Media Center



March 28, 2001 - Washington, DC

Your Majesties, I would like to welcome you to the headquarters of the Organization of American States, to this House of the Americas which is also the house of Spain and of its Kings. I would also like to congratulate the King for being this year’s recipient of the Center for Democracy’s International Democracy medal, and to applaud the Center’s work in assisting the development and maintenance under the rule of law of democratic and free market societies.

The King knows better than most people the dangers that threaten democracy because twenty years ago, as his reign began, he led the fight against many of them and triumphed. He recognized that democracy in Spain was threatened by the unhealed wounds of civil war; the limitations of a closed economy; the cries of many regions for autonomy; terrorism; the inability of the state to provide essential services; the absence of clear rules for the transition to democracy; the absence of a democratic tradition, including the respects for the rights of the opposition; and the nostalgia of certain groups for the dictatorship.

Undaunted by the challenges and at great personal risk, the King revealed his vision of the future and his goal saying that "only with true democracy, with full guaranty of individual rights, and with scrupulous respect for human rights by each of us will our people face with success the challenges of the twenty first century." For the next twenty five years, the King acted always within the framework provided by the powerful ideas he had proclaimed to be the foundation of his reign. During that time the King led Spain’s peaceful transition from an authoritarian and centralized state to one based on democracy, the rule of law, and human rights, and endowed with a new structure that made it possible to achieve high levels of regional self-government.

In many ways, our hemisphere faces today threats and challenges which are similar to the ones the King and Spain faced a quarter century ago. The unequal distribution of wealth; the inability of the state to provide essential services like justice, education and health; the disappointing growth of many of the region’s economies; the competitive forces unleashed by globalization; and a certain nostalgia for the dark ages of dictatorships threaten everything that has been built during the past decade.

Spain and the King have worked closely with many nations of the hemisphere during this difficult and exciting transition, particularly with those that share with them history and culture. They have done so by creating a new relationship based on increased political dialogue, cooperation, and investment. With respect to political dialogue, Spain, under the leadership of its King, has made it possible to have a mature and constructive dialogue between our regions and Europe. Indeed, the process of Ibero American Summits, the San Jose dialogue, the dialogue with the Group of Rio, and the interparlamentarian meetings have served to highlight the democratic nature of our relationship and to open new channels of communication that strengthen a relationship based on equality and respect.

Partly as a result of the increased dialogue, Spain has worked closely with some of our regions in the design of new and improved models of technical cooperation and has provided the Organization of American States with more resources in this area than any other country.

In the area of investment, Spain has led the way by becoming the most important investor in some of our regions. Finally, as always, Spain has been ready to assist us in times of crisis, like Hurricane Mitch or the earthquakes in El Salvador.

The special relationship that now exists between Spain and certain regions of our hemisphere will be an invaluable tool as we prepare to strengthen and consolidate our achievements and correct our mistakes. In the upcoming Summit of the Americas in Quebec, we plan to set forth a plan of action to strengthen democracy by giving the state the capacity to respond to the basic needs of its citizens, particularly those who are weak; to promote economic growth and prosperity by advancing towards the creation of the Area of Free Trade of the Americas; to reduce the unequal distribution of wealth; and to make each individual the highest and ultimate goal of the state.

Your Majesties, it is a sobering challenge, one that must be completed before it is too late. Spain and the King have shown the world that even the most profound political and economic transformations are possible when based on an unwavering commitment to democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. In the Americas, we have made those principles the cornerstone of the hemisphere we are creating. We know we have never been closer to realizing our dream, but we also know that never before have the challenges and dangers been so great. Fortunately, we have seen what you and your people did and therefore we know that it is possible.

Thank you