Media Center



June 4, 2018 - Washington, DC

It is an honor to receive you here in our home, in the Hall of the Americas. To reach this point, you had to cross our Gallery of Heroes before reaching the Hall of the Americas. I myself have to meet the gaze of José Gervasio Artigas as I enter this Hall of the Americas. The spirit of those heroes provides the essential reason behind our causes and goals today; there was something they all shared, and that was the value of freedom.

All of us here value much about them: their manifest courage, their bravery in overcoming misfortune and defeat, their victories, their political skills, their commitment toward our people, toward our peoples, but it was the cause of freedom that fundamentally drove them and that should be what drives us now.

Freedom can never be surrendered, or eroded, or relativized to suit different interests or negotiation processes; the freedom of our peoples is sacred, and its assumption by our heroes unquestionably indicates the path and the commitment that we must follow.

The cause of freedom has been fueled by everyone: women, indigenous people, Afro-descendants. The defense of their rights is an essential imperative in our work.

The OAS has to be a moral force for development, and also a moral force for fighting climate change: climate change kills people and forces people to emigrate.

The OAS is also a moral force in the struggle for democracy. Democracy is the only political system where we can live with both freedom and dignity. No oppressor can guarantee freedom and dignity; only under democracy does the individual have rights and is able to enjoy and exercise them; only under democracy are there guarantees of justice, memory of the errors of the past, truth for continuing to build with awareness, and the security that we have learned from those errors of the past and that they will never be repeated.

Only under democracy can we fight against impunity through legitimate and independent justice systems. It is under democracy that we have the right to combat the errors of our present—such as the deep-rooted corruption found in our republics—and peacefully resolve authoritarian and totalitarian temptations. Only under democracy can we fight those who are seduced into refusing to give up position and privilege in a hemisphere that is rich in resources. Under democracy we can avoid the ethical poverty in politics that seduces us into refusing to renounce privilege.

We must never lose ourselves in rhetoric and justifications that void democracy of its content and its rights. Governance must be based on zero tolerance for corruption. Governance must be the tool to bring about the changes needed to guarantee the rights of all. Governance must be zero tolerance toward injustice. It must be our best effort for democratic consolidation; it must be our agenda of law and be more alive and sustainable than ever before.

Governance through stability of rule looks dangerously like a synonym for impunity. And when that takes root, true democracy loses the reason for its existence. When we are willing to hold elections with proscribed candidates and jailed political prisoners, we are not creating democracies: we are voiding them of content and, worse still, we are violating the rights of our citizens. We are denying those people the values we preach and that we have taken up as our standard. We are accomplices of authoritarianism and violators of human rights.

Clearly, our work going forward is to strengthen the instruments and the variables that we have for defending democracy. Our democracy is founded on its essential principles, on its basic elements in the Inter-American Democratic Charter, which also contains the tools for defending it; those tools are essential, and we must permanently honor them in order to maintain and to restore democracies; we must have a hemisphere absolutely free of dictatorships.