Monday, October 15, 2007

Democracy Essential for Social, Political, Economic Advances in the Americas

Speech by Condoleezza Rice at the Organization of American States



SECRETARY RICE: Thank you very much. Thank you, Carla -- Ambassador Hills, a long-time friend [for] that very kind introduction.

I would like to thank also Secretary General Insulza for welcoming us here to the Organization of American States and you have given fantastic leadership to this organization, and indeed to the hemisphere. Thank you for that.

I would also like to thank the Council on Foreign Relations for hosting this event and for inviting me here to speak with you. I have to say I've never seen the Council’s Washington offices; this despite that fact that I been a member of the Council for many, many years. But it is because the Council takes the opportunity to go to wonderful places like this to engage. And it's a great thing that we're in this wonderful hall.

I'd like to thank the members of the diplomatic corps for being here and honored guests, ladies and gentlemen. I'm here today to speak about the trade agreements that we have concluded with Peru, Colombia, and Panama. These are agreements on which our Congress will soon vote. The agreements are important for our economy – but they are also important for the impact that they will have on our national interests, our national interest in this hemisphere, our ability to pursue them effectively, and our capacity to positively influence events in this region.

What is at stake is the success of what I will call today our Pan-American Community -- the vision of a hemisphere of independent nations, living in liberty and prosperity and peace, which U.S. leaders of both parties have nurtured since the founding of our republic. So to understand the true value of these trade agreements, we need to step back for a moment and look broadly at our hemisphere.

We in the United States have always thought of ourselves as one part of a larger Pan-American Community. Here, in the seat of our hemispheric unity, the statue of our own George Washington stands proudly beside those of fellow liberators of the Americas -- Juarez, Marti, Bolivar and many others. The United States has always believed that our success is linked to the success of our neighbors, and at our best we have supported Latin American independence, the Good Neighbor Policy, the Alliance for Progress and we have worked to build a thriving Pan-American Community.

In 2001, this hemisphere was close to completing an historic transition to free societies, free markets and democracy. One of President Bush’s first actions was to support a regional effort to formalize this new consensus in the Inter-American Democratic Charter -- signed by every nation in the region but one, and stating that “democracy is essential for the social, political, and economic development of the people of the Americas.