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Last Updated:10/25/01
Op-ed by Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Marc Grossman, October 25, 2001
The Century of the Americas: The Impact of September 11"
By Marc Grossman
Under Secretary for Political Affairs
U.S. Department of State

The outpouring of sympathy from the people and leaders of the Western Hemisphere for those murdered on September 11 by Al Qaeda terrorists was instant, overwhelming and very much appreciated. We extend our sympathy to those twenty-nine countries in the hemisphere that lost citizens in the Al Qaeda attack. As President Bush has stressed, the attack was not against the United States, it was against all who value freedom. This was an assault by international terrorists on our common human values, an assault on innocent people trying to earn an honest living, an assault on everyone's aspirations to live in peace.

We have received offers of assistance for the struggle against international terrorism from Canada in the North to Argentina in the South. Virtually every country in the region has expanded efforts to investigate links between local individuals and organizations and international terrorist groups through unprecedented law enforcement and intelligence cooperation. The Bahamas have aggressively scrutinized suspicious financial accounts. Antigua & Barbuda propose to change their banking laws. Canada and Mexico stepped up cooperation with U.S. law enforcement and immigration agencies to buttress security along common borders. In Lima, the Foreign Ministers of our OAS partners unanimously approved a resolution calling on members to act against terrorism. At Brazil's initiative, members of the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance -- known as the Rio treaty -- declared that an attack on one is an attack against all and agreed to provide mutual assistance against international terrorism.

Democracy is the heart of the values that drive the struggle against terrorism. Thirty-four out of 35 countries in the hemisphere are democratic. Unfortunately, Fidel Castro remains on the wrong side of history. Elsewhere, the picture is brighter. In addition to Peru's transformational presidential and legislative polls in March, seven other countries are conducting elections this year. Nicaragua soon will become the first to do so since the signing of the Democratic Charter. The U.S. and other countries are providing assistance to the OAS, Nicaragua's Supreme Electoral Council, and to local and international NGOs to facilitate free and fair elections in Nicaragua. While we will respect the results of a fair election, we have serious concerns about the Sandinistas' history of violating basic human rights, and ties to supporters of terrorism.

We must also help democracies under attack. Colombians have long suffered from the terrorism of insurgencies and paramilitary groups financed by the drug trade. We have criminalized financial support to Colombian terrorist organizations and denied U.S. visas to their members. We will continue to work with Colombians to combat the illegal drug trade, to strengthen the Colombian judiciary, and to promote economic development throughout the region.

Our goal is a hemisphere united by shared values and shared prosperity. As President Bush has stated, this is a region that "trades in freedom." Open markets and sustained growth support long-term development and strong, democratic societies. President Bush's Administration remains committed to achieving a Free Trade Area of the Americas. The FTAA will be the largest free trading area in the world, encompassing 800 million people. This has the potential to triple trade flows among the countries of the Americas within a decade.

The unprecedented hemispheric cooperation that has emerged since September 11 is contributing to a genuine sense of community among the governments and peoples of our region. We are very conscious of the challenges we face -- and they are serious -- at the beginning of the "Century of the Americas," but also of the opportunity that is before us.

As of October 26, 2001, this document was also available online at http://usinfo.state.gov/admin/011/lef413.htm

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