Ambassador to the OAS
to Center for Strategic and International Studies
OAS AND THE DEMOCRATIC CHARTER
Thank you very much, Miguel
Diaz both for that warm introduction and for
the invitation to speak here this morning.
If there is anyone out
there who has followed my public remarks since becoming
Ambassador to the Organization of American States, the
OAS, you will know that I tend to talk a lot about a
particular document the Inter-American Democratic
I talk about it a lot
because it's an important document, and, in fact, has
become the focal point of the most serious work that
the OAS is called upon to perform. That is: maintaining,
supporting, strengthening, and defending democracy in
the Western Hemisphere.
Adopted by the Inter-American
Community on September 11 in the immediate wake of
the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center and the
Pentagon the hemispheric consensus represented that
day was a significant, historic event in its own right.
It was historic because
it was the first time in the history of the Western
Hemisphere that the representatives of our community
the Inter-American community sat down at a table
together to agree on an expression of political values
with such clarity and reach: the political values that
are the building blocks of democratic life.
The document defines the
"essential elements" of "representative democracy"
that is to say, the "democratic order" in very specific
and inclusive terms, including:
Respect for "human
rights and fundamental freedoms, access to and the free
exercise of power in accordance with the rule of law,
the holding of periodic, free, and fair elections based
on secret balloting and universal suffrage";
of political parties and organizations";
"Separation of powers
and independence of the branches of government";
"Freedom of expression
and of the press"; and
of all state institutions to the legally constituted
A simple recognition of
these values would have been a monumental event in and
of itself. But, rather than stopping there, they took
it a bit further.
The Inter-American community
laid out a series of actions to be taken to maintain,
support, strengthen, and defend democracy in the region
in the event that one of its members should fail to
uphold the essential elements of democratic life.
The document allows any
member state or the Secretary General to trigger a response
by the Organization of American States, calling for
the "immediate convocation" of a meeting of the Permanent
Council to consider the facts, deploy diplomatic efforts,
or use other political mediation.
If there is a clear interruption
of democratic order, or if an undemocratic alteration
is not remedied, the Charter calls for a General Assembly
that may, among other things, suspend the offending
government from the Inter-American system which requires
a two-thirds vote of the member states.
The Charter contemplates
a gradual, measured response to political crises. It
incorporates very practical measures both remedial
and preventative to strengthen or restore democracy.
This is not a cookie-cutter
approach, and it does not anticipate rushing to suspend
a member state.
In fact, the dissuasive
influence or proactive, preventative measures contemplated
under the Charter are perhaps its most important contribution.
The Charter builds on
a practical legacy in which the OAS advances values
that will make all of our nations stronger by making
each of our nations stronger.
In adopting the Democratic
Charter, setting forth a series of shared values, and
specifying mechanisms to strengthen and defend those
values, the Inter-American community of nations created
an example for the rest of the world to follow.
As far as I know, this
has not been done among any other community of nations
in the world. Any grouping of countries in the world
whose nations are searching for a path toward fostering
and implementing democratic values in their respective
regional community can look to the
Western Hemisphere as a model to be followed. And we
as a community the Inter-American community
can and should wear this distinction with pride.
If the Inter-American
Democratic Charter is so significant, so ground-breaking,
so historic and such an example for the world to follow,
why is it then that so few people know about it? Or
if they've heard of it, they don't know what it means,
or why it is important.
Let's remember that that
Charter is only seven months old. Documents intended
to be cornerstones of public policy like laws or
even the U.S. Constitution are not born with instant
A document's legitimacy
evolves slowly, over time, as it is exercised, and as
respect for it and the values it embodies grows. Only
through numerous attempted, not always successful, applications
of a document can it achieve its full or even intended
Through fits and starts
and repeated attempts, the values embodied in a significant
public policy document, such as the Democratic Charter,
eventually come to life and become tangible and immutable.
The Inter-American community
started down the long road of making the Charter real
when the region expressed its collective concern about
the deteriorating state of democracy in Haiti.
We have been seized with
the declining state of Haitian democracy for several
years, in particular since the flawed electoral process
of May 2000.
However, the true extent
of that desperation did not crystallize in the consciousness
of the Inter-American community until 17 December.
An armed attack on the
National Palace, which some observers believe was a
coup attempt, was followed by several days of attacks
by supporters of the ruling Lavalas Party against members
of the opposition burning party headquarters, private
homes, and killing at least three persons. The community
reacted by "evoking" rather than "invoking" the spirit
of the Democratic Charter, and by adopting a resolution
designed to strengthen Haitian democracy, not punish
the Haitian government.
Condemning the loss of
life and the destruction of property, the resolution
called for the government to work with the international
community to establish an OAS mission, and for the Secretary
General to assign technical experts to that mission
to help in the development and strengthening of Haiti's
democratic political processes and institutions.
The resolution called
on the government of Haiti to take a series of six specific
steps to restore a climate of security necessary for
resuming political dialogue, and it instructed the Secretary
General to monitor essential elements of representative
democracy and compliance with any accord that may result
from OAS-sponsored negotiations.
It also called for a Commission
of Inquiry to investigate the violence surrounding the
events of December 17, and for the Inter-American Commission
on Human Rights (IACHR) to perform an on-site visit
to analyze and report on conditions.
I'm pleased to say that
thanks to the financial contribution of many OAS
member states as well as several European observer states
the initial component of the Haiti mission has been
deployed, and it enjoys excellent leadership.
The 15- to 20-person mission
has four components, intended to assist Haiti in each
of the four areas: security, administration of justice,
human rights, and governance.
The IACHR has already
performed its on-site visit and assessment.
The three-person Commission
of Inquiry has been performing its work for several
weeks. And I'm especially pleased to say that, thus
far, cooperation between the government of Haiti and
the mission has been auspicious. The mission is currently
expected to last a year. And if things continue to go
as they have the past several weeks, the potential for
success at a time when forward progress is badly needed
will be much improved. The OAS will seek to jump-start
negotiations when both sides are prepared to do so,
depending on the climate of confidence and security.
Hopefully, the OAS will be able to count Haiti as the
Democratic Charter's first success story. But we have
a lot of ground to cover before we can even predict
The Charter's second challenge
came only three weeks ago on April 11 after the Venezuelan
military refused to fire upon unarmed, peaceful demonstrators.
According to the best information available at the time,
President Chavez had fired his vice president, dismissed
his cabinet, and resigned, and was arranging another
hasty trip to Cuba. Therefore, on April 12, Pedro Carmona
swore himself in as provisional president, called for
new elections, and ordered that the National Assembly
and Supreme Tribunal of Justice be dissolved. President
Chavez returned to office late at night on April 13.
Invoking Article 20 of
the Charter, Secretary General Gaviria on April 13 convoked
the OAS Permanent Council to perform a collective assessment.
The Permanent Council
condemned the alteration of constitutional order and
convened a special session of the General Assembly under
the Democratic Charter on April 18.
In the first hour of April
19, the region's foreign ministers adopted a resolution
that essentially opens the "toolbox" of the Democratic
Charter for the purpose of reinforcing democratic institutions
It calls on the Venezuelan
government to respect the essential elements of representative
democracy and the rule of law while redoubling its efforts
toward national dialogue and national reconciliation.
The resolution also confirms
that the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR)
will perform an on-site visit to Venezuela the first
week of May.
While encouraging the
Venezuelan government to take advantage of the tools
offered by the Charter, the resolution leaves the degree
of OAS involvement largely up to the Venezuelan government.
Perhaps most significantly,
however, the resolution focuses a regional spotlight
on the state of Venezuela's democratic institutions
and procedures while pledging the OAS's continued attention
Although the situations
are obviously very different, the crises in Haiti and
Venezuela are similar in that neither emerged suddenly
in a single day. Haiti's democratic institutions did
not collapse on December 17, nor did Venezuela's collapse
on April 12. Rather, the democratic institutions of
both countries have experienced a slow decline that
was apparent to the entire Inter-American community.
And as Secretary Powell mentioned in his statement
on Venezuela to the OAS General Assembly on April 18
the region could have and should have acted sooner.
The symptoms of the declining
state of Venezuelan democracy had been clear for many
As early as 1999
or certainly by 2000 it should have been clear to
the Inter-American community that several essential
elements of representative democracy had already been
severely compromised in Venezuela.
As a community, we
should have known that separation of powers and independence
of the branches of government were inexorably breached
when President Chavez re-established branches of government
particularly the judicial branch through executive
It should have been
clear to us that freedom of association was in trouble
in Venezuela when President Chavez challenged the independence
of Venezuela's trade union movement.
community should have known when we observed President
Chavez's repeated public threats against the Venezuelan
media, including against individual journalists that
freedom of expression was being compromised.
It should have been
clear to us when supporters of President Chavez acted
upon those threats by intimidating the media that President
Chavez's words were more than mere rhetoric.
community should have known there was a problem when
President Chavez condemned the Catholic hierarchy as
a "tumor" on Venezuela that needed to be "lanced." And
when he rejected the Papal Nuncio's calls to refrain
from political confrontation.
And we should have
known, as a community, when we observed the dramatic
extent of the polarization of Venezuelan society.
The OAS could have
and should have acted sooner to employ preventative
measures to ensure that the problems in Venezuelan society,
which led to the events of April 12, were addressed
before crisis struck and dozens of lives were lost.
Today, the preconditions
of the April crisis in Venezuela are as bad or worse.
Unless Venezuelans of good will work together to correct
those conditions, that sister republic will be in peril.
And the OAS and our Democratic Charter have indispensable
roles to play in helping Venezuela clear those perilous
waters. We cannot say that the Charter has succeeded
if these conditions persist and the Inter-American community
does nothing until the next crisis. We have an obligation
to help and, I would submit, the GOV has an obligation
to let us help.
The very existence of
the Charter, and its delineation of the essential elements
of democracy, provides us the benefit of a clear framework
with which we can help democracies in crisis before
violence erupts, before people are killed, and before
there is a break in the constitutional order.
Thus far, I think the
Inter-American community has done an excellent job at
defending the crucial concept of constitutionality.
Clearly, however, the community needs to be more focused
on the health of the essential elements of democracy
of its members.
As countries become more
comfortable with and accustomed to the Charter, I think
they'll be better able to take advantage of the tools
it provides. I would hope that, in the future, countries
beset by problems with their democratic systems will
increasingly look to the OAS, and the Democratic Charter,
as a valuable instrument of prevention and remedial
mechanisms to forestall further deterioration of their
political order. In other words, I would like to see
countries in trouble recognizing their own problems,
and requesting assistance under Article 17 to strengthen
institutions and forestall crises, like the ones we've
seen in Haiti and Venezuela.
Before I finish, I'd like
to reiterate how significant it is that the Western
Hemisphere has agreed upon a set of core values, and
how that seemingly simple act has galvanized the sense
of community that the nations of the Americas share.
Many of you know, for example, that this year's United
Nations Human Rights Commission (UNCHR) in Geneva represented
the first time Latin countries took the lead in adopting
a resolution on the human rights situation in Cuba.
And if you take a look at the resolution, you'll notice
that it refers directly to the Inter-American Democratic
Charter. The resolution infuriated the Cuban dictator.
I do not believe it was
mere coincidence that this important event happened
to occur seven months after the establishment of the
Inter-American Democratic Charter. The message sent
by the adoption of the Charter is clear: Every government
in the region recognizes that the political culture
of this hemisphere is based on democratic values and
practices, and that governments devoid of democratic
values and practices governments like the Castro
government are an affront to the entire Inter-American
community as well as its own people.
Why is the Castro government
afraid of this document? Because Castro knows that the
document demonstrates that the Inter-American community
truly is a community of democracies, and that his regime
is on the outside looking in.
I predict that as the
inevitable transition to democracy gets underway in
Cuba, the Democratic Charter will be the standard to
which Cuban leaders will be held. They will be held
to that standard by their own people as well as by
the international community because the Cuban people
know that they belong inside the Inter-American community
of shared democratic values.
I'd be happy to take any