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Noriega: U.S. Policy in the Western Hemisphere

U.S. Policy in the Western Hemisphere

Roger F. Noriega, Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs

Peruvian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Lima, Peru August 6, 2004

It is always a special privilege for me to return to Peru. In 2001, I had the great honor of being awarded Peru's Grand Master of the Order of the Sun. I was recognized for my cooperation with courageous democrats--like your president, Alejandro Toledo--who fought to reclaim the human rights of the Peruvian people.

It is truly humbling for this son of the United States and Mexico to be honored by the great nation of Peru, with its proud history and culture. And, you have a right to be proud of your restored democracy--and we stand by your side as you consolidate the rule of law in this great nation.

I want to congratulate you, also, for hosting an exciting and successful Copa America. Unfortunately, the Peruvian National Team didn't take the cup, but I applaud the team for games well played. Of course, as a U.S. official I am supposed to be neutral in such things, but within the intimacy of this group, I will admit that I was cheering for Peru, thinking of my good friends here.

This is my first visit back to Lima since September 2001 and the OAS General Assembly--in fact, on the very day of the horrific terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.

I often wonder if foreign audiences fully understand how deeply those attacks affected my country. A gang of fanatics accomplished what no other power ever did or dared since the early years of our republic: launch an attack on the American mainland, causing thousands of casualties.

But, because of it, the United States has become a stronger, more focused nation in the conduct of our foreign affairs. We now realize how small the margin for error has become. President Bush and his successors will never again fail to act decisively to forcefully respond to threats to our security and well-being.

Peruvians know full well the destructive impact of terrorism--the painful loss of innocent victims, the social chaos, the fear, anxiety and uncertainty.

Terrorism also harms our economies--how we work to satisfy our basic needs and desires. As our partners in the Americas know well, the impact of the September 11 attacks was felt far beyond New York and Washington, as we all continue to recover from the economic blow to the region.

We have emerged from that dark moment with an even stronger commitment to deepening our security partnerships so that we can better protect our citizens--and, at the same time, maintain open borders and open markets.

The United States has been very fortunate to be able to have the support of our American neighbors, like Peru, in the global war against terrorism. We value this support greatly.

President Bush also believes essential both to our common prosperity and security over the long run is continued progress toward the economic integration of the hemisphere. The experience of the United States, Canada, and Mexico with the North American Free Trade Agreement reminds us that relations based on free market principles benefit all partners to such accords.

The United States remains committed to establishing a truly comprehensive Free Trade Area of the Americas. In addition, we hope to soon have in place bilateral agreements with some 14 Latin American countries. Our free trade agreement with Chile is in force, and we have negotiated agreements with our neighbors in Central America, to which we hope the Dominican Republic will soon accede. Negotiations are under way with Panama.

In May, we launched Andean FTA negotiations, just completing the third round here in Lima. We look forward to concluding negotiations early next year. And we especially appreciate the constructive role that the Toledo government is playing in these negotiations.

Free trade agreements are not simply about trade. They help nations to take better advantage of their domestic resources, to attract investment from abroad, and to extend greater economic opportunities to their citizens. All of this will help our countries withstand adverse trends in the global economy.

They also provide mechanisms for the better enforcement of workers' rights and environmental standards. They can spur deeper integration of the region, as the rules of trade and investment adopted by each country gradually converge, and we have a common set of principles governing economic relations across the hemisphere.

They also encourage good governance, because few will invest in places where corruption is rampant and the rule of law does not exist.

To participate in these agreements, governments need to adopt more transparent standards--for procurement, for better protection of property rights, for professionalism within their trade-related ministries. Such standards will ensure a better sense of security among both domestic and foreign investors. In short, free trade agreements will better enable the nations of our hemisphere to be more competitive in a globalized marketplace.

Free trade plus democracy and good governance usually confer an additional bonus: peace. Nations that share a common destiny do not try to destroy one another. And they are more likely to work together to sustain economic growth and invest in social programs that benefit all peoples.

And, yet, development cannot be sustained unless governments invest in their people. So, in accordance with the commitments made at the Special Summit of the Americas earlier this year in Monterrey, we are encouraging countries to reinvest the benefits they derive from trade back into education, into health, into the environment, into making people of the hemisphere ready to participate in the challenging globalized economy in which their societies have no alternative but to compete.

Better-educated, healthier citizens--and a better-managed and sustained environment, in turn--lead to greater productivity and better lives for all.

To succeed in this transformation, there must evolve a greater sense of responsibility and community within governments.

National leaders and societies must recognize that they bear the principal burden of working for their own nations' futures. This primary responsibility cannot be imposed from outside. It has to be something that is felt, believed in, and worked on internally. We can and do try to help. But, ultimately, reform and transformation has to come from within.

We recognize that democracies do not always move quickly. The process of reform can be chaotic and wrenching. It is difficult. No one ever promised that it would be any other way.

In the United States, our democracy is more than 200 years old, yet we still face challenges and setbacks in efforts to perfect our institutions. Democracy is a very demanding system; it is not a spectator sport. There must be good leadership and broad popular participation every step of the way to make it work.

But, at the same time--yes--for nations to stay the course to democracy, the people must see real improvement in their daily lives. Indeed, one of the greatest challenges the democracies of the Americas face is ensuring that citizens do not lose their faith in the future. The United States wants to help the hemisphere through these times of transition so their peoples' dreams do not turn to disappointment and despair.

For example, we want to help improve access to the political process on the parts of long-marginalized elements of society, including women and especially indigenous communities, who number some 40 million in the Americas.

We are working especially hard to broaden U.S. outreach to indigenous communities throughout the hemisphere. They must feel they have a stake in the entire effort to institutionalize democracy and free-market enterprise. They must believe that these initiatives will directly benefit them.

Unfortunately, there are irresponsible actors in the region that are manipulating the legitimate interests and aspirations of these communities for selfish and short-term political ends. That is not difficult to do, of course. A deeply ingrained distrust has built up over the centuries of mistreatment and marginalization.

The distrust can only be overcome with openness, outreach, and educational efforts on the part of governments that are honest and accountable to all of their citizens. And optimism.

Peru and the rest of the region need a renewed sense of idealism, recognizing progress and giving credit when and where credit is due. All political protagonists and the media must be conscious of promoting idealism, optimism, and a sense that every citizen must do his or her part in a democracy. Cynicism will only undermine the progress that Peru and its neighbors are making today.

The United States has implemented a host of development programs that reach out to traditionally disadvantaged populations in the Andean region and work to incorporate these groups into their nation's political and economic mainstream. In the last decade, we have provided nearly $12 billion in foreign assistance in Latin America.

Our programs promote democracy, defend human rights, fight poverty, and promote prosperity. We fund economic alternatives to coca production by facilitating other kinds of crops and improving access to markets in an environmentally sustainable way. Here in Peru, voluntary coca eradication program with complementary alternative development projects have benefited many communities in the coca-affected areas--in fact, they have been so popular that USAID has requested additional funds to expand the program.

Not only is the inclusion of neglected groups important to maintain political and social stability, it makes perfect economic sense. In order to defeat poverty and remain competitive in a globalized world, individual governments themselves must take the essential measures to unleash the productive capacities of all their citizens, especially those who continue to be denied justice, social services, and opportunity.

I realize that there is a long way between where we are and where we want to be in terms of fully functioning democracies that protect the humblest and the weakest among us. But there is no doubt where we are headed and why.

Our plan of action was determined earlier this year at the Special Summit in Monterrey. The hemisphere's leaders committed themselves to practical steps to boost economic growth and distribute economic opportunity to all. They agreed to strengthen and enforce property rights, lower barriers to remitted earnings, remove obstacles to starting small business, and increase access to capital for small business owners.

Where we can help, we are acting, creatively and vigorously. President Bush has unveiled a bold new U.S. development assistance initiative, the Millennium Challenge Account, or MCA, which represents a 50% increase over our development assistance of just two years ago. By 2006, we expect the MCA to devote $5 billion per year in new assistance to deserving countries throughout the world.

What makes this initiative different from past years is that it reflects the Monterrey consensus: that development aid should go to countries that adopt the pro-growth strategies of governing justly, investing in people, and ending corruption.

Earlier this year, three Latin American nations were among the first to be eligible for new assistance under the MCA: Bolivia, Nicaragua, and Honduras. We hope the prospect of obtaining MCA funding in future years will serve as an incentive to other nations in the hemisphere to take the necessary steps to transform themselves internally.

Given the enormous progress made by the hemisphere over the past two decades, I remain optimistic about the region's future--especially here in Peru.

Any nation would be proud of the progress that you have made in just the last several years. You have worked hard to rebuild your democratic institutions since wresting power away from authoritarianism. Consider where you were then and where you are today.

You have reestablished the necessary checks and balances of a genuine democracy. Human rights that were once denied have been restored. Media rights that were restricted are exercised fully and energetically. Political freedoms that just four years ago were controlled by the state are now protected by the state.

A Peruvian commission examined the tragic legacy of decades of internal violence, and the Peruvian state has made itself accountable for its abuses.

Courts that were just a few years ago tainted by crony judges are now led by independent jurists. A Congress that had little power in the face of an aggressive executive is now playing its proper role as a representative of the people and a check on the president.

This is an impressive record of achievement. Although President Toledo would never claim credit for all of these accomplishments, there can be no denying that he played a leadership role, working with all of Peru's democrats who remained here and carried on the struggle. President Toledo will doubtless make many more contributions to his country before handing over power to a democratically-elected successor in July 2006.

We also applaud President Toledo's efforts to engage broadly with all political parties and civil society to build a national consensus to ensure democratic stability. Sound economic management and commitment to free trade here have also led economic growth rates of 4% a year, among the highest in the region.

We are also proud to be working with you in the fight against corruption. At the Special Summit in Monterrey, Secretary Powell and Foreign Minister Rodriguez signed an agreement to transfer back to Peru $20 million in funds forfeited by the U.S. Department of Justice and derived from corrupt acts during the Fujimori government.

Under the agreement, the Peruvian government will use the funds to compensate victims of the underlying crimes and to support anticorruption initiatives and institutions here.

Peru has once again become an important and active member of the international community, particularly in the Organization of American States (OAS), and is a key partner to the U.S. in supporting democracy and constitutional continuity in the Andean region. Years ago, Peru was noted for withdrawing from the Inter-American Court on Human Rights. Today, Peru distinguished itself by leading the Hemisphere to adopt the Inter-American Democratic Charter--which we signed here in Lima on that fateful September 11, 2001.

We also greatly appreciate your continued cooperation on counternarcotics and increased coordination on counterterrorism. Through the Andean Counter-Drug Initiative (ACI) we have made great strides in disabling the violent Andes drug trade in recent years. Our joint counternarcotics efforts led to a 15% drop in coca cultivation in Peru in 2003. At the OAS, Peru played a leading role in negotiating an Inter-American Convention Against Corruption.

It is important to reflect on how far Peru has come since the fall of Fujimori, because I believe other countries in the Hemisphere can learn from Peru's experience.

How has so much been achieved? One of the keys, I believe, is there was a sense of shared responsibility--a pursuit of the common good--by the legislative and executive branches and by opposition political parties and the government. Together these different groups have worked for all the people of Peru.

To continue to advance in the areas of economic development, democracy, and security, it is crucial that this level of cooperation and dedication to a common purpose be maintained.

We will continue to support Peru, and all nations of the Americas, as we work together to strengthen democratic institutions, stimulate economic growth and reduce poverty, improve governability, fight against corruption, and invest in people.

Our goals are the same: to build a hemisphere that rests on a solid foundation of democracy, prosperity, and security--where dictators, traffickers, and terrorists cannot thrive. All of us recognize that we cannot achieve our goals unless we work together.

President Bush is strongly committed to this agenda, and to forging these partnerships across the hemisphere--partnerships for security, partnerships for democracy, and partnerships for prosperity. And we consider President Toledo a partner and friend in this process of consolidating a genuine Inter-American community.

Our shared commitment to free trade, democracy, and good governance for the hemisphere will help individual countries build more prosperous and just societies and make the world better for the humblest among us, because they will reap prosperity and stability for generations to come.

That must be, and will be, at the core of a concerted, sustained effort if we and our hemispheric neighbors are to meet the challenges that continue to confront us in the Americas. But, in the end, meeting this region's development challenges depends upon the efforts of its leaders and its people.

[End]

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