|Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright|
Statement at Miami Herald Symposium
Miami, Florida, February 5, 1999
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State
As Prepared for Delivery
Thank you, Mr. Ibarguen, for that introduction and for hosting this symposium. Archbishop Favalora, General Wilhelm, Congresswoman Meek, Mayor Kasdin, members of the Florida Legislature, very distinguished business and academic leaders, members of the press, guests and friends. I live most of my life in a place called Foggy Bottom; so it is indeed a pleasure to visit the Sunshine State.
I want to begin by saying that the Miami Herald is one of our nationís truly great newspapers. I say that because it is true--and because I hope it will put you in the mood, after I have finished my remarks, to ask easy questions.
Seriously, I am always delighted to be in Miami. And I was pleased to have the opportunity earlier today to participate in opening the new headquarters of Radio and TV Marti and to join Representative Meek in teaching a class at Miami Northwest High School.
As many of you know, I am a former professor, which means that even my soundbites are fifty minutes long. This afternoon, however, I am resolved to be brief so that we may have time for discussion.
Half a century ago, right here in this city, President Harry Truman spoke about Americaís goals in the postwar world. He was a plainspoken man, so his words were not complicated. He said simply that Americaís hope was to "create a political and economic framework in which lasting peace may be constructed."
Today, as we prepare to enter a new century, we face a much different world but the same overarching challenge.
From Key West to Prudhoe Bay, we Americans compete in a global workplace and do business in a global market. We travel further and more often than any prior generation.
We see advanced technology creating new wonders, but also spawning new dangers, as the threats posed by terror, crime, drugs, pollution and disease spread across national borders.
We want to live, and we want our children to live, in peace, prosperity and freedom. But the plain truth is that we will not be able to guarantee these blessings for ourselves if others do not have them as well.
So our strategic goal is to bring the nations of the world closer together around fundamental principles of democracy and law, open markets and a commitment to peace.
During the next few minutes, I would like to discuss this goal in the context of our own hemisphere. This is appropriate given Miamiís role as an air and water bridge within the Americas. And it is timely, because events in the region are very much on our minds.
Later this month, the President will visit Mexico, with whom we share a 2000-mile long border and a host of common interests. In March, he will travel to El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua to discuss a full range of economic and political issues. Foremost on his agenda will be efforts to help our neighbors--the victims of Hurricane Mitch.
Their plight reminds me of the words of the 69th Psalm: "Save me...for I sink in deep mire, where there is no standing; I am come into deep waters, where the floods overflow me."
The author of those words was addressing a much higher power than us. But the words still speak to us because so many in Central America now find themselves in a place "where there is no standing"--and in desperate need of help.
The fury of Mitch washed houses into raging rivers and the unforgiving sea. It destroyed whole villages, disrupted power lines, demolished businesses and inundated croplands. Most painfully, over the course of a few devastating days, it separated families into grieving survivors and the dead. More than 9,000 people perished and hundreds of thousands lost their homes.
The Presidentís trip will remind the world and our own citizens that, though the rains have stopped, the hard work of rebuilding and recovery has just begun.
That work matters to us on a human level, and on the level of our national interest, as well. Over the past decades, we have invested billions of dollars in helping Central America recover from war, build democracy and create economic opportunity. We did so because we have a large stake in a region that can provide a healthy and rewarding life for its people at home.
Destruction yields desperation, which can contribute to crime, conflict, and a renewed rush of illegal immigrants. The immigration issue has been one of the most difficult and mutually painful problems with which we and our neighbors have had to wrestle. It harms our communities, while exposing would-be migrants to exploitation by smugglers and con artists. We should do all we can to see that the problem does not become worse.
Fortunately, the United States is responding to the need on many levels. Churches, nongovernmental organizations and individuals have donated tens of millions of dollars in urgently needed supplies. From North American families to Central American "familias," the hand of help has been extended.
Nowhere have relief efforts been more generous and sustained than here in Dade County, where Operation Helping Hands and the Miami-Dade Search and Rescue Operation have done much not only in Central America, but also in the Caribbean and now in earthquake-ravaged Colombia.
When I leave here, I will meet with some of the participants in those efforts. But I take the opportunity now to congratulate the Miami Herald for its own leadership role. Through your caring and commitment, you have served your broader community very, very well.
The United States has also responded as a country. I will not go through the entire list, but a host of agencies from USAID to the Department of Defense to our State Department embassies have contributed in accordance with their capabilities and expertise. All told, we have dedicated approximately $300 million to relief and recovery efforts.
And that is only the beginning. We are currently consulting with Congress about a substantial commitment of additional funds.
We will also ask Congress to enhance and expand the Caribbean Basin Trade Initiative to help spur business activity throughout the region, especially in the storm-damaged areas where opportunity and hope are desperately needed and in very short supply.
The response to the recent disasters has been gratifying, but it should not be surprising. For it reflects the blossoming partnership that has grown out of the Summit of the Americas process.
That process began here in Miami in 1994 and continued in Santiago last year. Its purpose is to build a true hemispheric community that reflects not only our proximity of geography, but also our closeness of interests and values.
Over the years, we have worked hard to build such a community and have made remarkable progress.
On the economic front, we have forged a commitment to integration and growth based on open markets, open books, better schools and broader participation.
These policies have paid off for our neighbors and for us. We export more to the Americas than to any other part of the world. And while our overall exports went down last year, exports to this hemisphere increased by more than six percent. For Miami, that means jobs in the port; at Miami International; and for the sellers of everything from light bulbs to life insurance.
As the President made clear in his State of the Union Address, the United States is firmly committed to achieving a Free Trade Area of the Americas by 2005. Through negotiations based here in Miami, we are laying the groundwork for such an agreement.
We are also working closely with Brazil and other countries in the region to prevent the further spread of financial instability. The key to this is what we refer to as second-generation economic reforms that extend accountability and the rule of law to the financial world, thereby promoting prosperity that is more widely-shared and less vulnerable to the kinds of disruptions we saw in East Asia.
In the area of security, our hemispheric community has also made great strides. With our help, and that of others, the troubling border dispute between Ecuador and Peru has been resolved. In Central America, after decades of fighting, differences are being settled by ballots, not bullets. And counter-narcotics cooperation is stronger than ever, because the understanding is broader than ever that the drug plague threatens us all and that we must all do our part in the struggle against it.
As our hemisphere builds peace at home, we also promote freedom. For at the heart of the Summit of the Americas process is a commitment to democracy.
Two decades ago, a map of the Americas that showed blue for democracy and red for dictatorships would have been mostly red. Today, with a single exception, it would be as blue as the waters of Biscayne Bay.
We realize, however, that many democracies are fragile and their growth threatened by weak political and judicial institutions, wide disparities of income, corruption and crime.
We are working with our partners to change that.
In nations such as Venezuela and Peru, Paraguay and the Dominican Republic, we are helping democratic forces to assemble the nuts and bolts of lasting freedom.
In Colombia, we see an opportunity to strengthen democracy because a promising new president has made possible a new spirit of cooperation and partnership.
President Pastrana is committed to the rule of law and a future of peace for his country. He is being opposed by guerrillas on one hand and paramilitary groups on the other. Both are violent; and both are complicit in the drug trade that is flooding our shores with cocaine and has undermined the very fiber of Colombian society.
In his new budget, President Clinton is requesting almost $300 million, including $230 million in emergency funds, to help President Pastrana end the civil conflict, fight drug traffickers, support alternative development, and create a climate in which the rights of all Colombians may be respected.
In Haiti, the long-unresolved conflict between President Preval and majority legislators has stalled economic reforms and led to the de facto dissolution of Parliament. The Haitian people deserve better. We want to continue assisting them as they struggle to build better lives.
And in Cuba, we have taken a series of measures designed to help the Cuban people without strengthening their repressive and backward-looking rulers.
Our goal is to do what we can to help Cubans prepare for a peaceful transition to democratic rule. To this end, we have sought to make it easier for Cubans to be in touch with family and friends here in the United States; and easier for the Cuban-American community to help those who stayed behind. We recognize that, as one Cuban-American leader told us, "In building civil society, the strongest NGO is the family."
Although the specifics of our approach to promoting democracy vary from country to country, the fundamental goals are the same. We seek to foster where we can the development of free institutions and practices.
One example is our Vital Voices Initiative, which was launched by First Lady Hillary Clinton in Uruguay last October. This initiative seeks to increase the role of women as decisionmakers and opinion shapers.
We can expect that much of the energy and drive of the next phase of democratic development in the Americas will be provided by the entry of women into politics, business and private life. This is an historic and irreversible change, and the United States should be proud to champion it.
In closing, I want to say just a couple of words about resources. As you know, the Presidentís budget was released this week. It includes funds for everything we do in the Americas and around the world to protect our security, prosperity and freedom. And by everything, I mean initiatives that range from supporting the Middle East Peace Process, to countering terror, to promoting U.S. exports, to preventing the spread of nuclear weapons.
The total cost equals only about one percent of the federal budget. But that one- percent may determine fifty percent of the history that will be written about our era. And it will affect the lives of one hundred percent of the American people.
In the days ahead, I will be asking Congress to approve the Presidentís request, in full. This choice between funding and short-changing U.S. leadership is among the most critical the new Congress will make. When it acts, I hope it will bear in mind both the challenges of the future and the bipartisan traditions of the past.
Many years ago, the man known as The Great Liberator, Simon Bolivar, expressed the hope that the Americas would be best known throughout the world, not for vast territory or material wealth, but for "freedom and glory."
Today, that honorable vision is closer to reality than it has ever been. But it remains a work in progress.
As we approach the year 2000, the United States is committed to forging with its neighbors a new American century--in the broadest sense of that term.
We want a century in which every nation in our hemisphere will be able to live in peace; every society will be ruled by law; every individual will be able to pursue happiness to the fullest extent of his or her abilities; and every government--without blemish or exception--will be accountable to its people.
That is a lofty vision, but a worthy one, and one that is attainable.
Towards its fulfillment, I pledge my own best efforts, and respectfully solicit both your wise counsel and support. Thank you very much.
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