GT/CDI-2/01 add. 9

Original: Spanish
13 August 2001

Working Group to study the
Draft Inter-American Democratic Charter



Permanent Mission of Venezuela
to the Organization of American States 

OEA - 315

The Permanent Mission of Venezuela presents its compliments to the Organization of American States, Permanent Council Secretariat, and encloses the document entitled: Venezuela's Proposals regarding the Draft Inter-American Democratic Charter.


The Permanent Mission of Venezuela requests that the Secretariat publish and distribute this document, together with its enclosures, in the official languages of the OAS. To that end, it encloses a diskette containing the aforementioned document.


The Permanent Mission of Venezuela to the Organization of American States avails itself of this opportunity to extend to the Organization of American States, Permanent Council Secretariat, renewed assurances of its high consideration.

Washington, D.C., August 13, 2001


1. Venezuela's proposals regarding the Draft Inter-American Democratic Charter.


II. Speech by the Foreign Minister of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Luis Alfonso Dávila García, to the thirty-first regular session of the General Assembly of the OAS in San José, June 3, 2001.

III. Speech by the Permanent Representative of Venezuela to the OAS, Ambassador Jorge Valero, to the Permanent Council, May 21, 2001.

IV. Speech by the Permanent Representative of Venezuela to the OAS, Ambassador Jorge Valero, to the Permanent Council, May 29, 2001.

Permanent Mission of Venezuela to the Organization of American States




The Government of Venezuela, through the Ministry of Foreign Relations, organized a panel discussion in order to obtain the opinions of the most diverse sectors of Venezuelan society regarding the Inter-American Democratic Charter. This document therefore reflects the collective will of a people, the Venezuelan people, who now play a central role as witnesses to a novel and peaceful revolutionary process taking place in the democratic sphere, which draws its inspiration from the most advanced and progressive principles in the world, enshrined in their new Constitution.

Specifically, Venezuela would like to contribute to the topics mentioned below:

I. Democracy in the Hemisphere

II. Democracy and Human Rights

III. Democracy and Participation

IV. Democracy, the Environment, and Sustainable Development

V. Democracy and Women's Rights

VI. Democracy and Poverty Reduction Efforts

VII. Democratic Clause

VIII. Democratic Charter: Decision or Amending Protocol?

IX. Other Amendments or Additions




Democracy was best defined by a great man of the Americas, the Liberator Simón Bolívar, in his Angostura Speech in 1819, when he said: "the most perfect system of Government is the one that produces the greatest happiness possible, the greatest social security, and the greatest amount of political stability."


As Winston Churchill stated, democracy is not a perfect system of government, but it is the one that comes closest to perfection. Democracy is undoubtedly a system that makes it possible to seek, on an ongoing basis, improvement within a given social dynamic, and is capable of obtaining responses, and meeting, in a creative fashion, the basic needs of the people.


Democracy, as a shared value and societal project, has been established with renewed vigor in the Hemisphere.


During the Cold War, the existence or non-existence of the democratic system was quite often accorded less importance than the security policy interests of the major powers.


During these times, a number of leaders cited their sovereignty when they were accused of being undemocratic or undermining human rights. In that climate of bipolar confrontation, which was not free of political reductionism, it was difficult to defend the democratic ideology, since the form of government adopted was considered to be an internal matter for each country. However, at the moment, the defense of democracy and defeat of its adversaries are the objectives of the inter-American system.


Since 1948, the year in which the OAS was established, we have had a long history of governance being put to the test: we have seen undesirable forms of authoritarianism and redemptive democracies, curtailed freedoms, and libertarian conquests. The times in which we live call for reflection; for examination of our achievements and deficiencies.


During the 1980s, one by one, military dictatorships and authoritarian regimes were replaced in Latin America with militant political and social movements that managed to establish multi-party systems that accorded special importance to respect for fundamental freedoms and human rights. Democracy was established, amidst great hopes, almost everywhere in the Hemisphere. However, democracy, as a political project, can fail.


During this period of the Hemisphere, the triumph of democracy is not an absolute certainty. The failure of economic models, corruption, excessively partisan politics, discontent on the part of the people in the face of terrible inequalities and injustices, social exclusion, and the absence of citizen participation can disrupt the stability of our governments. Interesting political democratic experiments, derived from the electoral process, can lose their legitimacy because of political and economic failings and ethical lapses.


Elections provided some governments with a democratic façade. However, in a significant number of cases, their main goal was to give legitimacy to the interests of the political and economic elite. Elections, yes. Alternatives, yes. Multi-party systems, yes. However, they are insufficient. Democracy must go beyond elections and establish mechanisms to ensure that the participation of all social and political actors, with no exclusions whatsoever, is a daily reality. Also, democracy must have a profound social dimension.


Democratic progress in the Americas has been unstoppable and has been growing over the past two decades.


Oppressive military dictatorships and odious forms of authoritarianism have been replaced by governments that have been elected by the people of the Hemisphere.


Times are good. Democracy is thriving in a world where, with the end of the Cold War, great possibilities have been created to forge ahead with new and expanded opportunities for human freedom and dignity. However, these are also dramatic times, since we are witnessing new political, ethnic, territorial, cultural, and religious conflicts, which are undermining the foundation of peace and international coexistence. We are also living in troubled times, since poverty is a scourge that afflicts millions of human beings.


Democracy, as an ideology, has created better conditions and inspired people to strive for peace, equality, and freedom. Democracy, as an ideal, has been a source of hope and redemption. The struggle to defend and improve it and the possibility of exercising it fully is a fascinating challenge for persons who are seeking to transform it into a reality.


Venezuela now enjoys a democratic system, not only because of the provisions of its Constitution, but, above all, because those who hold the reins of power are implementing democratic ideas and are using those ideas as a way of promoting understanding and fostering human coexistence.


Confronting social debt, combating poverty, and conserving natural and cultural heritage are challenges that must be met by the democratic governments of the Hemisphere. This is the commitment of the Government of Venezuela. President Hugo Chávez is at the forefront of an inspiring revolutionary process, which is democratic because of its libertarian nature, peaceful because of the methods used, and popular because of the hope for justice that it inspires.


Much suffering has been endured and sacrifices made to achieve the democracy that exists in Venezuela. Its Constitution, which is the product of broad and participatory discussions, approved by means of a referendum, enshrines all the most advanced and humanistic principles found in contemporary legislation.


Venezuela is experiencing a real democratic process. In essence, this process is anti-authoritarian. President Hugo Chávez serves as a good example of anti-authoritarianism. Since the government of Isaías Medin Angarita (1941-1945), the Venezuelan nation has not had a more democratic government in its recent history.


Article 3 of the Draft Democratic Charter, which is currently being discussed by the OAS, spells out the essential elements of democracy:


    • Holding free and fair elections
    • Access to power by constitutional means
    • A system of many parties and political groupings
    • Respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms


These ideas are being fully implemented in Venezuela. Unprecedented and full respect is being shown for fundamental freedoms. Political opposition can be expressed, without restriction, by the mass media.


The government is allowing the people to express themselves freely. The people of Venezuela have endured many frustrations in recent decades. Protests are being handled through dialogue, and, it should be stressed, in an anti-authoritarian manner. The motto of the government is to seek always to resolve social conflicts through peaceful means.


For the past two years, there have been no political prisoners. No newspaper businesses have been closed. Political opponents have been free to voice their criticisms. President Hugo Chávez and the Government have, as is completely and clearly evident, the greatest respect for freedom of expression, criticism, and the rights of political opponents.






The fundamental principles and values of democracy should be examined in light of the new realities of our times: the Cold War has ended, anachronistic totalitarianism has been relegated to the dump heap of history, and oppressive regimes are disappearing. Fortunately, we are experiencing a resurgence and expansion of democratic freedoms. Respect for human rights has been enshrined in the legal systems of the Hemisphere. The inter-American system, which is studying the matter, is accepted as being a necessity by all the governments that belong to it. These are the main characteristics of the new era.


Although it is indisputable that progress has been made on the democratic front, a great deal of aggression is still taking place against the most vulnerable people and groups of society. This shows that human rights may be violated even by elected governments.


Democracy and human rights are two elements that are mutually strengthening and interdependent. Full observance of these rights pose the greatest challenge to a democratic government.


Fundamental freedoms, such as freedom of expression and the exercise thereof, constitute one area of these rights. Another is the protection that should be provided to citizens against any type of abuse. People should not be arbitrarily arrested, nor should they be subjected to torture or mistreatment that undermines their dignity. A third category of rights, the most important in the region, which are often violated, relates to meeting the vital needs that guarantee all social groups a fair and dignified standard of living.


The universal and indivisible guarantee of human rights, which addresses, inter alia, the right to life and social justice, is an essential goal and intrinsic component of a state governed by the rule of law, and is interwoven into the aspirations of the peoples of the Hemisphere.


Venezuela would like to expand the application of human rights in order to ensure that all citizens, without regard to social position, ethnicity, nationality, or creed, can feel protected and confident that their dignity will be respect. For this reason, its government is firmly committed to guaranteeing the investigation of any violation of those rights, to sanctioning the perpetrators, and to ensuring that victims receive fair and just compensation.


The new concepts that have arisen in recent years in the area of international law have been incorporated into the Venezuelan Constitution, in order to bring it in line with the need for social justice and the requirements of the international treaties and conventions ratified by Venezuela. They have been enshrined in the Constitution and are to be applied immediately and directly by the courts and other public entities.


Although the topic of human rights is the most important of the topics being discussed in the Hemisphere, all current leaders have not been sensitized in this regard.


Human rights and the exercise thereof form the basis of any political system that promotes consensus, a multi-party system, justice, and tolerance. They provide the catalyst for rebuilding the fabric of states, societies, and their respective judicial and political systems.


A host of obstacles stand in the way of consolidating a culture of peace and thus a culture of human rights, synonymous with a democratic culture, that is, a context in which these rights are validated and can thrive. Side by side with the strengthening of these democratic experiences, with the ardent quest for freedom and rebirth of a moral and global awareness of the dignity of human beings, the public machinery during this era, in both national and international spheres, is still severely deficient, and is having an adverse effect on the security needed for the exercise of these rights.


Without human rights, there can be no freedom. Without human rights, there can be no democracy. Without human rights, democracy is devoid of meaning as a way of life and the most complete expression of social mores. Without human rights, there is a greater possibility of destructive forms of dissent and conduct that is not motivated by good conscience. Pope John Paul II said: "everything that protects human rights, everything that promotes dignity through comprehensive development is conducive to peace."


The legacy that we were given through the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the reaffirmation of its principles in the 1966 international covenants, the ratification in Vienna of the universal and interdependent nature of all recognized rights, the OAS Charter, and the 1969 American Convention on Human Rights (Pact of San José) provide us with an exact measure of the human order, which can be improved upon and adapted to the needs of the future. However, we are trying to ensure that human rights are more than a series of noble prerogatives, which are often not rooted in reality, inasmuch as these rights must be linked to democratic practices. This places an unmitigated obligation on all members of the inter-American society.


For this reason, the Democratic Charter must serve as a core document that is central to the zealous observance of human rights and the relaunching of democracy in the Hemisphere.


The American Convention on Human Rights, approved by the Inter-American Conference on Human Rights, which met in San José, Costa Rica in 1969, provides for the duty of States Parties to adopt the constitutional and legislative provisions for the exercise of these rights.


The previous 1961 Constitution of Venezuela enshrined the fundamental guarantees of persons; however, these guarantees were presented as a list of plans and failed to establish, in a precise and clear-cut manner, the responsibility that would be faced by persons who, in the discharge of their public duties, violated or failed to respect or observe these fundamental guarantees. That Constitution made no provisions for responsibility on the part of the State.


Article 2 of the Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, however, approved by means of a referendum on December 15, 1999 and proclaimed by the National Assembly on December 20 of that year, establishes the preeminence of human rights. All the constitutional provisions revolve around the preeminence of these rights. Article 3 then states:


"The essential goal of the State is the defense and development of human beings and respect for their dignity, the democratic exercise of the will of people, the building of a just and peace-loving society, the promotion of prosperity and the well-being of the people, and the guarantee of fulfillment of the principles, rights, and duties recognized and enshrined in this Constitution. Education and work are essential ways of achieving these objectives."

Article 6 of the Constitution declares that the government will always be democratic, participatory, elected, decentralized, will provide for alternatives, will be responsible, and will adopt a multi-party system and revocable mandates, including that of the President of the Republic.


The current Constitution of Venezuela enshrines the maximum guarantees for individuals without any discrimination whatsoever. It specifically states that each person has the right, pursuant to the provisions of the human rights treaties, agreements, conventions ratified by Venezuela, to file petitions or complaints with the international organs created for this purpose, in order to seek protection for their human rights. It elevates these legal instruments to the constitutional level, which take priority over domestic law, since they contain provisions related to the enjoyment and full exercise of these rights that are more favorable than those established in the Constitution and laws of the Republic. Also, immediate application of these provisions by the courts and other public entities is mandatory.


The Constitution provides for the responsibility of the State, in the event of human rights violations, to impose mandatory sanctioning when these rights are violated by public officials, and does not allow them to use the excuse that they were acting on the orders of their superiors. It also stipulates that offenses that violate those rights cannot be statute-barred. It establishes the principle of the sacrosanct nature of human rights and its guarantees. The enunciation of these rights, contained in the Constitution and international agreements, should not be construed as a negation of other rights, which, given their inherent nature, are not expressly mentioned.


Venezuela has adopted democracy as its political system, and human rights constitute, in a broad, clear, and decisive manner, the essential component of its democratic system.


The proposal of a preambular paragraph and of more detailed articles in the Democratic Charter on Human Rights formulated by Venezuela is based on the fact that the promotion and defense of these rights are supreme political objectives to which the highest priority should be assigned.


In that regard, it is proposed that the following paragraph be added to the preamble of the Democratic Charter:


"Reaffirming that the promotion and protection of human rights is a basic prerequisite for the existence of a democratic society."


In the chapter entitled "Democracy and Human Rights," the following is proposed:


Article 7 (new drafting)


"Democracy as a representative and participatory political system is a prerequisite for the full and effective enjoyment by persons and societies of human rights, social justice, and freedoms that are essential for the development of the identity and the progress of peoples."

Article 8 (additions)

The exercise of democracy must fully ensure the enjoyment and exercise by all persons of their fundamental freedoms and human rights as those embodied in the American Declaration on the Rights and Duties of Man, the American Convention on Human Rights, the Protocol of San Salvador on economic, social, and cultural rights, and all other inter-American human rights documents.

Article 9 (new drafting)

All men and women are entitled to present claims or petitions before the inter-American system for the promotion and protection of human rights, in accordance with its procedures, in order to protect their universally accepted basic rights, qualified as human rights.






Two major institutions conducted studies in May 2000 on democracy and politics in Latin America.


The International Institute of Strategic Studies in London, states in its report that: "With some noteworthy exceptions, democracy in most Latin American countries has not met expectations. Instead, it has been associated with corruption, crime, and violence."


In its Economic and Social Progress Report, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) analyzes the apathy of citizens with respect to politics. A number of experts, such as O'Donnel, assert that Latin America is moving towards a strain of delegative democracy in which citizens elect leaders but fail to exercise political control over them. They do not really feel that the leaders speak on their behalf or represent them.


The same report indicates that there is general support in Latin America for the concept of democracy, but that there is much less support for the practice of democracy in concrete terms.


One of the most significant problems underscored in the IDB Report is the low level of political involvement of citizens in many countries of the Hemisphere. For this reason, it is considered imperative that reforms in the Region focus on political participation.


Democracy is facing serious threats which, as indicated in the Declaration of Quebec City, approved by the heads of state of the Hemisphere, assumes several forms.


To be effective, democracy must be based on the representation, participation, and inclusion of all sectors, and political and economic power must not be placed in the hands of a small elite, in a manner that is often as excessive as it is perverse.


Venezuela's Constitution consolidates and strengthens the effectiveness of parties, but also assigns great importance to the mechanisms for citizen participation, inasmuch as it derives its legitimacy from popular sovereignty. Intermediation structures are strengthened without eliminating sovereign control.



Participatory Democracy, as the Government of Venezuela has explained, is not a concept that is at odds with Representative Democracy, or an alternative thereto. It is important to bear this in mind in light of Cold War confrontation, which has already been relegated to the annals of history, when considering representative democracy and popular democracy. Instead, participatory democracy presupposes and co-exists with representative democracy, inasmuch as representative democracy is none other than the exercise of power by the people through freely elected representatives. The democratic choice of those representatives is an essential form of participation.


Participatory processes also strengthen the protection of human rights, since they offer the best guarantee that the true interests and aspirations of the people can be fully expressed.


Participation therefore reinforces the struggle for human rights and the exercise thereof, thereby giving democracy its true meaning.


It is not enough for democracy to be representative. The concept enshrines the free choice by the electorate of their representatives. Democracy must be participatory, that is, citizens must, in practice, be involved in decision-making through civil organizations connected with municipalities, they must vote in referendums, and must take part in other forms of consultation provided for in the Constitutions of the different states. They must also enjoy such social benefits as public services, work opportunities, social security systems, and access to primary goods, at all levels of education and training, through distributive participation.


The participatory aspect imparts to democracy its equality and social justice components. This provides true justification for the system chosen by the OAS, since it is compatible with dignity and respect for and by persons from both an individual and collective standpoint.



Representation and participation are inherent aspects of democracy, at the very heart of which lie human rights.


The free election of the persons who hold the reins of power is not a sufficient condition for democracy. A system of government in which the people who are governed do not respond to their electors cannot be termed democratic.


The inclusion of the concept of participatory democracy in the Democratic Charter that is currently being considered by the OAS should not be a topic of discussion. This is implicit in the clear mandate of the General Assembly of this organization, contained in Resolution AG/RES. 1684 (XXIX-O/99), adopted at the twenty-ninth session held in Guatemala.


The concept of participatory democracy is already enshrined in the basic resolutions and agreements adopted by many countries of the Hemisphere. At the Tenth Ministerial Meeting of the Rio Group and European Union, held in Santiago, Chile, in March 2001, the 17 countries that are a part of that forum reaffirmed "the commitment of their governments to representative and participatory democracy, a pluralistic political system, and full participation of the civil society."


The same idea was expressed at the Sixth Ibero-American Summit of Heads of State and Government, held November 10-11, 1996, in the cities of Santiago and Viña del Mar, Chile, when mention was made of "governance with the aim of achieving efficient and participatory democracy."


In the "Days of Analysis and Reflection on Participatory Democracy," organized by the OAS, at the request of Venezuela, the current Secretary General of the Organization, Dr. César Gaviria, delivered a wonderful inaugural speech on April 10, 2000. In it, he stated:


"The key to legitimacy is participation. To that end, efforts must be made to ensure that new opportunities are always provided for the participation of citizens, so that decisions can be perceived as sources of fair compromise in which everyone has an equal opportunity to participate and to be heard. I am not referring merely to democracy, but rather to participatory democracy or democracy in which the people participate. This is not a matter of semantics, redundancy, or buzzwords. We are facing a new concept of democracy. Just as Montesquieu was a revolutionary in his era, the driving forces behind participatory democracy have challenged traditional institutions, not to destroy them, but to use them as the pillars of a new political order that is more legitimate, and more respectful of autonomy, the rights and freedom of each person, less unequal and more just, and open to the peaceful coexistence of all groups that comprise a community.


The foregoing indicates that participatory democracy is not a concept that is defended and promoted exclusively by Venezuela, or by Colombia, or by Guyana, whose Permanent Representative, Ambassador Odeen Ishmael, stated, on June 19, 2001, in a theoretical speech that: "While representative democracy through free and fair elections is laudable, such a democracy must not remain static. Remember, this is a concept that was existing at the time of the adoption of the OAS Charter. It is essential for it to be advanced to become all-inclusive– not only representative, but also consultative and participatory. With participatory democracy, we are empowering the people at the grassroots level. This is a democracy which guarantees, in addition to civil and political rights, social and cultural rights."


The great President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, made the profoundly philosophical statement that democracy is "government of the people, by the people, and for the people."


In the interest of truth, it can be stated that participatory democracy is a common heritage; a new and renewed vision of democracy that serves as naturalization documents in the hemispheric community.


In light of the foregoing analysis, Venezuela is proposing a new article on "REPRESENTATIVE AND PARTICIPATORY DEMOCRACY," which would state:


"Representative democracy is strengthened and deepened when citizen participation is permanent and ongoing. Participatory democracy, on the other hand, is an indissoluble component of democratic life and contributes to the enhancement of representative democracy."




The States of the Hemisphere have a responsibility to protect and preserve the ecological areas in which their inhabitants live. Full awareness of the harmonious relations that must exist between human beings and nature leads to a democratic concept that is based on very important ethical principles. Democracy as a system is strengthened with the implementation of institutional structures that ensure the defense of the environmental rights of peoples. Guaranteeing protection of the environment and basic resources such as the air, earth, and land is an essential obligation of a democratic state, and leads to greater solidarity and cooperation in confronting the adverse challenges created by nature.


The climatic changes caused by imprudent action by man with respect to nature have led to irreparable human tragedies, terrible natural disasters, as well as devastating effects on the ecosystems. Democratic governments have an obligation to address jointly the problems caused by possible natural phenomena.


Based on these ideas, the inclusion of the following text in the Democratic Charter is suggested:





Recognizing that efforts to promote democracy and political stability in the Hemisphere will not be sufficient if a safe ecological environment that permits the integral development of the human being is not present.

NEW ARTICLE (It is suggested that this article be placed before Article 7, Chapter II)

Democracy is effectively exercised when there is cohesive coordination between environmental rights, peace, and development. The countries of the Hemisphere therefore are obliged to adopt and promote policies and strategies that will bring about sustainable development and safeguard the environment.



Democracy requires recognition of unity in diversity, that is, the diversity of the persons who comprise a population: men and women, children and adolescents, adults, persons with disabilities, peoples of African descent, and indigenous ethnicities. The Venezuelan Constitution recognizes this cultural, ethnic, religious, and linguistic diversity in its Preamble and devotes an entire article to this subject.


In Venezuela, efforts are being made to democratize the language from a gender standpoint. The Bolivarian Constitution has been drafted using egalitarian language and women have been placed on the same footing as men. Women have been given the same roles as men. The Constitution guarantees the equality of rights and duties within the family, and value has been placed on responsible parenting by both men and women.


One of the elements that makes democracy a viable political, economic, and social system is the establishment of mechanisms that result in equal opportunities. This involves the implementation of policies aimed at the democratization of capital, and, consequently, at achieving a more equitable distribution of income.


In light of the foregoing, Venezuela proposes inclusion of the following article:





"Inter-American democracy will be based on the right of persons to equality; it should therefore guarantee access to conditions of equity between men and women, creating in each country the material and symbolic conditions needed to ensure that all men and women are genuine citizens.

There shall be equitble sharing of power which will lead to the creation of a new order in which women and men enjoy equal rights and opportunities."





Democracy must fulfill a social function based on justice for all.


If human rights are the very essence of democracy, then scourges such as hunger, indigence, marginalization, and unemployment, among others, negate the democratic system. Taken together, these social ills result in poverty, which, in today's world, is reaching extreme levels to point where a distinction is being made between mere poverty and abject poverty. The number of persons dying of hunger is alarming, not to mention those who are malnourished.


The basic right of men and women is the right to eat, and beyond that, to feed themselves. This forms the basis of the right to life. Democracy is faced with the urgent moral obligation of ensuring that no one dies of hunger. It should make it possible for every individual to hold a paid job, which allows him to meet his basic needs of feeding and housing himself and his family.

Poverty is not a random phenomenon. This was stated in a Papal Encyclical a few years ago. It is not random because it is the product of inequalities and social injustices, not only at the national but also at the international levels. The truth is that the gulf between poor and rich countries has widened as a result of the heavy burden of foreign debt, the new name for injustice. It is one of the most perverse forms of denial of human rights and is a way of exercising control over nations which, because they have to service that undoubtedly punitive debt, cannot apply solutions to the problem of poverty. This is euphemistically called the social cost of external debt.


No situation conspires against democracy more than profound social differences. Poverty, exclusion, racism, and social and economic injustices are the true enemies of democracy. In order to establish a stable democracy, an equitable economic and social level of development must be attained. This includes the ethical challenge of raising the standard of living of the majority of people and reducing injustice. Hunger, lack of access to education, health, housing, and unemployment and marginalization of the majority from the decision-making process are, among other things, wrenching situations that negate the reality of democracy.


It can be categorically stated that democracy without social justice is not democracy.


Poverty poses a real threat to the inter-American democratic system. Marked social inequalities are undermining the fundamental rights of major population groups who are mired in poverty. Poverty breeds violence and disrupts law and order. Poverty prevents many children from going to school, pushes young people to drop out of secondary school, and drives population groups into the dark world of criminal activity. Unemployment and poverty fuel vices and dramatic social ills. People who live in poverty feel debased, lose their self-esteem, ignore ethical standards since they consider them irrelevant to their problems, and are always harboring feelings of social resentment that undermine the basis of the democratic system, since it does not provide solutions to their problems.


The private corporation Latinobarómetro, which has been carrying out public opinion polls in 17 countries of the region since 1995, recently conducted a research project, the findings of which are a cause for great concern:*


"There has been an unprecedented drop in support for democracy in Latin America, which is associated, in large measure, with the international economic crisis.


The poll shows that support by Latin Americans for democracy fell 12 points, from 60% in 2000 to 48% in 2001, while their satisfaction fell from 37% to 25%."


Marta Lagos, the Director of Latinobarómetro, explains that people judge democracy based on the economic performance of countries, and as long as the international crisis is destabilizing local economies, the democratic system will "continue to be unstable."


In a context of poverty, what is the relevance of human rights? What is the relevance of the democratic system?


When we observe the high levels of poverty in many countries, we feel compelled to acknowledge, in all sincerity, that in many instances, the justice component is lacking in democracy, which makes it a relative condition and in many ways negates it.


Democracy and social justice go hand in hand.


If the wonderful principles that underlie democracy cannot be implemented, then democracy is, undoubtedly, likely to fail. The governments and international organizations of the Hemisphere are therefore duty-bound to take urgent steps to fight poverty effectively.


Developed countries have an even greater ethical obligation to foster universal solidarity by forgiving, at a minimum, a major part of foreign debt and contributing to the rebuilding of the world economy on the basis of international social justice.


Poverty and democracy cannot co-exist.


With respect to the subject of poverty, Venezuela is proposing:





"Poverty continues to be the greatest challenge facing the nations of the Americas, since it affects democratic stability, delays social and economic progress, and erodes hopes for the future, especially among the youth.

Democratic governments and organizations of the inter-American system are politically and ethically committed to making decisive contributions to combat it. In this connection, they should promote urgent and bold social policies as a matter of priority, at the risk of having the democratic system itself break down in some countries."






The Inter-American Democratic Charter will be the most important document approved by the countries of the Hemisphere since the entry into effect of the Charter of the Organization of American States (OAS), which dates back to 1948. It will be a theoretical document on democracy, which will contribute to its defense and strengthening. Implementation of this Charter will mark a major milestone in a long process that has been fraught with conflict, and which has made it possible for democracy to now become the system that has been adopted by the 34 member countries of the OAS.


Venezuela views the Inter-American Democratic Charter as an urgent need, given the current historical circumstances. It has been demonstrated on an ongoing basis that democracy is the form of government that is most suited to libertarian and justice traditions. However, the possible emergence of new dictatorships and authoritarian systems, which are currently in retreat, should not be underestimated.


The history of the Hemisphere has shown that even some countries with long-standing democracies that were considered models of democracy in reality harbored criminal and authoritarian dictatorships that trampled on democratic rights and installed forms of government that were incompatible with freedom and human dignity.


Although there is broad consensus in the Hemisphere regarding the positive aspects of democracy, it should not be forgotten that new regimes are emerging in the region which, in practice, are trampling on the noble principles on which they are founded. This includes democratically elected governments that have strayed from the democratic path and have placed themselves outside this process.


For that reason, the Permanent Representatives of the OAS are currently holding talks regarding a democratic clause, which the government of Venezuela supports, and which is aimed at strengthening and bolstering democratic institutions, a culture of democracy, and, above all, ensuring that democracy is a reality rather than a litany of principles, which are certainly very laudable, but are really an abstraction as far as the majority of citizens are concerned.


Authoritarian and dictatorial experiences have been widely discussed in the Hemisphere and the mere thought of their resurgence in the Hemisphere leads, understandably, to apprehension. It is difficult to acknowledge that a culture of democracy has not fully and definitively taken root in our societies. For this reason, we must set in motion all the mechanisms needed to defend and promote it. In the sociological sphere, some people still reminisce about authoritarianism, which harks back to colonialism. Consequently, the Quebec mandate, approved by the heads of State of the Americas, which seeks the drafting of a Democratic Charter, should be commended.


The Government of Venezuela supports the democratic culture in a broad and diverse manner. Venezuela is currently experiencing true democracy. In essence, this process is anti-authoritarian. It allows all segments of the population to hold center stage, something that had hitherto been the preserve of small political and economic groups, which voraciously consumed the heritage of all Venezuelans. The Government places special emphasis on social policies that are aimed at overcoming the poverty in which the majority of the population is mired.


Venezuela holds the view that the Inter-American Charter should enter into force as soon as possible, and that this instrument must be compatible with the OAS Charter, thereby developing and enhancing, in light of the new situations existing in the Hemisphere, Resolution 1080 and the Washington Protocol. It must certainly give consideration to situations in which changes can occur and to situations that significantly disrupt the democratic system, which are not necessarily coups d'etat in the traditional sense.


Recent experience shows that when the hemispheric community acts with resolve, democracy can be salvaged when it is in jeopardy or restored when it has been disrupted.


Venezuela has signed and supports the democratic clauses already adopted by the community of the Americas: the Andean Community of Nations, the Rio Group, and MERCOSUR, in which it is seeking membership. Venezuela would therefore like to ensure that the inclusion of the Democratic Clause in the Democratic Charter is sufficiently clear and categorical, so that it can serve as a deterrent to those who harbor authoritarian ideas, and to activate the mechanisms of exclusion against those who ignore, undermine, or disrupt democracy in any of the countries of the Hemisphere.


If the Democratic Clause is clear and transparent, it will be unanimously supported by all countries. Venezuela joins this consensus. Ambiguous wording should be avoided, since it can serve as a breeding ground in the future for arbitrary interpretations of the articles that may be approved.


In order to ensure that the Democratic Clause provides for new anti-democratic situations that have occurred and others that may occur in the future, Venezuela is proposing the following:


Article 12 (new)


"A member of the Organization whose democratically constituted government has been overthrown by force may be suspended from the exercise of the right to participate in the General Assembly, the Meeting of Consultation, the Councils of the organization, and the specialized conferences, as well as the commissions, working groups, and any other bodies established.

It should be understood that a situation equivalent to the overthrow by force of a democratically constituted government has occurred when there is an unconstitutional alteration or interruption that eliminates, dissolves, changes, or replaces any of the duly constituted state powers of the state through procedures contrary to the Constitution of the member state."





The Government of Venezuela would like to state its position regarding the legal nature of the Inter-American Democratic Charter. Will it be a decision or a protocol amending the OAS Charter? The new Article 12, proposed by Venezuela, could contribute to a consensus, because of its precision and rigor.


This article could provide the basis for an agreed interpretation of Article 9 of the OAS Charter. In that regard, there would be no need for a protocol amending this instrument, which would eliminate the long wait that would be required to amend a Treaty, as is the case with the OAS Charter.


If the goal is to obtain a binding instrument that is immediately effective, as all the governments of the Americas are seeking, then the most expeditious way to do so is via a broad interpretation of Article 9 and others related to the articles of the OAS Charter, set forth in a General Assembly resolution that is approved by consensus.


A General Assembly resolution cannot modify the OAS Charter and, in the event of conflict between the two instruments, the OAS Charter would prevail.


OAS member states are responsible for interpretation of the OAS Charter. An interpretation by consensus is binding.




In the preamble:


Taking into account the fact that the democratic clauses included in regional and subregional mechanisms express the same objectives, namely defense and the strengthening of democracy as the democratic clause adopted by the Heads of State and Government in Quebec:



Operative Paragraphs


Article 1


The peoples of the Americas have a right to democracy and to the gradual improvement of democracy.


Article 2


Representative and participatory democracy is the political system of the states of the Organization of American States, on which their constitutional regimes and the rule of law are based.


Article 3


Essential elements of representative democracy are the holding of free and fair elections as an expression of popular sovereignty, access to power through constitutional means, a pluralist system of political parties and organizations and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, including freedom of the press and other information media.


Article 5


Solidarity and the strengthening of inter-American cooperation for integral development, and especially the fight against poverty, in particular critical poverty, are fundamental parts of the promotion and consolidation of representative democracy and constitute a common and shared responsibility of the American states.


Article 11


When a situation arises in a member state that may affect the development of its democratic political institutional process or the legitimate exercise of its power, the Secretary General may, with prior consent of the government concerned, undertake visits or other actions in order to analyze the situation. The Secretary General will submit a report to the Permanent Council, which will undertake a collective assessment of the situation and, where necessary, may adopt preventive decisions for the preservation of the democratic system and its strengthening.


Article 13


In the event of any occurrences giving rise to the sudden or irregular interruption of the democratic political institutional process or of the legitimate exercise of power by a democratically elected government in any of the member states of the Organization, the affected state, another member state, or the Secretary General will request the immediate convocation of the Permanent Council to make a collective assessment of the situation. The Permanent Council will convoke, depending on the situation, a Meeting of Consultation of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, or a special session of the General Assembly within a 10-day day period, in order to adopt the decisions it deems appropriate, in accordance with the Charter of the Organization, international law, and the provisions of this Democratic Charter.


Article 14


When the Meeting of Consultation of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs or a special session of the General Assembly determines that there has been an unconstitutional interruption of the democratic order of a member state, it shall be, pursuant to the OAS Charter, by means of the affirmative vote of two-thirds of the member states. This determination leads to the suspension of said State in the exercise of its right to participate in the OAS. [This situation would entail suspension from participation in the Summit of the Americas process.] The suspension shall take effect immediately. The member state which has been subject to suspension shall continue to fulfill its obligations to the Organization, in particular, its human rights obligations.


Article 16


Any member state or the Secretary General may propose to the Meeting of Consultation of Ministers of Foreign Affairs or to the General Assembly that the suspension be lifted. This decision shall require the vote of two thirds of the Member States, in accordance with the OAS Charter.

Venezuela shall, during the course of upcoming discussions, provide new contributions, article by article, as the Inter-American Democratic Charter is considered.









San José, Costa Rica, June 3 - 5, 2001




Mr. President

Mr. Secretary General

Foreign Ministers


In view of the fact that my remarks are related to the matter under consideration, permit me to take a few minutes of your time.


The Permanent Representative of Venezuela to the OAS, Ambassador Jorge Valero, who is both a diplomat and historian, conducted an interesting research project related to the documents that record the founding period of our hemispheric organization. In the course of this research, he uncovered some very important information on the origin of the definition "Representative Democracy," that appears in the OAS Charter.


The context was the Ninth International Conference that was held in Bogotá, March 30 to May 2, 1948.


At that time, the Cold War was at the center of political confrontation. Combating Communism was the main concern of the leaders of the Hemisphere in the years following World War II. Ideologies that were driven by political liberalism stood in opposition to Communism. The "peoples democracies" model, that is, the Soviet authoritarian model, stood in opposition to the concept of "representative democracies."


During the course of the very important discussions that were held, a review was done of the principles to be incorporated into the OAS Charter. At that time, diplomats outlined the attributes and characteristics that would shape democracy in the Hemisphere. It was at this point that the Cuban representative, Ernesto Dihigo, suggested that the adjective "representative" be added to the word "democracy."


This proposal was accepted by the members of the Subcommission that were studying the matter.


However, a more important matter was incorporated into the instrument as a result of that meeting:


"The Subcommission agreed that this word should be deleted if the delegations later reached an agreement on a suitable definition of democracy."

Mr. President:

In the past, many a crime has been committed in the name of representative democracy. These were ill-fated times during which the OAS supported bloody military dictatorships. Circumstances, thank God, have changed. Democratic governments are in place in the Hemisphere. The Cold War has ended. Because of this, the OAS is experiencing a new phase of its history. Representative democracy, as we have noted, is enshrined in the original Charter of the OAS. Despite the amendments to this instrument over the years, this definition has remained unchanged.


Mr. President:


Since 1948, we have had contrasting forms of government in the Hemisphere: we have had democracies that have inspired hope and oppressive forms of authoritarianism; leaders who have been wise and tolerant as well as corrupt and criminal dictatorships.


Today, our definitions of representative democracy contain binding principles and values in our hemispheric doctrine, which, if not observed, would transform democracy into a sham: voting by the people, the provision of alternatives, autonomy of public authorities, political and cultural pluralism, and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.


Venezuelans have paid a high price in terms of suffering and sacrifice to achieve democracy. For that reason, democracy is the potential utopia that sparks our hopes for social redemption. The struggle to defend and enhance democracy, to make it a reality, is an unwavering goal of the government headed by Hugo Chávez Frías; hence our determination to ensure that democracy is participatory in nature. Democracy without participation is a sham.


As the academician Ronald Pennok of Princeton University stated, the democratic ideal is:


"Government for the people, where liberty, equality, and fraternity has been ensured to the fullest extent possible."

The quest for those objectives has inspired many of our struggles and fueled many of our dreams. Article 6 of our Constitution states:


"The Government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and its political entities are and always will be democratic, participatory, elected, decentralized, subject to change, responsible, pluralistic, and subject to revocable mandates."

We view participatory democracy as an essential component of the hemispheric democratic doctrine.


Democracy that does not involve participation by the people in every area thereof is not democracy. If democracy is to be authentic, it must also have a profound social content. Democracy without justice is a farce. The challenge of incorporating participation into democracy is a fascinating one.


Mr. President:


We wish to make it abundantly clear: we are not comparing participatory democracy with representative democracy. The first is not an alternative to the second. This is a false dilemma, since the two are complementary. Representation and participation are key ingredients of democracy. Representative democracy is the exercise of power by the people, through freely elected leaders. The free choice of these leaders is an essential but not sufficient form of participation.


At the moment, Venezuela is seeking to expand democratic freedoms, to broaden the frontiers of freedom. The democratic and peaceful changes that have taken place in recent years in my country are a true example of the exercise of democracy and of participation by the people. The constituent process that has taken place in my country serves as the supreme expression of participatory democracy.


In addition, 21 Constitutions of the Hemisphere enshrine the principle of express participation by the people. The new Colombian Constitution, the forerunner in this regard to the Bolivarian Constitution of Venezuela, introduced the notion of participatory democracy into the Constitutions of the Hemisphere.


Mr. President:


Democracy can be improved upon. We are struggling to reform it. The end of the Cold War breathed new life into democracy. Democracy can expand its potential in novel ways.


For this reason, we have vigorously promoted the need to include participatory democracy in the Inter-American Democratic Charter.


The presence of freely elected governments is not a sufficient condition for democracy, given the fact that a government whose leaders are unresponsive to their electorate cannot be termed democratic. There have been many examples of elected governments whose leaders marginalize and oppress their people, and where the resources of the government are monopolized by a minority. Also, there can be no democracy without complete respect for human rights.


A regime that merely goes through the voting process, but which, in the ensuing constitutional period, shies away from the participation of communities in public management and ignores the social rights and the rights of the most needy sectors cannot be considered a true representative democracy.


A model of democracy that does not observe the principle of participation and fails to meet the social needs of the population will, sooner or later, face a crisis of legitimacy that cannot be resolved, which can turn back the clock and lead to de facto regimes, or, equally regrettably, discredit the actual concept of representative democracy.


Although progress has undoubtedly been made in the Americas in the political and social spheres in recent years, a global review of recent history shows that in Latin America and the Caribbean, representative democracies have left a trail of great destruction. For this reason, the vast majority of the people are questioning, and rightly so, the true meaning of democracy.

Not only is it necessary to promote economic growth; conditions also have to be created to ensure that the fruits of this growth can be distributed among the entire population, based on the principles of equity and social justice.


Mr. President:


At the moment, there is an urgent need to promote participatory democracy. Participatory democracy supplements, reinforces, and expands representative democracy, based on a pluralistic political system, the exercise of sovereignty by the people, the availability of alternatives, a pluralistic system of parties and political organizations, and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.


Mr. President:


Permit me to reiterate once again that at the Tenth Ministerial Meeting of the Rio/European Union Group, held in Santiago, Chile, at the request of Venezuela, the 19 member countries agreed, through their foreign ministries, to promote representative and participatory democracy, a pluralistic political system, and full participation of the civil society.


Within the framework of the Thirty-fourth General Assembly of the Organization of American States held on June 8, 1999, in Guatemala, the Foreign Ministers decided, again at the request of Venezuela, to strengthen democratic mechanisms in the region, and to analyze in-depth and give thoughtful consideration to participatory democracy. To that end, consideration was given to the Santiago Commitment and the Nassau Declaration, which state that abject poverty and economic and social inequalities serve as obstacles to democratic consolidation.


It is our hope that there will be complete adherence to this decision of the OAS. This matter will be addressed by our Permanent Representative in Washington.


Mr. President:


We have reached a broad consensus to draft the Inter-American Democratic Charter. Constructive discussion on the improvement and protection of democracy in the Hemisphere is underway. Our very important observations have been prompted by noble motives, thereby safeguarding our unwavering commitment to democracy. Like other countries, we think that broad consultation with the civil society and with the specialized experts and sectors is necessary. Our constitutional systems, the OAS Charter, the protocols, and other Inter-American instruments should serve as a framework for approval of the Democratic Charter. Venezuela is calling on all sectors, without exception, to contribute to the strengthening of the joint commitment in the Hemisphere. The agreement that we have reached will permit all observations and contributions to be submitted and studied freely, given the monumental importance of this document.


Consequently, Mr. President, and in light of the reasons and considerations outlined above, I reiterate the request of my delegation for inclusion of the concept of participatory democracy in the definition that will be provided in the Inter-American Charter, which, following the above-mentioned consultations, we will consider for approval at the special session of the OAS. This action notwithstanding, we will consider proposals and comments in a bid to improve this instrument, which is essential for the defense of democracy in the Hemisphere. We would like the formulation of this definition of participatory democracy to be in keeping with the lofty values enshrined in the OAS Charter.


Permit me therefore, Mr. President, to deliver this statement on behalf of my country, and to thank you for including it in the minutes of this esteemed assembly.


Thank you very much.







Washington, May 21, 2001



Mr. President:


Permit me to note the importance of this discussion and to express my satisfaction over the fact that we are now engaging in one of the most important discussions that has taken place in the OAS since the time of its founding. I would like to express my appreciation to the Government and delegation of Peru, and, in particular, to Ambassador Manuel Rodríguez Cuadros for contributing to this display of democratic maturity. We also recognize the contribution of such countries as Costa Rica, which will host the next session of the General Assembly, and Argentina, the United States, and Canada, for co-sponsoring the Draft Charter under consideration. We also express our thanks to the Government of Mexico and its Representative, Ambassador Miguel Ruíz-Cabañas and Uruguayan Foreign Minister Didier Opertti Badan, for providing the alternate texts and/or ideas for discussion.


Mr. President:


We like the name proposed by the Panamanian Representative, Ambassador Juan Manuel Castulovich, for this important instrument that we considering: "the Democratic Charter of the Americas," although we would not mind if, through consensus, it is called "the Inter-American Democratic Charter."


The title of this important document should convey the great importance of its content.


Our delegation in this room, which represents the people and Government of Venezuela, headed by Hugo Chávez Frías, joins in the fascinating and creative exercise that is underway, and which, we are confident, will lead to a milestone in the history of the Region.


Times are good. Democracy is thriving in a world where, with the end of the Cold War, great possibilities have been created to forge ahead with the establishment of new and broader opportunities for human freedom and dignity. However, these are also dramatic times, since we are witnessing new political, ethnic, territorial, cultural, and religious conflicts, which are undermining the foundation laid for peace and international coexistence. We are also living in troubled times, since poverty is a scourge that afflicts millions of human beings.


At the heart of this discussion is the word "democracy."


We are trying to determine how democracy functions in the Americas, stressing its unquestionable accomplishments and also the undeniable weaknesses of this process.


This is where we must begin.


We are all seeking, together, innovative ways of ensuring that reality is in keeping with the democratic ideal, whose fundamental principles are contained in the OAS Charter. From the time of the first charter, approved in 1948, a name has been assigned to democracy in the Hemisphere: representative.


A review of the instruments that reflect the discussion held by the diplomats who preceded us reveal that a consensus was reached earlier, explicitly defined as provisional, of the concept of representative democracy.


The Ninth International Conference held in Bogotá, at which the OAS Charter was approved, was held March 30 - May 2, 1948. More than one month of productive discussions preceded the approval of that instrument/doctrine of the Americas.


At the Thursday April 22, 1948 session, which was held in the Main Hall of the National Capitol between 3:20 and 7:00 p.m., the Representative of Panama, Ricardo J. Alfaro, issued a memorable statement: "The Republic of Panama, whose people have an unshakeable faith in democracy, believe that democracy must defined without departing from democracy./


The general discussion focused on the preliminary draft of the first chapters of what was called the Constitutive Agreement of the OAS. The Representative of Peru, Víctor Andrés Belaunde, opened the discussion at the request of the Chairman of Subcommission A, Ernesto Barros Jarpa of Chile.


The discussion focused on consideration of the principles that the OAS Charter should contain. The representative of Mexico, Francisco A. Ursúa, stated that " … although it was not the custom to include a listing of principles in international treaties, such a listing was acceptable in this case, given the special nature of the agreement that was being drafted."/


It was interesting to read the minutes of those meetings, which preceded approval of the OAS Charter. They capture the political and ideological climate existing during the early Cold War period.


The diplomats of that era then proceeded to define the attributes and characteristics of democracy. At that point, the representative of Cuba, Ernesto Dihigo, suggested that the word "representative," be added to the word democracy. This proposal was welcomed by the members of the Subcommission. However, there is one matter that cannot be overlooked, which was recorded thus in the minutes:


"The Subcommission agreed that this word should be deleted if the delegations later reached an agreement on a suitable definition of democracy."

In the years following World War II, combating communism was the main concern of the governments of the Hemisphere. The instruments that we are analyzing demonstrate, with unmistakable clarity, the prevailing political and ideological climate. The Cold War was galvanizing political confrontation.



The Initiative Commission of the Ninth International Conference stated that: " … international communism … is an instrument of aggression working towards imperialist goals and poses a threat to free, democratic, and republican institutions and to their independence and sovereignty."


The leaders of the Hemisphere embraced ideologies driven by political liberalism in order to combat communism. "Popular democracies" which, under Leninism were called dictatorships of the proletariat, stood in opposition to "representative democracy."


As a result, democracy, considered to be representative, was enshrined in the original OAS charter, approved in May 1948. Article 5(D) states: "The solidarity of the American States and the high aims which are sought through it require the political organization of those States on the basis of the effective exercise of representative democracy."


Although the Charter was amended on different occasions: in the 1967 Buenos Aires Protocol; the 1985 Cartagena de Indias Protocol; the 1992 Washington Protocol; and the 1993 Managua Protocol, the definition of representative democracy has remained unchanged.


The fundamental principles and values embraced by all the governments of the States represented in this room should be analyzed against the backdrop of the new realities of our time: the Cold War has disappeared, democracy, as a system of government, is spreading to all continents, anachronistic forms of totalitarianism have been relegated to the dump heap of history; oppressive dictatorships are in retreat; there has been a rebirth and expansion of democratic freedoms; and human rights are being exercised. These are the hallmarks of the new era.


Mr. President:


Much suffering has been endured and sacrifices made to achieve the democracy that exists in Venezuela. Its Constitution, which is the product of broad and participatory discussions, approved by means of a referendum, enshrines all the most advanced and humanistic principles recognized in contemporary civilization.


Democracy, as an ideology, has created better conditions and inspired people to strive for peace, equality, and freedom in our Hemisphere. Democracy, as an ideal, has been a source of hope and redemption. The struggle to defend and improve it and the willingness to exercise it fully is a fascinating challenge for persons who wish to transform it into reality. This is the great challenge to our creative imaginations. And, in the words of Blake (Second Prophetic Book) "Imagination is the human existence itself."


Since 1948, the year in which the OAS was established, we have had a long history of governance being put to the test: we have seen undesirable forms of authoritarianism and redemptive democracies, curtailed freedoms and libertarian conquests. The times in which we live call for reflection; for examination of our achievements and deficiencies.

Democracy in our Hemisphere is facing serious threats which, as indicated in the Declaration of Quebec City, assumes several forms. To be effective, democracy must be based on representation, participation, and the inclusion of all sectors, and political and economic power must not be placed in the hands of a small elite, in a manner that is often as excessive as it is perverse.


Our Bolivarian Constitution states that, in order reestablish the foundation of the Republic, Venezuela is proposing "… the establishment of a democratic, participatory, leading, multi-ethnic, and multi-cultural, federal, and decentralized state that is based on justice and consolidates values of freedom, independence, peace, solidarity, the common good, territorial integrity, coexistence, and the rule of law…"


Direct democracy is enshrined in Article 5 of our Constitution, which states that sovereignty is non-transferable and resides in the people who exercise it directly, in the manner set forth in the Constitution and indirectly, by means of the election of the organs that exercise public authority.


Article 62 guarantees the participation of the people in the establishment, execution, and control of public management, as a necessary means of guaranteeing them a key role, from both an individual and collective standpoint.


The constituent body wanted to spell out specifically how the people are to exercise sovereignty, in the political sphere, in terms of electing public officials: referendum, revocation of a mandate, legislative initiatives, both constitutional and constituent, open meetings, and assemblies of citizens. In the social and economic spheres, mention is made of the entities that address the needs of citizens, self-management, co-management, community activities, and other forms of collective activities.


In terms of local democracy, mention is made of the participation of communities, neighborhood associations, and non-governmental organizations in the formulation of investment proposals that are brought before state or municipal authorities.


Other forms of participation covered are citizen initiative 341 for constitutional amendment, citizen initiative 342 for constitutional reform, and citizen initiative 348 to convene a constitutional National Constituent Assembly.


Our Constitution consolidates and strengthens the rule of parties, but gives priority to the mechanisms of citizen participation, with its legitimacy being derived from the sovereignty of the people. Intermediation structures are being strengthened without abandoning the claim of sovereignty.


Venezuela therefore thinks it necessary to include the concept of participatory democracy in the Democratic Charter. Furthermore, the OAS General Assembly is duty-bound to fulfill this mandate set forth in AG/RES. 1684 (1999), adopted by the Twenty-ninth Session held in Guatemala.


Mr. President:


At the Third Summit of Heads of State and Government, the President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Hugo Chávez, made a number of very specific observations regarding the language used in the part related to democracy, since the Quebec Declaration did not include the concept of participatory democracy. It should be borne in mind, first and foremost, that this concept was formulated by Venezuela at the OAS General Assembly held in Guatemala in 1999.


First, this concept is not opposed to representative democracy, nor is it an alternative thereto. It is important to be mindful of this in light of the opposition during the Cold War, mentioned earlier, between the concepts of representative democracy and "people's democracy." On the contrary, participatory democracy presupposes and coexists with representative democracy, inasmuch as representative democracy is none other than the exercise of power by the people through freely elected representatives. The free choice of those representatives is an essential form of participation.


The free election of the persons who hold the reins of power is not a sufficient condition for democracy. A system of government in which the people who are governed do not respond to their electors cannot be termed democratic.


There have been many examples of elected governments whose leaders marginalize and oppress their people, and where the resources of the government are monopolized by the elite. There can be no democracy without complete respect for human rights. Election does not confer on the authorities the right to exercise power in an unlimited manner.


Mr. President:


If we wish to guarantee the effectiveness of the Democratic Charter, we must ensure that, from a legal standpoint, it is consistent with treaties in effect, in particular the OAS Charter, since a treaty cannot be amended by means of a resolution or declaration. To that end, a review by the technical and legal entities of the Organization would be advisable.


Article 9 of the OAS Charter mentions the overthrow by force of a democratically constituted government. The draft Democratic Charter incorporates aspects of resolution AG/RES. 1080 and the Washington Protocol. Consequently, in this draft, language that is similar to the OAS Charter should be used, in order to avoid contradicting its provisions.


It should be made clear that suspension authority can be exercised only when the efforts of the Organization in the diplomatic sphere have failed.


We also note that although provisions are made for the exclusion of a state that has veered off the democratic path, no provisions are made, however, for its reentry once the factors that led to its suspension no longer exist. Hence the usefulness of the provision in the Democratic Charter, submitted by Mexico, stating that the lifting of a suspension would require the affirmative vote of a simple majority of member states.


Mr. President:


We wish to note that the phrase "any unconstitutional alteration," that appears in the Quebec Declaration, which is repeated in the Democratic Charter, is different from the terminology used in both the Washington Protocol and Resolution 1080.


The use of ambiguous or vague concepts in the Democratic Charter that may give rise in the future to unnecessary confusion or discussion that can paralyze the OAS should be avoided.


The Supreme Court of Venezuela, for example, viewed the original constituent process as being supraconstitutional and provided for democratic legitimacy, based precisely on the people's will. Insofar as other matters are concerned, can the OAS act as the interpreter or judge of the Constitution of member states?


Mr. President:


The Democratic Charter should serve as an important step in the development of the OAS and we should assign it the importance that it deserves. The Uruguayan Foreign Minister, Dr. Opertti Badan, rightly stated, in his preliminary remarks on the topic that we are discussing, that "we should ask ourselves whether we are not acting somewhat precipitously and whether such as important task does not call for a more detailed study and the involvement of the technical entities of the system, namely, the Inter-American Juridical Committee and the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Legal Affairs of the OAS General Secretariat."


Also, the Summit mandate contained in the Quebec City Declaration instructs the Ministers of Foreign Relations to prepare the Inter-American Democratic Charter within the framework of the next General Assembly. Preparation is not necessarily synonymous with the final approval of that instrument by that Assembly. The mandate should be fulfilled while taking appropriate steps to preserve the high aims that are being sought and conducting a broad and in-depth process of consultation at the hemispheric level.


Based on the foregoing, we are proposing that the San José General Assembly convene a Special Session of the General Assembly, perhaps in Peru, in recognition of the great initiative of the Government of that sister country, for the sole purpose of approving the Democratic Charter. That meeting should be held soon, at most, within the next six months, since we are all aware of the need to approve it.


Our delegation has prepared a draft resolution in this regard; however, before doing so, we would like to take the opportunity to discuss it with the other delegations.


Mr. President:


When the draft Democratic Charter is being discussed, article by article, our delegation will make the specific contributions that it deems necessary.








Washington, May 29, 2001



In my speech of May 25, 2001, I articulated the doubts harbored by Venezuela over the concept of "any unconstitutional alteration" appearing in the Declaration of Quebec City. We have noted, on several occasions, that the exclusion of a member state from the Inter-American System is appropriate only when the guidelines expressly set forth in Article 9 of the OAS Charter are followed. Any other criterion used to exclude a member would go beyond the provisions of the Charter and would thus require amendment thereof. This would be possible only if the guidelines established by the Charter for its amendment are followed.


In our view, "any unconstitutional alteration" is ambiguous and calls for clarification. What does "any unconstitutional alteration mean?" The only possible interpretation is that reference is being made to a coup d'etat, to "the overthrow by force" of a democratically constituted government (Article 9 of the OAS Charter). It is a certainty that this happens, as resolution AG/RES. 1080 makes clear, "in the event of any occurrences giving rise to the sudden or irregular interruption of the democratic political institutional process or of the legitimate exercise of power by the democratically elected government." Who decides when "an unconstitutional alteration" takes place in a country?


All the OAS member countries have legal organs that are responsible for overseeing adherence to the Constitution. They merely have to decide when events or actions have taken place that violate the Constitution. "Unconstitutional alterations" can take place in a country without the occurrence of a coup d'etat or "sudden or irregular interruption of the democratic political institutional process" (resolution 1080). We cannot rule out also the possibility that a government of a country or any public entities may pass laws or engage in acts that are or may be at odds with a given Constitution. In other words, the authorities themselves may abuse their power and implement or bring about "unconstitutional alterations."


Examples abound in the political history of our Hemisphere of abuse of authority, undesirable forms of authoritarianism, and of governments that violate their own Constitutions. This is not the case of Venezuela, which has a government that strictly adheres to existing constitutional provisions, adheres to the rule of law, and fully respects human rights and democratic freedoms. For this reason, the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela establishes controls with respect to public authority. It gives citizens the right and, indeed, imposes an obligation on them to refer a matter to the constitutional division of the Supreme Court when "unconstitutional alterations" take place.


Mr. President:


The proposed Democratic Clause submitted by Ecuador and Costa Rica (accepted by Mexico) provides a sound basis for reaching a consensus. It states that a government of the member of the Inter-American system may be excluded when the action taken is "in accordance with the Charter of the Organization and international law." The proposal in question sets forth the scope of this action and clarifies what is meant by the concept of "any unconstitutional alteration." In that regard, the delegation of Venezuela stands ready to join the consensus.