Media Center



April 26, 1996 - Lima, Peru

President Alberto Fujimori,
Foreign Minister Tudela, Ministers,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

At the outset allow me to say that I have come to Lima from Asunción where, on behalf of the OAS and its member countries, which you represent, I expressed strong support to President Wasmosy and his constitutional government. There I was able to express in concrete terms the joint commitment we have all made to upholding democracy wherever it is threatened by the remnants of forms of militarism derived from widespread authoritarian political theories characteristic of bipolar confrontation, which has since been superseded by the democracies of the region.

This firm action taken by the OAS and by all our governments and the meeting that is now drawing to a close are the result of the key decisions taken by heads of state and government in Miami almost a year and a half ago.

There we Americans became aware, in the aftermath of the Cold War, that we shared common values in the political, economic, and social spheres. There, too, the presidents subscribed to a vision of the integration our countries going far beyond the creation of a free trade area by the year 2005.

You committed yourselves also, and with equal enthusiasm, to take steps to defend and strengthen democracy and the freedoms it entails to bolster human rights institutions in the Americas, to pursue vigorous social policies in education and health, to foster everything conducive to sustainable development, to complete the physical infrastructure of the region, and to tackle the problems faced by our democracies, such as terrorism, corruption, and drug-smuggling.

All of us--the OAS, its member countries, and particularly Peru--have taken on all those responsibilities with the same degree of seriousness and commitment. Consequently, yesterday I was in Asunción with the foreign ministers of Mercosur and with the backing of our presidents, all our foreign ministers, and our Permanent Council to defend democracy in Paraguay from anachronistic but genuine outbreaks of insurrection. Today we are at the close of the Specialized Conference on Terrorism, braced to do battle with determined, surreptitious, violent enemies capable of doing damage to our democracies, who erode confidence in the democratic, participatory, civilized, and peaceful solutions to which we are all committed.

Terrorism became a topic of discussion in our region when many of our countries were affected by its upsurge in the 1970s. Some of the major cities in the Hemisphere and other areas were the scene of dramatic events which threatened thousands of defenseless citizens with acts of collective intimidation, which brooked no distinction between authorities and ordinary citizens, or even between state territories. Even events on other continents were capable of sparking off consequences in our own, so that no one was safe from a threat of this magnitude.

Indiscriminate terrorist acts, airplane hijackings, and threats to embassies were all manifestations of this scourge, which shook the very foundations of peace and tranquility in almost every corner of the world.

So states resorted at that point not just to domestic laws, but also to international agreements and to multilateral organizations in order to adopt instruments enabling them to combat this phenomenon: the European Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism; in the Americas, the Washington Convention; and, worldwide, the New York, Montreal, and Tokyo Conventions, to name just a few.

Even in those days it was considered on both legal and practical grounds that political motives could not be adduced to justify such terrorist acts. Nevertheless, in the Americas it proved impossible to forge as solid a consensus on this point as had been hoped.

The proliferation of military dictatorships in the region; the widespread and illicit extension by those regimes of the word "terrorist" to label the legal opposition; the unyielding ideological stances adopted during an intense period of the Cold War; and the partly justified fear felt by several countries regarding the overtly authoritarian intentions of those military dictatorships made it difficult to obtain the consensus needed at the time to establish basic definitions. Admittedly, that opened up a political vacuum which was partly exploited by terrorist groups.

For that reason, early efforts to exercise control over such criminal acts and to pursue international legal paths to combat one of the worst forms of violence ever to have flailed mankind fell on somewhat stony ground in the Americas where terrorist groups were frequently obtained asylum and funding to enable them to escape justice.

However, the political circumstances prevailing in the Hemisphere today are radically different. All OAS member governments are the product of democratic elections. All member states nowadays have more and better tools with which to counter any kind of official arbitrariness. Our government officials are subject to greater supervision. There are more and more opportunities for citizens to take part in public affairs. And, without a doubt, there are now stronger domestic and international mechanisms for safeguarding the rights and freedoms of our citizens.

Fortunately, at least for the governments of the Hemisphere, as the Representative of Canada pointed out, terrorism is not an alternative today to the democratic process, nor is violence acceptable to pursue political ends.

This, at least, is what led the countries of the Hemisphere and their leaders at the December 1994 Summit of the Americas firmly to state that "national and international terrorism constitute a systematic and deliberate violation of the rights of individuals and an assault on democracy itself."

This clear and resolute political will has, in turn, inspired and bolstered the objectives of this Specialized Conference on Terrorism through its Declaration of Lima and Plan of Action, which the representatives of states have solemnly signed and committed themselves to today.

Those states have expressed their intention to apply severe measures under their domestic laws to punish a crime that they have agreed to consider a common crime or felony. They have agreed to accede to and ratify international conventions on terrorism. They have resolved to intensify their sharing of acquired experience and to foster both the exchanges of information between police and intelligence services and all processes involving judicial cooperation.

These and a substantial number of further measures lay the foundations for making this region one day the best equipped in the world to counter the terrorist threat. At the very least, they convey a clear signal that those who perpetrate terrorist acts will find no haven or funding anywhere in the Americas.

The instruments adopted today mean that we will have to work in an orderly, methodical fashion in a series of activities that we will be called upon to carry out in the spirit of cooperation that once again obtains in our region. This struggle requires solidarity from each and every country in the Hemisphere. It requires effective cooperation that has been agreed upon to support both investigatory and trial procedures and also to guarantee prompt and proper punishment of those involved in terrorist acts. The OAS will certainly provide the solidarity and support required, as established by the representatives of member countries.

Our immediate objective is to agree on new instruments enabling us to move forward in the common struggle against international terrorism, including, possibly, the adoption of a convention to fill the enormous gaps in the 1971 Convention. To make headway on this, we need to be sure that it is an instrument that countries would be committed to adopting, ratifying, and actually applying.

The efforts that have been made are undoubtedly an important step in the right direction; they not only reveal our renewed resolve, but allow us to move forward in forging an American policy that is based on our common principles, identifies measures for us to take, and leads us to forceful collective action.

A good starting point will be to lend support to Central America to ensure that its recently signed Treaty on Democratic Security will be useful in tackling terrorism, which has unfortunately put down roots as a result of the long period of confrontation. The international community was more concerned about legitimizing the use of violence than about fostering peaceful solutions.

The OAS has put together an extensive compilation of existing inter-American laws on terrorism since the item was added to our agenda. We are advancing in the comparison of domestic laws and the systematizing of measures adopted by different countries. This work forms the basis of a work plan to which we should all devote our efforts in order to ensure that the actions proposed in the Plan of Action are effective.

I should like to emphasize that implementing the Plan of Action will not be sufficient to deal with the problem of terrorism in the Americas. As I have said, it is essential to strengthen democracy and its freedoms in the Americas, which cannot be construed as a mere strengthening of the rule of law as a means to underpin market forces.

Much more is involved, ranging from the promotion of ways to achieve greater citizen involvement to the search for a new balance among the branches of government. Fighting terrorism involves giving civil society a new role to play. The same is true for political parties to enable them to articulate diverse social interests. Above all, it involves a system of administration of justice that is accessible, effective, independent, respected, and sensitive to democratic values.

Only on the basis of this consolidation of democracy, which makes our institutions more representative and legitimate in the eyes of our citizens, shall we be able to elicit a strong response not merely from governments but also from society to face any type of terrorist act.

The seeds of such acts in our societies always stem from the harmful age-old tradition among so many of our American peoples to justify the use of violence to achieve political objectives and to adopt an attitude of indulgence and tolerance in the face not of legitimate dissent but criminal or intimidating acts.

President Fujimori, Delegates:

As Secretary General of the Organization of American States, I can only add that this Specialized Conference constitutes a solid grounding for our democratic efforts to fight a phenomenon that sows death and destruction, which, as the Venezuelan Minister pointed out yesterday, violates the right to life of the people of the Americas.

In conclusion, in praising the magnificent work done by the Special Working Group headed by Peruvian Ambassador Beatriz Ramacciotti, and the efforts of the Committee on Juridical and Political Affairs and the Permanent Council of the Organization, I should, President Fujimori, like to draw attention to the warm welcome extended by your Government and in particular the people of Peru, who have more than most borne the brunt of blind, unfettered terrorist violence and who, thanks to their forceful response, are now in the vanguard of the peoples of the Americas who want to live in a hemisphere in which diversity and tolerance prevail along with justice, solidarity, prosperity, and peace.

Thank you very much.