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Remarks at the Welcoming Ceremony for President Violeta Chamorro of Nicaragua

April 17, 1991

President Bush. It gives me great pleasure to welcome to the United States a woman of courage, a leader of conviction, a person of morality and vision: Mrs. Violeta Chamorro, President of Nicaragua.

We stand here at the White House almost a year to the day after the extraordinary moment when you stood at Managua's National Stadium to be sworn in as your nation's first freely elected President.

What a moment that was. In you we saw the exhilarating victory of democracy, of that glorious new breeze that, in one amazing year, swept out oppression and dictatorship from Prague to Managua. In you we saw your nation's peacemaker, the person who would close the books on 11 years of cruel civil war.

In you we saw the symbol of national reconciliation with the inner strength and resolve to turn the face of your country toward the path of healing.

In you we saw what your countrymen saw when they cast their ballots in their first fair, open election. We all saw the person who inspired her people to believe in the triumphant return of peace and freedom.

On that Inauguration Day we saw Dona Violeta, candidate of compassion, become President Chamorro, leader of reconciliation. On that day you closed a painful chapter in your nation's history, and you began to forge a new one. The beautiful land of Ruben Dario had been exhausted by strife, embittered by repression, polarized by government attempts to dominate every single aspect of society, impoverished by a cynical and mismanaged regime.

But you are the leader who once said: "As a mother, I feel with great intensity the obligation to teach while governing and to govern while forming peaceful hearts." And you've begun to bring life and dreams back to your people in your "mission to help them" -- as you call it, "mission to help them." Your courageous countrymen are showing that they are ready to dig in and work hard to reap the benefits of free government and free enterprise.

Following the course of your slogan, "Yes, we can change things," your reforms are realistic -- restoration of democratic liberties, religious freedom, economic reconstruction, free-market opportunities, reallocation of military funds to vital economic and social programs, and reincorporation of former combatants and refugees.

But your reforms are also visionary: the restoration of moral values and human dignity. The importance of an inheritance for your children of reconciliation and respect. And the belief in the goodness of a people that still turns for guidance to its patron saint, La Purisima.

And your reforms, your "new sun of justice and freedom," bring hope to the watching world. For with the democratization of Nicaragua, we are one crucial step closer to the incredible goal of becoming this world's first fully democratic hemisphere.

We know that the tasks facing the Nicaraguan people are difficult. Your economic stabilization plan requires hard choices. Economic reform after years of mismanagement is never easy and presents challenges to leadership. But sacrifice in the short run is vital to achieve long-term growth and development. And we hope that all elements of Nicaraguan society will work with you for the good of your country.

The Nicaraguan people do not stand friendless and alone to face these challenges. We are confident that as you confront them, all Nicaraguans will enjoy renewed and widely shared prosperity.

Dona Violeta, I am proud to stand with you, and our nation is proud to stand by you. We're offering over $500 million in aid over your first 2 years as President. And we've joined with other developed countries to work with the international financial institutions to help Nicaragua. And beyond aid, we're offering opportunities for trade and investment that will benefit both our countries through the Enterprise for the Americas Initiative.

And most of all, we're offering something from our hearts to your proud country, your blue and white Nicaragua, where, as your national anthem says, "the voice of the cannon no longer roars." We are offering you our respect, our admiration, and our friendship.

As your nation renews itself under your leadership, the world shares the view of Nicaraguan poet Pablo Antonio Cuadra who wrote about your late husband, Pedro Joaquin, who was tragically assassinated for the pure passion of his political idealism. Cuadra said of you: "Pedro's flag could not be in better hands."

Madam President, your nation is fortunate to have you as a leader. I am proud to have you as a friend. We salute you. And may God bless you and your proud and courageous land. And welcome to the United States.

President Chamorro. President Bush, my good friend; Mrs. Barbara Bush, my good friend also; ladies and gentlemen. Many years have elapsed since the President of Nicaragua has made a state visit to the White House.

It is a great honor for me to be here with you this morning, for it represents the establishment of a new and precious relationship between our two nations. The genuine friendship extended by a noble country such as the United States deserves in turn the friendship of democratic governments that respect the rights of their people. For only in this manner can there exist a sincere relationship between both nations.

As we meet today, Mr. President, it is our responsibility as leaders of two democratic nations to begin fertilizing the seed of a new friendship, a friendship based on our shared belief in democracy and mutual respect.

I would also like to take this opportunity to express our gratitude to the people and Government of the United States of America for the assistance they have provided to Nicaragua. That assistance was a decisive factor during my first year in office. And now Nicaragua has begun to recover from the years of political instability and continuous conflict.

I must conclude by reiterating my government's firm commitment to the sacred principles of democracy shared by our peoples. This commitment is, and will continue to be, to work towards consolidating peace, strengthening our democratic institutions, respecting human rights, and putting our economy in order.

I shall work toward achieving this goal without wavering, because I have adopted as my own those universal truths which Abraham Lincoln bequeathed to mankind: "a government of the people, by the people, and for the people."

God bless and protect the peoples and governments of the United States and Nicaragua. Thank you.

Note: President Bush spoke at 10:15 a.m. at the South Portico of the White House, where President Chamorro was accorded a formal welcome with full military honors. In his remarks, President Bush referred to President Chamorro's late husband, Pedro Joaquin Chamorro. President Chamorro spoke in Spanish, and her remarks were translated by an interpreter. Following the ceremony, the two Presidents met in the Oval Office.

George Bush, Remarks at the Welcoming Ceremony for President Violeta Chamorro of Nicaragua Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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