Fort Lauderdale, Florida -- The nations
of the Western Hemisphere must fully comply with the Inter-American
Democratic Charter, adopted in September 2001 to defend and
promote democracy in the region, say the leaders of the Organization
of American States (OAS).
President Bush speaks at the OASGA.
- The United States shares a commitment with
its Western Hemisphere neighbors to build a
hemisphere “that lives in liberty, trades in
freedom, and grows in prosperity," says President
Bush. Speaking June 6 to the 35th General Assembly
of the Organization of American States (OAS)
meeting in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, the president
hailed the region's democratic gains of recent
decades, but warned that such progress "must
not be taken for granted." [Complete
text] (Photo © AP/WWP)
June 5 at the opening session of the 35th OAS General Assembly,
the inter-American body's recently elected secretary-general,
Jose Miguel Insulza, called the charter the "only instrument
that embodies the right of peoples to democracy and the
obligation of governments to promote and defend it."
The charter, he said, is "much more than a mere declaration
of intentions; it expresses a desire and resolve to defend
solidarity, justice, and understanding."
Speaking in Spanish, Insulza, who is from
Chile, said the OAS member states must agree on the "necessary
mechanisms for full compliance with their obligations under
the Charter." In the face of the "persistent dangers
of backsliding" in defending democracy, the countries
of the Americas must work to reinforce democratic principles,
The OAS leader, who was elected to his position
May 2 and took office May 26, said it is difficult to discuss
"full democracy in a region with high rates of poverty
and inequality." For that reason, he said the OAS must
strengthen its social agenda and "spearhead a serious
effort to promote the cooperation needed" to help meet
the U.N. Millennium Development goal of cutting global poverty
in half by 2015.
Addressing that goal, he said, requires
a strategy that focuses on helping the countries with the
least developed and smallest economies. But Insulza said
promoting economic development must be combined with protection
of the environment.
The OAS assistant secretary-general, Luigi
Einaudi, told the General Assembly that a "regional
jurisprudence of democracy" was codified by the 2001
Inter-American Democratic Charter.
Einaudi, a former U.S. diplomat, said "many
ambiguities" remain in the charter. But overall, he
said, the "fiercely sovereign states that make up the
OAS have agreed that democracy should be the architecture
of regional cooperation."
Unfortunately, said Einaudi, the OAS member
states have not yet completed the "design" for
"When a member state stumbles, cries
of alarm are still more common than a supporting and steadying
hand," Einaudi said. "There is no system of solidarity,
only the potential punishment of ostracism."
He said a "system of solidarity"
should be developed to assist OAS members when, or even
before, they "stumble -- not be intervening, but by
strengthening the rule of law or by helping to improve public
Einaudi offered a generally positive outlook
for the Western Hemisphere, saying that with the important
continuing exception of Cuba and a "few recent stumbles"
elsewhere in the region, the Americas have become democratic.
The last time the United States hosted the
OAS General Assembly, in Atlanta in 1974, South America
was run largely by dictators, while most of the Caribbean
and Canada had yet to become OAS members, Einaudi said.
He added that in 1974, Cuba had already completed 15 years
of communist rule under Fidel Castro.
But the days of "colonialism and military
dictatorship" in the region are long past, said Einaudi,
adding that he was encouraged by the pace of regional integration
in the Western Hemisphere.
"For all of us in this room,"
Einaudi told the OAS gathering, "the opportunity to
build in this hemisphere a strategic foundation based on
democracy ... has never been better."
Washington File Staff Writer