Democratically elected heads of governments
in the Americas who do not govern democratically must be
held accountable to the Organization of American States
(OAS), says U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
Speaking June 5 at the opening of the three-day
General Assembly of the OAS in Fort Lauderdale, Florida,
Rice called for the leaders of the Americas to act on the
pledge mandated in the Inter-American Democratic Charter
to strengthen democracy where it is weak -- as in such countries
as Bolivia, Ecuador and Haiti, where democratic institutions
have "shallow, brittle roots."
The General Assembly, which is a gathering
of the region's foreign ministers, is being hosted by the
United States for the first time since 1974.
Rice said the Democratic Charter, adopted
by the OAS in September 2001, must become the "core"
of a "principled, effective multilateralism for the
Americas. Together, we must insist that leaders who are
elected democratically have a responsibility to govern democratically."
Rice said the democratic members of the
OAS now share a "strong consensus" that political
and economic liberty is the "only road to lasting success."
The great divide in the Americas today,
she said, is not between governments of the left and of
the right on the political spectrum. Rather, the divide
is "between those governments that are elected and
govern democratically -- and those that do not," the
Expanding on the charter's obligations,
Rice said that the Western Hemisphere needs to support democracy
wherever it is threatened.
"Whenever a free society is in retreat,"
said Rice, "a fear society is on the offensive. And
the weapon of choice for every authoritarian regime is the
organized cruelty of the police state."
The secretary also said the charter must
be used to secure democracy with the rule of law. On that
score, Rice said the United States is working with El Salvador
to create in that Central American nation an International
Law Enforcement Academy, which will train police officers
from the entire Western Hemisphere to better protect and
serve their fellow citizens.
Rice said the academy would also be expanded
In a reference to communist-run Cuba, Rice
said the Democratic Charter should be used to advance democracy
"where it is absent." The secretary said 34 nations
in the region have earned their "rightful" place
in the OAS.
But "there remains one open seat at
the table -- a seat that will one day be filled by the representatives
of a free and democratic Cuba," she said.
Because the United States denied some of
its citizens the right to vote in her lifetime, Rice said,
she understands "deeply" the impatience felt by
many people in the hemisphere about the slow pace of democratic
But this impatience is also a "powerful
source of hope," she said, adding that it was "impatient
patriots who led the democratic transformation of Latin
America and the Caribbean."
It was also "impatient patriots,"
Rice said, who created more economic growth in 2004 in the
hemisphere than at any other time in the past 30 years.
"And it will be these same impatient
patriots who ensure that every citizen in the Americas one
day shares in the full blessings of democracy," she
Rice concluded that impatience "can
be a magnificent virtue," and "we the members
of the OAS must cultivate it ourselves. We must replace
excessive talk with focused action. We must build on old
achievements with new goals. And we must never accept that
democracy is merely an ideal to be admired -- instead of
a purpose to be realized."
Following is the transcript of Secretary
U.S. Department of State
Office of the Spokesman
(Fort Lauderdale, Florida)
June 5, 2005
REMARKS BY SECRETARY OF STATE CONDOLEEZZA
TO THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE
ORGANIZATION OF AMERICAN STATES
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
June 5, 2005
SECRETARY RICE: Thank you very much. I would
like to thank Governor Bush and Mrs. Bush for the hospitality
that has been shown to us here in Florida. Thank you very
much to Ft. Lauderdale and to all of the officials who have
put in so much work to make this a warm welcome and to make
this Assembly a success.
I would also like to welcome Secretary General
Insulza. President Bush and I are eager to work closely
with you over the next years to make this organization even
stronger and to make it a very effective instrument for
the promotion of democracy and prosperity in our hemisphere.
Distinguished colleagues, ministers, delegates,
ladies and gentlemen: It is a wonderful and tremendous honor
to welcome you here to Florida for this year's General Assembly
of the Organization of American States. Florida is one of
the Americas most vibrant states, because it reflects the
diversity of every state in the Americas.
Latin American and Caribbean communities
are flourishing here in Florida -- and throughout the United
States -- because they are free to work hard and to dream
The last time the OAS met in the United
States, some 31 years ago, it looked a lot different than
it does today. Of the 23 member states, 10 were military
dictatorships. Democracy was supposedly a condition for
membership -- but it was one that was all too easily neglected.
The General Assembly of 1974 was long on
talk and short on action. For seven days, leaders of unelected
governments waxed hypocritically about the "ideal"
of democracy. Between the lines, however, the message of
the dictators was clear: As long as freedom was a threat
to tyranny, democracy would remain an "ideal"
-- not a reality.
Well, my fellow colleagues, today in the
Americas, democracy is a reality.
Over the past three decades, the people
of Latin America and the Caribbean have transformed our
hemisphere through their desire to live in liberty. They
have replaced dictatorship with democracy, conflict with
commerce, and widespread social misery with increased social
justice. The free nations of the Americas have made it clear
that dictators will never again set the agenda for our hemisphere.
The democratic members of the OAS now share
a strong consensus that political and economic liberty is
the only road to lasting success. The divide in the Americas
today is not between governments from the Left or the Right.
It is between those governments that are elected and govern
democratically -- and those that do not.
This is not to diminish or underestimate
the hurdles of development that remain in our path -- problems
like poverty and inequality and weak democratic institutions.
Our challenge today is one of inclusion -- the inclusion
of all democratic citizens in the solace of safe communities,
in the fruits of economic growth, and in the promise of
Delivering the benefits of democracy is
a dramatic challenge indeed. And the OAS has an essential
role to play -- a role that is defined by the Inter-American
Democratic Charter. In this document, we all affirmed our
intention to defend our people's right to democracy. Now
we must act on this pledge.
This organization is growing and it is prospering.
I would like to thank the Assistant Secretary General Einaudi
for his long service to this organization and for his service
particularly in the last seven months to shepherd this organization.
But it has its best years, of course, ahead of it. The Democratic
Charter must become the core of a principled, effective
multilateralism for the Americas. Together, we must insist
that leaders who are elected democratically have a responsibility
to govern democratically. And as Secretary General Insulza
has rightly declared, governments that fail to meet this
crucial standard must be accountable to the OAS.
We must act on our Charter to strengthen
democracy where it is weak. In places like Bolivia, and
Ecuador, and Haiti, the institutions of democracy have perhaps
brittle roots. To help democracies in our hemisphere, in
places like this and in others, to find a path to lasting
success, this organization must embrace also the legitimate
contributions of civil society.
We must act on our Charter to support democracy
where it is threatened. Wherever a free society is in retreat,
a fear society is on the offensive. And the weapon of choice
for every authoritarian regime is the organized cruelty
of the police state.
We must act on our Charter to secure democracy
with the rule of law. For our part, the United States is
working with El Salvador to create in its country an International
Law Enforcement Academy. This institute will train police
officers from the entire hemisphere to better protect and
serve their fellow citizens. We welcome the opportunity
to work with Peru to expand the reach of that Academy into
We must also act on our Charter to advance
democracy where it is absent. Thirty-four nations have earned
their rightful place in this great democratic organization.
But there remains one open seat at the table -- a seat that
will one day be filled by the representatives of a free
and democratic Cuba. (Applause.)
Here in Florida, we can glimpse the future
potential of a free Cuba. As recently as 1999, the 2 million
Cubans in the United States earned a combined income of
$14 billion. Now compare that with Castro's Cuba, a country
of 11 million citizens and a GDP only slightly larger than
$1 billion. The lesson is clear: When governments champion
equality of opportunity, all people can prosper in freedom.
Of course, our hemisphere will not deliver
the benefits of democracy overnight. Indeed, it was only
in my own lifetime that the United States guaranteed the
right to vote for all its citizens. So I personally understand
the deep impatience with the pace of democratic reform that
many people in this hemisphere express.
This sense of impatience is also a powerful
engine for hope. After all, it was impatient patriots who
led the democratic transformation of Latin America and the
Caribbean. It was impatient patriots who created more economic
growth last year in our hemisphere than at any other time
in the past three decades. And it will be these same impatient
patriots who ensure that every citizen of the Americas one
day shares in the full blessings of democracy.
Ladies and Gentlemen, impatience can be
a magnificent virtue. And we, the members of the OAS, must
ourselves be impatient. We must replace excessive talk with
focused action. We must build on old achievements with new
goals. And we must never, never accept that democracy is
merely an ideal to be admired instead of a purpose to be
We in the OAS cannot rest, we must not rest,
we cannot tire, we must not tire, and we can never declare
victory until freedom and prosperity and security enrich
the lives of all of our people. This is the great calling
of our democratic nations. And it is the legacy that we
must fulfill and leave to posterity.
Thank you very much. (Applause.)