Mr. President, thank you for those very kind words and a very important speech. It is wonderful to be back in this great nation and this lovely city of Caracas. I well remember my last visit to Venezuela, a much more somber occasion. I was in your country as Vice President in December of 1981 to pay my respects to a great founding father and defender of Venezuelan democracy, Romulo Betancourt.
Now, 9 years later, there is cause to rejoice, for the vision of Betancourt and Carlos Andres Perez is being realized in the Americas. Just look at what's happened in one decade: Democracy has been restored in Argentina, Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, Brazil, Uruguay, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Honduras, Chile, and Paraguay, leaving Cuba as the lonely totalitarian holdout in our hemisphere. So, we are close, very close, to a democratic hemisphere, from Alaska to Argentina. And I am here today to declare that this era of peaceful change came about, in no small part, because of the unwavering leadership and example of a democratic Venezuela.
Like President Betancourt, you, Mr. President, have been a creative democratic leader. Like Simon Bolivar, you have carried on a legacy as a standard-bearer of liberty. Mr. President -- CAP, to me and many other leaders in this hemisphere -- [laughter] -- those who love freedom in the Americas know that you and Venezuela are always on their side. And it's because of your leadership that we're seeing, once again, that freedom at the ballot box inevitably leads to freedom in the marketplace, that free political systems and free enterprise go hand in hand -- just one more reason why Venezuela's future is as limitless as your people's industry and imagination.
I know that the economic reform program that you launched upon taking office has been, at times, difficult. But you've stayed true to principle, and you stayed true to Venezuela's future -- a future of prosperity and democracy.
The good relations that exist between my government and yours are especially welcome because my family, the Bush family, has had a close connection to Venezuela. Our son Jeb lived and worked here in Caracas not so many years ago. And I certainly know firsthand how important Venezuela's leadership is to my country and how a prosperous and democratic Venezuela is essential to our hemispheric community. And that is why I especially look forward to cooperating closely with Venezuela in carrying out our Enterprise for the Americas Initiative.
It is my hope that the day will be brought closer when, as Simon Bolivar wrote in 1818, all of the New World can assume a place ``with a description of majesty and grandeur unprecedented in the Old World.''
And so, with a heart full of gratitude and thanks, let me close with a toast to President Perez and the Venezuelan people. I believe it will be recognized and appreciated here: ``Manos a la obra!'' [Let's get on with it!]
Note: The President spoke at 9:35 p.m. in the garden at La Casona. Following the dinner, he went to the U.S. Ambassador's residence, where he stayed overnight. A tape was not available for verification of the content of these remarks.