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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release February 26, 1997
                      REMARKS BY PRESIDENT CLINTON

The State Floor

8:57 P.M. EST

PRESIDENT CLINTON: Mr. President, Mrs. Frei, members of the Chilean delegation, distinguished guests, welcome to the White House. Mr. President, I enjoyed our meeting today, especially your perspective as a trained engineer committed to building bridges. (Laughter.) You have more experience and credibility at that than I have, but I am glad to be your partner in building those bridges.

The United States respects the extraordinary accomplishments of the Chilean people, the brave struggle to reclaim democracy which has cast the light of liberty over your land and over the entire hemisphere. The United States respects the extraordinary economic achievements of Chile which have shined the light of hope over your land and the entire hemisphere.

Beyond democracy, you have advanced equality before the law and good government. Beyond economic growth, you have advanced fuller participation in Chile's prosperity, reducing poverty and increasing education so that all may have their chance. Under your leadership, Chile is a crossroads for global commerce, a force of freedom and peace, a valued partner of the United States in building a better world for the 21st century.

Three decades ago, Mr. President, during the time of the Alliance for Progress launched by President Kennedy, your father made plans for a state visit to our country. That visit never came to pass. And in the years that followed the bright hopes that our nations had for cooperation in our hemisphere went unrealized. Now we stand at a moment of unprecedented promise for the Americas. Just as you donned your father's ceremonial sash when you took office, you have completed the journey to the United States that he once set out to make.

Now we must make our bold journey into tomorrow together. Mr. President, I gave a book of poems by your great Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda, to my wife for our 20th wedding anniversary. In his Ode To The Sea, Neruda wrote these words that speak to us tonight across the years: "We'll put the affairs of mankind in order, big things first, then all the rest. We will make you see an earth, we will make you perform miracles, because inside us, inside our struggle is our daily bread, our fish, and our miracle."

Mr. President, you have put big things first -- democracy, justice, freedom, the future. In so doing, you have given the Chilean people the chance to reach deep within themselves to perform miracles.

Tonight it's my great honor to ask all those here present to join me in toasting you, Mrs. Frei, people of Chile and the bright promise of our partnership.

(A toast is offered.) (Applause.)

PRESIDENT FREI: Dear Mr. President, Mrs. Clinton, authorities of the United States and of Chile, I take a special pleasure in being here tonight. Just as you recalled, Mr. President, 30 years ago my father, then President of Chile, was invited to this house. He was unable to come. The constitutional permission to leave the country which had to come from the Senate of the Republic was denied to him by a blanket opposition. For us, that kind of political behavior is of the past. That gives me the greatest satisfaction -- a satisfaction I share today with my people and with yours.

We have learned in painful ways that democracy asks for tolerance, for compromise, for a permanent dialogue. The way to make it great lies in building, in opening horizons and in raising bridges; in distancing ourselves from dogma and meanness of spirit. Along these new lines, my country has enjoyed 14 consecutive years of economic growth. Over 1.6 million have moved out of extreme poverty in this new phase of our democracy.

Since this morning when you gave me such a warm and considerate welcome, we have put in an intense day of work, both frank and creative. We have spoken of matters in the common interest of our peoples. We have spoken also of all the Americas which, taken together, will soon have a population of 1 billion. To further the agenda of freedom we shall host the second Summit of the Americas in Santiago in March of 1998, and are most gratified to learn that you will attend that historic meeting.

I am convinced, Mr. President, that these hours of close work and friendly discussion have bound our two countries in an association for peace and for growth, an association founded on democracy and free commerce, an association that makes sure that the benefits of development reach the poorest, an association that can count on high ethical standards in public and private life, an association that never shies away from freedom. Thus, we can enter the 21st century together.

At your second Inauguration, Mr. President, you reminded us that for the first time, more than half of humanity was living in a democratic system. I'm sure that your country and the one I represent, united in the principles we share, will be working for the other half to become democratic also. Beyond that, we are working to be able to say the same thing in a few years for free trade and open markets. We are sure that the progress made in the liberalizing of trade between your country and mine will be an important step toward a vast free market of all of the Americas.

I reiterate to you, Mr. President, and to Mrs. Clinton the invitation for a state visit to Chile, which would be a great opportunity to continue strengthening the friendship and values that we share.

I toast you, Mr. President, and you, Mrs. Clinton, for that visionary leadership your government has shown. I toast your people and their freedom. I toast the brotherhood of our two countries. I toast the Americas of the 21st century. I'm standing today here before you very optimistic, with great confidence, with great determination, and I'm certain that both of us, together, we will build a better future for all those men and women that sometimes see progress pass by. I'm certain that you and me and my government and your government, our countries will build the Americas of the 21st century.

Thank you very much. (Applause.)

(A toast is offered.)

END 9:15 P.M. EST