Remarks at the Welcoming
Ceremony for President Jose Napoleon Duarte Fuentes of El Salvador
October 14, 1987
Reagan. It is with great pride and unreserved admiration that I welcome
President Duarte to Washington. He comes as the
elected representative of a courageous people, people who have struggled long
and risked much in order to live in a free and democratic country. El Salvador, under President
Duarte's leadership, has proven wrong the cynics, pessimists, and detractors of
democracy. The Salvadoran people have proven that those who love freedom can
prevail over great odds -- can defeat the forces of tyranny, both left and
right -- if they have the courage, commitment, and stand together.
was not that long ago that El Salvador was all but written off
by many in this city's circles of power. The Communist guerrillas, it was said,
were an irresistible force, and the cruel tactics of the right could not be
thwarted. The cause of democracy was doomed, so they said. Well, the United
States Congress came within a few votes of making the predictions of doom a
self-fulfilling prophecy. Our request for military aid to El Salvador was nearly defeated.
That would have left you, President Duarte, and others who were struggling for
democracy unarmed and defenseless against Communist guerrillas who were
receiving arms and ammunition through Nicaragua.
of us who have stood in support of the democratic peoples of El Salvador are especially proud of
what has been achieved in recent years. Under the most trying of circumstances,
with your steady hand at the helm, President Duarte, democratic convictions and
ideals have been transformed into institutions, laws, and practices. In a
relatively short time, you've brought the military under civilian control and
helped turn it into a professional and respected part of Salvadoran society, a
responsible force for both national security and democratic government. You've
reformed the police and set about to improve the system of justice. You have
created a climate of respect for human rights and the rule of law.
you were putting in place these fundamental reforms, the Communist guerrillas,
who would impose their form of dictatorship on El Salvador, were beaten back. Your
brave military forces certainly deserve much credit, but the power of democracy
itself deserves credit, as well. Democracy is a system that offers a peaceful
method of settling differences. It is a system which
can incorporate a wide spectrum of views while at the same time protect the
rights of the individual. Our own President Lincoln once said: ``The ballot is stronger than the bullet.'' Well, that is the
moral foundation on which the freedom-loving people of Central America hope to build a lasting
the prospects for attaining this peace, although still far from certain, are
better than at any time in this decade. The United States remains committed to
exploring any opportunity that could end the violence that plagues the region
and permit the people of Central America to live their lives in
peace. Silencing the guns is no easy goal, and, President Duarte, we both know
peace and democracy are inextricably linked.
peace is to prevail, so must democracy. The people of El Salvador know this, having been
victimized by an insurgency armed, trained, and headquartered in a nearby
country. They have firsthand experience that a government that does not respect
the rights of its own citizens cannot be expected to respect the rights of its
neighbors. And that is why all of us watch so closely the reform process set in
motion by the Guatemala peace plan.
process, which ties democratization to the end of armed conflict, is consistent
with a proposal made by Speaker Wright and myself. We want to see the peace
process succeed. That success is dependent on genuine democratic reform, on
respect for human rights, and on open and free elections. It depends on respect
for the freedoms of speech, religion, and assembly. It depends on honest dialog
between those who are now engaged in deadly combat.
Duarte, you have already gone the extra mile, literally and figuratively, to
bring fundamental change to your country and to end the cycle of violence.
Those who are engaged in armed struggle against your government have been
invited to join in the democratic process. You have negotiated directly with
the leaders of insurgent forces, sincerely trying to find the formula that will
bring peace and secure freedom in your troubled land. Others in the region can
do no less if they expect to end the strife that ravages their countries. The
choice is theirs.
we face the future and determine our next steps, let us recognize that the hope
in Central America today has come about because those who believe in democracy
have faced reality, made the tough choices, and stood together. In these last
6\1/2\ years, through the strength of purpose of brave and farsighted
individuals like President Duarte, a crisis has been averted and admirable
progress has been made, especially in creating and consolidating democratic
Duarte's visit permits us the opportunity to take account of the progress that
has been made; to discuss our vision of a free, prosperous, and peaceful
hemisphere; and to declare our solidarity with all those who share that vision.
President Duarte, again, it is an honor to welcome you.
Duarte. Mr. President, Mrs. Reagan, distinguished members of the Government,
friends, people of America, it is indeed a very
special pleasure to be received by you in this colorful ceremony. This is the
first time in many years that a head of state of a Central American nation has
been received by the United States President on a state visit.
receive this honor with great modesty, knowing full well that this ceremony is
an acknowledgment to the democratic commitment of the great people of El Salvador. Only last week, in
your speech to the Organization of American States, you remembered the heroic
behavior of Salvadorans on the voting booths. The same lines
of conduct have remained steadfast through all these years and has
served to build a strong democracy which, although not yet perfect, is modeled
after your own.
constant and unswerving support for our undertaking has helped us overcome
obstacles which at times seem invincible. Your Congress, too, has worked with
us on the difficult roads we have had to travel. For that we thank you. And
today peace is a step closer with the signing of the peace agreement in Guatemala early last month.
your speech of the OAS, you had stated that the Central American plan
``contains many of the elements necessary to bring both lasting peace and enduring
democracy for the region.'' You went on to say that there is also a reason for
caution; I agree. For this reason, I have insisted that the compliance with our
peace plan must be fully verified by the appointed commissions. Here we will
hope that the OAS and its member nations, especially those like yours with the
technical capacity, will take an active role.
am convinced that there cannot be peace in Central America without freedom and
democracy, which in turn will only be attained through comprehensive dialog and
negotiated cease-fire. I also insist that each Central American President has
the responsibility to comply fully within his own country with all the
obligations contracted, and that no government be permitted to take only
cosmetic or half-measures or to excuse his government's lack of total
compliance because of difference with another government not party to the Esquipulas accord [Guatemala peace plan].
need to continue to work to bring democracy to all Central America. I know that the United States has been engaged in
this effort, but we still have a long way to go. I encourage you to do what
needs to be done in order to assure that the democratic gains are enduring and
that the people of Central America are free from totalitarian oppression.
You can count on me and my courageous people to be faithful and effective
partners in this historical and noble enterprise.
now, President Reagan, let me break the protocol. I've seen through my life
many times in which people with hate in their heart have put fire to the
American flag. This time, permit me to go to your flag and, in the name of my
people, to give it a kiss.
Note: President Reagan
spoke at at the South Portico of
the White House, where President Duarte was accorded a formal welcome with full
military honors. Following the ceremony, the two Presidents met in the Oval