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U.S. Department of State

Great Seal Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright,
Venezuelan Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Burelli Rivas
Remarks Upon Signing of Agreements: Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty, Agreement on Cooperation in Science and Technology, and Agreement on Mutual Assistance Between Custom Administrations
Casa Amarilla, Caracas, Venezuela, October 12, 1997
Released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State

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FOREIGN MINISTER BURELLI RIVAS: Excellency, Madam Secretary of State, Ambassador Davidow, Ambassador Babbitt, Ambassador Maisto, President of CARE, Ambassador of Venezuela in Washington, the Directors of this Ministry. The agreements we have just signed, plus those we will sign tomorrow in Miraflores, are part of what we had wished to accomplish on the occasion of President Clinton's visit to Venezuela. The media seem to believe that agreements are signed because presidents arrive, without realizing that in such cases what is politically important is the presence of the President himself.
We would have wished to celebrate this historic visit with the signing of several other agreements we have been negotiating and continue to negotiate, but those agreements have not yet matured. Permit me to inform you, Madam Secretary of State, how highly gratified we are at your presence here and I would like to take the opportunity here, in this my first opportunity to do so, that is, in my first public opportunity, to tell you that the foreign ministers of the Rio Group were very impressed by the gesture you made in inviting us to exchange ideas during the General Assembly session of the United Nations in New York. The Rio Group, Madam Secretary, as a political forum for concerted action, is a proper interlocutor, and hence the President of the United States, you yourself, and America's foreign policy have in all of us friends who wish to forge together with you peace in the hemisphere and the universe. God willing, these meetings which you have so wisely proposed will continue in the future to facilitate understanding and cooperation among neighbors who should not nurture mistrust between them.
Welcome, Madam Secretary. We hope that the fact that you are getting to know Venezuela, as well as the signing of these agreements, will encourage you to see us for what we unwaveringly and ineluctably are, and are obliged under all circumstances to be: good friends and neighbors.
Thank you.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Mr. Foreign Minister, members of the Venezuelan government, ambassadors, ministers, excellencies, members of the American delegation:
It is a great pleasure to be here in Venezuela, and to begin my visit by signing three important agreements that reflect the breadth of interests shared by the people of Venezuela and the people of the United States.
The United States has allies, friends and interests in many parts of the globe. But we have no more natural partners than those with whom we share this hemisphere. We are bound together by our revolutionary past, our belief in human freedom, and our faith in a better future.
Two hundred years ago, Venezuela gave the world Simon Bolivar, who inspired freedom-loving Americans throughout this hemisphere. And just two weeks ago, Venezuela provided the last ratification needed to bring the OAS's Washington Protocol into effect, sending a strong message that coups, or any seizure of power outside the law, have no place in the democratic Americas.
Today our nations are as solid in our support for democracy and as close in our trade and economic ties as we have ever been. We have a firm foundation for cooperation in new areas.
But the same growth and integration we celebrate when it comes to trade also makes national boundaries increasingly vulnerable to criminals and drug traffickers. We have both an interest and a responsibility to cooperate in meeting these threats.
The agreements we are signing today will advance our efforts to seize opportunities and confront challenges.
The Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty strengthens our joint efforts in fighting drug traffickers, money launderers, terrorists and other criminals. It will facilitate activities from investigating crimes and interviewing witnesses, to freezing assets and collecting fines. The Treaty will make our law enforcement agencies confident partners, not just occasional allies.
And this Customs Cooperation agreement, building on the excellent relations between our customs services, will strengthen our joint efforts to combat money laundering, tax fraud, smuggling and other crimes. It will enable us to improve customs procedures on both sides.
The Science and Technology Agreement we are signing provides an umbrella for concrete cooperation in areas such as clean energy technology and parks management, on which our Cabinet colleagues will sign agreements tomorrow. And it will encourage more cooperation among our most talented scientists, perhaps on subjects we can barely imagine today.
As important as these agreements will be to our partnership, even more important is the breadth of cooperation we have developed based not on treaties, but on shared interests and values.
Our governments worked closely together to help build peace in Haiti and Central America.
Our political parties and trade unions have extensive ties.
Our trade is high and growing -- in energy, in consumer goods, in services, not to mention baseball scouts, baseball academies, and baseball stars.
More and more of our students are choosing to study in each other's countries, and more and more of our citizens are traveling between our two nations.
That kind of education -- whether on a two-day trip, such as mine, or a two-year Fulbright fellowship -- is what best prepares each and every one of us for a new partnership in a new century, reaching toward fulfillment of a shared American dream.
And I would like to thank you Mr. Minister for your very kind words about the Rio Group meeting.
One of the great joys of having this particular position is that I am able to invite all of you to get together, and I look forward to doing this often in the future.
Muchas gracias.

[End of Document]

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