The White House Briefing Room

March 10, 1999


4:45 P.M. (L)


                                THE WHITE HOUSE

                         Office of the Press Secretary
                          (Guatemala City, Guatemala)
For Immediate Release                           March 10, 1999     

                            REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
                           National Palace of Culture
                         Guatemala City, Guatemala  		

4:45 P.M. (L)

	THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much.  Mr. President, first, let me say 
how much I appreciate this opportunity that has been provided for me to meet 
with citizens of your country to hear about the progress of the peace process 
and the challenges ahead.  Because of the involvement of the United States, I 
think it is imperative as we begin for me just to say a few words about the 
report of the Historical Clarification Commission.

	The commission's work and the support it has received from the 
government shows how far Guatemala has traveled in overcoming that painful 
period.  I have profound respect for the victims and the families who had the 
courage to testify, and for the courage of a nation for coming to terms with its 
past and moving forward.  
	For the United States, it is important that I state clearly that support 
for military forces or intelligence units which engaged in violent and 
widespread repression of the kind described in the report was wrong, and the 
United States must not repeat that mistake.  We must, and we will, instead, 
continue to support the peace and reconciliation process in Guatemala.  

	As many of you know, we provided $1.5 million in support for the 
commission.  We declassified over 4,000 documents at the commission's request.  
Now we will encourage the translation of the report into indigenous languages 
and its wide dissemination.  Consistent with the commission's recommendations, 
we also will continue our support of development programs in those communities 
which suffered most from violence and repression.  This year, we plan to provide 
an additional $25 million to support the peace accords through aid to the 
justice sector, to education, to literary training, to the generation of income 
and to citizen participation in government.

	You have come a long way, as President Arzu just said, in forging a 
consensus in support of democracy and human rights and in finding a way to 
discuss your differences openly and peaceably.  I applaud the difficult but 
essential effort you have undertaken.

	Beyond the commission issues, I would also hope to discuss other matters 
critical to peace and to development and reconciliation, including economic 
liberalization, market opening measures, increased trade and investment, all of 
which are crucial to the overall well-being of the people of Guatemala.  Now 
that you have chosen democracy and peace, it is imperative that the United 
States be a good partner in making sure that it works for all your people.  
	And again, Mr. President, I'd like to thank you and the government and 
the people of Guatemala for the road you have taken and for making me feel 
welcome today.  Thank you, sir.  
                                   * * * * *

	THE PRESIDENT:  Well, first of all I would like to say how very 
impressed I was by the presentations.  And I would like to say a few things at 
the end, but for now, I was asked a couple of questions, so I would like to 

	First, I was asked about possible opportunities, greater opportunities 
for women and young girls, and children generally.  I think that the model which 
has worked best throughout the world for economic empowerment for women has been 
the whole -- particularly rural women and indigenous populations -- has been the 
whole concept of microcredit, as I'm sure my wife talked about quite extensively 
when she was here.

	But I think even more important is getting schooling going and providing 
-- you know, I'm involved in this effort to try to end child labor that's 
abusive, worldwide.  But it's not as -- it's also important to get the children 
into schools, all kinds of children, including the children of indigenous 
people, and girls as well as boys, for a longer period of time.

	This is a big problem not just in Latin America, it's a huge problem in 
Asia, it's a huge problem in Africa.  But I think the United States should be 
heavily involved, particularly in light of our past.  We have a heavy 
responsibility to Guatemala and, indeed, to all of Central America to do more in 
this area.

	I have asked the Congress of the United States to pass an aid package 
tied to what happened in the hurricane, of something over $950 million.  A lot 
of it is designed just to 
support the rebuilding that has to be done, and that is important.  But there is 
quite a lot of money for education and 

economic development and, to go to another point you made, for the efforts to 
institutionalize the rule of law, both for commercial and economic reasons and 
for human rights reasons.

	This is an area in which I think those who have and those who have not, 
in Guatemala and throughout Central America, have a common interest, because the 
rule of law is essential to get more investment and more economic opportunity 
and to protect the investments that exist.  It is also essential to establish in 
an orderly way human rights and the institutions of justice.
	So, Mr. Atwood, our AID Director, is here and he can talk more about 
that with you.  But we have worked quite hard to put together a package that I 
hope will be helpful.  And I will be prepared, over the next couple of years, to 
try to do more.

	On the question of trade, I sent last Friday to the Congress another 
bill to try to provide more parity between our trading relationships with Mexico 
and Canada, and our trading relationships with Central America and the 
Caribbean.  And I believe we have a reasonable chance to pass that bill this 
year. And if we do, it obviously will lead to more opportunities for the sale of 
Guatemalan products in the United States, and more jobs, therefore, for the 
people here.  I will work very hard to pass it.

	I was asked about the immigration issue, and I would like to speak 
briefly about that.  I gave a more extended statement today, to the National 
Assembly of El Salvador, but I will briefly say what I said there.

	I think it's important for every country to enforce its immigration laws 
and try to protect its borders.  We have very generous legal immigration laws, 
and we have many, many immigrants from Central America making a major 
contribution, positive contribution to the United States.

	On the other hand, most of the illegal immigrants from Guatemala and 
other Central American countries are not law-breakers by nature; they're people 
who are seeking a better life.  It's hard to leave your family and your home, 
and take the risks inherent in coming to a strange land without the approval of 
the law.  And people do it because they want a better opportunity for themselves 
and their families.

	I think there are two things that should be noted as we do try to 
enforce our immigration laws.  The first is that we have to be sensitive and act 
with justice and understand the impact of recent events.  The second is that the 
present American law is completely unfair in that it treats different -- people 
from different countries in Central America differently.  And it is a vestige of 
our, sort of, kind of our Cold War mentality, and how we were involved here.

	I can do two things about that.  The first is to try to change the law.  
And we will aggressively work to try to change the law to get parity, equal 
treatment for all people from Central America without regard to the political 
past, and whether the difficulties of the past were seen as coming from the 
right or the left.  I think that's irrelevant.  We should treat all countries 
the same.

	The second is to use, to the maximum extent possible, whatever 
flexibility I have under present law to achieve the same goal.  I will do that.  
But in the end, the problem cannot be fixed -- the immigration problem cannot be 
completely fixed until there is a change in the law so that all countries would 
be treated the same under the law.  And I will actively seek that this year.

	Anyway, I think that responds to the questions that were asked of me.  
If I were to ask a question -- if I could ask one question, I would like to say 
that -- one of you said that we needed a dignification program, with priority 
given to the widows and orphans.  And I would like to know whether you have 
specific suggestions over and above the programs I have already mentioned for 
what the United States could do to be helpful to deal with the large number of 
orphan children and widows you have -- what else could we do, what specific 
suggestions do you have for me over and above what has been mentioned?
                                   * * * * *

	THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I think it is in the nature of such meetings that 
you only scratch the surface of what needs to be done and what the possibilities 
are.  I will say again, I intend to go back home and do my best to pass the aid 
package, to pass the trade parity bill, and to get improvements in the 
immigration difficulties.  Within the aid package, we will be able to support 
education initiatives, and economic power initiatives like the Women's Credit 
Program, that President Arzu mentioned.

	I think it is important that, after I leave Central America, the United 
States develop with every country the most specific possible plan for what it is 
you want to achieve that we can help you achieve -- whether it is in dealing 
with the specific problems of the widows and orphans; the need for the education 
of the children; the need for the economic empowerment of women; the need for 
greater efforts with indigenous groups; the need to go further in the search for 
human rights, the rule of law; how to come to terms with the issues related in 
the commission report.  
	And I guess what I would like to leave you with is my commitment that I 
am willing to continue to push, Mr. President, to have these sorts of specific 
commitments on the part of the United States so we know we have a good road map 
for where we're going into the future, and you know what you can expect of our 
partnership.  And, of course, tomorrow, we'll have a greater chance to talk 
about what we can do regionally when you get all the Presidents together.

	I would like to just leave you with this one thought.  For all of your 
terrible suffering and the continuing difficulties you face, please do not 
underestimate how far you have come and what you have done.  It is my 
responsibility as President of the United States to travel the world to deal 
with all of these problems that I see cropping up in other places.  
You know this, but I would like to just say, the last few years have brought a 
floodtide of changes in the way people work and live, and in the political and 
social and economic relationships of people -- the end of the Cold War, the 
growth of the global markets, the explosion in information technology -- it has 
changed everything.  And all over the world, people are searching for a new 

	Most of these changes are good, but there are -- not all of them are 
good.  And they all present people everywhere with dilemmas.  There is the 
question of integration versus disintegration.  And I'll give you -- you have it 
in Guatemala.  You want -- how do you balance the need for the nation to be 
sovereign with the legitimate rights of individuals and groups?  How do you 
balance the need for the nation to be sovereign with the need to have greater 
cooperation with other countries?  How do you balance the need to develop your 
economy with the imperative of preserving your natural resources?  How do you 
balance the need for security and order with the imperative of individual rights 
to privacy and liberty, and the rule of law, for both commercial and human 

	All of these challenges you face are being faced by other people 
elsewhere.  In South Africa, for example, to go back to what many of you talked 
about, they had this Truth and 

Reconciliation Commission, which perhaps went a little further than your report.  
And I thought that they -- we think they're making real progress there.  
	But in the last week four different political leaders have been killed.  
In Central Africa, where there was tribal slaughter in Rwanda and Burundi, I met 
with indigenous peoples.  I met a woman whose husband and six children were all 
killed, and she woke up and for some miracle reason she didn't die from the 
wounds she sustained.  And she, like the woman here, is devoting her life to 
this reconciliation.  And I thought we were making progress.  And just last week 
the majority tribe killed a bunch of Americans and other people.

	So I say, as awful as this is for you, and as frustrating as it is, it 
is astonishing how much has been done in Guatemala and in the other countries of 
Central America, and the direction you have taken.  For all the economic 
frustrations you face, you're doing better than many much larger countries in 
Asia and in Latin America, because you've shown greater discipline and 

	So I urge you to not get discouraged and I urge you to -- I have tried 
very hard to change the historic relationship between the United States and 
Central America, to be a genuine partner and to think about the future in 
different terms.  
	And we won't solve all the problems today or tomorrow, but I think we 
have to say we are on a different track, we have turned a real corner.  And I 
came here as much as anything else just to express my respect for you and to ask 
you not to get too discouraged.  You think about Europe as being a very rich 
continent, but look at these problems we're having in  Kosovo and Bosnia where 
they haven't been able to, in Kosovo, do what you have decided to do.  They 
still think they can shoot their way out of their difficulties.  And we're 
hoping and praying they will take a different decision in the next few days.  

	So I thank you for talking to me, and, before me, to my wife when she 
came here, and for all the work you are doing.  But I just want you to know that 
I am committed to changing our relationship over the long run in all these areas 
we have mentioned.  And I will do my best to make sure that we have the kind of 
partnership that will make both our countries stronger and address the specific 
concerns you have outlined today.

	Thank you very much.  (Applause.) 

                     END                      3:52 P.M. (L)