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Amb. OAS - World Affairs Council of San Antonio

Remarks to the World Affairs Council of San Antonio

Ambassador John F. Maisto, U.S. Permanent Representative to the Organization of American States
Remarks to the World Affairs Council of San Antonio
San Antonio, TX
November 5, 2004

Thank you so very much, ladies and gentlemen, for that warm welcome. It's a great pleasure for me to be with you today. And to my good friend Ambassador Gene Scassa, congratulations on this well earned honor.

I want to express my gratitude to the San Antonio World Affairs Council for giving me the opportunity to address such a distinguished group of leaders of business, of government, of education, journalism and especially, the nongovernmental community here in Texas. Promoting public understanding of world affairs and United States policy is commendable on every front, and I congratulate you on your dedicated work. It is also good for U.S. ambassadors like Tony Garza and me to hear your views first hand aquí en la salsa sabrosa de San Antonio.

First and foremost, however, the Council deserves our thanks and admiration for your successful education of young adults each year through the Model OAS program. This effort truly prepares young adults to become future leaders and to participate in a global community, and I was honored to be able to participate this morning at the opening of their annual conference.

It is always a pleasure to be invited to San Antonio, where the significance of our ties to the Hemisphere is plainly evident almost anywhere one turns in this vibrant and historic city. It is also an especially important moment in history to be here, as we move forward following a robust democratic electoral process, with vigorous and open debate of ideas, that served as an example of what our democratic form of government stands for; an election in which, as one prominent Latin American leader has said, "democracy on the continents and democracy throughout the world have been strengthened."

The President's Vision We have just witnessed the reelection of an American President committed to a proactive and cohesive foreign policy in the region marked by significant successes upon which he can now build in a second term.

President Bush speaks--from his Texas experience--of a neighborhood to describe our community of nations in the Americas. This may be an analogy, but it is based on reality. The reason: we have important relationships in this community; cultural, political, economic, and of course family ties, that bind us together.

President Bush's appreciation of this special bond, and his vision for U.S. policy in the region was outlined even before his election in 2000, stating in a speech at Florida International University in Miami: "I will look South, not as an afterthought, but as a fundamental commitment of my presidency. Just as we ended the great divide between East-West, so today we can overcome the North-South divide. This begins with a renewed commitment to democracy and freedom in this Hemisphere--because human freedom, in the long run, is our best weapon against poverty, disease and tyranny."

From the very beginning of his Administration, President Bush has carried out a clear and dynamic agenda, working with our friends and neighbors to create the right conditions for progress, growth and stability in the Americas. Let me add that this Hemispheric agenda enjoys broad bipartisan support. As the President stated in April 2001 at the Summit of the Americas in Quebec City, just over 2 months after taking the oath of office: "We have a great vision before us: a fully democratic hemisphere, bound together by good will and free trade. That is a tall order. It is also a chance of a lifetime. And it is a responsibility we share."

President Bush's goal is to create a peaceful community of democratic nations that grow and prosper together. We want strong partners in our neighborhood, and U.S. policy is geared to help the nations of the region overcome the challenges they face today working through a genuine Inter-American community.

Today, our government, like others in the region, wants thriving economic partners that are democratic, stable and prosperous. We, like others, want secure borders and cooperative neighbors. We want a community of free nations working together--seeking coordinated, cooperative and multilateral responses--to advance common political and economic values in the world. And, in short, it is in the U.S. interest, and in the hemispheric interest, that we succeed.

Making Democracy Work: A Hemispheric Challenge Today, the struggle for democracy that characterized the 1980s in the Americas has become a mutual effort to deliver the benefits of freedom to every individual in every country. In the past 20 years, people throughout our Hemisphere have made great sacrifices to defeat dictators, strengthen their democracies, and promote freedom. As a result, all of Latin American and Caribbean peoples, except one, live today under leaders of their own choosing. Today, free elections and peaceful transfers of power are the norm.

Now, it is in our interest to help the region's elected leaders confront a new challenge--making democracy work for the general welfare of their citizens. The challenges today are less threats to the idea of democracy than they are growing pains of a region undergoing a quiet--and, sometimes, not so quiet--revolution of freedom and progress.

The people of the Americas have made enormous progress, and now must consolidate these gains in the face of serious challenges. Many countries continue to grapple with political, economic, social, and, in some cases, ethnic problems. Terrorism, narcotics trafficking, lawlessness and crime threaten several governments. Corruption and inefficiency have stunted economic development and caused disenchantment with rhetoric because "free market reforms" have not resulted in rapid economic improvement. All too often, rhetoric has not been followed up with real reforms, with actions. Human rights remain a significant challenge for certain countries in the region. All these factors have combined to stir popular dissatisfaction which relatively new and fragile democratic institutions have been hard-pressed to control.

Still, it is undeniable that the Western Hemisphere's democracies are growing stronger every day. Second generation political and institutional reforms are slowly making their way on to the national political agendas in the region. And while some countries have made greater progress in strengthening democracy than others, there is no doubt that our hemisphere has made tremendous strides.

There is no more important or challenging task than building responsive democratic institutions, competitive markets, effective legal systems and sound educational and social systems throughout the hemisphere. Experience has shown around the world that only democracies, with their combination of political and economic freedoms, can create conditions for well-being and prosperity. And today, bolstering democracy and democratic institutions is at the center of our hemispheric objectives.

The Inter-American Democratic Charter To that end, U.S. leadership is hard at work in the region. We are acting creatively and vigorously. Our multilateral efforts through the Organization of American States and the Summits of the Americas process have been critical in securing genuine progress and reform, and have yielded tangible results.

On September 11, 2001, Secretary of State Colin Powell--making a strong statement in defense of democracy on the very same day as the terrorist attacks on our country--joined the Hemisphere's Foreign Ministers to approve The Inter-American Democratic Charter adopted by the Organization of American States.

The Charter is truly groundbreaking in scope. Article One states: "The peoples of the Americas have a right to democracy and their governments have an obligation to promote and defend it." This document commits the nations of the region to defend and promote democracy through preventive measures to head-off ruptures in the democratic constitutional order. And it identifies a series of steps in the event that democracy is threatened. We have sought to apply the principles from the Inter-American Democratic Charter, in a very real way, to improve the national dialogue and democratic institutions in Haiti. And it has also served as guidepost in working to ensure a peaceful resolution to the political impasse in Venezuela, and most recently to ward off threats to the government of Nicaragua.

Historically in the Americas, democracy was defined simply by free and fair elections. With the advent of the Charter, that is no longer the case: It matters not only how a government comes to power, but also how it governs. The Charter lists a series of "essential elements of representative democracy," in addition to periodic, free and fair elections.

Among these are: respect for human rights, a pluralistic system of political parties, separation of powers, freedom of expression and of the press, and transparency in government activities.

Wherever these essential elements are missing or endangered, the Charter offers member states a tool kit from which they may draw upon the resources of the inter-American system for help.

While the Charter has served as an effective tool to ward off political crises or impending challenges to Constitutional order, there is still reluctance on the part of some countries to use it in this way. Unfortunately, the focus on the Charter by the press and by governments, themselves, has been on those provisions that call for sanctions, rather than on those that contemplate assistance to troubled democracies.

The Interim Government of Haiti has availed itself of the tools of the Charter by seeking OAS assistance. The Charter was also invoked in the aftermath of the abortive coup attempt in April 2000 against the government of Venezuela, and has served as a guidepost for the hemisphere's efforts to resolve the political impasse in that country. Nevertheless, serious concerns remain regarding Venezuela's electoral institutions as cited by international observers to the August 15 referendum on President Hugo Chavez's government. Both the Carter Center and OAS Secretary General Cesar Gaviria expressed concern over the manner in which the National Electoral Council handled the referendum process, and urged greater transparency. In its final report, the Carter Center concluded: "The recall referendum process suffered from numerous irregularities throughout the entire process, most centering around the lack of transparency of the CNE in its decision-making and its ad hoc implementation of the recall referendum process."

Whether it is formally invoked or not, the Charter serves as an explicit expression of our common commitment to democracy and is the cornerstone of all our efforts to strengthen democracy and democratic institutions in the Hemisphere.

Trade & Economic Prosperity Trade is also at the center of our hemispheric agenda in order to advance President Bush's vision of "a fully democratic hemisphere, bound together by good will and free trade."

The geography we share with our neighbors creates a natural economic relationship. Three of our top four foreign energy suppliers are in this Hemisphere--nearly 50% of our oil comes from this hemisphere alone. Canada and Mexico are our first and second largest trading partners, respectively, and the U.S. is a leading trading partner of, and investor in, every country in the Americas, with the exception of Castro's Cuba.

The United States gains enormously from our trading relationships in the Western Hemisphere. Latin America is the fastest growing market for U.S.-made goods, sustaining higher-paying jobs here at home.

But while this partnership is mutually beneficial, trade is even more important to our neighbors. The U.S. now imports $217 billion worth of products from Latin America and the Caribbean each year. In addition, our direct investment in the region totals $304 billion. Remittances flowing from the United States to the region amount to approximately $40 billion more.

Trade represents the best opportunity for the countries in this region to attract the capital they need to create jobs and sustain a level of economic growth that will support public investments in education, health, and infrastructure and raise the quality of life in the Americas.

Experience with the North American Free Trade Agreement tells us that relations based on free trade benefit all trading partners. Ambassador Antonio (Tony) Garza underscored NAFTA's success during his recent remarks before the Council. In the end, trade is a win-win game.

Free trade creates new, higher-quality jobs and significantly lower prices for the consumer, and our societies come out ahead. Furthermore, governments will adopt more transparent standards to participate in free trade arrangements; more transparent standards for procurement; better protection of property rights; professionalism within their trade-related ministries; and it will ensure personal security for domestic and foreign investors. In short, free trade agreements better equip the nations of our hemisphere to be successful participants in a globalized community of nations.

Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) The United States therefore remains committed to achieving the goal set by the 2001 Quebec Summit of establishing a Free Trade Area of the Americas, or FTAA. We will work hard with Brazil, our FTAA co-chair, and our 32 other partners in this process to realize the vision of a free trade zone stretching from Tierra del Fuego to Alaska.

Ultimately, the Free Trade Area of the Americas will cover every free country in the Western Hemisphere, establishing the world's largest free trade area--with 34 countries, almost 800 million people, and a combined Gross Domestic Product of $14 trillion.

Beyond U.S. support for the FTAA, we hope to also have in place bilateral or sub-regional agreements with some 13 Western Hemisphere countries in the near term, and that will account for about 90% of all U.S. two-way trade in the hemisphere. Under the Bush Administration, our Free Trade Agreement with Chile is already in force, and we have negotiated agreements with our neighbors in Central America and the Dominican Republic. We also hope to add Panama and some of our Andean friends to the free trade club in the coming months.

In the 6 months following the entry into force of the U.S.-Chile Free Trade Agreement on January 1, 2004, total U.S. exports to Chile increased by 32% compared to the same period of 2003, growing from $1.28 billion to $1.70 billion. This compares favorably to an increase of 13% in U.S. exports to the world and an increase of 16.5% in exports to Central and South America and the Caribbean in the same time period.

Summit Economic Commitments More than half of our neighbors in the Americas live in poverty. That is why it is so important for us to encourage economic growth in the Americas that generate job creation, and the reason why President Bush has a strong pro-growth agenda in his Western Hemisphere policy.

At the Special Summit of the Americas last January--where I led planning and negotiations--the democratic leaders of our Hemisphere agreed on the need to promote growth. Leaders at the Summit committed to a number of practical measures focusing on small and medium size businesses, measures that can be achieved in the short-term and will help create the right conditions for development. Why the SME focus? Because 80% of economic activity and 60% of jobs in the Hemisphere are with SME's:

* Leaders agreed to cut red tape and reduce the time and cost of starting a business by the next Summit of the Americas in 2005. Red tape is a serious obstacle to growth in Latin America and the Caribbean and across the developing world. The World Bank notes that businesses in developing countries face three times the administrative costs, and nearly twice as many bureaucratic procedures and delays, as businesses in rich countries. The benefits of cutting red tape are significant. The World Bank estimates that a major improvement in the ease of doing business is associated with an estimated 1.4 to 2.2 percentage points in annual economic growth.

Time-consuming business registration procedures represent some of the most serious examples of red tape. It takes 70 days, on average, to start a business in Latin America and the Caribbean, longer than anywhere else in the world. * They endorsed the Inter-American Development Bank's goal of tripling the credit it provides for small and medium-sized businesses in the region by 2007. * They pledged to cut before 2008, by at least half, the cost of sending money home for those who are working abroad. * The leaders agreed to strengthen property rights and registration for all citizens, allowing many people to gain access to credit that would otherwise be unattainable. * Finally, all the leaders reaffirmed their commitment to complete the Free Trade Area of the Americas on schedule.

The Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) Two years ago in Monterrey, Mexico, President Bush called for a "new compact for global development," which links greater contributions from developed nations to greater responsibility from developing nations. The President proposed a concrete mechanism to implement this compact--the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA)--in which development assistance would be provided to those countries that rule justly, invest in their people, and encourage economic freedom. With strong bipartisan support, Congress authorized the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) to administer the MCA and provided $1 billion in initial funding for FY04. President Bush has pledged to increase funding for the MCA to $5 billion a year starting in FY06, roughly a 50% increase over then current U.S. core development assistance.

The Millennium Challenge Board of Directors selected three Western Hemisphere countries (Bolivia, Honduras and Nicaragua) as eligible countries to apply for MCA assistance in FY2004. The 3 countries were selected along with 13 other countries based on income eligibility specified in the MCA Act of 2003 and the countries' performance in the categories of ruling justly, encouraging economic freedom, and investing in people.

The Millennium Challenge Account is a fundamental part of our Latin American policy. Western Hemisphere leaders reaffirmed the Monterrey Consensus principles of countries taking more responsibility for their development at the 2004 Special Summit. The MCA adopts these principles in the area of development assistance through the use of sound policies, development plans supported by a broad range of domestic stakeholders, and the monitoring and evaluation of development activities. As Secretary of State Colin Powell has noted, this is the most significant development program since the Marshall Plan.

The prospect of obtaining funding from the Millennium Challenge Account in future years should serve as an incentive, a spur, to other nations in the hemisphere, other nations in the world, to take the necessary steps to transform themselves internally; to get ownership of their future; to start doing the right things so that they can meet the criteria of the Millennium Challenge Account legislation.

Education The Administration also believes that a good education is fundamental to creating economic growth and jobs, social advancement, and democratic progress. We share this commitment to providing a quality education with many leaders in Latin America and the Caribbean who understand that primary, secondary and vocational education is critical to addressing the needs of people, especially the poor.

Sadly, schools in the region are simply not educating the young. Almost half of the students in the region who enter primary school fail to reach fifth grade, and only about 30% finish secondary school. This affects personal income as much as GDP since the IDB has shown that people who finish secondary education earn three times as much as those who only have a primary school education. The "tiger" economies of Asia saw education as the key to their progress and their investments in their systems in the 1970s resulted in exceptional growth throughout the 1990s.

This is why President Bush urged regional leaders at the Special Summit to publish performance assessments of their educational systems before our next Summit in 2005. The President pledged to assist governments in developing these Educational Performance Reports.

To that end, we will work with our neighbors on model profiles of Peru, Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, Venezuela and Colombia. We are also working on regional reports on Central America and for the Hemisphere as a whole. Why these reports? To enable people at the grass roots to have the information they need to demand changes in educational policy and practice.

HIV / AIDS HIV / AIDS is another serious, if underreported, problem in the region. More than 2 million people are now living with HIV in Latin America and the Caribbean. More than 200,000 contracted HIV in the past year. It is a security issue in many countries, because it affects family income.

The President's $15 billion Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief focuses on the most afflicted countries in the world to include Guyana and Haiti. At the Special Summit in Monterrey, the President encouraged his fellow leaders to coordinate all our efforts to combat this disease. They agreed to provide anti-retroviral treatment to everyone who needs it in the Hemisphere, with the goal of treating at least 600,000 people by 2005.

Hemispheric Security Our security interests in the Americas are also vital. I want to share with you a rarely cited quote: "The new situation in the world makes more imperative than ever the union and solidarity of the American peoples, for the defense of their rights and the maintenance of international peace."

This statement was the result of the Inter-American Conference on Problems of War and Peace, held in Mexico City in 1954, and is just as relevant today as it was over a half century ago. Yet, in today's War on Terror, never before has the OAS been more relevant in addressing this critical part of our policy agenda.

Indeed, the OAS has constructed an impressive record of achievement in the security field. In October 1999 the Inter-American Committee Against Terrorism (CICTE) was established to coordinate member states' activities against terrorism, including facilitating exchange of information, sharing of best practices and counterterrorism capacity building through training and technical assistance. CICTE seeks to strengthen border and financial controls, increase cooperation among law enforcement authorities, and address threats to airport, seaport and cyber security.

Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, the OAS member states took the lead with dramatic and effective steps to coordinate the region's response to fight terror in the Americas. Facing a common threat to our security and prosperity, in June 2002, at the General Assembly in Barbados, the OAS also adopted the Inter-American Convention Against Terrorism that expands our legal obligations to work together to both prevent and respond to terrorist activities.

And in October 2003 in Mexico City, the governments of the Hemisphere returned to Mexico City to participate in the OAS Special Conference on Hemispheric Security. By adopting the "Declaration of Security in the Americas," they sent another strong message: that peace in the Hemisphere can only be built upon the pillars of democracy, prosperity, and security. This strong political statement builds on existing security frameworks and complements them with a cooperative hemispheric security approach that will effectively address both traditional and new threats, concerns and challenges in the region.

By actions and deeds, not mere words, the work of the inter-American system defines our hemispheric security, as we know it today. All in all, our security framework today is dynamic, adaptable, addressing not just conflict between states, but also the challenges of the 21st century that include terrorism and its implied threats, such as money laundering, illicit trafficking in narcotics, arms, and persons, and threats to transportation and critical infrastructure, transnational organized crime, cyber security, and terrorist's access to weapons of mass destruction.

Fight Against Corruption The Bush Administration has also made the fight against official corruption a top priority on our pro-democracy agenda. Corruption is poison to a democracy. In fact, the World Bank has identified corruption as "the single greatest obstacle to economic and social development."

Research demonstrates the negative effects of corruption on growth. World Bank studies indicate that corruption can reduce a country's growth rate by 0.5 to 1.0 percentage points per year. Furthermore, it leeches off national resources and undermines the peoples' confidence in their government, and, as you know, that trust is the foundation of any representative system.

At the Special Summit of the Americas in Monterrey last January the democratic leaders of our hemisphere committed to "deny safe haven to corrupt officials, those who corrupt them, and their assets." They also agreed to promote accountability in "public financial management, in government transactions and procurement." The Bush Administration is leading by example. We have and will revoke the visas of corrupt officials to ensure that they cannot find a safe haven in the United States, and we have and will work with other governments to ensure that misappropriated public funds are returned to the national treasuries to which they belong.

Bilateral Efforts In addition to our multilateral efforts, the U.S. government is also working to meet regional challenges through strong and effective bilateral relations with our neighbors in the region.

Colombia: In Colombia, the steady and significant gains that Colombia has made in recent years are the result of strong U.S. engagement and support, $3 billion in all. The successes are undeniable. After nearly two years under President Uribe's leadership, security in Colombia has improved measurably. Today, the Colombian government is regaining control of its national territory and has re-established itself in regions that had previously been the preserve of bandits and lawlessness. The results of our joint fight against narco-traffickers is impressive: since 2002, Colombian-U.S. teams have sprayed close to 760,000 acres of coca, and coca cultivation has declined dramatically each year. In addition, opium cultivation declined by more than 10% in 2003. It is essential that the U.S. continue to assist the people of Colombia to ensure that peace in Colombia is achieved in a manner consistent with justice and accountability.

Hurricane Relief: In response to the recent spate of storms that decimated large portions of the Caribbean, the U.S. responded with an immediate commitment to help the region recover. To date, the total U.S. disaster assistance contribution to the region is $121.1 million (including $21.1 million for relief operations and $100 million approved by Congress in supplemental disaster relief funding.)

Haiti: In addition to disaster relief, the U.S. is also working to assist Haiti as it prepares for new elections and seeks to emerge from political strife. Following the events in February 2004, the U.S. government developed a response and reconstruction program to address the immediate needs of the transition Haitian government and the Haitian population. The U.S. allocated $60 million for Haiti before its political crisis at he beginning of this year. We added $120 million in new assistance to Haiti after the crisis, bringing the total for fiscal year 2004 to $180 million. We have requested $52 million for Haiti in FY 2005. In total, the U.S. has pledged $232 million at the Haiti Donor's Conference to provide assistance to the Haitian people.

Cuba: President Bush is also committed to a comprehensive strategy to hasten the day that the people of Cuba can enjoy fundamental human rights and rebuild their lives in freedom. In May of this year, the President's Commission on Assistance to a Free Cuba (CAFC) released a report, the first of its kind, outlining measures to assist the Cuban people in achieving a peaceful transition to democracy so that Cuba can again join the family of democracies in the Americas.

Looking Ahead: Summit 2005 Looking ahead to the November 2005 Summit in Argentina, the United States is committed to working closely with civil society organizations here in the United States and around the Hemisphere as we shape an agenda for leaders to consider.

I am particularly pleased that, as the United States prepares to host the OAS General Assembly in Ft. Lauderdale in June of 2005, USAID has agreed to provide significant funding through the OAS to ensure ample opportunity for civil society organizations from throughout the Hemisphere to participate and voice their views with regard to the agendas of both the OAS General Assembly and the Fourth Summit of the Americas.

It has been my experience, throughout my time in government, that a continuing dialogue with civil society, the private sector and academia is an essential element of good democratic governance, and one that truly enriches the policy process.

Two weeks ago, fellow Summit Coordinators and I met to discuss planning for the next Summit of the Americas. As part of our meeting, we held an open forum with civil society on our early thinking for the next Summit. Our discussions were extremely useful, and we look forward to continuing those discussions in the months to come. Civil society and private sector input are critical to achieving an inclusive, successful Summit process.

On that note, let me say a few words about the next Summit. Host country Argentina has proposed the 2005 Summit focus on "Creating Jobs to Fight Poverty and Strengthen Democratic Governance." While talks remain at an early stage, we're beginning to focus on the key elements of job creation: education, technology development, fighting corruption, and SME development. We want leaders at the next Summit to make concrete commitments on these issues so that we focus on real solutions to greater and higher-quality employment.

Conclusion: "A Season of Hope" Ladies and gentlemen, geography and history, family ties and trade, and most of all the common commitment to freedom, have brought our nations together in the past. Now technology and globalization are bringing us even closer. Today, the people of hemisphere are connected to one another every day in thousands of ways, and our ties will only grow broader and deeper in the months and years ahead.

Strengthening democratic institutions, fighting corruption, combating terrorism, investing in people, improving education and health, protecting human rights, implementing economic reform and improving the environment--these commitments form the basis for an ambitious hemispheric agenda. Stability in the region can only be built on a foundation of hope. People who see a brighter future ahead are motivated to make that dream come true; and the United States is committed to success throughout the region. President Bush, in his acceptance address on Wednesday, spoke of "a season of hope," and affirmed, "when we come together and work together, there is no limit to the greatness of America." I trust this message will serve as inspiration to all Americans, not only in the United States but, indeed, throughout our neighborhood.

I thank the World Affairs Council of San Antonio once again for hosting me today. Again, I salute you for educating the Hemisphere's youth and for all that you do to support and strengthen the U.S. and its partnerships throughout the region. And, Ambassador Gene Scassa, honored today for his work as founder of the Model OAS in San Antonio, I thank you for your vision and your leadership. And now, I would be pleased to take some questions.

Thank you all very much.

[End]


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