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April 10, 2007 - Washington, DC

This report was first requested in 2005 at the General Assembly held at Fort Lauderdale shortly after I had assumed my functions with the OAS. At the time, we had some discussions on it, as well as a session to consult the Permanent Council on September 22, 2005. However, the Assembly considered it necessary to reiterate the mandate requesting this report, so this is what we are doing now and, hence, we are attempting to summarize much of our reflections and discussions and also what we have done concerning the Inter-American Democratic Charter over the last two years. In addition to the existence of a series of very relevant documents within the Organization, the Democratic Charter has undoubtedly become a central aspect of our action, regularly cited by all the ambassadors and members of the OAS to defend the positions and proposals they make in representation of their countries.

Mentioned substantively many times in seminars, forums and in the regional press, there is no doubt that the Inter-American Democratic Charter is, to date, the document that has marked our action over this period. Hence, the first aspect we propose in this report is a discussion of the Charter’s content; what does it mean, what is new about it, and also what are its limitations, because it has them also.

In the first place, there is one definition that is crucial in the debate on democracy that is taking place globally nowadays in different spheres, and that is the meaning we want to give to the word; whether it merely means free, secret elections of the representatives of the people, or whether it extends to another series of concepts that, in some way, constitute what we call “the democracy of actions.” In this regard, I believe it is very clear that, when signing the Inter-American Democratic Charter in 2001, our Heads of State and our Ministers of Foreign Affairs were considering this dilemma and clearly decided to give the Charter not only the meaning of democracy of origin, but also the meaning of democracy of exercise.

Moreover, they were also subscribing to the ideas that are being asserted most vigorously nowadays: the right of the peoples to democracy is constituted not only by their right to vote, but also by the existence of a constitutional regime, a republican system in the sense of the rule of law and a government of laws; together with other aspects that are very evident in our traditions and organization, such as respect for human rights, defense of fundamental freedoms, public freedoms such as the pluralism of political parties and social organizations, the separation and independence of the powers, transparency and probity. Consequently, in the definition of both its fundamental content and essential elements, the Charter covers very systematically all the issues relating to civil, political and citizen rights. This is an aspect that we must always take into consideration and protect.

Furthermore, it is also interesting to point out that the Inter-American Democratic Charter proclaims a social citizenship when indicating that democracy, economic growth and social development are interdependent and mutually reinforcing. Moreover, while maintaining that poverty and illiteracy are factors that adversely affect the consolidation of democracy, it includes a commitment to promote and observe economic, social and cultural rights and to respect the rights of workers.

As has been mentioned, the Charter does not go so far as to say that without these rights there is no democracy, and that is why we are trying to develop a social charter that places the economic and social rights of the peoples at the appropriate level, in keeping with the declarations of the United Nations. Thus, our Democratic Charter includes in the definition of democracy its democratic origin, the fundamental organization of the State, full political and civil citizenship and also, to a great extent, social citizenship. And this is why we often say that governments must not only be considered democratic by the way they are elected, but also by the way in which they govern. democratic government means a government that respects fully – and not only respects, but also promotes and protects – the political, civil and social citizenship of all the citizens that form part of the States and nations.

The report then includes a series of analyses of the actions based on the Inter-American Democratic Charter; what has happened to the Charter as a document that inspires the politics of our region and, here we explain the degree to which the Democratic Charter is being applied or the way in which it is being implemented. There are different ways of applying the Charter; one of them is evidently to continue advancing the democratic process in the Americas and to conduct the analyses and discussions that arise in this regard. A second way is to promote democracy: we should not merely examine what is happening in each member country, but also promote the political activity that strengthens democracy in the region, and do this through cooperation, so that finally we can act in times of crisis.

We make it clear that, in fact, the Charter itself includes a methodology for action in times of crisis; an action that is calculated and prudent, and that stems from the discussions held when the Inter-American Democratic Charter was launched concerning the protection of two elements that are essential for the Member Countries: the element of democracy but also the element of the self-determination and independence of all our sovereign States. Consequently, the way in which the Charter deals with the need to act in times of crisis attempts to reconcile these two factors. We are not indifferent to the interruptions of democracy that may occur in different countries but, at the same time, we understand that we must always respect the will of the peoples represented by the sovereign States of the Member Countries.

Hence, there are two types of restriction in the Inter-American Democratic Charter: first, the Charter does not mandate any type of participation in the elements it sets out in its definition of democracy, but rather, in essence, it restricts the action of the OAS in times of crisis to those elements that concern the risk of interruption of the democratic process. Second, it also imposes a significant limit on action – which, in my opinion, is clearly negative because it rules out the possibility of an intervention by the collective body in the internal situation of the countries – and merely adopts the suspension of a Member State’s rights as the maximum sanction that the Organization can decide; in other words, this is what the OAS should do and what it can do according to the Charter.

After this, the report examines some of the relevant events that have occurred while the Charter has been in force, as well as during previous periods, to show that, in fact, it has not been as effective as we would have liked. When the Charter has been cited, or a resolution has been approved based on the Charter, this has occurred after the facts that have led to the crisis. Here I would like to mention the case of the interruption of democracy in Venezuela, regarding which a resolution was being discussed in the Permanent Council that was finally approved citing the Inter-American Democratic Charter. But by the time it was approved the events had already happened and concluded, fortunately with the re-establishment of the constitutional government. I believe that we must discuss our procedures and the possibility that, in moments of crisis, we could act more promptly.

In any case, Mr. President, we have discussed this issue at length, so I believe it important to consider other aspects of the Inter-American Democratic Charter related to the monitoring and promotion of its principles. In my opinion, since the text of the Charter does not include any other mechanism, it is understood that we must resort to the mechanisms for action used by the Council and the General Secretariat as part of their regular activities. In this regard, we have made many proposals concerning monitoring that take into account the issues I referred to above in relation to intervention and self-determination. Therefore, and without prejudice to noting the proposals that have been made in the sense of implementing a voluntary mechanism of global evaluation of democracy, what we are doing is monitoring and evaluating different aspects of democracy in keeping with the definitions included in the Charter.

Here we are referring to the annual reports on human rights, the special rapporteurships, the monitoring mechanism of the Inter-American Commission against Corruption, the monitoring mechanism of the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence Against Women, the first committee organized to evaluate discrimination based on disabilities, the electoral observation missions and their evaluations, the reports on the financing of elections prepared by the OAS Secretariat for Political Affairs in 2005, the San Salvador Protocol on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and other mechanisms that do not involve the need for the direct involvement of the OAS in a kind of evaluation or award of general ratings of the democracy in each country. We are conducting a very satisfactory monitoring process; our intention is eventually to be able to evaluate –by means of either mechanisms of peers or of another type – different aspects of the Charter so as to have a complete picture of its application in each of the terms of the Charter’s definition of democracy, but without entering into a procedure that – at least in the consultations that I have held – appears to me would not be acceptable to many countries. I refer to having a panel of experts or some global evaluation mechanism. In any cases, this is a matter that the Council and the Assembly must decide, but my proposal is that the question of monitoring should be carried out basically as indicated in September 2005; namely based on the sectoral reports, which we must reinforce and continue to prepare.
Another aspect to be considered is the proposals for cooperation. We believe that, just as monitoring can be carried out by way of this type of sectoral reports, we must emphasize the concept of cooperation as a fundamental element for the promotion of democracy.

The OAS does not give orders to the countries; it does not carry out the task of non-governmental organizations of denouncing what is happening in our countries, and in my opinion, this should continue. What the OAS does is try to cooperate with the countries in different areas: electoral observation, special crisis-prevention missions, support and enhancement of political parties, and promotion of democratic governance. We have a very interesting project that is not described in the text, and which consists in the so-called “experts project” or “democracy practitioners,” which seeks to make available to the countries a series of regional experts who can provide assistance – evidently at the request of the States – on issues such as electoral legislation, improvement of legislative functions, judicial proceedings, human rights, transparency, etc., and who are always available to carry out specific missions in any country that requests support to improve the management of its democratic system.

Of course, all these cooperation activities can be improved substantially and the report only describes the main actions, because we wanted to avoid transforming it into an advance version of the Annual Report that the Secretariat must present to the General Assembly. We therefore limited ourselves to the most basic aspects of the activities most directly related to the issue of democracy. I believe it important that you can read this report and that we continue to discuss it.

In summarizing the main proposals, I am only going to list those that relate to the following three aspects:

(1) Enhancement of the monitoring mechanisms of the General Secretariat, extending multilateral evaluation to each of the factors that the Inter-American Democratic Charter considers essential for the existence and sustainability of democracy; always, of course, using the gradual approach that I mention several times in the report. We cannot accomplish everything overnight, but only to the extent that we have the technical and political capacity, and the financial resources to carry out these evaluation processes.

(2) Expansion of the General Secretariat’s capacity to prevent and to anticipate the crises that threaten to seriously alter or interrupt the democratic process in Member States; in other words, to have an improved idea of what is happening in the countries and to enhance dialogue so as to be able to prevent the crises. We have had the good fortune that none have occurred in the region over the last two years.

You will remember well, Messrs. Ambassadors, the last time there was a crisis of government, an interruption, or a long process of alteration in the normal management of government: it was during out 2005 General Assembly at Fort Lauderdale. Since then we have not had any critical episodes, but we have often assisted countries in which there have been difficulties, obtaining information on the problems in order to try and propose a reasonable, democratic and negotiated solution, an area in which we have been successful. Contrary to all the previous years, over the last two years we have not had critical processes, processes of risk and critical interruption, but we have performed monitoring activities that require considerable improvement.

(3) Achievement of a formal political consensus, through a resolution of the General Assembly, on situations identified as serious alterations or interruptions of the democratic process. I believe that this is important for the application of the Democratic Charter which, I repeat, “is applied only in times of crisis, and in the limited way in which it is applied in situations of interruption or serious risk to the democratic process.”

It is important for the Secretariat, and for everyone, that we are able to clarify what the risks and the interruptions consist of, and when we should understand that there has been an interruption – as well as when this has not occurred. There are a number of elements of the Democratic Charter that we can cite. For example, let us imagine the dissolution of a political party, a problem related to human rights, or a serious case of corruption, which, according to the Charter definition, constitute central elements of democracy, but for which no action of the Council is established and which can only be dealt with by dialogue and cooperation under the Organization’s normal functions. In cases of a breach of the Inter-American Democratic Charter, we need to know in what circumstances can the Council take action. It would be important to define this. I am not saying that this Assembly should do so, and much less considering that this report should be taken as a basis. However, it should be defined during the regular discussions of the Council.

(4) Preparation of a periodic report – on an annual basis if possible – on the principal issues defined as essential for democracy in the Charter.

(5) Enhancement of the General Secretariat’s capacity to assist Member States in the processes before or after the crises; this includes monitoring, negotiation, dialogue, political agreements, etc.

(6) Expansion of access to the OAS to all the powers of the Member States to request the action of the Council; a central issue, in my opinion.

I have often said that this Organization cannot only be an organization of the Executive powers; it is an organization of American Governments in which the other powers of the State should also be able to channel some of their problems and some of their debates towards the Organization constructively. To this end, we are trying to execute programs that bring us closer to the Legislatures of the continent and to the Judiciaries and, in this regard, there has been considerable activity and success in recent times.

I add some proposals for a future date; namely:

Maintain and strengthen the role of the OAS as the principal organization for electoral observation and promotion in the Americas.
Expand substantially the action of the OAS in relation to the consolidation of democratic institutions, respect for the rule of law and the independence of the courts of law.
I also propose that we strengthen the republican institutional framework and the democratic rule of law.

Evidently, there are more democratic weaknesses in the civil and social spheres, but we still have some major political deficiencies; our republican form, in the broad sense – not in opposition to monarchy – in the sense of the rule of law, the government of law, is still very weak.

The strengthening of the institutions should be a central aspect of our action, because republic and democracy nourish each other mutually; without republic, democracy has nothing to support it, it is reduced to a mere democratic election. We consider that institution-building is a central aspect that we must develop and, for this reason, it is necessary to continue working substantively on this issue, as well as on the separation and the balance of powers. The legislative power endowed with its own political and technical capacities, a professional and fully independent judiciary, clear limits to the exercise of power, stable essential norms for the democratic process, and the strengthening of political parties, are some elements that the democratic rule of law must consider.

Added to this, the consolidation of the Democratic Charter on matters relating to civil citizenship based, above all, on the fact that the Charter begins with these words, when it indicates that “The peoples of the Americas have a right to democracy and their governments have an obligation to promote and defend it.” Hence, the need to strengthen very substantively all those aspects that relate to civil citizenship: human rights, freedom of expression and freedom of association. The public freedoms are, in this regard, a central element.

Lastly, as one of our objectives for the consolidation of the Inter-American Democratic Charter, we propose the approval of the Social Charter of the Americas as a way of promoting social citizenship and strengthening democracy. The interaction or the interdependence of democracy and social justice are in the Charter, but we believe that the social rights, social citizenship, require their own instrument within the Organization and this should be one of the best ways of promoting the implementation of our Inter-American Democratic Charter in this sphere.

We have put a great deal of work into this report. Evidently it has its shortcomings – I have already referred to one of them, which is the issue of the failure to include one of our projects to assist democratic practice – but I believe that, in general, it complies with the resolution of the General Assembly of 2005 and 2006 and now must be discussed by the Council.

Here the words of the first Secretary General, Alberto Lleras, are again pertinent, when he indicated on inaugurating and initiating the life of the Organization, that the OAS is no more and no less than what the Member Countries want it to be. Hence, the Secretariat can only monitor, inform and cooperate. The expansion and clarification of the implications of the Charter, the debate on interruptions of democracy, and the way to improve democracy on this continent, are political aspects of the highest level that correspond to the Assembly and the Council.

It is in this spirit that we deliver this report. This is not a program of the General Secretariat, but a report to the Council so that, over time, gradually, serenely and without pressure, it can begin to decide the different aspects included and proposed herein.

Thank you very much