Media Center

Press Release

Declaration of the OAS Secretary General on the Anniversary of the Inter-American Democratic Charter

  September 11, 2023

A new anniversary of the Inter-American Democratic Charter requires us to delve into its essence and what it builds and does for the countries of the Hemisphere. It is fundamentally a stabilizing instrument, based on the principles it contains and the mechanisms provided for its application. During these years we have had to apply the Charter through the procedures of articles 17 and 18 more than ten times, to promote governability and stability in several countries to leave behind different political crises and to overcome problems. Democracy and human rights are part of the DNA of the OAS, the oldest global multilateral organization, and the most important political forum in the Americas.

The Charter has also resulted over this time in the condemnation of the dictatorships of this region. The existence of these dictatorships shows us the importance of democracy and the importance of the Charter. The alteration of the constitutional order of a country is a disastrous event, a coup d'état is a disastrous event even if it is disguised by happening gradually. Dictatorships entail death, torture, disappearances, violence, political persecution, the violation of all rights and fundamental freedoms, the cannibalization of a society, irreparable social wounds.

In a dictatorship every right is violated, inequalities are enhanced. Those who remain on the wrong side of the dictatorship lose every right, even the most basic. The Charter leaves no room for doubt: it is the dictatorships that are always on the wrong side, those that lead societies to horror, to fear. Access to rights loses meaning when the rule of law disappears. Access to rights cannot be a privilege for those loyal to the dictatorship.

Nothing, under any pretext, will ever justify breaking the rule of law in a country with a legitimately elected government. Nothing, under any logic, will ever justify murder, the disappearance of detainees, torture, or exile. The dictatorships of the past are not alone in committing these crimes, these violations of human rights: those of the present have also brought humanitarian crises, migratory crises, and crimes against humanity.

We must never fall prey to political ambiguity or moral ambiguity in the face of what it is our responsibility to reject. A dictatorship must be irredeemable to the human conscience. There is nothing more disastrous than trying to recognize the achievements of dictatorships. The political, economic, social, and human rights losses are not comparable to anything.

Even today there are dictatorships that crush dissent, that torture dissent, that murder dissent, that transform dissent into political prison, that make dissent disappear. As the Chilean dictatorship, the Argentine dictatorship, and the Uruguayan dictatorship did during their time. And when dissent is eliminated, it means that in that society there are oppressed and oppressors, that there are those who are discriminated against for political and social reasons.

Dictatorships not only have accomplices, they also have apprentices. To the right and to the left. We have never had a Hemisphere free of dictatorships. We have even reached the extreme of a country that emerged from a right-wing dictatorship to fall into a left-wing dictatorship without a solution to continuity. Without forgetting that the last name – “left” or “right” – of a dictatorship should not matter to us, because any totalitarianism is abominable. That is why there can be no ambiguity or duplicity. That is why it is not enough to feel sorry, nor to denounce, nor to condemn nor to punish. Memory, truth, justice, non-repetition, recovering democracy are antidotes to the poison of dictators.

Democracy is nourished by our spiritual and ethical condition, it is nourished by whether we are supportive, fair, it is nourished by our humanity and whether we are human enough to solve people's problems. And how intelligent we are in doing it. And to put a stop to totalitarian temptations. That is why democracy can never be imposed, it has to be an aspired and earned good. Democracy is a collective project that belongs to everyone, but essentially we all belong to democracy and must serve it.

Reference: E-052/23