I must thank the leadership of the Inter-American Economic Council, Ambassador Christopher Thomas and Barry Featherman, for this award that I receive on behalf of my fellow entrepreneurs in Latin America, for whom the wealth creation is a contribution to modernization and an act of faith in our people, their creativity and their capacity to sacrifice themselves in the quest for freedom and well-being.

Ambassador Thomas is an old friend and one of the pioneering leaders in hemispheric integration. He planted the pillars for trade and investment flows to bring together the English speaking Caribbean and Latin America. His leadership was determinant in creating the Association of Caribbean States. His days as representative of Trinidad in Venezuela were marked by a spirit of partnership and closeness that planted the seeds for cross country investments. Chris, for the business community you are a permanent source of inspiration. Thank you.

Barry Featherman is the first US citizen to bear a Latin American regional passport. Indeed his concern for the region, his understanding of our challenges and his commitment to our progress have been a magnet for the business community to participate in the Inter American Economic Council and support regional integration through trade and investment. Thank you Barry.

I am also privileged and indeed honored by the presence here tonight of the former President of Costa Rica, Miguel Angel Rodriguez. His country and Venezuela share the passion for freedom that is the differentiating attribute of democratic societies.

When Patty and I received the news of this award, we felt blessed, as the Council's decision was based upon the progress we have made in creating, developing and expanding the Fundacion Cisneros' programs in education.

Ever since my father Diego Cisneros passed the leadership of the Cisneros Group to me in 1976, Patty became my most valued strategic partner in the search for means to disseminate knowledge in Venezuela and Latin America. Together we began to accomplish what in the 1970's was just a dream: to utilize entertainment technologies to bridge the knowledge divide. We developed Acude to fight illiteracy in Venezuela, which was a community based learning system using record players and long play records to empower families with the skills to read and write. Acude unveiled the secrets of reading to 330,000 families in Venezuela In the 1990's, digital technologies afforded us the opportunity to go beyond reading and writing in order to transfer knowledge to primary school teachers. DIRECTV Latin America, the first digital television system to enter Latin America, carried since its inception in 1996 a 24Hs non commercial education channel known as Clase. Today Clase is the preferred media based teaching tool for 37,000 schools in Latin America.

AME (Teacher Training in Education Skills) followed Clase. AME is a distance learning training program that familiarizes primary school teachers with new technologies so that they become their education tools, their research support and their cost effective suppliers of teaching tools. AME serves seven countries in Latin America, empowering 2,300 teachers every year. AME's content includes reading and writing skills and mathematics.

These small contributions are the product of a firm belief in the development properties of knowledge and the capacity of our people to respond to its call to become the builders of just, free, and entrepreneurial societies

This belief is the core of the work of the Inter-American Economic Council, which has concentrated its resources in creating access to development opportunities for the countries in the Caribbean and those in the Andean Region that are less developed. Empowering these nations is good economics as it raises their standard of living, thereby motivating the growth of the middle classes. Also, it is good politics as thriving middle classes are the pillars of freedom and prosperity.

The Hemispheric Business Community will certainly take its share in this revolutionary project, as we rely on you to build political and policy making consensus for development. For this visionary work, thank you and let's keep our partnership working in search of the goal to establish a unified and prosperous hemispheric community.

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