individual battles to achieve sound economies and make Latin America competitive. The Latin American continent is determined to modernize its structures, institutions, and relations, even in spite of the fact that our efforts do not always meet with proper understanding, cooperation, and encouragement.

In seeking solutions to conflicts, Latin American nations have devised their own ever more efficient mechanisms. Today Latin America is able to solve serious conflicts; and I am certain, Mr. President, that we have come to the end of all solutions that fuel the historic lack of understanding existing between our people. And in this regard, let me highlight some Latin American agreements for peace, democracy, and cooperation -- such as the group of Contadora, the group of Rio, and Esquipulas II -- which have set the marvelous examples of these past elections in Nicaragua.

And I come here today to Washington directly from Managua, where I attended the inauguration of a government freely elected by the people. The San Jose agreement is another example of the same thing. And our present economic difficulties have not prevented us from disbursing for the sake of solidarity over $3 billion as our contribution to peace and democracy. We feel full confidence in the coming new age of peace and solidarity. We trust that we will not go back to political, military, economic, and trade conditions that will place us again on an unequal footing in a world that is becoming ever more interdependent and resistant to any subservience of either the citizens of a nation to any party or sect, or some nations to others, based on their political or military might.

We want our efforts in favor of the region's peace, its democratic revival, its economic recovery, and its social harmony to be matched with support, equitable cooperation, and uniform and balanced treatment for our nations. In such a framework, we will be able to progress and contribute to the establishment of a true hemispheric community, thus bridging our traditional mutual lack of understanding, our nonencounter as I like to call it.

We must work together to solve the problems of our continent, and we will be able to do it much more successfully if we recognize the solid friendship that binds us. Between your country and mine, there is a common and complimentary interest concerning production and consumption of energy resources. We obviously need to exchange views on how to maintain an adequate strategic production potential in this hemisphere. This is the hope we all have. And as your great poet Carl Sandburg said when he compared our need of cooperation to an echo that resounds further and further, we also say we have to travel further, much further, much beyond what we have achieved. And this is why I have come to meet your wonderful people and to talk to the President and other representatives of this immense, great, and admirable nation.

Note: President Bush spoke at 10:13 a.m. at the South Portico of the White House, where President Perez was accorded a formal welcome with full military honors. President Perez spoke in Spanish, and his remarks were translated by an interpreter.

George Bush, Remarks at the Welcoming Ceremony for President Carlos Andres Perez of Venezuela Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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