COUNCIL OF THE ORGANIZATION OF AMERICAN STATES
GT/CDI-2/01 add. 2/
17 July 2001
Working Group to Study the Draft
Inter-American Democratic Charter
COMMENTS AND PROPOSALS BY MEMBER STATES
ON 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
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 delegations 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 Councils 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.
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
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 lawparticularly the
autonomous, effective administration of justice that enables economic actors to engage in
economic and social development activitiesbecome 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 societyminorities.
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
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
theretoand I say complement rather than substitutethe 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
Nonetheless, experience has shown that when the rule of law is weak,
and civil society is also weak, the representative nature of democracywhich has to
do not only with how the government was originally formed but also with how it exercises
its power vis-à-vis the electoratemay 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
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.
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.