THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
|For Immediate Release|| ||March 9, 1999|
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
TO U.S. TROOPS AND PEOPLE OF HONDURAS
Soto Cano Air Base, Honduras
11:45 A.M. (L)
THE PRESIDENT: President Flores, Colonel Ramirez, General Wilhelm,
Colonel Rosner, members of the Honduran and American militaries; to thepeopleof Honduras, the American delegation and members of Congress who came herewithme; ladies and gentlemen. Yesterday in Nicaragua, today in Honduras, weseethat this disaster has taught us that what happens to one in the Americasaffects us all. It reminds us that in good times and bad, todos somosAmericanos. (Applause.)
Mr. President, I thank you for your kind words about the FirstLady. Ispoke with Hillary last night and she asked me to give you her best. Sheremembers so well her trip here, and she wishes you well.
Mr. President, as our military leaders know, at this Honduran airbase,our Armed Forces trained together for this sort of disaster just a fewmonthsbefore the storm. When the real test came, they passed with flying colors.
This long runway, turned into a lifeline, connected the countriesallover the world. Over 47 million pounds of supplies came through here.Helicopters performed daring rescues and delivered food; engineers repaired
roads; medical teams gave treatment and comfort; relief workers providedcleanwater, built schools and shelters, and restored faith in the future thatnearlywashed away.
Operation Fuerzas Apoyo turned into one of the largest humanitarian
missions performed by the United States military since the Berlin Airlift
years ago. To all who were a part of it, I thank you for your courage,yourconfidence, your compassion.
I believe the United States must do more. I have asked Congressfor$956 million to support the reconstruction effort in Central America. Weexpectalmost a third of that to come to Honduras to improve public health, tobuildhomes and schools, to rebuild roads so farmers can move their produce tomarket,and to prepare for future hurricanes. It will also forgive and deferHondurandebt, and it will be targeted to local communities to make sure the peoplewhoneed it get the assistance.
I would also like to announce $56 million to expand our NewHorizonsprogram which brings civilian guardsmen and reservists to the region fortwoweeks of training and relief work.
Mr. President, I know Hondurans are determined not just to rebuild, butactually to create something better out of this tragedy -- to build areconstruction that protects the environment so that people are not exposed tounnecessary risks in the next storm; to build a reconstruction that ensures thatthose who suffered most participate fully and benefit equally; to build areconstruction that consolidates democracy by engaging local government,NGOsand the private sector.
I would like to especially thank the members of our Armed Forcesfortheir hard work to advance these goals -- (applause) -- for theirenthusiasm,even when you have to sleep in hootches in Tent City -- (laughter) -- foryourcooperation between the services and between our U.S. personnel and ourHonduranhosts. You have shown the people of Central America the true colors of our menand women in uniform. (Applause.)
Today, I am proud to announce the Award of Humanitarian ServiceMedalsto all those members of the U.S. Armed Forces who serve and support thereliefeffort in Central America. (Applause.) And to announce that I have justpresented to Colonel Rosner a Joint Meritorious Unit Award to JTF Bravo for itssustained commitment to our mission in this region. Congratulations on ajobwell done. (Applause.)
Later today, I will see the Juan Molina Bridge in Tegucigalpa. Itwasbuild jointly with U.S. assistance and Honduran efforts. I can't think ofabetter symbol of JTF Bravo's efforts or our cooperation, building bridgesbetween people and nations in Central America, with Central America itselfthebridge between North and South America.
In this tragedy's aftermath, Hondurans and Americans are giving new
meaning to the words written by Juan Molina in his poem, "Eagles andCondors.""Pueblos Americanos in este contiente debemos ser hermanos. (Applause.)
Not far from here is Comayagua, the old capital of Honduras, builtbecause it was near the center of Central America and of the entire NewWorld.That city boasts a clock said to be the oldest in the Americas, made bySpanishMoors in the 12th century. When that clock began ticking, about 900 yearsago,the world was a smaller place in every way. Now that clock is ticking away thefinal hours and days of the 20th century, headed toward a new millennium.
But one thing remains as true today as the day the clock was built: Wehumans still have the urge to start a new course for the future and theobligation to make it a better one for our children.
Thanks to your work here, a new and better world truly lies withinourgrasp. Thank you and God bless you. (Applause.)