Well, I am so pleased to have this chance to come and thank each and every one of you for what you do every single day. I appreciate the ambassador and his service. He told me that he had been here in Guatemala before serving and now is back as the ambassador. And I thank him and his family because I know that in all of your instances, having that family support to do this service is absolutely essential.
And I also believe that this is one of the most important regions of the world for our country. And I appreciate what the ambassador said because it’s not always in the headlines, but it’s in the trend lines. And we have to work hard to improve, broaden, deepen, and strengthen our relationship with our neighbors here in Central America.
So I was pleased to come back for my third visit here in Guatemala City to meet not only with President Colom and officials of the Government of Guatemala, but also presidents, prime ministers, and other representatives of the countries in the region who came for this important meeting.
I am well aware that Guatemala is a country with great potential, but also with one – one that has many challenges. And you are on the front lines of helping to address those challenges. You’re working every single day against the scourge of gang violence and drug trafficking, against the cancer of corruption, because you understand what that does to the strength of a country and to the future of its people.
We have a shared responsibility to work closely with the government and people of Guatemala, and together I am convinced that we can make progress. We have to cooperate not only on the issue of security, which is paramount in all of our minds, but on the other important and supporting issues, like strong democratic institutional growth, social inclusion, economic opportunities for those on the margins of society.
We had a very frank, thorough, and comprehensive conversation today, where we talked about everything from what needed to be done to increase tax rates in countries like this to be able to support investments in people, to better cooperation on security among countries, because borders do not prevent drugs and arms from moving at will. And I was very encouraged by the level of commitment that I heard.
But none of this would be possible without you. I mean, I can come for a day, but you’re here to carry on and to fulfill the promise of this relationship. Whether you’re working with the Guatemalan congress to pass landmark reforms that strengthen the rule of law, or facilitating trade and travel between our countries, you’re building bonds of trust that, in turn, help to strengthen the foundation for our relationship.
I know this work isn’t always easy. This is a difficult security environment, which is one of the reasons why your pay reflects that. And it does put a crimp in your social style, but – it sometimes can feel isolated, I’m sure. But we’re counting on you and we think you’re doing some of the most important work that our government does anywhere.
I’m really grateful to the Foreign Service officers, the Civil Service officers, representatives of all the government agencies that are part of this Embassy community. And I’m also especially grateful to the Guatemalans who work with us, some of whom have been here for many, many years. Secretaries of State come and go, but a lot of the locally employed staff are here for decades. And you’re the ones who really know the continuity that’s required, the history, and the way to get results.
President Obama and I are grateful for what you’re doing and we are getting results. Already, your efforts have helped the Guatemalan Government reduce chronic malnutrition in indigenous communities. You’re supporting an innovative school program to give children the courage they need to resist peer pressure and drugs. And the partnerships you are building with law enforcement, NGOs, and international organizations are helping to combat violent crime and root out corruption. As this government attempts to take on the terrible issue of impunity, we have to be there supporting its efforts. And so I thank you one and all.
I also want to especially appreciate what you do in supporting indigenous communities here in Guatemala. That is a particular concern of mine, and what you are committed to doing in helping people live up to their own God-given potential, no matter where they’re from or what background they come from, is truly part of the American value system.
So on behalf of President Obama and the American people, I am very grateful for your service. We appreciate your talent, your commitment, your hard work. And we know that you have earned one of those wheels-up parties that are provided only to missions that have gone above and beyond the call of duty. When someone like me shows up and imposes extra work on you to manage my visit, you really deserve a little bit of time just to rest and reflect.
I’m so pleased to be back here because, as I said in the beginning, I think that Central America is in our neighborhood, it is a place where so many Americans call home, where so many people come from to our country seeking a better opportunity. And it is an opportunity now for us to invest in the future of Guatemala.
So, Ambassador, on behalf of all of us in Washington, we are grateful and we hope that there will be many more opportunities for me to learn about what you’re doing here and the kind of connections you’re making on behalf of the United States with the people of Guatemala. Thank you all very much, and God bless you. (Applause.)