Media Center



June 7, 2004 - Quito, Ecuador

Mr. Secretary General, esteemed colleagues, and friends: let me begin by thanking the Government and people of Ecuador for hosting this Assembly, and for the fine hospitality they have extended to us.

The United States looks forward to returning the compliment next June when we will be honored to host the next regular session of the OAS General Assembly in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Point of privilege at this time, if I may, Mr. President, I would like to thank all of my colleagues for the expressions of sympathy and condolence I have received upon the death of President Ronald Reagan. We will be celebrating his life all during this week back in the United States with a memorial service on Friday. You will hear many words said about President Reagan and how he brought the Cold War to an end, how he had a great relationship with the Soviet Union’s leader Mr. Gorbachev, but we should never forget how much he did for the nations of this hemisphere: the Caribbean Basin Initiative, so many others initiatives that he took for his neighbors here in this hemisphere, what he did to stem the tide of communist insurgence in our hemisphere. I think that the hemisphere benefited just as much as the Soviet Union and Europe did from his eight years of leadership. And I thank you for all the expressions that I have received.

I would also like to take this moment to thank Secretary General Gaviria for his leadership of the OAS over the past ten years on behalf of President Bush. The U.S. Delegation commends you and thanks you, Cesar. It has been a pleasure and an honor to have worked with you.

My friends as you know, I have just accompanied President Bush to Europe, where we joined many of our European friends in Normandy to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the D-Day invasion, the beginning of the end of World War II. This solemn event reminded all of us of the great strength that comes from a common commitment to freedom and democracy. President Bush and his entire Administration has that same strong commitment to freedom and democracy here in the Americas. And we welcome this opportunity to strengthen our democratic partnerships with the free nations of our hemisphere.

Colleagues, at the Special Summit of the Americas in Monterrey this past January, our leaders mandated us to advance democratic governance and economic growth in this region. They emphasized the importance of investing in our people, so that they will see the real benefits of staying on the difficult course of political and economic reform. We must show our people that freedom works, and that political and economic freedom work together.

And the Summit leaders in Monterrey also knew that fostering democracy and growth are powerful ways to ensure the security of the Americas, as a hemisphere [of] freedom and hope, where terrorists, tyrants and traffickers cannot thrive. In furtherance of our mandate from Monterrey, the Government of Ecuador has most appropriately focused this OAS General Assembly on our ongoing fight against corruption. Corruption is deeply destructive of our people’s faith in democracy and its ability to deliver a better life. Corruption sucks away the life and soul of a society. Corruption is a legal word, but the common word for it is stealing. Corruption is stealing from schools, stealing from hospitals, stealing from children, stealing from the poorest of our citizens, stealing from the investment that could go into new roads, clean water and all of the other things that people want, that people expect and people deserve from their government, that people expect for moving into the path of democratic reform. And corruption scares off investors, denying countries the money they need to lift themselves out of poverty and onto the road to sustainable development.

The United States is trying to do all we can to help. For the past few years, we have allocated some $40 million dollars per year to support good governance and anti-corruption initiatives and programs throughout the hemisphere. Working with governments and civil society, we are supporting efforts to improve transparency in public procurement and financial management, and to foster integrity in public service. We are helping to deny safe haven to corrupt officials and their assets, to dismantle money-laundering regimes and to strengthen asset recovery programs. And we are doing our part to support and implement international anti-corruption instruments, not least the Inter-American Convention against corruption and its follow-up mechanism.

My friends, democracy is at a critical juncture in our hemisphere. The progress we have made and could yet make is at risk. There must be no backsliding. We must move forward. We must make good on the commitments that we have given to our citizens to put democracy’s principles into daily practice, lest our people lose their hope in democracy’s promise of a better life.

The United States will be a friend and ally to all those who are working to bring the blessings of democracy into the everyday lives of their peoples. We seek to work in partnership with other governments and citizen groups to create the conditions that make societies healthy, strong and vibrant and where ordinary citizens can flourish. President Bush’s Millennium Challenge Account initiative will support countries that demonstrate their commitment to govern justly, to invest in their people, to end corruption and to run governments solidly on the rule of law and to foster economic freedom. Honduras, Nicaragua and Bolivia are the first nations in our hemisphere to participate in the Millennium Challenge Account. Others are eligible. The program is just beginning and I am hopeful to see it grow by leaps and bounds in the years ahead as we demonstrate its success and as the American Congress demonstrates its generosity. And the prospect of obtaining MCA funding should serve as an incentive to other nations in the hemisphere to take the necessary steps to transform themselves internally and get ownership of their future. The United States always will stand in solidarity with those who seek to exercise their democratic rights, whether they are in Cuba or anywhere else in the hemisphere.

And we will work within the Organization of American States and in accordance with our collective obligation under the Inter-American Democratic Charter to advance and safeguard democracy. As the charter states: “The peoples of the Americas have a right to democracy and their governments have an obligation to promote and defend it.” My friends, the Inter-American Democratic Charter is being tested and it will continue to be tested in the months and years ahead. Our obligation, individually and collectively, is to enforce the Charter so that it is relevant to the very real challenges confronting democracy in the Americas.

In Venezuela, we commend the people, the government, and the democratic opposition for completing the reparos process and for their commitment to respecting the results of a timely recall referendum.

The OAS Mission and the Carter Center are playing a decisive role in helping our neighbors resolve their differences at the ballot box, as called for by OAS Resolution 833 and the May 2003 political accord brokered by the Secretary General. We, the governments of the Americas, must give the peoples of our hemisphere good reason to think that elections will result in accountable leaders who are committed to far-reaching democratic development. We must give ordinary people good reason to think, to believe, that their elected representatives, once in power, will operate within the law, that they will combat corruption and that will practice transparency in government. We must give all citizens, regardless of gender or ethnicity, good reason to believe that their contributions to the life of their country will be valued and rewarded and that they will have a meaningful say in shaping their future. We, the democratic nations of the Americas, must give the peoples of our hemisphere good reason to count on their neighbors when their own democracies suffer setbacks.
We must give our peoples the prosperous, democratic future that they hoped for, worked for and so richly deserve.

Thank you, Mr. President.