Remarks at the Welcoming Ceremony for President Julio Maria Sanguinetti of Uruguay

June 17, 1986

President Reagan. It gives me great pleasure to greet President Sanguinetti. Mr. President, as the elected leader of a free and democratic Uruguay, you have our respect, our admiration, and our heartfelt welcome. Uruguay is a friend and a country that shares with us the heritage, traditions, and values of the Americas. Our countries, as is true of so many in this hemisphere, were born of independence movements seeking to break away from colonial power. Yet, those who founded our two countries fought not only to be rid of domination but also for freedom. Our histories run parallel: Both are the stories of people struggling to be free; people striving to live up to the ideals expressed at the time of their nation's birth.

Today the people of Uruguay are reaffirming their faith in democracy. And all those who love liberty applaud this giant step forward. President Sanguinetti, we appreciate that your official delegation includes representatives from the judicial and legislative branches, as well as your executive branch of government. Separation of powers, protection of the rights of all citizens, and a healthy respect for the opinions of others are hallmarks of a truly free society. And that is what you and the current leaders of Uruguay are building.

In recent years, we have witnessed an unprecedented expansion of democracy in the Americas. Just a decade ago, only one-third of the people in this hemisphere lived in democracy. Today 90 percent of the people live in countries that are democratic or in transition to democracy. We should not be satisfied until all Americans -- and that means every living soul from the North Slope of Alaska to the tip of Tierra del Fuego -- live in freedom, as is their birthright. In this hemisphere, the days of dictatorship, left or right, are numbered. The peaceful process used to reestablish democracy in Uruguay can serve as a model for others. Authoritarian regimes should take notice.

Yet, while we celebrate the progress that has been made, no one should overlook the decisive battle in the cause of human freedom now taking place in Central America. The outcome will determine, ultimately, whether the people of that region will enjoy a future blessed with peace and development or, instead, be engulfed in tyranny and conflict. We who enjoy the fruits of liberty understand that just and lasting peace is built on freedom. Our search for peace in Central America must, above all, be an effort to continue the expansion of democratic freedom that has reached four of the five nations of this troubled region. We must continue to press for a negotiated solution. And in this work, we must uphold our democratic values and insist that they be the basis for any agreement that is worthy of our support.

The Western Hemisphere still holds the promise of liberty and opportunity that drew our forefathers and mothers from the Old World. Uruguay, like the United States, is a nation of immigrants. They came to our shores in quest of freedom and looking for the chance, through hard work, to improve their well-being and that of their families. Uruguay's commitment to economic growth and revitalization is well appreciated here. You have set out to attack not just the symptoms but the underlying causes of your country's economic problems. By protecting Uruguay's good name and creditworthiness, by avoiding simplistic solutions and quick fixes, and by strengthening your private sector, you are building the confidence at home and abroad needed to carry your country into better and more prosperous times.

Mr. President, in a speech to your people on April 7th, you said: ``The state sets the direction, but it does not move the boat. The boat is moved by the private sector . . . .'' Well, this appreciation of the essential role of profit motive and enterprise bodes well for Uruguay. Already, your country is enjoying its first real economic growth in 4 years. And there's every reason to be optimistic that this upward trend will continue. Let me just add that, as Uruguay's largest trading partner, nothing makes us happier than to see your country prosper.

Mr. President, I'm looking forward to getting to know you and discussing some of the issues that are of importance to both of our countries. These are exciting times, and we're proud to have you here with us and thrilled that Uruguay is again in the family of free peoples. President Sanguinetti, welcome.

President Sanguinetti. Mr. President, it is a great honor for any Uruguayan citizen to come to this House. There are strong reasons for this. Our countries were born during the same span of history and were part of the same liberal revolution which inspired them with the same ideals. Our century and a half of independent life since then has demonstrated our faithfulness to those principles. Because of this, we stood together in the two great World Wars of this century; milestones which have defined the political philosophies of the peoples of the world ever since. If this is true for any Uruguayan citizen, how much more so is it true for someone like me, arriving here as the President of the Republic and representing a people that has, by its vote, entrusted me with the difficult task of peacefully guiding our republic back, after a de facto government, to a full and stable institutional life.

You know, Mr. President, that during these last 15 months all of Uruguay has made a great effort and lived a wonderful experience of peaceful change with the full and unrestricted interplay of its institutions and rights with violence toward none. Uruguay is heir to a long democratic tradition and, therefore, suffered all the more from the collapse of its institutions. Today it feels it has returned to its old legacy and has done so in exemplary fashion, one that enhances those traditions.

For this reason, as you, yourself, have pointed out, Mr. President, you have before you today not only the Chief of the Executive Branch but also the President of the Supreme Court of Justice, the President of the House of Representatives, who represents the main opposition party, and my party's leader in the Senate, who happens to be the son of the last Uruguayan President to visit here, 31 years ago. This environment of harmonious cordiality among the different branches of government and democratic parties is the best evidence we can offer the world of what we have achieved in such a short time.

I would not be sincere, however, if I did not mention that our country is still experiencing serious problems that stem from both domestic and international causes. It is not easy, Mr. President, to strive for the consolidation of our hard-won democracy and to put our domestic economy in order while external economic and financial conditions subsist that in some cases hamper, and in other cases actually cancel out, the fruits of our own internal efforts. We must respond to the legitimate and urgent call of our people to recover their past standard of living and, at the same time, confront the heavy debts we have inherited -- all within the context of an increasingly closed and protectionist world trading system. These are trends which your government has committed itself to fight; a position we wholeheartedly endorse in order to preserve the mutual advantages of fair and open world trade.

We have come to exchange views with you and your government on many of these problems. We shall speak frankly, as we always do -- the more so in a country we have always considered a friend. We may at times disagree, but precisely because of our friendship we feel that it is our duty to speak to each other with loyalty, clearly and constructively. We know that public opinion is very important in this democratic nation, and will therefore understand our positions. We are also confident that your government will take them into consideration when we look together at ways of improving our relationship and overcoming the consequences of these problems.

Either international trade is freed, or we must all resign ourselves to being locked into a new feudalism. The more powerful may survive longer, although condemned to live in an aggressive, unstable, and violent world. The weaker, like us, will be sentenced to a life of mediocrity. But all of us, sooner or later, will be staring poverty in the face. George Washington foresaw the importance of this over 200 years ago when he said, ``Sound policy, humanitarianism and our own self-interest all suggest a harmonious and liberal exchange with all nations.'' However, even in our trading policy, we must keep a fair and unbiased position without seeking or granting favors or exclusive preferences, respecting the natural course of events. For this reason, we seek neither charity nor protectors of any kind. We need only cooperative partners, strong in capital and technology, with whom we may work together to build a better world guided by the same ideals of freedom that inspired our forefathers.

Mr. President, in a troubled world, our country is today, as it has been in the past, a land of peace and democracy. We would wish to see this same peace and democracy all over the Americas, achieved by us Latin Americans as the result of our own historical commitments and our sense of responsibility to the future. Uruguay will continue to participate in all political efforts aimed at promoting peace in today's world, especially within our America. Peace and democracy are inseparable. We cannot have one without the other. Uruguay today reaffirms once again its faith in both principles, which constitute the backbone of its very existence as a free and independent nation.

Mr. President, it is in this spirit that we greet you, your government, and our friends, your people.

Thank you.

Note: President Reagan spoke at 10:10 a.m. at the South Portico of the White House, where President Sanguinetti was accorded a formal welcome with full military honors. President Sanguinetti spoke in Spanish, and his remarks were translated by an interpreter. Following the ceremony, the two Presidents met first in the Oval Office and later in the Cabinet Room.