It is an honor for me to participate in this forum and address you, in the name of the people and government of Nicaragua, in remembrance of Alfred Landon, governor and distinguished businessman of the state of Kansas.
I would like to thank Kansas State University for their invitation and for allowing the president of a small Central American country to come speak to the geographical heart of North America.
I accepted this gracious invitation because I know I am addressing American citizens who represent great and sacred traditional values of this sister nation. Since you come from an agricultural state and I from an agricultural nation, there is no doubt that among us farmers there is a greater understanding.
The history of Central America, and of Nicaragua in particular, has presented itself as a constant attempt to settle our political and social inequalities by means of the use of force.
Although it may seem a paradox, dictatorship was the great precursor of my people's freedom.
We tried a dictatorship of the right and a dictatorship of the left, and learned that if we create monsters, they can crush men from the left as well as from the right.
With the goal of changing this unfortunate state of history, I accepted the challenge of leading my country towards a state of democracy and national reconciliation in its first free elections, the path most appropriate to lead us to a political, moral, and economic restructuring of Nicaragua.
During the first two years of my government, I have been establishing solid ground to bring about the correct conditions for not only a physical disarmament, but also a spiritual one.
Without a doubt, we have progressed!
As the administration's first course of action, we ended the war that had drained the Nicaraguan family, and we abolished the required military service.
In the first year of government we were able to disarm 24,000 men of the Nicaraguan resistance, and later reduced the armed forces from 80,000 to only 20,000 men. Today the same Nicaraguans who bloodied our ground in a fratricidal war are incorporated in the daily civil life, and in the productive process of our nation.
For the first time in the history of Nicaragua, the exercise of democratic virtues so often dreamt about by our people is a reality.
There is a complete and total dependence of the powers of State, and their relations are respectful of each other. There is full freedom of expression and of thought.
Political organization and the organization by labor unions are both respected, and no one suffers persecution or is sentenced to prison for their ideas.
The union and the confusion that existed among the State, the political parties, and the military under the previous regime have also ceased to exist. Nobody is under any obligation to follow party orders.
We are building an independent state, with the principles of respect for human rights and building peace.
When I assumed power on April 25, 1990, Nicaragua was also under the pressing need of reactivating our economy.
We established an economic program that allowed us to eradicate the highest hyperinflation ever suffered by any country, an annual figure of 33,000 percent. By the end of my second year of government, we reached an annual inflation of slightly less than zero.
The Program for Structural Adjustment has permitted the privatization of foreign trade, the opening of private banks, and the privatization of 46 percent of the 351 state-owned businesses that we inherited from the previous government.
We have drastically reduced the number of state-employed workers, due to the Occupational Retraining Program, and have ended the subsidies on telephone, electrical energy, and water fees that had contributed to a general distortion in our economy.
Last December 13, thanks to the support of the United States and the support of other friendly nations, we were able to cancel the $360 million debt we had with the World Bank and the Interamerican Development Bank, making us subject to credit by the international financial institutions.
The two principal problems that affected the Nicaraguan people before I assumed power were the war and hyperinflation. These two obstacles have now fallen like two large trees that obscured what was growing underneath.
Dear Friends, our path is a difficult uphill climb. Nicaragua presents itself to the world as three countries in one. Like Lebanon, we inherited the civil war we have managed to lay to rest. Like Poland, we were passed down a planned, costly, and inefficient economy; and, like Haiti, we are a nation consumed by poverty.
We need patience, time, and much effort to develop our tasks and our programs. We are conscious of the fact that, in order to build a solid democracy and a worthy society, we must not only work hard, but also be able to count on the solid support of the international community and particularly of the United States, a nation close in proximity to ours, and a nation considered by many Nicaraguans to be a sister nation to ours.
Before ending my presentation, I would like to make a reference to the educational process of the Nicaraguan nation.
One of the initial tasks of my government was to provide our educational system with a social, peaceable, and humane content, ending the marxist indoctrination that for 10 years had penetrated the minds and hearts of the Nicaraguan children.
We are now planting the seeds of democracy, liberty, and respect for human rights in our youth, because as we strengthen our education, we will strengthen the foundations of democracy and contribute to the economic and social development of Nicaragua.
In this sense, more than eight million new educational texts support the process of depolitization of our society.
However, our educational institutions at all levels are in need of more assistance in order to attend to the demands of our youth, since the serious economic crisis we inherited from the Sandinismo did away with the state's resources originally destined for the educational system.
I would like to take advantage of this very important moment, to call for the support of the educational institutions of the United States, the leader of democracy, to aid us in accomplishing the appropriate training and development of our human resources.
Be assured that the Nicaraguans fight every day to leave ignorance behind and to confront, in national unity, the unavoidable challenges of the future, in a society anxious to secure its democracy, its liberty, and its peace.