Mr. President, thank you, sir. And it is a great pleasure for me to be here and to greet all who are here to celebrate democracy in Costa Rica. Gathered before us is one of the wonderful traditions of this great country: the tradition of greeting foreign visitors not with the guns of military salutes but with the cheers of those schoolchildren. And I think you have another marvelous institution, that is a band that can play ``The Star-Spangled Banner,'' a difficult anthem, without a flaw.
A few years ago, I was privileged to attend the inauguration of President Arias. And the stadium where the celebration was held was filled to capacity. And when our United States delegation entered behind the United States flag, the Costa Rican people rose to their feet, and the arena erupted in cheers. And they were cheering for the friendship between our countries, and they were cheering for democracy. And this welcome today also has me deeply moved and very proud.
They asked me, why are we coming? We are back in San Jose to honor a nation, Costa Rica; a leader, President Oscar Arias; and an idea, democracy. On behalf of your neighbors in the United States, I congratulate the people of Costa Rica on the 100th anniversary of your democracy. The Costa Rican model is an example and an inspiration in Central America, to this entire hemisphere, to the world: a nation in which the people rule through the ballot box, a nation whose economy is being freed from the shackles of the state and whose people are sharing in the fruits of economic growth, a nation that lives in peace with its neighbors because it threatens none with aggression or subversion.
One hundred years ago, the constitutional democracy that we honor today was the exception in the Americas. Today it is the rule. And today the nations still oppressed by what John F. Kennedy, speaking here in San Jose, called the last vestiges of tyranny can be counted on one hand.
I believe we can do more. I believe we must do more. I believe we can create here in the Americas the world's first completely democratic hemisphere. And I also believe that the Americas can become the model for the rest of the world for a true partnership between the developed and the developing world, where trade is free, prosperity is shared, and the benefits of technology are harnessed for all.
Mr. President, in that regard, I join you in celebrating the announcement you just made regarding the debt. I salute those private interests in the United States that cooperated. I salute our leaders who worked with yours to achieve this marvelous example of what cooperation can bring. And I congratulate Costa Rica on this significant step.
And lastly, I do believe that here in the Americas we can and will unite to confront and defeat the new slayers of the democratic dream -- the narco traffickers who poison our children, murder elected officials, and wage war on civil society.
I believe that the democratic leaders of the Americas are reaching out to the United States, just as we are to them, offering a new partnership of mutual respect and mutual responsibility. And I'm here in San Jose to make it clear to the democratic leaders of this hemisphere that we embrace this new partnership.
To you, President Arias, my esteemed friend, and to all the officials who have made these arrangements, I express to you my gratitude on the one hand and my joy at being here on the other. Thank you very, very much.
Note: President Bush spoke at 10 a.m. at Juan Santamaria International Airport.