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Jimmy Carter’s Call for Democratic Stability in the Region

Former U.S. President asks governments in Latin America and the Caribbean to make the democratic charter “more than empty pieces of paper”

Posted: January 28, 2005

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter called for the stability of democracy and democratic values in Latin America and the Caribbean, praising the courage, perseverance and creativity of people throughout the region. But democratic values are facing big challenges, he warned, the greatest being the growing gap between rich and poor, “both within a country and between the rich North and the poor South.”

“I am concerned that the lofty ideas espoused in the democratic charter are not all being honored. I am concerned that poverty and inequality continue unabated,” Carter added. “I am concerned that we in this room, representing governments and, in some cases, privileged societies, are not demonstrating political will to shore up our fragile democracies, protect and defend our human rights system, and tackle the problems of desperation and destitution.”

The Nobel laureate spoke at the Organization of American States in Washington, DC. He illustrated the magnitude of the challenges with the examples of Guyana, Haiti and Nicaragua. Guyana, he said, “remains wracked with racial tension and political stalemate. Haiti, where we monitored the first free election in its history and where the world contributed many tens of millions of dollars in aid, has been unable to escape the tragedy of violence and extreme poverty.”

“In Nicaragua, I was privileged to witness the statesmanship of Daniel Ortega transferring power to Violeta Chamorro,” he added, “yet today that country continues enmeshed in political deadlock, and poverty that is second only to Haiti.”

He also warned on dissatisfaction with elected governments in the region. “Many still believe in the promise and the principles of democracy, but they do not believe their governments have delivered the promised improvements of living standards, freedom from corruption, and equal access to justice.”

Carter cautioned there’s the risk that dissatisfaction with the performance of elected governments might turn into disillusionment with democracy itself. “Governments and the privileged in each country must make the decision and show the will to include all citizens in the benefits of society.”

The former head of state also asked international lending agencies to be “more flexible and responsive to political pressures and social constraints when deciding conditionality.” He urged multilateral organizations to better involve citizens and governments in developing consensus for poverty-reduction strategies, and to help the hemisphere carry out the mandates of the periodic summits of the Americas.

“I call on all governments of the hemisphere to make the democratic charter more than empty pieces of paper,” he finalized. “I call on them to make it a living document.”

Source: IDB (01/26/2005)


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