On behalf of the American people, I convey regards to our Central American neighbors in Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua, who today are each celebrating the 200th anniversary of their independence, initially as a united Central America.
This special celebration inspires recognition of the many ways in which the people of the region have come together over numerous generations to strive for liberty and opportunity. Just as the United States has been shaped and enriched by visitors and immigrants from Central America, we have seen the concepts of democracy and human rights, which are bedrock values to the people of the United States, solidify in the aspirations of our Central American neighbors. And, indeed, over the last few generations, the people of the region have increasingly enjoyed the rights inherent to democracy, including free and fair elections, universal suffrage, and freedoms of expression and religion.
Today, we find ourselves working shoulder-to-shoulder to confront challenges old and new. A terrible global pandemic is demanding all of our best efforts to help our citizens. Meanwhile, historic inequities in the region mean we must not just rebuild, but build back better, generating more equitable economic opportunities. Most importantly, threats to democratic institutions and human rights in a number of Central American countries compel us to prioritize fortifying the essential principles of democracy: transparency, rule of law, equality, and respect for human rights. The United States is determined to partner with the people of Central America to achieve a more democratic, more secure, more prosperous, and more inclusive future.
Stronger, more inclusive democratic governance can also strengthen regional cooperation. In June, I took my first trip to the Western Hemisphere as Secretary of State to attend a regional meeting of Central American leaders in Costa Rica. That event confirmed for me that Central America as a region can be stronger if we all work together. Greater cooperation among the countries, as well as with close partners like Mexico, will also help governments better deliver for their citizens.
While many Central America citizens are secure in the protections of democracy and human rights, anti-democratic developments pose a growing threat to Central America’s future. Most notably, Nicaragua’s government, led by President Daniel Ortega and Vice President Rosario Murillo, has taken the country down the grim path of authoritarianism through a subservient judiciary, the takeover of political parties, and the incarceration of journalists, opposition leaders, and others who defend free and fair elections. Unfortunately, alarming attacks against judicial independence, civil society and the press, and the separation of powers elsewhere in Central America increase risks that the people and economies of those nations will face a more authoritarian future as well. The United States stands with all those speaking truth to power, defending human rights, and strengthening democratic institutions against corruption and authoritarian tendencies across the region.
As you celebrate the bicentennial of your nations, I want to say to the people of Central America: the United States is with you. Together we can advance the next chapter in Central America’s progress towards a secure, prosperous, democratic region.