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President Clinton Addresses Joint Session of Chilean Congress

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Office of the Press Secretary
(Vino del Mar, Chile)

For Immediate Release April 17, 1998


National Congress Building
Valparaiso, Chile

12:05 P.M. (L)

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. To the President of the Senate,the President of the Chamber of Deputies, to the members of the Senate andthe Chamber of Deputies, members of the Chilean Cabinet, members of thediplomatic corps, my fellow Americans including members of ouradministration, members of Congress, the Governor of Puerto Rico, ladiesand gentlemen. First let me thank you for the warm reception that Hillaryand I, the Secretary of State, Secretary of Education and our entiredelegation has received not only here, but by the people of Chile.

We are honored to be in this great nation, a place of marvelous giftsand well-earned accomplishments. Visitors here marvel at the beauty andextraordinary contrast of your landscape, from the desert north to thetowering ranges of the Andes, to the mysteries of Easter Island to thesouthern 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 bydreams of the future. Your Nobel Prize winning poets, Gabriela Mistral andPablo Neruda, have moved readers everywhere. Neruda's rhythms still comealive on every continent; his echo still heard in internationally Chileanworks like the novels of Jose Donoso and Antonio Skarmeta.

Your economic success is admired the world over. Indeed, more andmore other nations, whether developed or developing, want to be able tolearn from your example. But over and above all those gifts andachievements, Chile possesses something older than the achievements, andperhaps even more valuable than nature's gifts -- your devotion to freedomand democracy, a long and proud tradition.

Not so very long ago now, freedom-loving people everywhere in theworld cheered and cheered when the people of Chile bravely reclaimed theirdemocratic heritage. Our hemisphere's longing for democracy goes all theway back to George Washington and Simon Bolivar. Today we work to claimits full blessings, for a strong democracy honors all its people,respecting their dignity and fundamental rights, giving them theresponsibility to govern, demanding that they tolerate each other'sdifferences in an honorable fashion.

It honors its children, giving all of them the opportunity to learn sothat they can live their dreams. It honors its poor, its ill, its elderly,offering them support, leaving no one without hope. It honorsentrepreneurs with efficient and honest government, offering the chance tocreate prosperity. It honors its writers, its artists, and its press,ensuring freedom of expression, no matter, and perhaps especially, when itis painful to hear. It honors its soldiers for their commitment to defendthe people, not to rule them. This principle was strongly championed byDiego Portales early in Chile's history.

Democracy is never perfect, but because it is open and free, it isalways perfectible. In the words of our President Franklin Roosevelt, whotried so hard to be a good neighbor to Latin America, democracy is anever-ending seeking for better things.

At different points in this century, many nations of the Americas losttheir democracy. Some of them lost it more than once. No one lovesfreedom more than those who have had it and lost it. No one prizes it morethan those who have lost it and regained it. I know here I am in a roomfull of people who love freedom. (Applause.)

Freedom's victory now has been won throughout the Americas. With asingle exception, the day the of the dictators is over. The 21st centurywill be a century of democracy. To those anywhere in the America who wouldseek to take away people's precious liberties once again, or rule throughviolence and terror once again, let us reaffirm President Alywin's historicwords at Santiago Stadium, "nunca mas." Never again. (Applause.)

This commitment has now gone beyond those words; it is written intosolemn compacts among the nations of our hemisphere. Here in Chile in1991, the members of the Organization of American States unanimouslyadopted a commitment that we will stand together to defend democracywherever it is threatened. And last year the OAS amended its foundingcharter so that member nations may actually suspend any regime thatoverthrows a government elected by its people.

We have backed our words with actions. In Haiti, nations from acrossthe Americas, joined by others, participated in the United Nations'sponsored effort to restore a democracy that had been stolen by militaryforce. Nations of this hemisphere stood with the people of Paraguay topreserve democracy when it was threatened there in 1996. A message shouldbe clear to all: We have made a decision that in this hemisphere, thatpeople govern.

Now, having resolved to protect democracy, we must now do much, muchmore 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 theAmericas, there are still too many citizens who exercise their right tovote, but, after the election is over, feel few benefits from the decisionsmade by their officials. This kind of popular frustration can fuel theambitions of democracy's foes. As Chileans understand perhaps more clearlythan any of their fellow Americans, there must be a second generation ofreforms beyond free elections and free markets, because for democracy tothrive people must know that everyone who is willing to work will have afair chance to share in the bounty of the nation.

Leaders must ensure that the political system, the legal system, theeconomic system are not rigged to favor those who already have much, butinstead give everyone a stake in shaping the future. A strong and thrivingdemocracy requires, therefore, strengthening the rule of law, theindependence of judges, the professionalism of police, for justice must behonest.

It requires a strong and independent legislature to represent all thepeople, even when on occasion, they do not do what the President would likethem to do. It requires a constant campaign against corruption so thatpublic contracts are awarded based on merit and not bribes. It requiresbank and securities' regulation to permit growth while guarding againstcheaters and collapses. It requires a credit system, not only for thosewho are obviously successful, but for enterprising people no matter howpoor or remote their conditions. It requires a robust, free press that canraises serious questions and publish without censorship or fear.

A strong democracy also requires protecting the environment andattacking threats to it. It requires good schools and good health care.It requires protecting the rights of workers, standing up for the rights ofwomen and children and minorities, fighting the drugs and crime andterrorism that eat away at democracy's foundations, reaching out across allsectors of society, from the corporate executive to the grass-rootsactivists to the working family -- again, to ensure that everyone has astake in shaping the future.

Tomorrow, democratically-elected leaders will assemble in Santiago forthe second Summit of the Americas to launch the next steps in our unitedefforts to build strong democracies that deliver for all our peoples.

Chile is a shining star in America's constellation -- stable andresilient with budget surpluses, a high savings rate, a high growth rate,low unemployment, and low inflation. But Chile also is trying to do moreto give everyone that precious stake in the future.

In his first address after taking office, President Frei pledged towork for all of Chile's people, and he has. Poverty has been cut in halfcompared to 1990 levels. The quality of education has improved, especiallyin poorer areas. Yesterday President and Mrs. Frei took Hillary and I to aneighborhood in Santiago where we talked to ordinary citizens who hadbenefited from educational opportunities and business opportunities in waysthat enabled them to change their lives. Your citizens are working hard toprotect 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 PresidentFrei noted last year in Washington, Chile was once known as the "end of theEarth." Now it is known as the forefront of progress -- a leader for peaceand justice and prosperity; a leader in this hemisphere and throughout theworld. I thank you for what democratic Chile has done to promote peace in ElSalvador, Haiti, Bosnia, the Persian Gulf, between Peru and Ecuador. Yourcountry served on the United Nations Security Council. You have taken theinitiative to attack corruption and crime across the Americas. For allthat, I thank you. (Applause.)

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 brightenour people's lives and broaden our children's futures. The friendshipbetween the United States and Chile goes back to 1810, when our still youngnation recognized your independence. Our friendship was off to a goodstart, but in all the long years and ups and downs, it has never beenstronger or broader than it is today.

We are your largest trading partner, and trade between us has grown atan average of 13 percent a year since 1993. We want and will resolutelypursue a free trade agreement that includes our two nations. And I willnot be satisfied until we achieve that goal. (Applause.)

Chile and the United States must be full partners in the 21st century.We must also be full partners with like-minded democracies throughout ourregion. Tomorrow we will take a big step toward that full partnership aswe begin the historic effort envisioned four years ago at the first Summitof the Americas in Miami, to create a free trade area of the Americas by2005. Meanwhile, as all of us know, the private sector is visiblyproceeding as if it had already happened -- expanding trade and investment,building successful joint enterprises in everything from mining toinsurance to retailing.

We know that more trade and commerce will increase our collectiveprosperity. But we must resolve, again I say, to pursue that second levelof reforms to ensure that prosperity is widely shared. As President Freihas repeatedly said, clearly, for every nation, education is the key. Morethan ever before as nations and as individuals, our destiny depends uponwhat we know and how quickly we can learn, in a world where the volume ofknowledge is doubling every 5 years. Strong schools can give children theskills they need; it can also encourage their dreams. It can give peoplethe power to overcome the inequalities between rich and poor. It can givenations the opportunity to fulfill their destiny.

President Frei and I have committed ourselves to work together and tolearn from each other to improve the quality and the reach of education inboth our nations. All of us -- all of us -- should apply our best effortsto that until we have done much better than we are doing now in everynation of the Americas.

As we travel into the 21st century, Chile can continue to rely on theUnited States as a friend and an ally. We have a great stake in yourcontinuing success. You make the hemisphere safer and more prosperous.You are a strong partner in meeting our common challenges in thishemisphere and throughout the world.

Indeed, we welcome the growing strength of all nations that believe infreedom 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 theSummit of the Americas, is really part of a larger community of valuessweeping across our hemisphere. As we all come together this weekend, wedo so to make democracy work in ways that our people can feel; to advancethe fight against common threats and for wider economic opportunity anddeeper democracy. In the words of Neruda, our dreams become one.

On this very day, a consortium of universities from Chile, the UnitedStates, and other nations starts work on a powerful new telescope innorthern Chile. Their astronomers will look up to the heavens, gazing deepinto outer space and, therefore, deep into the past, so that they can learnthings 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 itto open old wounds or to rest on the laurels of escape from its worstmoments, but, instead, to quicken our imagination of a better tomorrow andto propel us toward it.

Together, let us resolve that when this summit is done, the leaders ofthe United States and Chile will not rest until we have shined the light offreedom and lit the spark of hope in every corner of our nations, in everypart of our hemisphere. That is a worthy mission for the new century inthe new millennium for two people who have loved freedom for a long, longtime.

Thank you very much. (Applause.)

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