THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT AT CINCO DE MAYO EVENT Mexico Cultural Institute Washington, D.C.
7:45 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Ambassador and Mrs. Montano, thank you for welcoming me here at this magnificent building, and thank all of you for coming and giving me a chance to celebrate Cinco de Mayo with you. I want to recognize here the Secretary of Transportation, Federico Pena, and thank him for all of his work -- (applause) -- three of my able White House aides -- Joe Valasquez, Suzanna Valdez and Grace Garcia -- and I want to say a word about the members of Congress who are not here, apparently; they're still voting. (Laughter.) But that is, in some ways, our fault; we staged a great fight today in the House of Representatives to pass the assault weapons ban. (Applause.) So they are a couple of hours behind schedule, but it's because they did the work of America tonight, and I'm very grateful to them.
It's an honor for me to be here to celebrate on this holiday Mexico's unity and national sovereignty. The Hispanic community, Mexicans and 13 million Mexican Americans who live here in our nation have every reason to mark this day with great pride.
With the implementation of NAFTA, the friendship between our two nations has grown even closer. Our cooperation is also critical to strengthening democracy in this hemisphere. Sometimes in the pursuit of that great goal of democracy, we encounter tragedy. We have known it in our own country and we, here, shared your profound sadness over the assassination of Luis Donaldo Colosio last March.
But Mexico's response to this loss, in my judgment, showed its resilience, its courage, its determination, its true patriotism. These are qualities which can inspire the world and can strengthen democracy even in adversity. The United States is committed to standing with you.
Immediately after hearing of the tragic assassination, the Secretary of the Treasury and I talked very late at night, and we committed to establishing a multibillion-dollar contingency fund to help to stabilize the financial markets until people were able to deal with the consequences of these tragedies.
I have profound confidence in the strength of Mexico's political institutions and its leadership, and in the bright prospects for the Mexican economy. I think Mexico can overcome any setbacks and any tragedy. And on August the 21st, I believe that Mexico will hold full, free and fair elections. (Applause.)
I also want to say that all of you know our cooperation is terribly important for what we can do together economically and for what that can mean for all of Latin America. The North American Free Trade Agreement is a fine example of how we must go forward together. In a time when nations face crucial choices all around the world, we can be proud that, together, we made the right choice in going forward with NAFTA. I want to say again tonight how much I appreciate President Salinas in his unswerving support of the agreement. The implementation, I can report to you, is proceeding smoothly. And we are committed to continuing that cooperation.
Next week, the Secretary of State, the Attorney General, our HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros, our EPA Administrator Carol Browner all will visit Mexico City to meet with their counterparts to discuss the issues that we can work together on. And in December, I will convene in Miami a Summit of the Americas where democraticallyelected leaders of 33 nations will come together to discuss our common goals. You think of it -- every nation in this hemisphere, save two, tonight is governed by a democratically-elected leader, and one of those two had a democratic election in which the leader was ousted. That is an astonishing record. No hemisphere can claim to do so well in the pursuit of democracy. (Applause.)
Benito Juarez once said, "The respect for other's rights means peace." We in the United States believe if we can promote democracy around the world, there will be more peace. There will be more opportunity to make agreements. There will be more reliability. There will be less war, less turmoil and less hatred. Not the end of problems, not the end of conflict, but the promise of working through them. That is the promise that we see fulfilled today in the wonderful relationships between the United States and Mexico -- a genuine partnership among equals, striving for the future in the best way we know how. That is worth celebrating on this Cinco de Mayo. Thank you very much. (Applause.)
END7:50 P.M. EDT