[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1998, Book II)]
[November 14, 1998]
[Pages 2034-2035]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

[[Page 2034]]

The President's Radio Address
November 14, 1998

    The President. Today I would like to talk about the hurricane that 
struck Central America 2 weeks ago and what we in the United States are 
doing to help. I'm joined by Tipper Gore, who will describe her trip 
leading our delegation to the region.
    As Hurricane Mitch swept across the Caribbean, we were spared the 
brunt of the storm. But our neighbors in Honduras, Nicaragua, El 
Salvador, and Guatemala were not so lucky. We know the terrible death 
toll in those nations, more than 10,000 lives so far. But that figure 
only begins to convey the devastation. Hundreds of thousands are 
homeless. Mudslides and collapsed bridges have made it difficult to send 
help. In huge areas people have still almost no food and water. Roads, 
farms, schools, hospitals, all have been destroyed.
    Tipper Gore led our Presidential mission to the region, and she just 
reported to me on the conditions there. I'd like to ask her now to tell 
what she saw.
    Tipper Gore. Thank you, Mr. President.
    In Honduras, we visited a neighborhood devastated by the storm. We 
joined the effort to clean up a school that will become a medical 
facility. That night I slept in a tent outside a shelter with homeless 
families, where I met a woman who was 6 months pregnant, a grandmother 
who was caring for four of her grandchildren, and a man who was alone 
and blind. They had all lost everything. They are now living together in 
one room, sleeping on mats.
    In Nicaragua, I visited a refugee site for more than 1,000 men, 
women, and children whose homes along a riverbank are gone. The 
conditions are unimaginable. The Government has allocated a plot of land 
which is divided into parcels, one per family. Their shelter consists of 
sheets of plastic. Disease is rampant, and their biggest concerns right 
now are food, water, and medicine.
    Yet everywhere, I was struck by the spirit of the people. They are 
not defeated. They're cleaning up, and they are rebuilding their lives. 
In Honduras, community leaders are working to help those most in need to 
get supplies to the outlying areas. In the makeshift shelters in 
Managua, many people were measuring foundations for new walls they will 
build when the materials are available.
    You can see that this disaster has destroyed their homes but not 
their spirits. They will survive, and we will stand with them as they do 
    The President. Thanks, Tipper. Thank you for the trip and for your 
recommendations for what the United States should do next.
    Next Monday the First Lady will also visit the region. We want to do 
everything we can to help, now and over the long run. To quickly address 
the catastrophe, I ordered $80 million in emergency aid. Over 1,300 
American troops are assisting with relief efforts, providing food, 
water, and medicine. Engineers are rebuilding roads. Helicopters and 
planes are delivering vital supplies, 1.3 million tons to date. And more 
help is on the way.
    In the wake of Mrs. Gore's trip, I am announcing today that we will 
offer $45 million in additional defense goods and services to provide 
the resources our troops need to continue their critical work toward 
    I've also asked Secretary of the Treasury Bob Rubin to find the best 
way to provide debt relief and emergency financial aid from the United 
States and the international community. We've already encouraged 
international institutions to provide more than $500 million in near-
term financial aid, and we're working with them to secure sufficient 
money for reconstruction.
    Finally, we intend to extend our stay of deportation through the 
holidays for citizens of the affected countries living in the United 
States, while examining on an urgent basis recommendations for further 
relief, consistent with the recommendation Mrs. Gore made to me.
    A storm shows no respect for boundaries, and we should respond the 
same way. Many American citizens have relatives in Central America; our 
nations are related, too. They are our friends and our neighbors. We are 
going to share the future together. America is at its best when lending 
a helping hand to friends in need. Central Americans have taken great 
strides in the last decade in ending conflicts and strengthening 
democracies. We must not, and we will not, let a hurricane drown these 

[[Page 2035]]

    The United States will spare no aid to people of Central America, 
our fellow Americans, as we all strive to build a better world in a new 
    Thanks for listening.

Note: The address was recorded at 1:59 p.m. on November 13 in the 
Roosevelt Room at the White House for broadcast at 10:06 a.m. on 
November 14. The transcript was made available by the Office of the 
Press Secretary on November 13 but was embargoed for release until the 
broadcast. The related memorandums of November 6 and 14 on emergency 
disaster relief assistance for Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and 
Guatemala are listed in Appendix D at the end of this volume.