82. Editorial Note

President Ronald Reagan outlined his administration’s proposed Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI) in remarks made before the Permanent Council of the Organization of American States (OAS) on February 24, 1982, at 12:37 p.m. in the Hall of the Americas at the OAS Building. His remarks were broadcast live over the Voice of America (VOA) system. After an introduction by Ambassador Victor McIntyre of Trinidad and Tobago, the President stressed the commonalities of the people of the Western Hemisphere, highlighting shared principles and institutions. He continued: “Out of the crucible of our common past, the Americas have emerged as more equal and more understanding partners. Our hemisphere has an unlimited potential for economic development and human fulfillment. We have a combined population of more than 600 million people; our continents and our islands boast vast reservoirs of food and raw materials; and the markets of the Americas have already produced the highest standard of living among the advanced as well as the developing countries of the world. The example that we could offer to the world would not only discourage foes; it would project like a beacon of hope to all of the oppressed and impoverished nations of the world. We are the New World, a world of sovereign and independent states that today stand shoulder to shoulder with a common respect for one another and a greater tolerance of one another’s shortcomings.”

In sketching out his vision for the Caribbean Basin development program, the President underscored the strategic importance of the Caribbean and Central American nations, asserting that their current economic position “has provided a fresh opening to the enemies of freedom, national independence, and peaceful development.” Noting that his administration had consulted with “other governments in the region” in devising the initiative, Reagan continued: “And we’ve labored long to develop an economic program that integrates trade, aid, and investment—a program that represents a long-term commitment to the countries of the Caribbean and Central America to make use of the magic of the market-place, the market of the Americas, to earn their own way toward self-sustaining growth.”

Stating that the CBI represented an “integrated program that helps our neighbors help themselves,” the President described the contours of the proposed program, which consisted of six components: securing free trade for Caribbean Basin exports to the United States; tax incentives for Caribbean investment; a $350 million supplemental fiscal year (FY) 1982 aid appropriation directed at the private sector; technical assistance and training; cooperation with Mexico, Canada, [Page 309] and Venezuela in development efforts; and additional measures to aid Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The President, after discussing the economic and social aspects related to development, then spoke of the “dangers” that “threatened” the hemisphere and the necessity for undertaking this effort: “The events of the last several years dramatize two different futures which are possible for the Caribbean area: either the establishment or restoration of moderate, constitutional governments with economic growth and improved living standards, or further expansion of political violence from the extreme left and the extreme right, resulting in the imposition of dictatorships and, inevitably, more economic decline and human suffering.”

Chronicling recent political developments in these nations, the President then discussed the U.S. responsibility in countering these threats: “I believe free and peaceful development of our hemisphere requires us to help governments confronted with aggression from outside their borders to defend themselves. For this reason, I will ask the Congress to provide increased security assistance to help friendly countries hold off those who would destroy their chances for economic and social progress and political democracy. Since 1947 the Rio Treaty has established reciprocal defense responsibilities linked to our common democratic ideals. Meeting these responsibilities is all the more important when an outside power supports terrorism and insurgency to destroy any possibility of freedom and democracy. Let our friends and our adversaries understand that we will do whatever is prudent and necessary to ensure the peace and security of the Caribbean area.”

The President concluded his remarks, stating: “We return to a common vision. Nearly a century ago a great citizen of the Caribbean and the Americas, José Martí, warned that, ‘Mankind is composed of two sorts of men, those who love and create and those who hate and destroy.’ Today more than ever the compassionate, creative peoples of the Americas have an opportunity to stand together, to overcome injustice, hatred, and oppression, and to build a better life for all the Americas.

“I have always believed that this hemisphere was a special place with a special destiny. I believe we are destined to be the beacon of hope for all mankind. With God’s help, we can make it so. We can create a peaceful, free, and prospering hemisphere based on our shared ideals and reaching from pole to pole of what we proudly call the New World.” (Public Papers: Reagan, 1982, Book I, pages 210–215)

In telegram 48847 to all diplomatic posts, February 24, 1906Z, the Department transmitted the text of the President’s remarks. (Department of State, Central Foreign Policy File, Electronic Telegrams, D820101–0734) Drafts of the remarks, including the President’s handwritten editorial revisions, are in the Reagan Library, WHORM: Subject [Page 310] File, Speeches, SP–582 Caribbean Basin Initiative, Organization of American States (OAS), Washington, DC, 02/24/1982, 063626 (1) and 063624. In his personal diary entry for February 24, the President wrote, in regard to the address: “It was extremely well received & remarks from Ambassadors relayed to me afterward were to the effect it was most impressive presentation ever made to the O.A.S.” (Brinkley, ed., The Reagan Diaries, volume I, January 1981–October 1985, page 113)