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Bush Pushes for His Own Bolivarian Revolution
Mon Mar 5, 2007 21:20
 

 

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Bush Pushes for His Own Bolivarian Revolution


In a Washington speech to a group of Hispanic business leaders, just a few days before leaving for a Latin American tour, that will start in Brazil, March 8, American President, George W. Bush, said he remains committed to bolstering democracies in the region.

He also vowed to help these countries to take care of their poor, who are too many and too miserable despite the area's economic growth.

And he told his audience that Americans from the three Americas are the sons and daughters of Latin American hero and liberator Simon Bolivar and that "it is our mission to complete the revolution" he began together with George Washington.

The American president then added: "The millions across our hemisphere who every day suffer the degradations of poverty and hunger have a right to be impatient."

Here follows the President's speech in its entirety:

Thank you all. (Applause.) Please be seated - siéntese. Buenas tardes. Gracias por la bienevenida. For those of you not from Texas, that means, good afternoon. (Laughter.) And thank you for the welcome. I'm honored to be back again with the men and women of the Hispanic Chamber. I appreciate your hospitality.

I'm pleased to report the economy of the United States is strong, and one of the reasons why is because the entrepreneurial spirit of America is strong. And the entrepreneurial spirit of America is represented in this room. (Applause.)

I thank you for the role of the Chamber. I appreciate so very much the work you do with our banks to help move capital. I appreciate so very much the fact that you recognize outstanding Latina business women through your Anna Maria Arias Fund. I appreciate the fact that you say loud and clear, el sueño Americano es para todos.

I strongly believe that the role of government is to make it clear that America is the land of opportunity. I think the best way to do that is to encourage business formation, encourage ownership; is to say, if you work hard and dream big, you can realize your dreams here in America. I also believe it's essential to make sure that when people take risk, that they're able to keep more of their own taxes. Congress needs to make the tax cuts we passed a permanent part of the tax code. (Applause.)

I know that in order for us to make sure el sueño Americano es para todos that we have an education system that sets high standards for all children, demands accountability in our schools so that we can say with certainty, children from all backgrounds are able to read and write and add and subtract. That is why I believe it is essential that Congress reauthorize the No Child Left Behind Act.

I think it's very important for us to continue to expand federal contracting opportunities for small businesses, and to make sure that America is a place of promise and hope. It is important and essential that Congress pass comprehensive immigration reform that I can sign into law. (Applause.)

I want to talk about another important priority for our country, and that is helping our neighbors to the south of us build a better and productive life. Thursday, Laura and I are going to leave on a trip that will take us to Brazil and Uruguay and Colombia, y Guatemala, y por fin, Mexico. These are countries that are part of a region that has made great strides toward freedom and prosperity. They've raised up new democracies. They've enhanced and undertaken fiscal policies that bring stability.

Yet, despite the advances, tens of millions in our hemisphere remain stuck in poverty, and shut off from the promises of the new century. My message to those trabajadores y campesinos is, you have a friend in the United States of America. We care about your plight. (Applause.)

David, thank you very much for being the Chairman of this important organization and for the invitation. I want to thank Michael Barrera, who is the President and CEO of the Hispanic Chamber. I thank my friend y Tejano, Massey Villarreal, who is with us today. Massey, it's good to see you again. You've got a barba crecida. (Laughter.) Looking good, though, man.

I thank Frank Lopez, who is the President and CEO of Chamber Foundation. I want to thank members of my Cabinet who have come. I think it's a good sign that - this administration recognizes the importance of having a neighborhood that is peaceful and flourishing - that we have so many members of the Cabinet who have joined us today.

I want to thank Carlos Gutierrez. (Applause.) Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao - Madam Secretary. (Applause.) Secretary of Health and Human Services Michael Leavitt. (Applause.) Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings - Madam Secretary. (Applause.) Thank you all for coming.

Tom Shannon, representing the State Department. Ambassador Randy Tobias, who runs USAID, who, by the way, prior to this assignment, led one of the most important initiatives in my administration that has helped to fight the pandemic of HIV/AIDS. I appreciate your service there, and I now appreciate your service at USAID, Randy.

I want to thank John Veroneau, who is with us today, who is the Deputy U.S. Trade Representative. We've got members of the United States Congress with us today, powerful members of the Senate and the House. I am so grateful they are here, starting with Senator Dick Lugar of the great state of Indiana. Appreciate you coming. (Applause.) Norm Coleman from Minnesota. Senator, thank you for being here. (Applause.) A buddy of mine, Jerry Weller, Congressman Weller from Illinois. Proud you're here. Thanks for coming. (Applause.)

Los embajadores que estan aqui - the ambassadors. Thank you all for being here. I see some of the ambassadors for the countries to which I'll be going. I'm sure all of them are here, and I appreciate you coming. Thanks for your time.

This is an important speech for me today. It's a speech that sets out a direction for this country in regards to our neighborhood. A former President gave such a speech 46 years ago this month. President John Kennedy spoke to ambassadors from across the Americas, this time in the East Room of the White House.

He began by citing the early movements of independence in the Latin American republics. He invoked the dream of a hemisphere growing in liberty and prosperity. That's what he talked about 46 years ago. He proposed a bold new Alliance for Progress, to help the countries of this hemisphere meet the basic needs of their people - safe homes and decent jobs and good schools, access to health care.

In the years since President Kennedy spoke, we have witnessed great achievements for freedom in this neighborhood. As recently as a generation ago, this region was plagued by military dictatorship and consumed by civil strife. Today 34 members of the OAS have democratic constitutions. And only one member country lives under a leader not of its people's choosing.

From New York to Rio de Janeiro to Buenos Aires and Montreal, we speak different languages, but our democracies all derive their legitimacy from the same source - the consent of the governed. The expansion of freedom has brought our societies much closer.

Today the most important ties between North and South America are not government to government, they are people to people. And those ties are growing. These ties are growing because of our churches and faith-based institutions, which understand that the call to love our neighbors as ourselves does not stop at our borders.

These ties are growing because of our businesses, which trade and invest billions in each other's countries. These ties are growing because of the outreach of our universities, which brings thousands of exchange students and teachers to their campuses.

These ties are growing because of the estimated US$ 45 billion that workers in the United States send back to their families in Latin America and the Caribbean each year, one of the largest private economic initiatives in the world.

In all these ways, our two continents are becoming more than neighbors united by the accident of geography. We're becoming a community linked by common values and shared interests in the close bonds of family and friendship. These growing ties have helped advance peace and prosperity on both continents.

Yet amid the progress we also see terrible want. Nearly one out of four people in Latin America lives on less than US$ 2 a day. Many children never finish grade school; many mothers never see a doctor. In an age of growing prosperity and abundance, this is a scandal - and it's a challenge.

The fact is that tens of millions of our brothers and sisters to the south have seen little improvement in their daily lives. And this has led some to question the value of democracy.

The working poor of Latin America need change, and the United States of America is committed to that change. It is in our national interests, it is in the interest of the United States of America to help the people in democracies in our neighborhood succeed. When our neighbors are prosperous and peaceful, it means better opportunities and more security for our own people. When there are jobs in our neighborhood, people are able to find work at home and not have to migrate to our country. When millions are free from poverty, societies are stronger and more hopeful.

So we're helping to increase opportunity by relieving debt and opening up trade, encouraging reform, and delivering aid that empowers the poor and the marginalized. And the record of this administration in promoting social justice is a strong record and an important record. Social justice begins with building government institutions that are fair and effective and free of corruption.

In too many places in the Americas, a government official is seen as someone who serves himself at the expense of the public good, or serves only the rich and the well-connected. No free society can function this way. Social justice begins with social trust. So we're working with our partners to change old patterns and ensure that government serves all its citizens.

One of the most important changes we're making is the way we deliver aid. We launched a new program called the Millennium Challenge Account, which provides increased aid to nations that govern justly, invest in the education and health of their people, and promote economic freedom.

So far, we've signed Millennium Challenge compacts with three Latin American nations. We've also signed an agreement with a fourth country that is working to meet the standards to qualify for a compact on its own.

In the coming years, these agreements will provide a total of US$ 885 million in new aid, so long as these countries continue to meet the standards of the Millennium Challenge program. We'll send more as we reach more agreements with other nations.

By the way, this aid comes on top of the standard bilateral assistance that we provide. When I came into office, the United States was sending about US$ 860 million a year in foreign aid to Latin America and the Caribbean.

Last year, we nearly doubled that amount, to a total of US$ 1.6 billion. Altogether, thanks to the good work of members of the United States Congress, we have sent a total of US$ 8.5 billion to the region with a special focus on helping the poor.

Let me share with you one example of how our aid is working for people in the region. It's a small example, but it had profound impact. A few years ago, we funded a project to help a town in Paraguay. We set up a website that makes all local government transactions public, from budget spending to employee salaries.

The purpose was to help the people of Villarrica improve their local governance through greater transparency. It was a small gesture at first. But when they brought transparency into their government, they discovered that some government employees had used fake receipts to embezzle thousands of dollars from the city government.

The mayor informed the public, and the employees who had stolen the money were tried and convicted, and they paid it back. For the people of Paraguay, this was an historic achievement. The local government had called its own officials to account at a public and transparent trial.

The United States can help bring trust to their governments by instilling transparency in our neighborhood. It didn't take much of a gesture, but it had a profound impact.

We're working for similar results in other nations. In El Salvador, we opened one of our international law enforcement academies. The new academy is helping governments in the region build effective criminal justice systems, by training law enforcement officers to combat the drug lords and the terrorists and the criminal gangs and the human traffickers.

Our efforts to strengthen these civic institutions are also supported by more than government, but by private programs run by U.S. law schools and professional associations and in volunteer organizations.

In the coming months, this administration will convene a White House conference on the Western Hemisphere that will bring together representatives from the private sector, and non-governmental organizations, and faith-based groups and volunteer associations.

The purpose is to share experiences, and discuss effective ways to deliver aid and build the institutions necessary for strong civil society. Is it in our interest we do so? Absolutely, it's in our interests. A transparent neighborhood will yield to a peaceful neighborhood, and that's in the interests of all citizens of our country.

Social justice means meeting basic needs. The most precious resource of any country is its people, and in the Americas, we are blessed with an abundance of talented and hardworking citizens - decent, honorable people who work hard to make a living for their families. Without basic necessities like education and health care and housing, it is impossible for people to realize their full potential, their God-given potential.

Helping people reach their potential begins with good education. That's why the Secretary of Education is here. Many people across the Americas either have no access to education for their children or they cannot afford it. If children don't learn how to read, write, and add and subtract, they're going to be shut off for the jobs of the 21st century. They'll be condemned to a life on the margins, and that's not acceptable.

The United States is working for an Americas where every child has access to a decent school. It is a big goal, but it is a necessary goal, as far as we're concerned. When people in our neighborhood reach their full potential, it benefits the people of the United States.

Over the past three years, we've provided more than $150 million - three years time - spent US$ 150 million for education programs throughout the region, with a special focus on rural and indigenous areas. Today I announce a new partnership for Latin American youth that's going to build on these efforts.

This partnership will devote an additional US$ 75 million over the next years - three years to help thousands more young people improve their English and have the opportunity to study here in the United States. I think it's good policy when people from our neighborhood come to our country to study. (Applause.)

I hope this warms the heart of our fellow citizens when I share this story. In the mountains of Guatemala, we established a project that helped raise the number of children who complete first grade from 51 percent to 71 percent. In Peru, we helped create the Opening Doors Program to help girls get through grade school. That program is succeeding, and it is self-sustaining.

Across Latin America and the Caribbean our centers of excellence for teacher training - we set up these centers, and we've trained 15,000 teachers; nearly 15,000 people have benefited.

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