Office of the Press Secretary
(Mexico City, Mexico)
For Immediate Release May 7, 1997
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
IN ADDRESS TO THE PEOPLE OF MEXICO
Mexico City, Mexico
11:21 A.M. (L)
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Mr. President, for the wisdom
of your words, for the warmth of your personal expression, and for the
great generosity with which the people of Mexico have received my wife
and our delegation, the members of the administration and the members of
Congress. We thank all those who have been a part of that in the
Mexican government, throughout the political system and citizens at
I am honored to speak today in the heart of this
magnificent capital, where Teotihuacan and Aztec civilizations
flourished, where one of the world's greatest cities grew up centuries
before the first English tents were pitched in Jamestown, Virginia, or
Plymouth, Massachusetts. I'm, frankly, a little envious that Hillary
got to spend an extra day here, and I want to thank those who are
responsible for the wonderful welcome she received in the Yucatan.
Almost 22 years ago now, Hillary and I came to Mexico
for our honeymoon. Mexico won our hearts then, but now as then, me
encanta Mexico. (Applause.)
I come here today to celebrate the ties that bind the
United States and Mexico and to help set a course to strengthen them for
the age of possibility before us as we enter the 21st century. Our
nations and our hemisphere stand at a crossroads as hopeful as the time
when Hidalgo and Morelos lit the torch of liberty for Mexico almost two
Democracy has swept every country but one in the
Americas, giving people a vote and a voice in their future. Decades of
coups and civil wars have given way to stability, to peace, to free
markets and to the search for social justice and a cleaner environment.
The electricity of change is surging throughout our hemisphere and
nowhere more hopefully than Mexico.
I congratulate the Mexican people for carrying forward bold
political reforms that will lead in July to the most intensely contested
elections in your history. We know from our own 220-year experiment
that democracy is hard work. It must be defended every day. But it is
worth the effort, for it has produced more opportunity for people to
make the most of their own lives than all its rivals.
Four years ago, in this very place, we began a grand common
effort to secure democracies gains in our hemisphere for all our people.
On behalf of my administration, Vice President Gore here invited the
nations of our hemisphere to the Summit of the Americas in Miami. There
we set an ambitious agenda to create free trade throughout the
hemisphere and to cooperate on a host of other issues with the goal of
fulfilling the age old dream of building a truly democratic and
prosperous family of the Americas in the 21st century.
Revolutionary forces of integration, and technology and
trade, and travel and communications are shaping our times and bringing
us all closer together. The stroke of a computer key sends ideas,
information and money across the planet at lightening speed. Every day
we use products that are dreamed up in one country, financed in another,
manufactured in a third, with parts made in still other countries, and
then sold all over the world. Like it or not, we are becoming more
interdependent. And we see that, too, on the negative side, as when a
stock market crash, an environmental disaster, or a dread disease in one
country sends shock waves deeply felt far beyond its borders.
While economic integration is inevitable, its shape and its
reach depend upon our response to it. In both our countries, there are
some who throw up walls of protection to ward off the challenge of
change. But more and more, people here and the United States and
throughout the Americas understand that openness, competition, and the
flow of ideas and culture can improve the lives of all our people, if we
ensure that these forces work for, and not against, all our people.
With our long border, rich history, and complex challenges,
Mexico and the United States have a special responsibility to work
together to seize the opportunities and defeat the dangers of this time.
Our partnership for freedom and democracy and for prosperity, and our
partnership against drugs, organized crime, environmental decay, and
social injustice is fundamental to the future of the American people and
to the future of the Mexican people.
To succeed, this partnership must be rooted in a spirit of
mutual respect. Your great leader, Benito Juarez, whose statue stands
not far from the White House in Washington, said, "Respect for the
rights of others is peace." Today, I reaffirm to the people of Mexico:
We embrace the wisdom of Juarez. We seek a peaceful, prosperous
partnership filled with respect and dignity. (Applause.)
Four years ago, together, we led the fight for NAFTA. Many
people in both our countries painted a dark picture of lost jobs and
boarded-up factories should NAFTA prevail. Well, they were wrong.
NAFTA is working -- working for you and working for the American people.
In three short years and despite Mexico's worst recession
in this century, trade between our nations has grown nearly 60 percent,
as President Zedillo said. Mexico is our third largest trading partner,
just behind Japan, which has an economy 15 times larger. Our exports to
Mexico are 37 percent higher than before NAFTA -- an all-time high in
spite of the economic difficulties here.
But for Mexico, NAFTA's benefits are just as great. Two
and a half years ago, the financial crisis that struck Mexico wrought
real and profound hardship to your people as jobs vanished and inflation
skyrocketed. The storm hit only days after President Zedillo took
office. He might have simply complained that he got a big dose of bad
luck. But instead, he responded with vision and courage. By keeping to
the path of reform and the blueprint of NAFTA, he lessened the impact of
The real hardships remain. Mexico has made a remarkable
turnaround. Since the crisis, you have created one million new jobs,
cut inflation by more than half, and regained the confidence of
Now, compare this with the economic crisis of 1981 and '82,
when Mexico sharply raised its tariffs and followed a different course.
Then, it took seven long years for Mexico to return to the financial
markets; this time, only seven months. Then, it took four years for
your economy to recover the lost ground; this time, only a year after
the crisis, Mexico grew by more than five percent and is expected to
grow strongly this year, too.
You have endured punishing setbacks, but America is proud
to have worked with you from the very beginning, enlisting international
support for a loan package that safeguarded hundreds of thousands of
jobs in both our countries, calmed emerging markets throughout Latin
America and the world, and when Mexico paid the loan back, earned the
respect and admiration of the entire world. I congratulate you on this
Of course, the ultimate test of our economic partnership is
not in big numbers, but in human impact: the electronic workers of
Mexico's Baja Peninsula whose new jobs mean better health care and
pensions and more education for their children; the hundreds of
thousands of Mexican women who now have mammograms because American-made
diagnostic equipment has become more affordable to you; and all the
American workers with good high-wage jobs based on our trade with you.
NAFTA has also become an important tool for improving the
environment and the well-being of workers. Its institutions are working
to clean up pollution in the border region, with four treatment plants
already under construction and more to come. Its labor agreements have
created a new awareness of workers' rights and labor conditions in both
We must accelerate the pace of these efforts to reach more
people and more communities. And we must include more nations in our
partnership so that we can achieve the goal we set out at the Summit of
the Americas of a free trade area of the Americas. That is why I'm
working with Congress to gain support for fast track authority and why
I'm coming back to Latin America twice in the next few months.
As we celebrate these accomplishments, we must also do
everything in our power to assure that the benefits and the burdens of
change are fairly shared. The most powerful tool for doing that,
plainly, is education -- giving our people the skills they need to
compete and succeed.
At the Miami Summit, Mexico took the responsibility of
leading a hemispheric education initiative. Working with Brazil, Chile,
and the United States, you have set our sights on lifting standards and
bringing new methods and technologies to classroom throughout the
hemisphere. We can rekindle the passion for education that swept this
country after your revolution. Your great poet, Alfonso Reyes,
described that moment as, "a grand crusade for learning that electrified
the people. Nothing equal to it has ever been seen in the Americas."
Let us see something equal to it and greater. Let us renew
this crusade. And let us remember, as my wife has said, the citizens on
every continent, in distant villages and large cities, this crusade for
education must include young women as well as young men on equal terms.
And let us resolve to make this crusade a shining light of our next
Summit of the Americas next year in Santiago.
In Miami at the first summit, we also reaffirmed that we
cannot be responsible stewards of freedom unless we are also responsible
stewards of our natural resources -- our hemisphere's land and air and
water, as well as the rich texture of plant and animal life they
Over the long run, the development of democracy and a
prosperous economy requires the sustainable development of our natural
resources. That is why we have put the protection of the environment
right where it belongs, at the heart of our hemispheric agenda. That is
the course we charted together in Rio, in Miami, in Santa Cruz, and one
we must pursue further in Santiago.
Trade, education and the environment are critical pieces of
the greater mosaic of our relationship, designed to turn our 2,000-mile
border into a vibrant source of growth and jobs and open exchange.
We're also building a bridge between Brownsville and Matamoros, and
roads to connect our people, streamlining cargo transit with high-tech
scanners, improving water supplies for the areas inhabitants, and
through our Border 21 Initiative, giving local communities a strong
voice in the future of the dynamic living space they share.
As our cooperation grows closer, so do our people. For
America, that means pride in the fact that we are one of the most
diverse democracies in the world. That diversity will be one of our
great strengths in the global society of the 21st century. And Mexican
Americans are a crucial part of our diversity and our national pride.
Now, more than 12 million strong, they have helped to make the United
States the fifth largest Hispanic nation in the world.
Mexican Americans are contributing to every dimension of
American life. In Congress, they have written the laws of our land.
Just yesterday, Ambassador Bill Richardson, whose mother came from this
city, was working to bring peace in Central Africa, and every day he is
America's voice at the United Nations.
Our administration draws strength from many other
remarkable Mexican Americans, including several who are here with me --
our Energy Secretary, Federico Pena; my Director of Public Liaison,
Maria Echaveste; my Congressional Liaison, Janet Murguia. I am also
pleased to have in our party two distinguished members of Congress who
are Mexican Americans -- Javier Becerra of California, and Silvestre
Reyes of Texas; and four other distinguished elected officials who
represent large numbers of Mexican Americans and who care deeply about
our partnership -- Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas, Senator Jeff
Bingaman of New Mexico, Representative Jim Kolbe of Arizona and Governor
Robert Miller of Nevada.
Last year, nearly 160,000 Mexicans immigrated legally to
America, bringing their talents, their energies, their aspirations.
They've played by the rules. And we, for our part, must make sure that
the system treats them fairly and gives them the chance to live up to
their hopes and dreams.
But to maintain an immigration policy that is generous,
fair, safe, and orderly, we must also take effective action to stop
illegal immigration. We are a nation of immigrants and of laws. Just
as those who obey are laws are welcome, those who break them must face
the consequences. Our new immigration law will help us to achieve these
goals. In applying it and in our overall approach to immigration, we
will balance control with common sense and compassion.
I am very pleased that the balanced budget agreement I
reached with our Congress last week includes a significant restoration
of welfare benefits to legal immigrants. (Applause.) I will continue
to work with Congress to correct some aspects of our immigration law.
We will ensure respect for human rights and seek to apply the law
humanely, with special concern for children and families. There will be
no mass deportations or no discrimination. And we will continue to
support Mexico's efforts to create new opportunities here, so that no
one feels compelled to leave home just to earn a living for his or her
In the end, that is the answer. But I ask you to remember
and work with us on the central premise. We have a generous immigration
policy, perhaps the most generous in the world; but to make it work we
must be a nation of laws.
This moment of great promise for us is, frankly, also one
of peril. The great irony of this time is that the forces of global
integration have also unleashed powerful sources of disintegration that
use open borders and technology and modern communications to strike at
the very heart of civilized societies -- our families, our institutions,
our very lives.
For us, the greatest of these scourges is that of illegal
drug-trafficking. The cost to both of us of illegal drugs are
staggering. In America, every year drugs kill 14,000 people and cost
our country almost $70 billion for crime, prisons, lost work, wounded
bodies and ruined lives. Every year, our law enforcement officials
arrest one million people on drug charges.
In Mexico, President Zedillo has called narcotics
trafficking "the greatest threat to national security, the biggest
hazard to social health and the bloodiest source of violence."
Throughout our hemisphere we see how drug cartels threaten
the fabric of entire societies. They corrupt or murder law enforcement
officials and the judiciary, take over legitimate businesses and banks,
spread violence to offices and homes, to streets and to playgrounds.
Drugs are not simply a Mexican problem or an American
problem -- they are our common problem. The enormous demand for drugs
in America must be stemmed. We have just a little less than five
percent of the world's population -- yet, we consume one-third of the
world's cocaine, most of which comes from Mexico. The money we spend on
illegal drugs fuels narco traffickers who, in turn, attack your police
and prosecutors and prey on your institutions. We must face this curse
together, because we cannot defeat it alone. My friends, the battle
against drugs must unite our people, not divide them. (Applause.)
We must fight back together, and we must prevail. In the
United States we have begun the largest antidrug effort in our history.
More than two-thirds of its $16 billion budget will go to attacking our
domestic drug problem. We've cut casual drug use by 50 percent in
America, but, tragically, among young people under 18 has doubled.
We're reaching out to young people with an unprecedented effort -- a
public education campaign to teach that drugs are wrong, illegal, and
deadly. We're supporting successful neighborhood strategies like
community policing that are making our streets and schools safer and
more drug-free. We're punishing drug pushers with tougher sentences and
working with our partners abroad to destroy drugs at the source or stop
them in transit.
Here in Mexico, you must continue your brave fight against
illegal drugs. Already you have shown real advances in drug
eradication. You've enacted strong new measures to combat money
laundering and organized crime. You've destroyed more drug labs and
landing strips and seized more drugs, including more than 10 tons of
cocaine just days ago. And last week, you resolved to rebuild your drug
enforcement agency on a firmer foundation.
I know the hardship and sacrifice this has caused. More
than 200 Mexican police officers died last year because of drug
violence. As terrible as this toll is, the price of giving up and
giving in would be higher. Let us resolve to redouble our efforts, not
by pointing fingers, but by joining hands.
Yesterday, President Zedillo and I took an important step
forward when we declared the U.S.-Mexican Alliance Against Drugs, based
on mutual respect and common sense. Will strengthen our attack on drug
production, trafficking and consumption. We will crack down harder on
the key problems of money laundering and arms trafficking. The future
of our children depends upon these efforts and depends more on our
determination to continue the fight. We must not let our children down.
Our alliance against drugs is but one of many elements in
our cooperation for the coming century. Yesterday, the President and I
received a report of our binational commission. From wiping out
tuberculosis in our border states to protecting endangered species in
the Pacific, to increasing educational opportunity with more Fulbright
Scholarships, the scope of our joint efforts has become as large as the
continent we share.
Fifty years ago, President Harry Truman came to Mexico.
His visit was a turning point between our people. He spoke of the
difficulties in our past and of the need for us to work more closely.
He said, I refuse to be discouraged by apparent difficulties;
difficulties are a challenge to men of determination. In the face of
our difficulties, we must be men and women of determination. We can
bridge the divides of culture, history and geography to achieve Juarez'
noble vision of respect and peace.
Rooted in the rule of law, rooted in prosperity for all who
will work for it, rooted in good health and a clean environment, rooted
in modern education and timeless values, the bright promise of a new
century lies before us. Let us embrace it together. Thank you.
END 11:45 A.M. (L)