Representatives of the Organization of American States
November 9, 1987
I realize that I'm holding up dessert, but I won't promise to sit down right
away. On behalf of the American people, I want to welcome you all to our
Nation's Capital. It's a great pleasure to have this opportunity to meet with
think it's sometimes true that we don't recognize the great historical moments
until they're passed. When released from the daily struggles, we can look back
and assess the full magnitude of what we have accomplished. I believe that this
last decade is one such time -- a time that will be recorded in history as a
great democratic awakening in the Americas, when the nations of
this hemisphere advanced together toward a new era of freedom.
new era of freedom: We see it developing in the free trade agreement between
this nation and our great neighbor to the north -- an agreement, it's my
fervent hope, that will not be an end in itself, but the beginning of a
revolution in free trade that will embrace not just the United States and
Canada but the entire hemisphere.
new era of freedom: We see it stoutly defended by the Caribbean democracies, small in
land size, perhaps, but big in heart and will, who,
with courage and idealism, stood fast and stood together when one of their
number, Grenada, was threatened by an
alien, hostile tyranny.
new era of freedom: We see it throughout Central and South America -- the great democratic
awakening that in the last 10 years has brought 90 percent of the people of Latin America into the family of
month at the OAS, I spoke of what a great honor it was to address so many
colleagues, in the democratic enterprise. That's no less true today. And one of
the great privileges of my office is that I have been able, in the last several
years, to meet with the leaders of practically every democratic nation in the
hemisphere. When they've visited me in the White House, the talk was of the
usual business transacted between heads of state. But when all that was done,
there was one personal note that I had to add, something as important as anything
else we discussed, something that comes directly from the heart.
history of the hemisphere and the relations between our country and Latin America -- they've not always
been easy. But the days of the Colossus of the North, I have said on those
occasions: Those days are over they're gone forever. The dominance of democracy
has fundamentally altered the hemisphere. The precedent we must look to today
is the one I'm reminded of by your own leaders, stories of men such as Francisco
de Miranda of Venezuela, who fought in the Battle of Pensacola in our nation's
war of Independence, the battle that paved the way for Cornwallis' surrender at
Yorktown; or the story of General Artigas, supported
by our new democracy in his independent battle against colonial Portugal. These
men shared a single faith -- faith in the democratic destiny in the Americas, faith in the -- well,
they knew all the American wars of independence were really one and the same --
the struggle of mankind to fulfill his destiny of freedom.
those independence struggles still continue. Brave men still fight to throw off
an alien tyranny imposed from outside our hemisphere. As [President of El Salvador] Jose Napoleon Duarte
said, there are two revolutionary processes underway in Central America. One is a democratic
revolution to replace the dictatorships of the past with freedom and human
rights. The other, he said, is a revolution that looks to substitute
traditional dictatorships with a new dictatorship, that
looks to substitute the traditional caudillos with the new caudillos of the
week, as we all know, is the week that the Guatemala accord goes into effect
I've spoken at length of the Sandinistas and their failure to live up to the
promises of democracy and human rights they made to the OAS in 1979. There's no
need to repeat that record of broken promises today. The business at hand is to
determine compliance with the Guatemala accord, to examine,
with clear-eyed realism, the progress of peace and democracy in Central America.
we look at how the Guatemala accord has been
implemented to date, one can't help but conclude that the differences between
the democracies and the Communists in Central America have never been so
apparent. Basic to the Central American peace plan is an understanding that
peace will only emerge in Central America when genuine steps are
taken by all sides toward reconciliation and democracy.
-- none could have pursued that with greater nobility and strength of heart
than the President of El Salvador. When President Duarte visited me last month,
he told me of his negotiations with the Communist guerrillas -- the FMLN -- how
he sat in the same room with the men who'd kidnaped
his daughter and said to them: There will be a complete amnesty in El Salvador. All prisoners will be
released. All will be forgiven, just as I, Napoleon Duarte, forgive you.
the democratic temperament, the true spirit of reconciliation. Contrast that to
the partial and grudging release of prisoners in Nicaragua. Thousands of political
prisoners still remain in their jails. Many of them have languished there for
as long as 8 years, and the Sandinistas have said there are thousands who will
never be released. Well, that's the voice of totalitarianism.
contrast is just as stark on the question of negotiations. The Nicaraguan
freedom fighters ask no more than the democratic guarantees contained in the
peace plan. All they want is a chance to compete peacefully for power in Nicaragua, in a democratic way.
But the Communist guerrillas -- the FMLN in El Salvador and the URNG in Guatemala -- want no part of
democracy. They were offered a chance to compete for power within the
democratic process, but they refused it. They broke off negotiations, demanding
power without elections. Well, I'm sorry, that's just not the democratic way.
see the contrast between democracy and communism in another area, too. Despite
the clear requirements of the Guatemala accord, the Sandinistas
still refuse to lift their state of emergency. President Duarte and President Cerezo [of Guatemala], whose countries are
also torn by violence, make no excuses. They have no state of emergency. Only
in Nicaragua is the state of
emergency still in effect.
is, however, one hopeful sign. I welcome the designation of Cardinal Obando y Bravo as the mediator between the Sandinista
regime and the Nicaraguan resistance. I have repeatedly said that the struggle
in Nicaragua is fundamentally a
contest among Nicaraguans over their own future, and that can only be resolved
by negotiations between Nicaraguans. The indirect talks the Sandinistas have
now agreed to are a way to start that process. It remains clear that the next step
must be direct negotiations, of precisely the sort that President Cerezo and President Duarte have already conducted.
United States has a role to play, as
a neighbor of Central
and an ally of the region's four democracies and of the Nicaraguan people. Our
goals are simple to state: democracy in Nicaragua and peace in the
region. And clearly, there can be no peace in the region until there is
democracy in Nicaragua.
serious negotiations between the Sandinistas and the freedom fighters, under
the mediation of Cardinal Obando, are underway,
Secretary [of State] Shultz will be ready to meet jointly with the foreign
ministers of all five Central American nations, including the Sandinistas'
representative. Before such a meeting and throughout this period, we will
consult closely with the freedom fighters, for the key to democracy and peace
in the region is freedom and national reconciliation in Nicaragua.
negotiations including the United States can be a helpful
adjunct to negotiations among the Central American nations and between the
Sandinistas and the freedom fighters. They cannot be a substitute. The Central
American democracies will speak for themselves about their national interests,
and the Sandinistas must negotiate directly with the freedom fighters and the
internal opposition to bring about true democracy and national reconciliation
is a consensus among the Central American democracies -- and it's a point often
stressed by President Azcona [of Honduras] -- that, in this peace
process, democracy comes first. Essential steps toward establishing true and
secure democratic guarantees must be taken before the other conditions for
peace can be met. As President Arias [of Costa Rica] said: ``If democracy doesn't
take hold in Nicaragua, the armed struggle
will continue. The day the Sandinistas or another political movement are chosen freely in elections accepted by all Nicaraguans,
there will be no more reason for violence.''
democracy is the key -- and one of the best indications of democratic reform is
a free press. The Guatemala accord is clear on this
point: It doesn't call for opening only one opposition paper. It calls for
complete freedom of the press, radio, and television. The Central American
democracies are in compliance with the accord -- Nicaragua is nowhere near. So
far, only La Prensa is allowed to operate and even it
is restricted in reporting military and economic news. Radio Catolica has been forbidden to broadcast news. There is still
no independent television broadcasting in Nicaragua, and the many other
news outlets remain closed.
me just say here: We have all been very patient in giving the peace process
time to work. The Wright-Reagan plan was scheduled to take effect on September
30th. The original deadline for compliance with the Guatemala accord was this week.
Now we're told the deadline has been pushed off until mid-January. It's in no
one's interest to let this peace process become another round of endless and
President Arias was honored with the Nobel Peace Prize for his central role in
putting together the Guatemala accord. And I am
certain that President Arias saw this as a symbol and inspiration to all those
working for peace in this hemisphere. But this noble beginning must have a
noble end. In that, the OAS has a special responsibility. For, as I said when I
addressed your Ambassadors last month, the OAS has already made a negotiated
settlement with the Sandinistas, one that we are duty-bound to keep. In 1979,
in an unprecedented action, we helped remove a sitting government and bring the
Sandinistas to power.
part of that settlement, we promised the people of Nicaragua that we would see to it
that their hope of freedom would not be disappointed. We can not walk away from
that promise now. As President Arias has said: We can accept no substitute for
democracy in Nicaragua. Only democracy will
fulfill our promises to the Nicaraguan people. Only democracy, and nothing
less, will bring peace to Central America.
as all of you are aware, there's a summit meeting coming up between myself and
General Secretary Gorbachev. We hope at that time to sign an historic agreement
that would wipe out an entire class of nuclear missiles. But as we always do in
our talks with the Soviets, we will continue to insist on progress in the other
three critical areas: expanded contacts between our peoples, human rights, and
most importantly, a negotiated end to regional conflicts around the world.
even as their economy flags at home, the Soviets spend billions to maintain or
impose Communist rule abroad, projecting Soviet power by largely military
Cuba, Vietnam, South Yemen, Angola, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Nicaragua, and Afghanistan -- the burden must be
enormous. But Soviet leaders, who live vastly better than their people, are
willing to make that sacrifice because it is only their military might, they
know, that gives them superpower status.
vary, but one study by the Rand Corporation estimated that in 1983 between 3.56
and 4.44 percent of the Soviet gross national product went to subsidize states
supporting Soviet aims. It's estimated that the Soviet war on Afghanistan costs them between $5
billion and $6 billion a year. The Soviet bloc has supplied some $2 billion in
military hardware to the Sandinistas alone.
I meet with General Secretary Gorbachev, I will ask him: Isn't it time to
reconsider this adventurism abroad? In the spirit of glasnost, isn't it time
that the Soviet
put an end to these destructive, wasteful conflicts around the world? Without
an end to Soviet efforts to impose totalitarian regimes through force of arms,
there will never be a true glasnost, true openness, between this nation and
I thank you for your attention. The next few months will be among the most
crucial in the history of our hemisphere. As the peace process unfolds, we must
be vigilant and, at the same time, we must be honest with ourselves and with
the world. We shall be holding all parties to one single and true standard, the
standard of democracy. As free peoples of the Americas, we have earned the
right to proclaim that standard and hold others to it. And as free people of
the Americas, we can do no less.
after I took office, I made a trip to Latin America and visited some of the
countries represented here today. Couldn't get to all of them, of course, but I
went with one message. I knew the image of the Great Colossus of the North that
we held. And I knew that there had been many plans introduced by previous
administrations of how to bring about better relations in the Americas. But always, it was the
big Colossus that had the plan and came down and said, ``Here, everybody sign
on my trip, I wasn't there to say that. I said I didn't have any plan; that I
came down to see what ideas you might have, because my idea was that it is high
time that in this -- two continents and that connecting bridge of Central
America -- here, unique in all the world, we had the opportunity to literally
make our borders meeting places where all of us together as allies, from the
tip of Tierra del Fuego to the North Pole, we are all
Americans; we occupy the American continents and Central America. And if we
could come together, as we should, with our common heritage of pioneering that
brought us here -- people with a dream of freedom that left their homelands all
over the world to come to these continents that the Lord had left here between the
oceans to be found by that kind of people -- if we could be the neighbors and
the allies that we should be, we would be a force for good in the world beyond
anything that had ever seen.
I was only asking for suggestions and help that maybe we could bring that
about. And here I am, in the midst of the representatives of the Organization
of American States. And that's why I think this one issue is so important to
all of us -- because it literally can block that dream of an American alliance
from pole to pole.
you all. And I'm sorry I kept you from dessert so long. I want to thank you
all, and God bless you all. And maybe I haven't had an opportunity to tell you
while I kept you from your dessert, about in ancient Rome, when the lions were
turned loose upon the Christians and the one Christian stood up and said a few
quiet words, and the lions all laid down. The crowd
was mad, and Caesar sent for the man that had spoken. He said, ``What did you say to them that made them act like that?'' He
said, ``I just told them that after they ate there'd be speeches.'' [Laughter]
Note: The President
spoke at at a luncheon in the Jefferson Room at the Department of