Remarks to the People of Costa Rica

December 3, 1982

I'm happy to accept President Monge's invitation to see Costa Rica. I know your country has long been a model for peace, democracy, and economic progress in the Western Hemisphere.

Last month, President Monge spoke at the Conference of Free Elections in Washington about democracy. He made all of us who are committed to freedom very proud. ``Democracy,'' he said, ``has no universal formulas, like those of totalitarian philosophies. Its strength is that it allows free people to find their own solutions. As free people, we are not compelled to accept the one candidate offered to us by a small group claiming exclusive knowledge of the destiny of an entire nation. We, the voters -- free citizens -- make this decision.''

Today the countries of Central America face enormous challenges: economic recession, social injustice, and the cynical efforts of outside powers to impose nondemocratic systems of government on them. But I'm confident we have the will and the ability to overcome these challenges.

The most promising formula for peace and security for the nations of Central America was proposed at the meeting of democratic nations in San Jose in early October. It offers terms for a peace that can be verified without fear of violation. It stresses the importance to peace of democratic institutions. I'm convinced, as I believe most of you are, that democracies find it easier to live in peace with each other.

In facing the economic challenges, the countries of this hemisphere have begun a cooperative effort to address the pressing needs of the Caribbean Basin. Part of the United States contribution to this effort -- $350 million in emergency economic assistance -- is already in place. I'm asking the Congress to give priority consideration to the other main features of our program -- open access to our markets for the products of the Caribbean and Central America, and incentives for American investment in the region.

I believe we all have a crucial stake in this venture. Democracy, and even our independence as free nations, are vulnerable to economic recession. By cooperating together, we can offer real hope for sustained growth to our peoples.

I have met with President Monge twice. From these meetings I know we share the conviction that it's through freedom and democracy that economic progress and social justice have their best chance to work. I look forward to visiting San Jose and to having the opportunity for further discussions with your President.

Note: The President's remarks were taped on November 22 at the White House for later broadcast on Costa Rican television.