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Toasts of the President and President Perez at a Dinner Honoring the Venezuelan President

June 28, 1977

PRESIDENT CARTER. First of all, I want to welcome all of you here tonight.

This is the first state visit we've had in quite a while. And one of the great things about having this kind of a banquet is to bring people to the White House from all over our country to meet distinguished visitors who mean so much to us.

During the morning sessions we have ceremonies on the lawn and then we have long, detailed, sometimes boring--but not this morning--discussions about matters of great world import. But in the evening we have a chance to get to know one another. And I've enjoyed it very much, talking to our good friend, President Perez, and his wife, Bianca.

We get to know about one another's government. We were discussing the problems of democracies all over the world, who are held back in quick decisions by the parliamentary process and congresses. [Laughter] We both agreed that these problems did not apply to Venezuela and the United States. [Laughter]

President Perez commented on the charm of the people at the table here with us, and particularly noticed that Jack Brooks--whenever he spoke I got very quiet and listened to what he said, sometimes even ignoring our guest. [Laughter] .He pointed out how delightful and charming Jack was. I did not tell him that the conference committee on establishing a Department of Energy was going to meet very shortly, and Jack was the chairman of the Government Operations Committee. [Laughter]

But we have a chance to learn, and I was also very interested in his analysis of Rosalynn's visit. She was gone for a long time, and you may not be able to detect it from the atmosphere tonight, but this house was built when John Adams was President and it's gotten larger as time goes on. And I have never seen a lonelier place in my life than the White House when Rosalynn was in South and Central America and in the Caribbean. Chip and his wife were in England; later they went to California. Jeff was in Guatemala and Honduras and Mexico on an archeological expedition with George Washington University. Jack is building a grain and soybean elevator in Georgia. And I was here all alone.

He pointed out how brief her visit was to Venezuela. He wished she could have stayed longer. And I thought .about the cartoon I saw, I think in the Milwaukee paper, which showed me talking to Jody Powell, my Press Secretary, Mr. President, and I was saying, "Jody, I don't give a damn about Idi Amin. Where is Rosalynn?" [Laughter]

So we have a chance to learn about one another. And there's an opportunity to draw ourselves together in the friendliest and most persuasive and personal way--not only between me and all of those of you who've come here to visit tonight from our country, but to get to know our distinguished visitors.

We share a great deal. But I think it's accurate to say that among all the visitors that we've had here at this great center of our Government's life, Venezuela is represented by a man who epitomizes the finest aspects of our own country's hopes and dreams and aspirations and ideals.

For 19 years now, there's been an absolute, total, and pure democracy in Venezuela. Everyone is privileged to vote and is urged to vote and the decisions of the people on election day are binding without question. We also have seen a country evolve there, looking back on the superb leadership of the great liberator, Simon Bolivar, and President Perez' predecessor, President Betancourt, that is totally committed to the principle of basic human freedoms, the pride of people in their own individuality and the right to make their own decisions, and in the cherishing and nourishing enhancement of human rights.

At the recent Organization of American States meeting in Grenada, the leading country, above all others, even including our own, in insisting upon strong stands, unequivocal stands on the principle of human rights, was Venezuela. We felt a close partnership with them, and we felt a great gratitude toward them. They have been staunch and unswerving in this commitment in a part of the world, to be perfectly frank, where this has not always been a persuasive commitment. And I'm very, proud of that.

When I think of any world leader and a strong, growing, and dynamic and fairly wealthy country with great material wealth and riches and oil and other products, who has looked on the weak and poor and deprived and small nations with understanding .and compassion and mutual trust, the country again that comes to my mind, foremost, is Venezuela. And the leader who epitomizes that commitment is President Perez.

This is an interrelationship that's growing between our country and theirs .on a relationship of complete mutual admiration and total equality. Our country may be larger in size; we may have a few more Spanish-speaking people than Venezuela--[laughter]--but we are equals in every way except in those firm attributes where, I have to admit, they have achieved a superiority to us. But we are trying to emulate their example and move more and more toward a pure commitment to the principles on which our country was formed.

We have seen the great friendship demonstrated by President Perez and his wife toward our country. They will go to Philadelphia, and they will dedicate very shortly a statue to one of their liberators, Miranda, who, along with Simon Bolivar earlier, observed the American Revolution under George Washington. And this demonstration of mutual commitments to ideals by the establishment of this statue in Philadelphia very shortly. is another symbol of our equality and mutual purpose.

He will also be dedicating a great sculpture by the great artist Otero, in Washington, D.C., another permanent indication of friendship between our countries.1 And there is also a bust of a great writer, Vejo, in Austin, Texas. So, you can see that from one place to another, there are permanent indications being established of the friendships between Venezuela and the United States.

This is one kind of proliferation to which I have no objection, Mr. President. [Laughter]

The last point I'd like to make is this: Speaking of proliferation, our neighbors to the south at Mexico City, the suburbs of Mexico City called Tlatelolco, signed a treaty under the original auspices of the United Nations a few years ago, committing all the signatories permanently to prevent the deployment of nuclear explosives in the Southern Hemisphere.

There is no other part of the world that's done this. This was how long ago--10 years ago? And we are now re-reviving the impetus to get all countries in our hemisphere to sign this treaty.

Just before Rosalynn left for her trip, I signed the treaty. And as she visited the seven nations--some, early signatories like Venezuela--we tried to identify the problems. But one of the nations, again not coincidentally, who took the leadership in trying to spell out the principle that nuclear weapons should be kept at a zero level was Venezuela.

We in the United States sometimes think that we are the first in everything, that we take the first good action and that we are the strongest nation for commitment to the finest principles of life. But I just wanted, in my brief remarks tonight, in genuine admiration of our visitor and his great nation, to point out to you that there are many things in this hemisphere that we can learn from our neighbors, and there are many things that warrant genuine admiration on our part that they have already done. They have set standards that we are still trying to reach. So, we have great admiration for you and for your people and for your great nation.

And in a spirit of that admiration and expression of mutual friendship, I would like to propose a toast to President and Mrs. Perez and to the people of the great and free democratic nation, our friends, the people of Venezuela.

PRESIDENT PEREZ. Mr. President of the United States and Mrs. Carter:

You said at the University, of Notre Dame that the United States can no longer separate the traditional issues of war and peace from the new global questions of justice, equity, and human rights. You also said a peaceful world cannot long exist one-third rich and two-thirds hungry.

The problem of world peace can no longer be defined within terms of strategic balance of power equilibrium, of areas of influence, of blocs, and of military alliances. Peace is not only the absence of war. The true problem of peace is that of the incorporation of the Third World to an international order in whose construction may participate all the nations that comprise it. The order imposed by the victors of the Second World War no longer exists.

Human rights cannot be spoken about, referred to only as respect for physical integrity and political liberties. The essential human right is the right to life, to wellbeing, to the integral dignity of each being, and this supreme right is flagrantly violated by those responsible for world economic order.

Venezuela looks with well-founded expectancy upon the orientation that the policies of the United States are taken in your hands and your forthright defense of human rights. We Venezuelans and .all of the peoples of Latin America hope that this decorous, courageous, and firm position is going to help break the chains in the homelands that suffer oppression.

But we also believe that the Latin American dictatorships have as an essential cause and an efficient reason the economic instability generated by the unjust economic world order.

I may reiterate, Mr. President, that the validity of human rights in their noble and full meaning are summed up in the respect for the right of economic development for our peoples, giving them just value to our basic commodities and to the labor of our men and women and secure and proper access to the transference of technologies and capital.

The validity of democracy and human rights will be impossible with the social tensions that are experienced by a great number of nations and the dramatic economic differences that separate the nations today.

It is illusory to expect democratic development and implementation of human rights within an international order so deeply anti-democratic as the one in existence. The democratic transformation that your enlightened international policies search for cannot be reached without the disappearance of the economic structures and the privilege that characterize that international order.

The hopes that I place in the present direction of United States policies are conditioned in the first place by the establishment by the United States of the needed link between the ethical principles and aspirations and the policies, that there may be adequate understanding of world problems and their risks, political will to confront them, paying more attention to the reality that the people live with than to the formal and so often hypocritical relations between governments. This is the esteemable and beautiful worth that we give to the direct and sincere word with which you, Mr. President, are gaining the esteem and admiration of the people of Latin America, without genuflecting accents of the decayed diplomacy of half words and euphemisms. Confronting the biased Criticism of actors and accomplices of the Latin American tragedy .are raised the complacency of those who suffer torture, deprivation of liberty or persecution, and also of those like us who do not have enough influence to achieve alone the redemption of human dignity.

The efforts of the Third World in favor of dialog and cooperation for the establishment of the new international economic order have not found satisfactory answers on the part of the industrialized world, including the United States.

The less than encouraging results of the North-South conference indicate that the industrialized world resists in recognizing the need to transform the structures of privileges, and also show that they do not yet perceive with sufficient clarity the dangers inherent in this situation.

You, Mr. President, with true vision, have begun to speak .another language. Without saying so expressly, you have understood that selfishness has presided until now over the lukewarm conduct of the great nations.

It is indispensable that the industrial world understand that the order of priorities no longer has in their first places the East-West conflict and the stabilization of the traditional power blocs, and that now the major efforts must be exerted in the resolution of the North-South conflict in order to create a new international order, just and equitable.

It is necessary that the industrial world understand that the creation of that new world order demands bold initiatives and global solutions, with major changes in the living standards of the rich nations insofar as they may be derived from the exploitation of the poorer nations.

The dissemination of conventional and nuclear arms in the world finds impulse in the vertical proliferation of all kinds of armaments in the hands of the industrial countries. Modern military technology creates specific problems of great complexity. But we believe that if the political will exists, those problems can be overcome. Detente and arms control are necessary conditions, but not enough to build world peace upon solid foundations. To assert otherwise would be to give military matters an autonomy that it does not have, to give it primacy over the political, and to disengage politics from social matters which would mean to repeat the mistakes that in the past have only driven to failure and tragedy.

The Third World wishes to dialog and to negotiate. The other alternative, deplorable as it may be, is confrontation-which nobody wants, but that, perhaps, many may be forced to resort to. From there stems the large responsibility of the developed countries if a confrontation situation is created with the Third World whose solidarity is already indivisible, and so that is the reason why its power is real.

A global reform is stated. No partial solution will overcome the problem. The new international order must be democratic and based not only on economic changes but on new economic and ethical premises, because another dramatic reality, which the great nations had not until now noticed, is that the world is neither an unlimited reservoir of resources nor that its exploitation could go on on the present terms impoverishing more and more the producing countries in order to maintain irritating levels of waste 'and consumption in the industrial ones.

Unfortunately, technological civilization could well be called the civilization of waste. It is founded upon an irresponsible arrogance of men who want to appropriate, without limit, the resources of nature and consume them as if they would never be depleted, in spite of the abuses which are inflicted upon it.

Fortunately, voices such as yours are beginning to be heard, which denounce this lack of suicidal prevention as well as these attacks against nature.

We must have as a starting point a deep criticism of the way of life of the industrial societies, greedy consumers of resources. The survival of human society is at stake.

The principles of classical liberalism and traditional capitalism 'have been revised in the national order. The policies of taxation, of social security, of social function of property, of the limitation of monopolies have originated in the requirements of the new society. In the international order the same must occur. We are beginning to realize that international controls must be devised to guarantee nations their economic rights. Likewise, it is imperative on the part of all countries in the international community, the acceptance of a code that regulates the actions of transnational companies, which have weakened and transgressed the national sovereignty of the developing countries and have deeply eroded their morals with the generalized practice of bribery.

Petroleum, a privileged one among the raw materials, confers upon the producing countries, members of OPEC, an historical responsibility vis-a-vis their countries and all of humanity.

OPEC has generated awareness with regard to interdependence in the world. It b. as shown the vulnerability of all countries, without exception, in a situation like the present, and .it has made it much more difficult for the developed world to go on exploiting the developing world.

OPEC's actions have made clear the contradictions of the present world order as well as the possibilities that the third has at its disposal for dialog and understanding. The objectives of OPEC are not the price of oil; they go much further, to the achievement of that new international economic order. That is why I dare to affirm that it will be impossible to disrupt the unity of OPEC. No one has to fear it. It acts responsibly.

Mr. President, and Mrs. Carter, in our conversations we must talk about these and others of the many problems that deal with the bilateral relations between our two countries, with Latin America, with the Third World, and other aspects of world politics of common concern. We will have to talk about hidden conflicts in our hemisphere, of possible solutions, of the responsibilities of the United States and of our own.

With my words in this kind and friendly dinner expressive of the cordiality with which we have been received, I have wished to refer to fundamental aspects that commit the responsibility of nations and governments in the construction of the new world order, just and equitable.

We believe that a special responsibility falls on those nations that, like your great country, have a determining weight in the international context and in the definition of the political and economic rules of conduct. That is why I have tried to convey to you and to your great people a sincere and friendly message, with the irrevocable conviction that the true way for peace must be that of understanding between .all countries with international justice.

As you have said with profound sense of justice, peace can only be affirmed on the basis of faithful observance of human rights, which give authentic and transcendental sense to man's life on Earth.

Venezuela joins the United States and will join you, Mr. President, so that you may achieve your noble purposes of universal justice, defense and promotion of human rights, and rigid action against proliferation of nuclear weapons. We identify in democracy and in the will, so that politics will serve high ethical purposes and humanistic principles.

With that trust, Mr. President, Mrs. Carter, I want to toast for the success of just and noble policy and for the great nation of the United States and for democracy in the Western Hemisphere.

1 The work by Venezuelan sculptor Alejandro Otero is located on the grounds of the National Air and Space Museum.

Note: The President spoke at 9:40 p.m. in the State Dining Room at the White House. President Perez spoke in Spanish, and his remarks were translated by an interpreter.

Jimmy Carter, Toasts of the President and President Perez at a Dinner Honoring the Venezuelan President Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/244101

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