Media Center



October 12, 2010 - Ciudad de México

I would like first thank all of you for your presence. I think it is important to highlight that when a discussion is promoted on democracy, our democracy, an issue that is so ancient and so complex, so many people, particularly many young people, attend. I would like to thank the IFE [Federal Electoral Institute] on its twentieth anniversary. It feels as though it was just created yesterday; I was about to head to Mexico when the IFE was created, and it is very impressive to note how it has established itself as a fundamental institution in society.

And this brings us to the first reflection. In this report it is called to attention, first, that democracy of the citizenship is discussed, not only of institutions, those of which have great importance. Article 1 of the Inter-American Democratic Charter signed in 2001 begins by saying that the people of America have a right to democracy. Therefore, it makes democracy an issue, not of those who govern or run it, but of those who are called to be the beneficiaries of democracy.

I have said it before, and I repeat it now, that in my opinion this concept of the citizenry must not only encompass what is understood as the holder of nominal rights, but also of the right to exercise such rights; this is what the constitution of political society and of the social pact characterize it as.

In the classics of political science, both Hobbes and Rousseau, from radically different points of view, the relationship between the ruler and the ruled is a relationship that entails being subject to authority, and the pact is precisely an authority that confers or promises protection in exchange for the yielding of degrees of freedom by the individual. This is why submission to authority is discussed, though often times the subjects, throughout the course of history, increasingly gained more benefits from the governing authorities; it was not only physical protection they gained, but they also gained benefits and assets.

There is no doubt that the first great fundamental change in this regard occurred during the French Revolution. A few days ago, modern technology led to the discovery that in the only place wherein Thomas Jefferson mentioned the word “citizen” in the Declaration of Independence of the United States, the word “subject” had been erased and replaced with “citizen.” At said time, only political citizenship existed; human or civil rights were not discussed.

We come to understand citizenship as the right to elect, to be elected, and to go before authority on equal terms, as these were the three tenants of Greek citizenship, to latter include civil rights: the right to life, above all else, and to finally arrive at what is now called social citizenship. We have been fighting for this for quite some time, and we fought hard for this.

I must also recall here that democracy was discussed again in international organizations in Latin America in 1991, when the Declaration of Santiago, in Chile, where the right of the people to a democracy, until finally arriving at the Inter-American Democratic Charter that enshrines these three forms of citizenship. It clearly enshrines them, and it does not only discuss the right to elect and be elected, but it also enshrines the right to life, the right to freedom of speech, human rights in general, and also clearly refers to the indissoluble nature of democracy, development, equity, and equality.

Therefore, we have a very large body of material developed in this area, and the first great virtue of this report is that it seeks to project it, and it asks what else can achieve this new social pact achieve; it does not exchange freedom for protection, but rather legitimacy for citizenship. That is, the citizen of today gives legitimacy to the government in exchange for its right to exercise freely.

What else?

Here we have mentioned many of the things that remain, but I would like to start by speaking of the many things we have achieved in this area, in how we have progressed to date. The second idea is that, in effect, the issues raised have been very well chosen. I can not fail to discuss the first thing said by the speakers, as is with the same program of the seminar, to mention two aspects of the issue of political democracy, which seems particularly essential to highlight today.

The first is the issue of separation and balance of powers, for indeed if today we were to ask the citizens of Latin America if there is equality of powers, if there is full access to justice, if there is an independent judicial system, and if the Executive Branch is the same as the Legislative Branch, it is most likely that they respond that said value does not exist. There is an issue of autonomy and independence of the judiciary, and an issue of balance of powers, which is fundamental today for citizens to be able to exercise their rights in a Latin American democracy.

Second, is the issue of freedom of expression, which will be discussed at this seminar along with the other three that have been raised. This is one of the fundamental rights, without which the exercise of citizenship would be completely impossible. It is probable that we must place an emphasis in this in the coming years to perfect our democracy.

Of the three subjects, I will only state that I am most specifically concerned about the issue of security. On the issue of inequality, given how serious it is, I think we have advanced, we have progressed. However, regarding the issue of security, it is likely that a phenomenon occur that Joseph Stiglitz has called de-democratization.

In this respect, democracy has regressed a lot in our countries: citizens no longer go out in the streets as they had done before; the fences around the houses have grown; common life has become more difficult, and there are those who would like to impose their own laws upon the whole of society. For such a reason, it is important to state: look, do not treat this as an issue for the police. I would say there is a middle point between repression and the thought that all is resolved by economic development, namely, treating security as a social policy; a social policy such as education, health, and housing. Something to which the citizen is entitled to, so as to allow for the exercise of other rights that society confers.

What I am attempting to say, coming from the standpoint of our organization, is that it is clear that this report poses what is a major challenge in terms of being able to broaden the depths of democracy with the means that democracy provides.

Hence the importance and significance we give to politics, to political parties, to civil society, and to these kinds of meetings and discussions, because ultimately we have no other instruments with which to improve democracy. Deepening democracy means furthering dialogue, deepening the tolerance among us, and expanding the willingness to listen to the ideas of others and to reconcile them.

And this meeting, truly, is very important in this regard.

So, again, I congratulate and thank the IFE and the authorities of this country that have allowed us to come together. I thank those who have prepared this report, and I thank all of you for your presence, which has been most exciting this morning.

Thank you very much.