GT/CDI-2/01 add. 2/
17 July 2001
Original: Spanish

Working Group to Study the Draft
Inter-American Democratic Charter


(Presented to the Permanent Council at its meeting of July 11, 2001)


Address by the Ambassador of Peru, Manuel Rodríguez Cuadros, at the Regular
Meeting of the Permanent Council of the OAS, held on July 11, 2001, on the subject:
Inter-American Democratic Charter

This is the first time that I have taken the floor since you became Chair of the Council. I would therefore like to express my delegation’s satisfaction at having you at the helm of our debates. Mr. Chair, among your distinctive qualities are experience, professionalism, even-handedness, and a circumspect approach, all of which will ensure success in your functions in the interests of the Council’s work and consideration of the important and sensitive subjects that we will have to resolve during your presidency. For these reasons, Mr. Ambassador, allow me to extend once again warm and cordial congratulations on the part of the Peruvian delegation.


Mr. Chair:


Pursuant to the mandate handed down by the heads of state and the ministers of foreign affairs, we are now beginning formal negotiations of the final version of the text of the Inter-American Democratic Charter. This text is to be approved in Lima on September 10, during the special session of the General Assembly, at the ministerial level, convened by the Permanent Council for this purpose in accordance with the Resolution of San José.


The Democratic Charter initiative, originally presented by the Peruvian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Javier Pérez de Cuellar, has received such support that it is no longer the proposal of just one country or group of countries. As I pointed out on another occasion, it now belongs to all our governments. This is true, not only because all member countries of the OAS have expressed their commitment to the democratic project symbolized by the charter, but because, thanks to the systematic and creative efforts of this Council, the text itself is the product of a broad series of initiatives and proposals from all our countries. Moreover, with the implementation of national procedures for consultation with civil society and political and institutional actors, the Charter is becoming an aspiration of the peoples of the Americas, their ideals, and their struggles for freedom and democracy.


I am convinced that this broad social support for the Inter-American Charter will be consolidated by the work that we begin today, and by the inputs that go into the final draft, prior to its approval in Lima by the ministers of foreign affairs. In this context, Peru was very pleased that the Heads of State and Government of CARICOM accepted the Charter by consensus during the XXII meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government held from July 3 to6 of this year in Nassau. We believe that the contributions and commitment of CARICOM countries, with a democratic tradition distinguished by stability and the strong institutional framework of the rule of law, will be very important in arriving at a comprehensive, balanced final text that reflects international democratic standards.


As many delegations have pointed out, the Inter-American Democratic Charter initiative, without risk of overstatement, has a historical significance that will reverberate in at least three vital areas of the daily lives of the hundreds of millions of people comprising the pluralistic and diverse reality of the Americas: at the individual level, with regard to the exercise of fundamental rights and freedoms; in the social and political arena, in the legitimate functioning of democracy as a form of government and in the institutional framework that embodies the rule of law; and, lastly, in the area of development and the struggle against poverty.


The Democratic Charter is intended to help democratic life in the region acquire the stability necessary so that individuals and peoples may more fully exercise their rights and freedoms. It is also intended to see that the permanence and legitimate functioning of institutions under the rule of law–particularly the autonomous, effective administration of justice that enables economic actors to engage in economic and social development activities–become operational factors in the generation and improved distribution of wealth, and to ensure that democracy goes beyond legal formulas and transfers powers, fostering decentralization, strengthened local authority, and policies that include the marginalized sectors of society–minorities.


Not that the Democratic Charter is going to change political or economic processes. That is clearly not the case. But the Democratic Charter and its mechanisms to promote, preserve, and defend democracy can indeed contribute, from both the external and internal standpoint, to the increased stability and legitimacy of democracy in the region. And democratic stability, and the legitimacy this implies, foster social development and unity.


The principal task of the Inter-American Democratic Charter is to broaden the parameters of the political and legal stability of democracy and the rule of law. It likewise seeks to create conditions to enhance politics and the political actors inherent to democratic life that have been weakened historically by factors such as corruption, a weak participatory relationship with voters and citizens, and the temptation toward the authoritarian or exclusive exercise of political power.


In this sense, our debate in the Permanent Council, in and of itself, is already a valuable response to the problems, strengths, and weaknesses of democratic life in our societies. Fundamental issues have emerged in the context of this debate, such as the correlation between the quality of institutions and democratic life and economic and social development, particularly, the collective responsibility to fight poverty and extreme poverty. Or the crucial issue of the legitimacy and effectiveness of the democratic order and its relationship to public participation and representation through parliamentary action. Because this point is so critical, I would like to reflect briefly on it.


Democracy, from the standpoint of political theory, public law, and even political philosophy, is either representative or it is not. The very essence of democracy rests on popular sovereignty as the sole source of the legitimate exercise of power. This sovereignty, recognized as a principle and an imperative in international law (the principle of the self-determination of peoples), is exercised in a democracy through periodic, free, and fair elections in which people freely elect their representatives. Therefore, representativity and the concept of democracy are tautologies.


Throughout history, there have been other ways to form or structure parliaments, such as one-party parliaments or union or corporative representation. But precisely because of the lack of representation based on periodic, free, and fair elections, these are actually political alternatives to democracy.


Democracy is representative in that people express their sovereignty by electing their government representatives. This does not preclude, as a complement thereto–and I say complement rather than substitute–the use of direct forms of democracy, as occurs in contemporary Latin American public law. Examples of this are the use of the plebiscite or referendum to make certain major decisions in areas such as constitutional reform.


Nonetheless, experience has shown that when the rule of law is weak, and civil society is also weak, the representative nature of democracy–which has to do not only with how the government was originally formed but also with how it exercises its power vis-ŕ-vis the electorate–may be diluted in the exercise of authority. This occurs when democratically elected leaders become disconnected, not only from the electorate but also from the institutional framework of the rule of law, including other branches of government. They then govern by placing their own will above the law and the rules of the democratic game. Current political theory defines such cases as "delegatory democracy" rather than representative democracy. Ultimately, these authoritarian regimes damage or break down the very democratic order that elected them in the first place.


The representative nature of democracy encompasses, then, an interactive relationship been the elected and the electorate that systematically promotes individual and collective voter participation in decision-making processes through civil society organizations. The legitimacy and quality of democracy largely is a function of the level of participation in the relationship between the representative government and citizens.


This relationship between representative democracy and the participatory nature of its exercise should not be confused with alternatives to periodic, free, and fair elections as an expression of the popular will in a democratic regime. These are two separate matters.


The current text of the Democratic Charter attempts to resolve this issue constructively by endorsing the representative nature of democracy and upholds its participatory nature as a factor of quality and legitimacy.


Mr. Chair:


The work we are beginning today, in the opinion of the Government of Peru, must enable us to improve upon the basic text approved by the foreign ministers in San José. It seems to my government that it is necessary to introduce into the text the concept of solidarity as an inherent value in democratic life so that justice may build upon freedom. It seems to us too that Article 3 concerning the essential elements of democracy should be improved on, at least by an express reference to the separation of powers, to the autonomy of the administration of justice, and to freedom of expression and the press, as an essential element of democratic life. My delegation believes that it is likewise necessary to improve on the paragraphs on mechanisms for preserving and defending democracy. The language should be standardized regarding the alleged circumstances that will call for collective action, and should specify, although not exhaustively, some basic ideas so that the expression "alteration of the democratic order" is made more concrete. In this regard, we could mention the unconstitutional dissolution of the congress or parliament, failure to recognize a free and fair election, the holding of elections in the presence of clear signs of fraud or inequitable conditions that can alter the outcome, the elimination of the balance of powers, or the existence of a situation of massive human rights violations and suppression or restriction of individual liberties.

The section on OAS election observation also needs improvement.


In the same vein, we believe it essential to strengthen the articles on the link between democracy and development and between democracy and the fight against poverty and all forms of exclusion and discrimination. The proposals from Antigua and Barbuda on the interrelationship between democracy, education, environment, and labor rights will also enrich the text. Peru views them favorably.


Mr. Chair:


When Peru presented the Inter-American Democratic Charter initiative, it did so with the conviction that it was merely interpreting a state of mind and an aspiration: the aspiration to an inter-American democratic system that is qualitatively different from that which existed during the Cold War, marked by interference in internal affairs and the acceptance and legitimization of de facto regimes that rose up against institutional democracy and were responsible for massive, systematic human rights violations; and the state of mind embodied in our peoples’ determination to consolidate democracy and the rule of law in order to undertake the urgent tasks of development and the need to fight poverty and extreme poverty. In this way, too, we will be building a new inter-American system, rooted in democratic values, freedom, social justice, and mutual respect.