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Remarks at the Annual Conference of the Council of the Americas

Secretary Colin L. Powell
Washington, DC
May 6, 2002

Thank you very much, David, for that very warm and kind introduction. It's good to be with so many good friends as I scan the audience, and especially with you, David. And I do appreciate that kind introduction.

And I also would like to thank the Council for making allowances for my schedule, allowing me to come down a little earlier. It is one of these particularly busy days in Washington that comes from time to time. I have King Abdallah of Jordan, Prince Saud of Saudi Arabia, the Foreign Minister. Prime Minister Sharon will also be coming today. I'll be meeting with him. And also President Museveni of Uganda.

And then we have a number of meetings having to do with the upcoming US-Moscow summit that we have to attend to. We are looking forward to the summit meeting with Russia in two weeks time, but the preparations for a summit are always quite demanding. So it is just an average day in the life of a Secretary of State.

And I am also going to have the privilege a little later this morning of speaking to the Anti-Defamation League as well on the subject of tolerance. So no better way to start the day, however, than with the Council of the Americas. I'm very pleased to be with you, and it's a pleasure to welcome you -- David and Bill Rhodes and Alan Stoga and the Council -- to the State Department for your 32nd Washington Conference.

And as you all know, it has become something of a tradition for the Secretary of State to open the Washington Conference, but I'm not here today just out of a reverence for tradition. I'm here because I want to reach out to you once again, the business people who have hands-on experience in the Americas. I see all the old friends in the audience that I've worked with in the past, so many who have been committed to democracy and economic development and reform, and I know that each of you will see many other old friends here at the podium over the next two days, beginning after I leave with my point man for the Americas, Assistant Secretary Otto Reich. He's well known to you. He headed the Council's Washington Office from 1976 to '81, and now he is the Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemispheric Affairs. It wasn't always easy, but Otto is here, he's on board, and I can tell you we're very, very glad to have him on the team.

You'll be hearing from him in a few moments. You'll be hearing from the Vice President and many of my Cabinet colleagues over the next several days, but first I'd like to set the stage for those later presentations, if I may. And let me start, as David noted, with September 11th of last year, the day that changed the world as we knew it. For me, it was a remarkable day. For all of us it was a remarkable day, but for me it was a moving day, a day of many mixed emotions, as it was also for you.

But I was in a breakfast meeting with President Toledo in Lima, Peru. We were talking about bilateral issues, we were talking about trade, we were talking about textile imports and exports when two notes came in from my assistant telling me that something terrible had happened in Washington, D.C. and in New York. And I knew that I had to return immediately.

But before returning to Washington, while the plane was being prepared, I did want to participate in the OAS Conference, because we were there to validate our belief in the community of democracy here in the Western Hemisphere -- 34 of 35 nations all committed to democracy, not only as a political system, but as something we believe in as a value system. And we were going to put in place the rules of the road. If you're going to be a member of this democratic club in our hemisphere, there are rules, there are obligations, there are consequences for violating those rules and obligations.

And so I wanted to participate in that meeting and be part of the vote, and I'll never forget moving into the conference room, and my various colleagues from around the hemisphere stood up and expressed their solidarity with the United States in this time of crisis and pledged their support. And then we passed that statement on democracy, that Charter on Democracy, and then in an unanimous vote of acclamation, they made it clear that the OAS would be standing with the United States in this time of trial.

Our hemispheric solidarity and action have continued since then. The OAS has acted further. We are working together as a hemisphere to deny haven to terrorists and their funds. We particularly valued Brazil's leadership in bringing together the signatories of the Rio Treaty to invoke its collective defense provisions. Brazil is the world's fourth largest democracy and Latin America's largest economy. We share many common goals, such as promoting democracy and economic reform, advancing free trade, and combating terrorism and narcotics trafficking. And we look forward to a continuing partnership with Brazil, both in the hemisphere and increasingly on the global level.

Now our challenge is to work with all of our partners in the hemisphere to weave our cooperation against terrorism into the very fabric of our relations and into our institutions. We must ensure that such cooperation becomes part of the normal way that we do business here in the hemisphere. I am pleased to say that we are well on our way to doing so.

September 11th was also about our hemisphere's commitment to freedom and democracy, as I mentioned, a commitment made even more important by our fight against terrorism. At last year's Summit of the Americas in Quebec City, our leaders chartered the vision of a hemisphere free, prosperous and secure; free for all peoples to live their lives under responsive and representative governments; prosperous for everyone, not just the privileged few; and secure, not only from the scourge of terrorism, but also from the plagues of narcotics trafficking and criminality.

We have made progress. The Democratic Charter we approved on September 11th announced to the world that democracy is the norm in this hemisphere and that we will not tolerate backsliding, backsliding into the bad old days of unelected authoritarian regimes. President Bush's Compact for Development, which he unveiled in his March 14th speech to the Inter-American Development Bank, marked a further stage in the linkage between democracy, good governance, and development. And at the International Conference on Financing for Development, which met shortly after that in Monterrey, Mexico, leaders from around the world committed their countries to sound policies, good governance at all levels, and rule of law.

We have also advanced the trade agenda at the heart of the Quebec City declaration of last year. We have launched the Doha development round of World Trade Organization negotiations. With our partner Brazil, we will co-chair negotiations for the Free Trade Area of the Americas this fall. We are nearing a free trade agreement with Chile and preparing to negotiate one with all of Central America. And President Bush and his administration are working to gain congressional reauthorization of the Andean Trade Preference Act and approval of the trade promotion authority that we desperately need to bring our very ambitious trade agenda to a successful conclusion.

The recent history of our region shows why we believe so strongly that freedom, prosperity and security are mutually reinforcing. We all now know how a country such as Mexico, Chile and El Salvador have made great strides in combing institutional reform, responsive government, and economic opening to create better lives for all their people. Uruguay, too, has parlayed good governance and economic reform into an island of stability in a sea of political and economic uncertainty. Uruguayans enjoy the most equitable income distribution in Latin America. They have confidence in their political institutions. In Uruguay, corruption is a crime, not an accepted part of doing business. With this foundation of good government and democracy, Uruguay has so far been able to withstand powerful economic shocks that would have crippled more fragile countries and societies.

Still, as the problems besetting us appear, and we see a hemisphere that is more troubled than it was when we met a year ago, we see a hemisphere that has difficulties in many, many different ways -- difficulty with their democratic institutions, difficulty with their economies. Our close friend and ally, Argentina, is in the midst of a profound economic and political crisis. We want to help Argentina work its way out of its problems. Working through the IMF and other international financial institutions, we remain committed to supporting additional financial assistance to help stabilize the Argentine economy and put it on the long road to sustained growth.

But economic reform alone will not bring Argentina out of crisis. Argentina must also address the underlying political and institutional flaws that encourage excess public sector borrowing, corruption, politicized judicial systems, and a lack of transparency in government activities.

The democratically elected government of Colombia faces multiple threats to its survival, to its very existence, and we will help Colombia to defend its democracy against the threats of drugs and terrorists. We will help promote a peaceful, prosperous society that respects human rights and respects the rule of law.

We are prepared to assist Colombia in asserting state authority and effective security throughout the country. While there is clearly no military solution to all of Colombia's problems, there must be a more robust military and security component to US policy. We are prepared to expand the scope and nature of our assistance, but Colombia must also fully commit itself to the tough steps that will be needed to achieve success. We will support the efforts of the Colombian people, but we can not and will not supplant them.

Venezuela's democracy, as we all know, is undergoing a severe test. If the people of Venezuela are to succeed in building better lives for themselves and more hopeful futures for their children, their political leaders must resolve their problems in a constitutional and democratic manner.

This is the era in our hemisphere of democracies, not dictators; of constitutions, not coups. Coups must be recognized for what they are: fading echoes of a discredited past, not the road to a democratic future. President Chavez must follow with deeds his new pledges of national reconciliation and respect for democratic principles. We urge him to work with the OAS. We look forward to working with him in the context of the OAS's Democratic Charter in order to facilitate genuine strengthening of Venezuela's democratic institutions on behalf of all Venezuelans.

The people of Haiti have suffered for almost two centuries under bad leadership that has failed to respond to their needs. Breaking that cycle is Haiti's greatest challenge. I might say it is a source of personal disappointment to me that nearly eight years after my mission with President Carter and Senator Nunn to help restore Haiti's elected government, Haiti has made so little progress. It is still far from supporting a democratically competitive political environment, in which human and civil rights are respected and economic growth is made possible.

And then we have to of course not lose sight of the situation in Cuba. Cuba cannot remain forever the sole holdout from the hemisphere's march of democracy and free markets. The Castro regime makes a mockery of freedom. It impoverishes the Cuban people. As President Bush has said on many occasions, our goal is to promote a rapid, peaceful transition to democracy in Cuba. The people of Cuba deserve no less.

In addition to the specific problems besetting these and other countries, there is a broader, deeper discontent in the region. Peoples throughout much of the Americas are increasingly dissatisfied with the quality of democracy and frustrated with the results of economic reform. If we got rid of the dictators, if we got rid of the generals, if we got rid of all of the authoritarian regimes, things are supposed to get better; there's supposed to be food on the table, a roof over our heads, education for our children, health care. There is a disenchantment with the institutions of elective government. In too many countries, people are losing faith in their political systems and leaders. Things were supposed to be better; things were supposed to be better rapidly.

A recent region-wide survey found a decline in support for democracy. There's a decline in support for democracy stated as preferable to any other kind of government. In 16 of the 17 Latin countries that were polled, that was the result: a decline in support for democracy. What good is democracy if your life is not better?

Meanwhile, too many people are making too many economic sacrifices in the name of freedom, without seeing their lives improve. For them, it is still a daily struggle to put that food on the table, educate their children, and do all the other things that we want to do for our families. Too many governments have failed to undertake the so-called second generation reforms that are necessary to consolidate the gains and attract the investment that economies need to grow.

I don't need to tell you that without reforms to tax laws, pensions, regulatory systems and the judiciary, investors will find other places to send their money. Capital, as I say all the time, is a coward. It flees from corruption and bad policies, conflict and unpredictability. It goes where it is welcomed, where investors can be confident of a return on the resources that they have put at risk, the resources that they in turn get from shareholders, get from average citizens looking for a decent return on their investment, on their savings. Capital flows to countries with clarity of law; and accountability of government is what we must all strive for.

Going forward, our challenge is to work with our neighbors to help them complete and consolidate their political, institutional and economic reforms. The only answer to the problems of insufficient democracy and incomplete economic reform is more democracy and more economic reform. The past year has been a difficult one, where our beliefs have been tested. But it has also been a time when our convictions have been confirmed, and that is what makes me optimistic moving forward. We have come very far since the lost decade of the 1980s. In the 2000s, our ability to weather the storms will provide the strength of the hemisphere we are building.

Last year I challenged you to do even more of the wonderful work that you have done to free and empower the people of our hemisphere. This year I have two challenges for you, for all of us really, and for the governments of the hemisphere. And the first of these challenges is to the governments of the hemisphere. I challenge them to finish the job. I challenge them to improve the quality of their democracies. I challenge them to see political, institutional and economic reforms through to completion. I challenge them to join us in making the Free Trade Area of the Americas a reality.

The United States will be there to help them. We fully support what we did in Quebec City last year. We are fully committed to the initiative that President Bush launched just before Monterrey, and we discussed at some length in Monterrey, of a Millennium Challenge Fund: $5 billion a year when it comes into effect in about three years from now, 5 billion additional aid dollars a year to those countries that are committed to democracy, to those countries that are committed to the rule of law, to those countries that are committed to transparency, to help them, to help them jumpstart their economies so that they can cross over this gap that exists between the initial promise of democracy and the reality of a better life for people.

To you the business people in this room, I issue the second challenge: to help the governments, institutions and people of the hemisphere achieve the vision that we all have, the vision I have just described; support free trade and open economies; insist on good governance and economic reform; demonstrate your convictions in your business practices. You have a critical role to play if we are to make the vision of Quebec City and Monterrey a reality.

With hard work from all of us, with your help and with a little bit of luck, we will succeed. Thank you very much.

 

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May 12, 2002

 

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