For Immediate Release May 7, 1997
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
(Mexico City, Mexico)
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
IN ADDRESS TO THE PEOPLE OF MEXICO
Mexico City, Mexico
11:21 A.M. (L)
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Mr. President, for the wisdom of
your words, for the warmth of your personal expression, and for the great
generosity with which the people of Mexico have received my wife and our
delegation, the members of the administration and the members of Congress. We
thank all those who have been a part of that in the Mexican government,
throughout the political system and citizens at large.
I am honored to speak today in the heart of this magnificent
capital, where Teotihuacan and Aztec civilizations flourished, where one of
the world's greatest cities grew up centuries before the first English tents
were pitched in Jamestown, Virginia, or Plymouth, Massachusetts. I'm,
frankly, a little envious that Hillary got to spend an extra day here, and I
want to thank those who are responsible for the wonderful welcome she received
in the Yucatan.
Almost 22 years ago now, Hillary and I came to Mexico for our
honeymoon. Mexico won our hearts then, but now as then, me encanta Mexico.
I come here today to celebrate the ties that bind the United
States and Mexico and to help set a course to strengthen them for the age of
possibility before us as we enter the 21st century. Our nations and our
hemisphere stand at a crossroads as hopeful as the time when Hidalgo and
Morelos lit the torch of liberty for Mexico almost two centuries ago.
Democracy has swept every country but one in the Americas,
giving people a vote and a voice in their future.
Decades of coups and civil wars have given way to stability, to
peace, to free markets and to the search for social justice and a
cleaner environment. The electricity of change is surging
throughout our hemisphere and nowhere more hopefully than Mexico.
I congratulate the Mexican people for carrying
forward bold political reforms that will lead in July to the most
intensely contested elections in your history. We know from our
own 220-year experiment that democracy is hard work. It must be
defended every day. But it is worth the effort, for it has
produced more opportunity for people to make the most of their
own lives than all its rivals.
Four years ago, in this very place, we began a grand
common effort to secure democracies gains in our hemisphere for
all our people. On behalf of my administration, Vice President
Gore here invited the nations of our hemisphere to the Summit of
the Americas in Miami. There we set an ambitious agenda to
create free trade throughout the hemisphere and to cooperate on a
host of other issues with the goal of fulfilling the age old
dream of building a truly democratic and prosperous family of the
Americas in the 21st century.
Revolutionary forces of integration, and technology
and trade, and travel and communications are shaping our times
and bringing us all closer together. The stroke of a computer
key sends ideas, information and money across the planet at
lightening speed. Every day we use products that are dreamed up
in one country, financed in another, manufactured in a third,
with parts made in still other countries, and then sold all over
the world. Like it or not, we are becoming more interdependent.
And we see that, too, on the negative side, as when a stock
market crash, an environmental disaster, or a dread disease in
one country sends shock waves deeply felt far beyond its borders.
While economic integration is inevitable, its shape
and its reach depend upon our response to it. In both our
countries, there are some who throw up walls of protection to
ward off the challenge of change. But more and more, people here
and the United States and throughout the Americas understand that
openness, competition, and the flow of ideas and culture can
improve the lives of all our people, if we ensure that these
forces work for, and not against, all our people.
With our long border, rich history, and complex
challenges, Mexico and the United States have a special
responsibility to work together to seize the opportunities and
defeat the dangers of this time. Our partnership for freedom and
democracy and for prosperity, and our partnership against drugs,
organized crime, environmental decay, and social injustice is
fundamental to the future of the American people and to the
future of the Mexican people.
To succeed, this partnership must be rooted in a
spirit of mutual respect. Your great leader, Benito Juarez,
whose statue stands not far from the White House in Washington,
said, "Respect for the rights of others is peace." Today, I
reaffirm to the people of Mexico: We embrace the wisdom of
Juarez. We seek a peaceful, prosperous partnership filled with
respect and dignity. (Applause.)
Four years ago, together, we led the fight for
NAFTA. Many people in both our countries painted a dark picture
of lost jobs and boarded-up factories should NAFTA prevail.
Well, they were wrong. NAFTA is working -- working for you and
working for the American people.
In three short years and despite Mexico's worst
recession in this century, trade between our nations has grown
nearly 60 percent, as President Zedillo said. Mexico is our
third largest trading partner, just behind Japan, which has an
economy 15 times larger. Our exports to Mexico are 37 percent
higher than before NAFTA -- an all-time high in spite of the
economic difficulties here.
But for Mexico, NAFTA's benefits are just as great.
Two and a half years ago, the financial crisis that struck Mexico
wrought real and profound hardship to your people as jobs
vanished and inflation skyrocketed. The storm hit only days
after President Zedillo took office. He might have simply
complained that he got a big dose of bad luck. But instead, he
responded with vision and courage. By keeping to the path of
reform and the blueprint of NAFTA, he lessened the impact of the
The real hardships remain. Mexico has made a
remarkable turnaround. Since the crisis, you have created one
million new jobs, cut inflation by more than half, and regained
the confidence of international investors.
Now, compare this with the economic crisis of 1981
and '82, when Mexico sharply raised its tariffs and followed a
different course. Then, it took seven long years for Mexico to
return to the financial markets; this time, only seven months.
Then, it took four years for your economy to recover the lost
ground; this time, only a year after the crisis, Mexico grew by
more than five percent and is expected to grow strongly this
You have endured punishing setbacks, but America is
proud to have worked with you from the very beginning, enlisting
international support for a loan package that safeguarded
hundreds of thousands of jobs in both our countries, calmed
emerging markets throughout Latin America and the world, and when
Mexico paid the loan back, earned the respect and admiration of
the entire world. I congratulate you on this course.
Of course, the ultimate test of our economic
partnership is not in big numbers, but in human impact: the
electronic workers of Mexico's Baja Peninsula whose new jobs mean
better health care and pensions and more education for their
children; the hundreds of thousands of Mexican women who now have
mammograms because American-made diagnostic equipment has become
more affordable to you; and all the American workers with good
high-wage jobs based on our trade with you.
NAFTA has also become an important tool for
improving the environment and the well-being of workers. Its
institutions are working to clean up pollution in the border
region, with four treatment plants already under construction and
more to come. Its labor agreements have created a new awareness
of workers' rights and labor conditions in both our countries.
We must accelerate the pace of these efforts to
reach more people and more communities. And we must include more
nations in our partnership so that we can achieve the goal we set
out at the Summit of the Americas of a free trade area of the
Americas. That is why I'm working with Congress to gain support
for fast track authority and why I'm coming back to Latin America
twice in the next few months.
As we celebrate these accomplishments, we must also
do everything in our power to assure that the benefits and the
burdens of change are fairly shared. The most powerful tool for
doing that, plainly, is education -- giving our people the skills
they need to compete and succeed.
At the Miami Summit, Mexico took the responsibility
of leading a hemispheric education initiative. Working with
Brazil, Chile, and the United States, you have set our sights on
lifting standards and bringing new methods and technologies to
classroom throughout the hemisphere. We can rekindle the passion
for education that swept this country after your revolution.
Your great poet, Alfonso Reyes, described that moment as, "a
grand crusade for learning that electrified the people. Nothing
equal to it has ever been seen in the Americas."
Let us see something equal to it and greater. Let
us renew this crusade. And let us remember, as my wife has said,
the citizens on every continent, in distant villages and large
cities, this crusade for education must include young women as
well as young men on equal terms. And let us resolve to make
this crusade a shining light of our next Summit of the Americas
next year in Santiago.
In Miami at the first summit, we also reaffirmed
that we cannot be responsible stewards of freedom unless we are
also responsible stewards of our natural resources -- our
hemisphere's land and air and water, as well as the rich texture
of plant and animal life they support.
Over the long run, the development of democracy and
a prosperous economy requires the sustainable development of our
natural resources. That is why we have put the protection of the
environment right where it belongs, at the heart of our
hemispheric agenda. That is the course we charted together in
Rio, in Miami, in Santa Cruz, and one we must pursue further in
Trade, education and the environment are critical
pieces of the greater mosaic of our relationship, designed to
turn our 2,000-mile border into a vibrant source of growth and
jobs and open exchange. We're also building a bridge between
Brownsville and Matamoros, and roads to connect our people,
streamlining cargo transit with high-tech scanners, improving
water supplies for the areas inhabitants, and through our Border
21 Initiative, giving local communities a strong voice in the
future of the dynamic living space they share.
As our cooperation grows closer, so do our people.
For America, that means pride in the fact that we are one of the
most diverse democracies in the world. That diversity will be
one of our great strengths in the global society of the 21st
century. And Mexican Americans are a crucial part of our
diversity and our national pride. Now, more than 12 million
strong, they have helped to make the United States the fifth
largest Hispanic nation in the world.
Mexican Americans are contributing to every
dimension of American life. In Congress, they have written the
laws of our land. Just yesterday, Ambassador Bill Richardson,
whose mother came from this city, was working to bring peace in
Central Africa, and every day he is America's voice at the United
Our administration draws strength from many other
remarkable Mexican Americans, including several who are here with
me -- our Energy Secretary, Federico Pena; my Director of Public
Liaison, Maria Echaveste; my Congressional Liaison, Janet
Murguia. I am also pleased to have in our party two
distinguished members of Congress who are Mexican Americans --
Javier Becerra of California, and Silvestre Reyes of Texas; and
four other distinguished elected officials who represent large
numbers of Mexican Americans and who care deeply about our
partnership -- Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas, Senator
Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico, Representative Jim Kolbe of Arizona
and Governor Robert Miller of Nevada.
Last year, nearly 160,000 Mexicans immigrated
legally to America, bringing their talents, their energies, their
aspirations. They've played by the rules. And we, for our part,
must make sure that the system treats them fairly and gives them
the chance to live up to their hopes and dreams.
But to maintain an immigration policy that is
generous, fair, safe, and orderly, we must also take effective
action to stop illegal immigration. We are a nation of
immigrants and of laws. Just as those who obey are laws are
welcome, those who break them must face the consequences. Our
new immigration law will help us to achieve these goals. In
applying it and in our overall approach to immigration, we will
balance control with common sense and compassion.
I am very pleased that the balanced budget agreement
I reached with our Congress last week includes a significant
restoration of welfare benefits to legal immigrants. (Applause.)
I will continue to work with Congress to correct some aspects of
our immigration law. We will ensure respect for human rights and
seek to apply the law humanely, with special concern for children
and families. There will be no mass deportations or no
discrimination. And we will continue to support Mexico's efforts
to create new opportunities here, so that no one feels compelled
to leave home just to earn a living for his or her family.
In the end, that is the answer. But I ask you to
remember and work with us on the central premise. We have a
generous immigration policy, perhaps the most generous in the
world; but to make it work we must be a nation of laws.
This moment of great promise for us is, frankly,
also one of peril. The great irony of this time is that the
forces of global integration have also unleashed powerful sources
of disintegration that use open borders and technology and modern
communications to strike at the very heart of civilized societies
-- our families, our institutions, our very lives.
For us, the greatest of these scourges is that of
illegal drug-trafficking. The cost to both of us of illegal
drugs are staggering. In America, every year drugs kill 14,000
people and cost our country almost $70 billion for crime,
prisons, lost work, wounded bodies and ruined lives. Every year,
our law enforcement officials arrest one million people on drug
In Mexico, President Zedillo has called narcotics
trafficking "the greatest threat to national security, the
biggest hazard to social health and the bloodiest source of
Throughout our hemisphere we see how drug cartels
threaten the fabric of entire societies. They corrupt or murder
law enforcement officials and the judiciary, take over legitimate
businesses and banks, spread violence to offices and homes, to
streets and to playgrounds.
Drugs are not simply a Mexican problem or an
American problem -- they are our common problem. The enormous
demand for drugs in America must be stemmed. We have just a
little less than five percent of the world's population -- yet,
we consume one-third of the world's cocaine, most of which comes
from Mexico. The money we spend on illegal drugs fuels narco
traffickers who, in turn, attack your police and prosecutors and
prey on your institutions. We must face this curse together,
because we cannot defeat it alone. My friends, the battle
against drugs must unite our people, not divide them. (Applause.)
We must fight back together, and we must prevail.
In the United States we have begun the largest antidrug effort in
our history. More than two-thirds of its $16 billion budget will
go to attacking our domestic drug problem. We've cut casual drug
use by 50 percent in America, but, tragically, among young people
under 18 has doubled. We're reaching out to young people with an
unprecedented effort -- a public education campaign to teach that
drugs are wrong, illegal, and deadly. We're supporting
successful neighborhood strategies like community policing that
are making our streets and schools safer and more drug-free.
We're punishing drug pushers with tougher sentences and working
with our partners abroad to destroy drugs at the source or stop
them in transit.
Here in Mexico, you must continue your brave fight
against illegal drugs. Already you have shown real advances in
drug eradication. You've enacted strong new measures to combat
money laundering and organized crime. You've destroyed more drug
labs and landing strips and seized more drugs, including more
than 10 tons of cocaine just days ago. And last week, you
resolved to rebuild your drug enforcement agency on a firmer
I know the hardship and sacrifice this has caused.
More than 200 Mexican police officers died last year because of
drug violence. As terrible as this toll is, the price of giving
up and giving in would be higher. Let us resolve to redouble our
efforts, not by pointing fingers, but by joining hands.
Yesterday, President Zedillo and I took an important
step forward when we declared the U.S.-Mexican Alliance Against
Drugs, based on mutual respect and common sense. Will strengthen
our attack on drug production, trafficking and consumption. We
will crack down harder on the key problems of money laundering
and arms trafficking. The future of our children depends upon
these efforts and depends more on our determination to continue
the fight. We must not let our children down. (Applause.)
Our alliance against drugs is but one of many
elements in our cooperation for the coming century. Yesterday,
the President and I received a report of our binational
commission. From wiping out tuberculosis in our border states to
protecting endangered species in the Pacific, to increasing
educational opportunity with more Fulbright Scholarships, the
scope of our joint efforts has become as large as the continent
Fifty years ago, President Harry Truman came to
Mexico. His visit was a turning point between our people. He
spoke of the difficulties in our past and of the need for us to
work more closely. He said, I refuse to be discouraged by
apparent difficulties; difficulties are a challenge to men of
determination. In the face of our difficulties, we must be men
and women of determination. We can bridge the divides of
culture, history and geography to achieve Juarez' noble vision of
respect and peace.
Rooted in the rule of law, rooted in prosperity for
all who will work for it, rooted in good health and a clean
environment, rooted in modern education and timeless values, the
bright promise of a new century lies before us. Let us embrace
it together. Thank you. (Applause.)
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