The United States supports an ambitious
democratic reform agenda for the Americas that will allow
citizens of the region to have a voice in how their lives
are governed, says Roger Noriega, U.S. assistant secretary
of state for Western Hemisphere affairs.
Roger Noriega. (Photo © AP)
In May 3 prepared remarks at the State Department
to the Council of the Americas, Noriega said the United
States supports programs that link citizens to their governments
by decentralizing political power; by ensuring greater civic
participation and better access to the political process;
and by improving transparency, effectiveness and accountability
The U.S. official said that although the
Western Hemisphere has largely cast aside military dictatorships,
it now faces the challenge of making democracy serve the
interests of all of its citizens.
The "consolidation" of democracy
means holding elections that produce a "contest of
ideas and, in turn, a national consensus for addressing
a country's essential problems," Noriega said.
He said this means that governments must
not only be elected democratically, but that they must govern
Yet democracy does not amount to much, said
Noriega, "if it fails to produce prosperity -- that
is to say, equitable, sustained growth."
The United States can help to some degree
in achieving this desired result, said Noriega. He cited
figures showing that in 2004, the United States purchased
$255 billion worth of goods from the region, while the region
received from the United States $20 billion in investment
and $34 billion in remittances [money transfers].
"But despite this flood of resources,
the region's economic growth is uneven and inequitable,"
Unless Latin America and the Caribbean are
able to make more effective use of this income from the
United States to produce sustainable, equitable growth,
"then no amount of U.S. aid to the region is going
to make a substantial difference in reducing poverty,"
In his remarks, Noriega offered a generally
upbeat assessment of the situation in a number of countries
in the region.
But Venezuela, he said, "presents a
different set of issues."
Noriega said the United States and Venezuela
have historically enjoyed good relations, based on shared
democratic values. When Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez
was first elected in 1998, Noriega said, the U.S. government
sought "constructive bilateral ties, and we are still
open to a normal working relationship with his government."
But, Noriega said, "We will not and
must not let any solitary leader's very personal agenda
distract us from pursuing our positive program in the region
through the productive partnerships we have forged with
many willing partners."
Noriega said the United States works with
leaders "from across the political spectrum" in
the Americas "in a respectful and mutually beneficial
way to strengthen our democratic institutions, build stronger
economies, and promote more equitable and just societies.
Our neighbors know that we are good partners in fighting
poverty and defending democracy."
Following is the text of Noriega's prepared
Remarks by Assistant Secretary Roger F.
State Department Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs,
to the Council of the Americas
May 3, 2005
Our policy in the Western Hemisphere rests
upon a shared regional commitment to consolidate and extend
the impressive democratic and economic gains of the past
two decades. We recognize that we have come far, but we
have a lot of ground to cover in order to consolidate our
gains and secure our progress.
In the Americas, President Bush's freedom
agenda means working with our neighbors to build an Inter-American
community where all governments are not only democratic,
but their people are truly free; where all economies are
not only open, but all citizens have equal access to economic
Just last week, Secretary Rice was in Santiago,
Chile, where that country hosted over 130 new and consolidated
democratic governments, NGOs and others, for the third ministerial
meeting of the Community of Democracies.
The dialogue at that international gathering
reminded us of the accomplishments in this hemisphere in
terms of advancing human freedom and dignity. But it also
reminded us of much unfinished business.
For instances, although we have -- by and
large -- cast aside military dictatorships, we now face
the very real challenge of making democracy serve the interests
of all of our citizens.
For us the consolidation of democracy does
not mean holding the first election -- it is about holding
elections that produce a contest of ideas and, in turn,
a national consensus for addressing a country's essential
Here in the Americas, we are not merely
concerned that governments be elected democratically but
that they govern democratically.
Our democracies face profound economic challenges,
as well. While the statistics tell us that economies in
the region grew at a healthy rate last year, most of these
same economies are not growing fast enough to generate enough
jobs to keep pace with population growth, let alone address
The opportunities generated by growth are
not being shared equitably: income distribution in the hemisphere
continues to be among the most skewed in the world.
And, as we struggle to address these profound
political and economic challenges, the Americas is losing
ground to the rest of the developing world when it comes
to competing for global capital.
Many of the region's citizens are restless
for results, and anti-globalization charlatans and the false
prophets of populism are trying -- and, in some cases, succeeding
-- to undermine responsible policies and discredit responsible
To respond to this set of impressive challenges,
our policies and assistance are designed to help those countries
that are making the difficult decisions to help themselves
-- and that understand that sustainable economic growth
and political stability are only possible if governments
consciously extend political power and economic opportunity
to everyone, especially the very poor.
Our goal is to help our partners to retool
their economies to take advantage of the trade opportunities
we are extending, and to reinforce their political institutions
to encourage responsible policies and effective government.
That transformation is the surest path toward strengthening
democracy and creating prosperity.
What is the challenge to democracy in the
Americas? The region continues to be battered by too many
political crises. That turmoil is a direct result of the
weakness of political institutions that fail to adequately
extend political power, ensure transparency, guarantee basic
rights, or resolve disputes. If these unhealthy conditions
persist, eventually only politicians will have any use for
Our answer is to support ambitious second-generation
democratic reform agendas so that our neighbors can build
systems capable of preventing and solving their own problems.
Fundamentally, success entails working to provide all citizens
with a voice in how their lives are governed.
In practical terms, we support programs
that link citizens to their governments by decentralizing
political power, by ensuring greater civic participation
and better access to the political process, and by improving
transparency, effectiveness, and accountability in government.
We are providing democracy-building support
in the hemisphere, ranging from legal code reform and judicial
training to anti-corruption projects and conflict resolution.
But our assistance, in and of itself, cannot
guarantee the deepening of the hemisphere's democratic roots.
The hemisphere's democratic agenda can only
be advanced by the daily toil of governments and common
citizens, by actions and behavior that support the rule
of law and build a culture of lawfulness.
Of course, democracy does not amount to
much if it fails to produce prosperity - that is to say,
equitable, sustained growth.
Here, too, the United States can help --
up to a point. The mutually beneficial links between the
U.S. economy and those of Latin America and the Caribbean
are plentiful. Last year, we purchased $255 billion -- with
a "b" -- worth of goods from the region. There
are another $20 billion in annual U.S. investment flows,
and some $34 billion in remittances from the United States
to the region. But despite this flood of resources, the
region's economic growth is uneven and inequitable.
Clearly, unless Latin America and the Caribbean
are able to make more effective use of this $300 billion
in income to produce sustainable, equitable growth, then
no amount of U.S. aid to the region is going to make a substantial
difference in reducing poverty.
Indeed, the key to sustained economic growth
is a reform agenda that further opens economies, encourages
investment, and expands free trade.
Poverty will disappear only when individuals
are granted the opportunity to unleash their creative genius
and profit from their labor. We are urging our partners,
therefore, to remove impediments to business creation, improve
access to capital, strengthen property rights, and revise
their labor laws.
In conjunction with this effort, we will
continue to pursue an ambitious trade agenda to prime the
pump of prosperity. We have implemented with great success
the Chilean Free Trade Agreement. We have signed a Central
America and Dominican Republic agreement, which we are working
with Congress to ratify soon. And we are negotiating similar
pacts with Panama and our Andean partners.
We remain committed to a comprehensive Free
Trade Agreement of the Americas. These agreements will do
much more than simply open markets. They will encourage
political modernization, as well as economic reform. They
will transform societies by allowing countries to market
their comparative advantages and domestic resources, and
to attract investment from abroad.
They will encourage good governance, because
few will invest in places where corruption is rampant and
the rule of law is weak. Trade accords also advance sound
workers' rights and better environmental standards.
Investing in People
Achieving freedom and opportunity for all
also requires that countries invest in people -- education,
health care, and other basic social services -- to empower
citizens to claim their fair share of economic opportunity,
improve their lives, and build better futures for their
This is a crucial component of President
Bush's Millennium Challenge Account, which rewards countries
making the tough decisions to help themselves.
To be eligible for MCA funds -- amounting
to $2.5 billion for fiscal years 2004 and 2005 -- nations
must govern justly, uphold the rule of law, fight corruption,
open their markets, remove barriers to entrepreneurship,
and invest in their people.
Three countries from our own hemisphere
were among the first 16 to be declared eligible for MCA
assistance: Bolivia, Honduras, and Nicaragua.
Two additional countries have been selected
as "MCA threshold countries" for FY05 -- Guyana
and Paraguay. Threshold countries that maintain their core
commitments will be eligible to receive assistance aimed
at helping them achieve full MCA status.
By placing a premium on good governance
and effective social investment, the MCA approach helps
countries attract investment, compete for trade opportunities,
and maximize the benefits of economic assistance funds.
Our neighbors recognize that our security
and theirs are inseparable and that we all share responsibility
to protect ourselves from the illegal traffic of arms, people,
This shared responsibility means working
with Mexico and Canada to strengthen our respective borders;
working with the Caribbean through our Third Border Initiative;
and assisting President Uribe in his war against Colombian
It means all of us working together to thwart
organized crime and its trafficking of persons, arms and
illegal drugs. It means cutting the financial lifelines
of terrorist organizations. It means dealing with those
multinational threats that no country can successfully confront
on its own.
We believe multilateral organizations in
the region can and do deliver concrete results because they
are made up of governments that share common values and
interests: democracy, freedom, and respect for human dignity.
The work of the Bolivia Donor Support Group,
the OAS demobilization mission in Colombia, the Secretary
General's fact-finding mission to Ecuador, and the regional
contributions to MINUSTAH in Haiti are but four recent examples
of how multilateral engagement is helping to speed the progress
During this very busy year, there are three
key multilateral events taking place in the hemisphere.
I already mentioned the recent Community
of Democracies meeting in Chile last week.
In June, for the first time in 30 years,
the United States will host the OAS General Assembly in
Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
That gathering will advance our agenda by
focusing upon the need to deliver the benefits of democracy
to ordinary citizens. We will also work with our OAS partners
to develop new mechanisms to respond systematically to threats
Indeed, yesterday was an important day for
the Organization of American States, and the democracies
of the hemisphere. We saw, with the election of Jose Miguel
Insulza as the new Secretary General, the culmination of
a spirited, principled democratic process.
The election of Minister Insulza reflects
the hemisphere's accord on three principles: First, we wanted
to achieve unity -- democratic unity -- and not giving space
to any facile claims that the hemisphere is divided along
regional or ideological lines;
Second, we sought to advance our shared
values of democracy and human rights in all of the Americas,
including Cuba; and
Third, we were to determined to strengthen
democratic institutions, so that governments that are elected
democratically govern democratically, and those that fail
to do so are held accountable.
Finally, in November 2005, Argentina will
host the Fourth Summit of the Americas, where the focus
will be on creating sustainable jobs through policies that
promote more competitive economies, attract investment,
and foster private sector-led growth -- largely through
small- and medium-enterprises.
A Look Around the Hemisphere
As the Secretary's recent trip made clear,
we value our productive partnerships to address regional
challenges. Our policy is not to "divide and conquer,"
but rather "unite and cooperate."
Secretary Rice's visit to Brazil highlighted
our many similarities, as we are both large multi-ethnic
democracies. We welcome Brazil's role as a regional leader
and look to it as a valuable partner in the effort to promote
security, stability and prosperity both in this hemisphere
and beyond. We are enjoying the most positive and open relations
with Brazil in recent memory, due in large part to President
Bush's personal relationship with President Lula.
We applaud Chile's success as a result of
sound economic policies, stable democracy and functioning,
responsive democratic institutions, as well as Chile's leadership
in hosting the successful Community of Democracies ministerial.
We appreciate El Salvador's willingness
to support the growth of democracy in Iraq and look forward
to an even closer economic partnership under CAFTA-DR.
U.S. assistance has made a crucial difference
in Colombia's fight against terrorism and narco-trafficking.
That nation is being transformed in dramatic fashion. In
terms of eradication of illicit crops, interdiction, extraditions,
and the reduction of violence, our policy is a solid success
We are committed to sustaining bipartisan
support in Congress for our program to help President Uribe
win the peace by defeating the narco-terrorists and demobilizing
illegal groups, while also urging continued progress on
We seek to strengthen our already strong
ties to NAFTA partners Canada and Mexico. In March, President
Bush met with Prime Minister Martin and President Fox to
announce the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North
America (the SPP). The SPP will add to North America's security
and promote economic growth and competitiveness.
We support the Mesa administration in Bolivia
and hope that its people and institutions can reach a consensus
on how to exploit the country's vast natural gas resources
in a way that best supports the common good; on how to include
the aspirations of indigenous people within the country's
democratic framework; and, on how to address regional calls
for autonomy. We can and will support a search for solutions
to that country's ills, but Bolivians themselves must have
the will to find them.
We support the presidency of Enrique Bolaños
in Nicaragua and are pleased that his government has made
significant efforts to combat corruption -- to the point
that Nicaragua and the Millennium Challenge Corporation
may conclude a compact in the near future.
Challenges remain, especially the dramatic
politicization of that country's judiciary and the damage
done to both the presidency and the National Assembly by
the tug of war between two political dinosaurs who regard
politics as a license to steal.
In the Caribbean, we are seeing growing
cooperation among the countries of that sub-region. Forward-looking
initiatives such as the Caribbean Single Market Economy
will enhance the region's competitiveness and ensure a more
prosperous future for its citizens. We applaud the nations
of the Caribbean working together in the areas of security,
immigration, disaster preparedness and trade.
In Cuba, the President's message to democratic
reformers facing repression, prison, or exile is clear:
"When you stand for your liberty, we will stand with
you." We are implementing the recommendations of the
President's Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba designed
to hasten a democratic transition, and the regime is being
pressured as never before.
We continue to seek a rapid, democratic
transition and will continue assisting Cuba's democratic
opposition and civil society as it seeks to organize itself
for the coming transition. Moreover, we are organizing ourselves
now to provide quick and decisive assistance to a democratic
transition government when the inevitable change comes.
We support Haiti's slow ascent from decades
of exploitation by a series of predatory governments. This
is a daunting - and sometimes demoralizing - task, but we
will stand by the Haitian people as they fashion the truly
democratic government they so deserve by helping to instill
security now and elections later this year.
We are encouraged that voter registration
has begun for elections later this year, with U.N. and OAS
support. Moreover, a broad-based dialogue is underway and
former soldiers are entering a new demobilization program.
Against all odds, we are making progress, but much remains
to be done.
As it has recovered from its economic crisis,
Argentina has remained an active and valued member of the
regional and world community. While much remains to be done
to ensure that Argentina's current level of economic growth
is sustainable, we applaud the Argentine people's commitment
to democracy even as that nation faced its greatest crisis
In Ecuador, we have been vocal in our support
for constitutional democracy and its institutions and we
are working with our OAS partners to help Ecuador restore
the full exercise of democracy and to address the root causes
of the current crisis.
In Peru, we were enormously encouraged that,
during last New Year's Eve small police revolt, citizens
from all political stripes stood firm and rejected any place
for violence in the country's political discourse. That
is the kind of political maturity that will be needed as
they tackle poverty, hold elections in 2006, and fight off
the encroachment of narco-traffickers in the nation's economy
and political institutions.
Venezuela presents a different set of issues.
We have no quarrel with the Venezuelan people. Indeed, the
United States and Venezuela have historically enjoyed good
relations, based on shared democratic values. When President
Chavez was first elected in 1998, the U.S. government sought
constructive bilateral ties, and we are still open to a
normal working relationship with his government.
But we will not and must not let any solitary
leader's very personal agenda distract us from pursuing
our positive program in the region through the productive
partnerships we have forged with many willing partners.
Throughout the region, the United States
works with leaders from across the political spectrum in
a respectful and mutually beneficial way to strengthen our
democratic institutions, build stronger economies, and promote
more equitable and just societies. Our neighbors know that
we are good partners in fighting poverty and defending democracy.
We do more than respect each other's sovereignty:
we work together to defend it by promoting democratic ideals
and by fighting terrorism, drugs and corruption.
History has proven how nations can best
expand prosperity and better lives for their citizens. Open
economies and political systems, outward looking trade regimes,
and respect for human rights are the indisputable requirements
for a 21st century nation-state.
To their immense credit, most of the leaders
of this region are committed to this path. They have found
in the Bush Administration a creative and reliable partner.
This administration believes strongly that
hemispheric progress requires continued American engagement
in trade, in security, and in support for democracy.
This should be a time of hope for the Americas.
Our objectives and those of our regional friends and allies
are the same: a safer, more prosperous neighborhood -- where
dictators, traffickers, and terrorists cannot thrive. We
know it is within our reach, as we continue work together
in a spirit of mutual respect and partnership.