Ronald Reagan picture

Remarks at the Welcoming Ceremony for President Luis Herrera Campins of Venezuela

November 17, 1981

President Reagan. Ladies and gentlemen, it's indeed an honor to welcome His Excellency, the President of Venezuela, and Mrs. Herrera Campins to Washington.

President Herrera and I had the opportunity to get to know each other at last month's summit in Cancun. While we were there, we reaffirmed that our two nations share common goals and mutual concerns, especially about liberty and progress in the American family of nations. The challenges facing the people of the Americas are greater than ever before. Maintaining independence and freedom will require the same dedication demonstrated during the struggle for independence that is common to every American nation.

Venezuela played a unique role in America's struggle for independence. Its role in the future of the region is no less important. The great liberator Simon Bolivar once said, "It is harder to maintain the balance of liberty than to endure the weight of tyranny." He lamented that all too often mankind is willing to rest unconcerned and accept things as they are.

President Herrera, if Bolivar were alive today, he would be proud indeed of the current generation of Venezuelans and what it has accomplished. In two decades, you have built a free nation that is a beacon of hope for all those who suffer oppression. After courageously casting off the chains of dictatorship, Venezuelans rejected the tyranny of left and right and held firm in their commitment to dignity and freedom.

While still in its infancy, your young democracy withstood a serious challenge from an external force that still threatens other emerging nations, undermining legitimate attempts at social change in order to exploit chaos and promote tyranny. But, clearly, in a tribute to the decency and values of your people, the love of liberty has prevailed. It is to Venezuela's credit and in keeping with Bolivar's dream that you are now helping others overcome similar challenges to their freedom and prosperity.

I know that we will stand together, Mr. President, in our opposition to the spread to our shores of hostile totalitarian systems and in our dedication to true liberty and democracy.

Venezuela's development program, particularly in the Caribbean region, is an example of humanitarianism and farsightedness that has the highest respect and admiration of the people of the United States. Your recognition of the private sector's role in development is much appreciated here, but this, too, is in your tradition.

Over a century ago, Andres Bello, an intellectual giant and a Venezuelan, noted a relationship between liberty and enterprise. "Liberty," he suggested, "gives wings to the spirit of enterprise wherever it meets it. It breathes breath into where it does not exist."

We have much to learn from the people of Venezuela. Your knowledge of developing nations is invaluable and, President Herrera, I'm personally looking forward to your counsel on this vital subject.

Venezuela reaches out today, in the spirit of Bolivar and Bello, the liberator and the educator, to better mankind and to unite the freedom-loving peoples of this hemisphere.

Just a few months ago, President Herrera, you spoke to the United Nations and eloquently outlined your nation's commitment to principle. There you stated, "Venezuelans believe in and practice democracy. We do not attempt to impose our own values and concepts of society on anyone, but we know that freedom is the road of history." Let me say to you as clearly and directly as I can, in this expression of Venezuela's cherished goals, you have the firm and lasting support of the people of the United States of America.

Mr. President, our two peoples will walk that road together as equals, as friends who share common values. And so, as one American to another, we bid you a heartfelt welcome.

President Herrera. Your Excellency, Mr. Ronald Reagan, President of the United States, distinguished guests:

Mr. President, thank you on behalf of my wife, the people who accompany me, and in my own name, for your kind words of welcome. The United States and Venezuela have enjoyed throughout their history friendly and cordial relations with inevitable coincidence and divergences, but with the unalterable constant of friendship and understanding in a spirit of mutual and strict respect for the national dignity of our countries.

Venezuela has acquired a growing weight in international affairs. Today, we constitute an obligatory point of reference for all issues related to hemispheric dialog and relations between the industrialized and the developing worlds. We follow an honorable, independent, and serious international policy, attempting at all times to project the image of our democratic institutions, observant of the demands of freedom.

We have attained and consolidated since 1958 our democratic stability, following the effort made by our democratic organizations and the national armed forces to achieve mutual understanding and respect and after overcoming the threats of a Marxist-inspired subversion that meant to destabilize our process of democratization.

The presence of Venezuela in the hemisphere and in the world is enhanced by our position as a producer and exporter of strategically valuable energy resources, our status of promoter and founder of the Organization of Oil [Petroleum] Exporting Countries, and holder of a privileged geographical position in a region afflicted by international tensions. We labor indefatigably so that peace will not suffer impairment or wrong.

Mr. President, the foreign policy actions of my government are not characterized by any kind of notion against, anti, anything. They are governed by an unyielding purpose of acting in favor of, pro, in favor of the interests of Venezuela, of Latin America, of the developing world, and of all of mankind.

In our observance of this principle, when we coincide with other nations, we do not do so in submission. And when we disagree, it is not because of aversion. When we coincide, it is without complexes. When we differ, it is without fear. We are not, and shall not be, passive subjects or instruments in the struggle between the superpowers over the issue of world supremacy.

Our foreign policy is, as you well know, autonomous and sovereign, as is fit for a country that is the birthplace of Simon Bolivar, the liberator, father of our independence and fighter of Latin American integration. It is this intellectual and political legacy that inspires our domestic and foreign policies.

My visit to this great nation, Mr. President, comes at a precarious moment in world affairs. I hope that the talks we will hold will produce more points of coincidence than discrepancy both on the political and the social-economic issues.

We shall speak on the tense reality of the Central American and the Caribbean regions, all the complex factors that affect it and serve as breeding ground for convulsions resulting from social imbalances which are seized upon by political hegemonic aspirations and destabilizing ideological radicalisms. We want to preserve this region from the tensions of bloc politics.

We shall pursue, led by the same constructive spirit, the dialog begun in Cancun on the urgency of making substantial changes in the present international economic relations. The peoples of the world continue to hope to see global negotiations held within the framework of the United Nations. And even if they are to be initially frail, they will build up gradually as trade develops.

We shall discuss the improvement and expansion of bilateral relations between our two countries, both of which enjoy systems of freely elected democratic governments and a historical commitment to defend the freedom of mankind.

Our conversations will be clear in their wording, specific in their subject matter, and positive in their results. That is the deepest hope I harbor on the occasion of my visit here.

Mr. President, I thank you, your government, and your people, for this invitation you have extended to me to hold a dialog on the future of our countries, of our continent, and of peace.

Thank you.

Note: President Reagan spoke at 10:18 a.m. in the East Room, where President Herrera was given a formal welcome. The ceremony was not held on the South Lawn, as is customary, due to inclement weather. President Herrera spoke in Spanish, and his remarks were translated by an interpreter.

Following the ceremony, the two Presidents met in the Oval Office. Also present at that meeting were, on the American side, the Vice President, Secretary of State Alexander M. Haig, Jr., Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs Richard V. Allen, and U.S. Ambassador to Venezuela William H. Luers and, on the Venezuelan side, Foreign Minister Josh Alberto Zambraon Velasco, Minister, Secretariat of the Presidency, Gonzalo Garcia Bustillos, and Venezuelan Ambassador to the United States Marcial Perez Chiriboga. President Reagan and President Herrera were then joined by an expanded group of their advisers for a second meeting in the Cabinet Room.

Ronald Reagan, Remarks at the Welcoming Ceremony for President Luis Herrera Campins of Venezuela Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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