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Toast at a Luncheon Hosted by Colombian President Belisario Betancur Cuartas in Bogota

December 03, 1982

Reverend clergy, President Betancur, I'm happy to be in Santa Fe de Bogota, the Athens of America. I appreciate this opportunity to reaffirm the close and long-standing ties between our peoples.

Since 1824, when a United States Representative, Richard Anderson, became the first foreign diplomat to be formally accredited here after independence, my country has followed with admiration the development of your constitutional tradition.

I thought I was having a translation here. I guess—well.

Colombia's great independence leader, General Francisco de Paula Santander, is celebrated today not so much for being the great warrior he was, but as the "Man of Laws." He declared, "If the sword gave us independence, the law will give us liberty."
Well, you, Mr. President, are a man of law and liberty.

Your first statement as President-elect of your country carried on the profound tradition of law and liberty in Colombia. "I aspire," you said, "to a happy and open democracy in which citizens who wish to be representatives must win that right in a frank contest with the broad participation of the new generations, a contest in which merit, quality of service, and proven honesty will be the best attributes for receiving popular support."

I was waiting to be interpreted, but I understand I'm not to wait.

Well, we all know that the democratic path is never easy. But it's a path toward which the peoples of this hemisphere are increasingly turning. Democracies are better able to reconcile their internal differences without violence. They're also neighbors in whom we can have confidence.

Mr. President, as I said in my very encouraging visit to Brazil, I did not come to visit with any preconceived plan that we wish to impose. I came here to listen and to learn, to ask how we could be of greater help in promoting peace and progress in the Americas. It has long been my dream that the more than 600 million people of the Americas could represent an enormous force for good in the world. Just think how much we could achieve if there were accord between us.

In that spirit, Mr. President, let me say how much I appreciate your frankness here today. I know you were speaking from the heart. And I can assure you that we were listening closely.

One of the great traditions of democratic nations, as you know so well, is that leaders can speak candidly to one another and accept the other's thoughts in the constructive spirit in which they're offered. You have spoken frankly. Now let me do the same.

Ours is a region in which powerful bonds unite countries and people. It is also a region in which primarily, perhaps because we expect so much from each other, powerful misunderstandings can arise. When people—above all, these people who exercise responsibility and must make decisions—do not know each other, the potential for misunderstanding is particularly great. That's why I'm here, coming as a friend and neighbor, asking what are our problems and differences and how can they be overcome.

Our neighbors in Central America are in turmoil. They are threatened by a devastating economic crisis and by local insurgencies supported by outside countries which do not wish to see the republics of America succeed. The question, Mr. President, is how can we help. I look forward to hearing your views this afternoon.

But don't we already have a good beginning in the conclusions democratic states of the region reached in San Jose on last October 4th? They called for all the states of Central America, on a basis of reciprocity and verification to renounce the importation of heavy offensive weapons that could be used to attack a neighbor; to cause the withdrawal of all—and I repeat, all—foreign military advisers; to end support for terrorists and subversion against neighbors to begin internal reconciliation, enabling dissidents to participate again in public life within established institutions; to create democratic institutions and hold open, public elections to decide who should exercise power. Of these, the last is the most significant, for we all know that democracies are far less likely than other regimes to abuse their own people and to make war on their neighbors.

What can we do to overcome the economic crisis in the Caribbean region? Well, Mr. President, our nations are partners in the Caribbean Basin Initiative, a bold attempt to address the underlying economic and social needs of our neighbors. It made a great impression in the United States when your country announced that it would join with Canada, Mexico, Venezuela, and the United States in this enterprise. It reassured us to see Colombia, long a pillar of the Andean community, extend its hand to Central America and the Caribbean. Through hard work, sound financial management, and a commitment to an open and competitive economy, Colombia is an example for others.

The United States has already increased its assistance to the Caribbean area, bringing it to nearly a billion dollars a year. But we must provide these small and promising countries an opportunity to earn their own way. That is the purpose of the one-way, free-trade proposal that I have made. This proposal is now under active consideration by our Congress, and I hope for early action.

In cooperating to help others, we should be careful not to neglect cooperation to benefit our own societies. Could we not do more to mobilize resources and encourage efforts by public-private institutions, universities, institutes, voluntary agencies, and businesses to increase their cooperation for development? Many scientific, educational, and other institutions in the United States and in Colombia have had close working relationships in the past. We must strengthen and renew such ties and promote new links to accelerate the pace and quality of research and development on the most pressing problems in this hemisphere.

The recession that we suffer from is global. It affects the advanced countries. Millions are out of work in my country-even greater numbers in Europe. But it's true that the recession has affected the developing countries most of all—not so much Colombia, which is fortunate to continue to grow, but your neighbors.

None of us can find our way back to prosperity without self-discipline at home. The example of Colombia shows how prosperity can be achieved by domestic savings and investment. But prosperity will escape us if we permit those great engines of growth, world trade and world finance, to be impaired. And here again, Mr. President, we must act to make sure that the International Monetary Fund has the funds necessary to finance needed stabilization programs. And early agreement must and, I am confident, will be reached on substantially expanded quotas.

The United States has also proposed that special arrangements to borrow be made to enable the Fund to be sure to fulfill its mission. The individual countries that can do so should provide bridging financing to countries needing time to work out effective stabilization programs. And private lenders must not withhold new funds from countries that do so, for lenders and borrowers each have a great stake in each other's success.

For the longer term, we must proceed with the replenishment of the Inter-American Development Bank. We believe that an agreement is reachable on a replenishment that will permit continued high growth in the bank's activities.

Equally important is to prevent an upsurge in protectionism in all our countries. We can only do this, Mr. President, if we all do it together. That was the meaning of the GATT meeting in Geneva.

With unemployment in all our countries, the temptation is to use restrictions or export incentives to protect jobs. Well, experience shows that way is self-defeating and will lead only to less trade and less jobs. I am pledged to do all in my power to prevent arbitrary restrictions of trade.

Colombia has long been a powerful supporter of the inter-American system. With few exceptions, the system has kept the peace. As new nations of the Caribbean join the system and as other American countries like Colombia grow in economic weight and worldwide influence, our institutions will be infused with new life.

Our own relations with each other reflect the maturity of our partnership. We do not agree on every issue, not even on the remedies of some of the problems we share. But we've established a dialog based on mutual respect, our shared religious heritage, and our common legacy.

In the trade field we have vastly expanded to our mutual benefit the goods and services we exchange. Earlier, you had a trade surplus. Now, with the price of coffee low, we do. We both have legislation governing trade that we each are bound to respect. Within that framework, though, there is much we can do to assure mutual accommodation without imposing protectionist devices. I will work with you to find those opportunities.

Our cooperation in the area of narcotics control certainly reflects the same spirit. We recognize that the use and production of illegal drugs is a threat to the social fabric of both countries. I am determined to control and reduce drug consumption in my country. Progress that either of us make will assist the other.

Colombia and the United States worked together to establish the fundamental principles of this hemisphere. I am here today to further the spirit of cooperation begun by President Roosevelt in 1934, and continued by President Kennedy in 1961. I come convinced that our cooperation for freedom and development is more vital than ever to progress and security in the hemisphere.

President Betancur, you and I know what can be accomplished with the will to keep going until the job is done. We both come from working families, poorer than most in material things, but rich in spirit and optimism. Those values taught us when we were young—God, family, and hard work-and this did well by us as individuals. And they will do well by our two countries.

It is my deep conviction that the tide of history is with the Americas—and especially with countries such as ours, who believe in the dignity of man and the freedom of the individual.

President Betancur, I propose a toast to you and to the people of Colombia: May the values that bind us, the friendships and dreams we share, be preserved by us, the people of the New World, as an eternal, sacred trust.

Note: President Reagan spoke at 3:29 p.m. in response to a toast proposed by President Betancur. The luncheon was held at the Casa de Narino following a meeting of the two Presidents.

Earlier in the day, President Reagan was accorded a welcoming ceremony at El Dorado Airport in Bogota. He then went to Bolivar Plaza in the city to participate in a wreath-laying ceremony at the statue of Simon Bolivar.

Following the luncheon, the two Presidents met together with their delegations at the Casa de Narino. President Reagan then left for a departure ceremony at El Dorado Airport and the trip to San Jose, Costa Rica.

Ronald Reagan, Toast at a Luncheon Hosted by Colombian President Belisario Betancur Cuartas in Bogota Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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