Venezuelan President Carlos Andre Perez praised President Carter's human rights campaign yesterday for giving the United States a leadership role that transcends economic or military importance to speak of "the great values of mankind."
At a White House welcoming ceremony, Perez paid Carter the accolade of placing him in the country of the two American presidents most revered in Latin American: Franklin D. Roosevelt and John F. Kenndy.
"Many years have passed since nations, small and weak nations, have heard a voice rise from a great nation to tell the world that over the human values is the human being and the defense of his dignity and human rights," Perez said.
Carter, in turn, lauded Perez as "an active and effective spokesman for Third World nations, one who can truly represent the highest aspirations of all the nations of Latin America."
He concluded his welcome to Perez, the first South American head of state to visit Washington since Carter's inaugural, with a touch of Spanish: "Senior Presidente, esta es su casa." ("Mr. President, this is your house.")
This fulsome exchange of tributes set a tone of cordiality that diplomatic sources on both sides expect to be the dominant note in the two days of talks between Carter and Perez.
After a period of slight strain, relations between the two countries have warmed considerably in recent months. Much of the change results from the admiration expressed by Perez, one of Latin America's dwindling number of democratically elected leaders, for Carter's position on human rights and his efforts to negotiate a new Panama Canal treaty.
Venezuela is also a major supplier of oil to the United States, shipping more than a million barrels a day to the U.S. market; and energy questions are certain to play a major part in the discussions between the two leaders.
White House deputy press secretary Rex L. Granum said the two presidents discussed "ways to promote respect for human rights," a "common concern in limiting the spread of nuclear explosive capabilities," the dialogue between industrial and developing nations and "mutual cooperation" in assisting development of the Caribbean area.