Media Center

Press Release


  October 31, 2007

The Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), José Miguel Insulza, asserted today that certain countries in Latin America and the Caribbean are undergoing a series of political challenges which are closely related to the lack of strong public institutions and inadequate economic and fiscal policies.

Speaking at a forum of the World Affairs Council in Los Angeles, California, Secretary General Insulza noted that although significant progress has been achieved in recent years, the principal threat to democracy in the region today is that democratically elected governments may not have the power and conditions needed to rule effectively. “This has to do with the rule of law and also with strengthening of political institutions and systems of representation, and, in particular, with the existence of permanent and genuinely respected institutions.”

The Secretary General highlighted the many electoral processes held and observed by the OAS throughout the Americas in the last few of years, pointing out that “democracy has brought elections that are massive, competitive, and fair on a scale that is unprecedented in our history.” Nevertheless, he provided the Council, which seeks to promote a better understanding of current world affairs by hosting prominent speakers, with an overview of the underlying challenges faced by these governments.

“Today the peoples of the region democratically elect authorities with legitimacy, strength, and determination, but in many cases those authorities are being asked to address enormous problems with only weak institutions to rely on,” he said, adding “that a combination of weak institutions with strong authorities is never stable, on the contrary, it is difficult and always pose a threat to democracy.”

Insulza also explained that inadequate financial policies often lead to social inequality and unstable conditions, and underscored the importance of “greater fiscal responsibility, curbing of inflationary pressures, and compliance with international obligations that almost all countries in the region now pursue.” He stressed that this should not be done at the expense of the elementary obligations of states in a democracy such as education, health, environmental protection, public security and other areas.

“The responsible and correct approach is to maintain efficiency in our governments’ conduct of economic and financial affairs, while not forgetting that we do so in order to fulfill the obligations that our citizens rightly demand of us. We need States that are both efficacious and efficient, and we need fiscal policies capable of financing them,” the Secretary General said.

The head of the regional Organization noted that democratic governments need to show that they are capable of solving problems by implementing effective and efficient public policies. “The outcome of those efforts will show us whether we do indeed have democratic states subject to the rule of law, governed by laws and institutions, or whether we have purely electoral democracies, in which the weakness and failure that gave rise to some of those processes allow one-man strong governments, with popular support, to take the place of true democracies,” concluded Insulza.

Reference: E-273/07