[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1998, Book I)] [April 17, 1998] [Pages 582-585] [From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]
Remarks to the National Congress of Chile in Valparaiso April 17, 1998 Thank you very much. To the President of the Senate, the President of the Chamber of Deputies, to the members of the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies, members of the Chilean Cabinet, members of the diplomatic corps, my fellow Americans, including members of our administration, Members of Congress, the Governor of Puerto Rico, ladies and gentlemen. First, let me thank you for the warm reception that Hillary and I, the Secretary of State, Secretary of Education, and our entire delegation has received not only here but by the people of Chile. We are honored to be in this great nation, a place of marvelous gifts and well-earned accomplishments. Visitors here marvel at the beauty and extraordinary contrast of your landscape, from the desert north to the towering ranges of the Andes, to the mysteries of Easter Island, to the southern beaches where penguins brave Antarctic winds. Your culture moves the world in poetry and prose and music and dance, in theater and films, haunted by the spirits of the past, enriched by dreams of the future. Your Nobel Prize-winning poets, Gabriela Mistral and Pablo Neruda, have moved readers everywhere. Neruda's words and rhythms still come alive on every continent; his echo still heard in internationally acclaimed Chilean works like the novels of Jose Donoso and Antonio Skarmeta. Your economic success is admired the world over. Indeed, more and more other nations, whether developed or developing, want to be able to learn from your example. But over and above all those gifts and achievements, Chile possesses something older than the achievements, and perhaps even more valuable than nature's gifts--your devotion to freedom and democracy, a long and proud tradition. Not so very long ago now, freedom-loving people everywhere in the world cheered and cheered when the people of Chile bravely reclaimed their democratic heritage. Our hemisphere's longing for democracy goes all the way back to George Washington and Simon Bolivar. Today, we work to claim its full blessings, for a strong democracy honors all its people, respecting their dignity and fundamental rights, giving them the responsibility to govern, demanding that they tolerate each other's differences in an honorable fashion. It honors its children, giving all of them the opportunity to learn so that they can live their dreams. It honors its poor, its ill, its elderly, offering them support, leaving no one without hope. It honors entrepreneurs with efficient and honest government, offering the chance to create prosperity. It honors its writers, its artists, and its press, ensuring freedom of expression, no matter, and perhaps especially, when it is painful to hear. It honors its soldiers for their commitment to defend the people, not to rule them. This principle was strongly championed by Diego Portales early in Chile's history. Democracy is never perfect, but because it is open and free, it is always perfectible. In the words of our President Franklin Roosevelt, who tried so hard to be a good neighbor to Latin America, democracy is a never-ending seeking for better things. At different points in this century, many nations of the Americas lost their democracy. Some of them lost it more than once. No one loves freedom more than those who have had it and lost it. No one prizes it more than those who have lost it and regained it. I know, here, I am in a room full of people who love freedom. Freedom's victory now has been won throughout the Americas. With a single exception, the day of the dictators is over. The 21st century will be a century of democracy. To those anywhere in the Americas who would seek to take away people's precious liberties once again, or rule through violence and terror once again, let [[Page 583]] us reaffirm President Aylwin's historic words at Santiago Stadium, ``nunca mas.'' Never again. This commitment has now gone beyond those words; it is written into solemn compacts among the nations of our hemisphere. Here in Chile in 1991, the members of the Organization of American States unanimously adopted a commitment that we will stand together to defend democracy wherever it is threatened. And last year the OAS amended its founding charter so that member nations may actually suspend any regime that overthrows a government elected by its people. We have backed our words with actions. In Haiti, nations from across the Americas, joined by others, participated in the United Nations' sponsored effort to restore a democracy that had been stolen by military force. Nations of this hemisphere stood with the people of Paraguay to preserve democracy when it was threatened there in 1996. A message should be clear to all: We have made a decision that in this hemisphere--the people govern. Now, having resolved to protect democracy, we must now do much, much more to perfect democracy. And we must do it throughout our hemisphere. Free elections are democracy's essential first step but not its last. And strong democracies deliver real benefits to their people. Across the Americas, there are still too many citizens who exercise their right to vote, but after the election is over, feel few benefits from the decisions made by their officials. This kind of popular frustration can fuel the ambitions of democracy's foes. As Chileans understand perhaps more clearly than any of their fellow Americans, there must be a second generation of reforms, beyond free elections and free markets, because for democracy to thrive, people must know that everyone who is willing to work will have a fair chance to share in the bounty of the nation. Leaders must ensure that the political system, the legal system, the economic system are not rigged to favor those who already have much but instead give everyone a stake in shaping the future. A strong and thriving democracy requires, therefore, strengthening the rule of law, the independence of judges, the professionalism of police, for justice must be honest. It requires a strong and independent legislature to represent all the people, even when on occasion, they do not do what the President would like them to do. It requires a constant campaign against corruption so that public contracts are awarded based on merit and not bribes. It requires bank and securities regulation to permit growth while guarding against cheaters and collapses. It requires a credit system not only for those who are obviously successful but for enterprising people no matter how poor or remote their conditions. It requires a robust, free press that can raise serious questions and publish without censorship or fear. A strong democracy also requires protecting the environment and attacking threats to it. It requires good schools and good health care. It requires protecting the rights of workers, standing up for the rights of women and children and minorities, fighting the drugs and crime and terrorism that eat away at democracy's foundations, reaching out across all sectors of society--from the corporate executive to the grassroots activists to the working family--again, to ensure that everyone has a stake in shaping the future. Tomorrow, democratically elected leaders will assemble in Santiago for the second Summit of the Americas, to launch the next steps in our united efforts to build strong democracies that deliver for all our peoples. Chile is a shining star in America's constellation, stable and resilient with budget surpluses, a high savings rate, a high growth rate, low unemployment, and low inflation. But Chile also is trying to do more to give everyone that precious stake in the future. In his first address after taking office, President Frei pledged to work for all of Chile's people, and he has. Poverty has been cut in half compared to 1990 levels. The quality of education has improved, especially in poorer areas. Yesterday President and Mrs. Frei took Hillary and I to a neighborhood in Santiago where we talked to ordinary citizens who had benefited from educational opportunities and business opportunities in ways that enabled them to change their lives. Your citizens are working hard to protect the environment, although just like those of us in my country, we've still got a ways to go. The success of this nation goes beyond your borders. As President Frei noted last year in Washington, Chile was once known as the ``end of the Earth.'' Now it is known as the forefront of progress, a leader for peace and justice and prosperity, a leader in this hemisphere and throughout the world. [[Page 584]] I thank you for what democratic Chile has done to promote peace in El Salvador, Haiti, Bosnia, the Persian Gulf, between Peru and Ecuador. Your country served on the United Nations Security Council. You have taken the initiative to attack corruption and crime across the Americas. For all that, I thank you. In the future, we must work together as we have in the past--indeed, as we have from the beginning--to strengthen our democracies and brighten our people's lives and broaden our children's futures. The friendship between the United States and Chile goes back to 1810, when our still-young Nation recognized your independence. Our friendship was off to a good start, but in all the long years and ups and downs, it has never been stronger or broader than it is today. We are your largest trading partner, and trade between us has grown at an average of 13 percent a year since 1993. We want and will resolutely pursue a free-trade agreement that includes our two nations. And I will not be satisfied until we achieve that goal. Chile and the United States must be full partners in the 21st century. We must also be full partners with like-minded democracies throughout our region. Tomorrow we will take a big step toward that full partnership as we begin the historic effort envisioned 4 years ago at the first Summit of the Americas in Miami, to create a free-trade area of the Americas by 2005. Meanwhile, as all of us know, the private sector is visibly proceeding as if it had already happened--expanding trade and investment, building successful joint enterprises in everything from mining to insurance to retailing. We know that more trade and commerce will increase our collective prosperity. But we must resolve, again I say, to pursue that second level of reforms to ensure that prosperity is widely shared. As President Frei has repeatedly said, clearly, for every nation, education is the key. More than ever before as nations and as individuals, our destiny depends upon what we know and how quickly we can learn. In a world where the volume of knowledge is doubling every 5 years, strong schools can give children the skills they need; it can also encourage their dreams. It can give people the power to overcome the inequalities between rich and poor. It can give nations the opportunity to fulfill their destiny. President Frei and I have committed ourselves to work together and to learn from each other to improve the quality and the reach of education in both our nations. All of us--all of us--should apply our best efforts to that until we have done much better than we are doing now in every nation of the Americas. As we travel into the 21st century, Chile can continue to rely on the United States as a friend and an ally. We have a great stake in your continuing success. You make the hemisphere safer and more prosperous. You are a strong partner in meeting our common challenges in this hemisphere and throughout the world. Indeed, we welcome the growing strength of all nations that believe in freedom and human dignity and work for a brighter future for their people, so that the partnership between our two people, as we will see at the Summit of the Americas, is really part of a larger community of values sweeping across our hemisphere. As we all come together this weekend, we do so to make democracy work in ways that our people can feel, to advance the fight against common threats and for wider economic opportunity and deeper democracy. In the words of Neruda, our dreams become one. On this very day, a consortium of universities from Chile, the United States, and other nations starts work on a powerful new telescope in northern Chile. Their astronomers will look up to the heavens, gazing deep into outer space and, therefore, deep into the past, so that they can learn things which will help us all to build a brighter future. We must never forget our past, but we must use it. We must not use it to open old wounds or to rest on the laurels of escape from its worst moments but, instead, to quicken our imagination of a better tomorrow and to propel us toward it. Together, let us resolve that when this summit is done, the leaders of the United States and Chile will not rest until we have shined the light of freedom and lit the spark of hope in every corner of our nations, in every part of our hemisphere. That is a worthy mission for the new century in the new millennium for two peoples who have loved freedom for a long, long time. Thank you very much. Note: The President spoke at 12:05 p.m. in the National Congress Building. In his remarks, he referred to President of the Senate Andres Zaldivar; President of the Chamber of Deputies [[Page 585]] Gutenberg Martinez; former President Patricio Aylwin of Chile; and Gov. Pedro Rossello of Puerto Rico.