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OAS Secretary General Applauds Progress on Democracy in the Region, Warns of Risks in Inauguration of the Latin American Studies Association Congress

  May 30, 2013

The Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), José Miguel Insulza, highlighted the "important progress" made in the democratization in the region in recent decades, but also warned that there are still worrying "risks of deconstruction," during the inauguration this week of the 2013 Latin American Studies Association (LASA) Congress at Georgetown University.

Secretary General Insulza said there is currently a positive current of thought surrounding the future of the economies of the region that extends to the political arena. "There is a certain correspondence between the optimism with which the future of the economies in Latin America is perceived, and the feelings towards the political process, or in other words, the state of our democracies," said the leader of the hemispheric organization.

As examples of progress, the OAS leader highlighted that "Electoral processes have made considerable headway. Governments are created through clean, secret, universal elections, and regularly change hands among different political groups, without entailing a significant disruption." "I can speak from experience here,” he added, “since in just the past five years, the OAS has observed more than 80 election processes of all kinds in different countries of the region, and each of them has more than fulfilled the requirements for a democratic election."

"There is no doubt that our societies have made important progress on the road to democratization," said the Secretary General, but acknowledged limitations remain, some of which "can be attributed to the still short time in which all of these events have developed."

Among the most important challenges to the democracies of the Americas, the head of the OAS cited poverty and inequality, organized crime and insecurity, weak institutions, and "the democratic fallacy that the majority has the right to change the system as it sees fit." Concluding his speech, Secretary General Insulza said that "the risks of de-construction are there.” “Because criminal groups today are a seed of independent power; they control their own territories and of course obey their own laws, which they impose on others outside the authority of the state. Because the privileges that some people enjoy and the existence of systems of health, education, and security that are differentiated in terms of access and quality lead to the creation of distinct categories of citizens. And because in some countries, the necessary measures of consensus that should exist in every democratic society, are giving way to extreme political polarization, and this is not a good foundation for the urgent reforms still required in Latin America," said the Secretary General.

Carol Lancaster, Dean of the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University welcomed Secretary General Insulza, and said that Latin America has seen significant changes in recent decades. "It is now much more prosperous, less unequal, more democratic, healthier, better educated, and most important in the world. That does not mean it has reached Nirvana, but from my point of view, it seems to have made significant progress, which is often unrecognized in the United States. "

The Congress Co-Chairs Gwen Kirkpatrick, of Georgetown University, and Kenneth Roberts, of Cornell University, opened the event and introduced its theme "Latin America: Toward a New Social Contract." The event runs until Saturday, June 1 in Washington, DC.

LASA is the largest professional association in the world for individuals and institutions dedicated to the study of Latin America. With more than 7,000 members, 45 percent of whom reside outside the United States, LASA is the association that brings together experts on Latin America from all disciplines and various professional efforts worldwide. The Congress will have more than 900 sessions, and more than 4,000 participants.

A gallery of photos of the event is available here.

The B-roll of the is available here.

For more information, please visit the OAS Website at

Reference: E-208/13