| Ambassador Luis J. Lauredo,
Permanent Representative of the
United States to the Organization of American States
Remarks to the Caribbean and Latin American Action Conference,
Miami, Florida, December 7, 2000
I hope to give you a brief overview of U.S.-Hemispheric relations today and where I believe we are headed.
First, let me speak about the Organization of American States (OAS). The OAS is the world's oldest international organization and the hemisphere's premier political organization. Its membership includes 34 of the 35 countries in the hemisphere. The Organization does many things, from monitoring elections, to humanitarian de-mining, to technical cooperation. But the OAS' main purpose is to serve as the principal political forum for issues of peace, security, and democracy. The particular emphasis on specific issues may change but the commitment to these core themes is always at the heart of everything the Organization does and is.
During my tenure I have been particularly involved in two key areas; the first is safeguarding and strengthening the democratic advances of the past decade, that is, making sure that young democracies do not slip back into authoritarianism or dictatorship. The second is looking ahead to what our hemisphere can achieve through the OAS and the Summit of Americas process.
Challenges to Democracy
First, let me talk about democracy in the hemisphere. Just in the last year there have been several democratic crises in the region that have required a swift response from the OAS. First came Ecuador, with the resignation of its President under duress, then Paraguay with an aborted coup, followed by Peru's flawed elections and political drama, and finally the continuing struggle for democracy in Haiti. Remember, the threats to democracy today are more subtle than ever, and therefore, more dangerous. Allow me to talk about two of those cases; one of them, Peru, a success story -- we hope -- and the other, Haiti, a work in progress.
The events in Peru over the last year run like the script for a made-for-TV drama. We witnessed seriously flawed elections, the start of a third Fujimori term, a bribery scandal, a manhunt for the deposed spy chief, the convocation of new elections, the resignation of President Fujimori and the succession of President Paniagua, the firing of the top military commanders, and finally the beginning of a return to constitutional democracy and the rule of law. Along the way we have also seen tangible gains from an OAS-sponsored dialogue between the government, the opposition, and civil society on strengthening democracy.
When the OAS General Assembly convened last June, the U.S. delegation was focused on several key objectives. The most important of these was securing passage of a resolution that addressed concretely the situation in Peru. Remember that we were looking at a government that had curtailed the freedom and independence of the judiciary, legislature, and the press and had turned its back on international agreements.
The government had removed judges on the constitutional tribunal who were not sympathetic to President Fujimori's bid for a third term. It had stripped an outspoken press critic, Baruch Ivcher, of his citizenship, causing him to then lose control of his television station. When these actions were brought before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, the Government of Peru purported to withdraw from the Court's jurisdiction with immediate effect, even though it was treaty-bound to give one year's notice. Despite a courageous and historic OAS Election Mission led by former Guatemala Foreign Minister Eduardo Stein, the Government of Peru refused to correct its undemocratic practices and refused to provide free and open elections, forcing the OAS Mission to withdraw. The May 8 presidential elections were seriously flawed, failed minimum international standards, and took place without the benefit of OAS or other international observers.
Recognizing the seriousness of the situation, the Foreign Ministers unanimously approved a high-level mission, led by Secretary General Gaviria and then Canadian Foreign Minister Axworthy, to explore with the Government of Peru and other political players ways to strengthen democratic institutions in that country. The OAS established a Secretariat in Lima, led by former Dominican Republic Foreign Minister Eduardo LaTorre, which initiated a national dialogue on democratic reform. Participants in the dialogue included representatives from the Government of Peru, the political opposition, and Peruvian civil society.
The OAS dialogue produced important, tangible results, among them reforms to restore the independence of the judiciary; to dismantle the National Intelligence Service and to begin to restructure the Service under civilian oversight; and to open the media to all political actors. Most important, it kept the hopes of a reborn democracy alive.
Today's new dynamics in Peru, both in Congress and the executive branch, are expediting the reform process and we believe the difficult negotiations which marked the initial phase of the OAS dialogue will now give way to a focus on implementation of reforms. We believe the OAS mission still has a useful role in play in this new political era in Peru. We are working with other member states to sustain the mission and are preparing a new Elections Mission to assist the transition government in achieving free, fair, and transparent elections in April 2001.
As we know, it's not over until it's over, but I think we can say Peru is back on track. It has been a long and difficult struggle, and it has been the Peruvian people who deserve the credit for the success we have achieved. Their tenacity, their commitment to democracy, and their forceful but peaceful opposition to the those who tarnished their democratic institutions should serve as an inspiration to all of us and fill us with hope.
Now let me turn to Haiti. The OAS has tried to assist Haiti in the resolution of a conflict concerning the Government's flawed vote counting methodology in the May 21 Senate elections. The Secretary General and Assistant Secretary General of the OAS, along with representatives from the United States, CARICOM, and the UN "Group of Friends" traveled to Haiti in mid-August for high-level discussions to end the electoral impasse. This followed weeks of intense discussions in the OAS and with the Government of Haiti on possible outcomes to the electoral crisis.
OAS Assistant Secretary General Einaudi subsequently conducted shuttle diplomacy among Haiti's political parties aimed a mediating an agreement to resolve Haiti's electoral impasse.
Haiti's leaders consistently have ignored the serious concerns raised by the United States and the international community regarding the May 21 elections. Their decision to install the parliament produced by these badly flawed elections, and to hold the November 26 presidential elections with a compromised Provisional Electoral Council, indicated an unwillingness to engage with the international community regarding the serious challenges facing democracy in Haiti.
Haiti's November 26 elections did not benefit from the full participation of Haiti's diverse political society and were marked by considerable pre-election violence. These factors indicate that Haiti has considerable ground to cover in developing an effective and inclusive democracy.
The United States did not send official observers to Haiti or provide electoral assistance on November 26 because the country's leaders failed to address the serious concerns raised by the OAS and others regarding the May elections. These concerns remain.
We urge the Haitian authorities to take tangible and immediate steps to restore the confidence of the Haitian people and the international community. As these steps are taken, the United States stands ready to help the Haitian people in their pursuit of prosperity, dignity, and democracy.
The Government of Haiti, however, must address the issues pointed out by the OAS or risk being marginalized by the hemisphere's democracies. We remain hopeful that Haiti will take steps to strengthen democratic institutions and procedures.
Peru and Haiti are but two examples of the new threats to democracy. Out of temporary desperation, a new monster is beginning to show its face ... elected but authoritarian leaders and popular, but undemocratic practices. We must be more vigilant and pro-active than ever.
As Cuban patriot Jose Marti said over a hundred years ago: La Tirania es una misma en sus varias formas, aunque se vista en alguna de ellas de nombres hermosos y de hechos grandes. (Tyranny is one and the same whether disguised by beautiful names or grandiose acts.)
We need to guard against the notion that having formal democratic structures in place is by itself sufficient. Democracy is not just a system of government -- it is a culture. It is a culture of tolerance, patience, and a respect and protection of minority views.
The actions of the OAS in these cases have demonstrated a new dynamic commitment to a proactive defense of democracy, and turning a new era in which, acting together, bonded by common principles, the countries of the hemisphere will not allow the misuse of the concept of sovereignty to hide bad practices against the people of our hemisphere. This new era was best described by Argentine President de la Rua, when he proclaimed: "'No' a la interferencia, pero tambien 'no' a la indiferencia" ("'No' to interference, but also 'no' to indifference.")
Summit of the Americas
Despite challenges such as Peru and Haiti, we remain optimistic about the future of the hemisphere. One reason for this optimism is that the Summit of the Americas process has created a strong foundation for future cooperation and partnership amongst countries -- bilaterally and multilaterally.
This optimism is also grounded in the growing consensus in the United States about the strategic and economic importance of the Americas which has led to a solid base for policy continuity with bi-partisan support. I believe you will see a future of sustained engagement by the U.S. in this hemisphere.
President George Bush negotiated the NAFTA Treaty between the U.S., Mexico, and Canada. President Clinton inherited the Treaty and fought a difficult political struggle to get it ratified by the U.S. Congress. President Clinton and Vice President Gore invited the 34 democratically elected heads of states and governments for the first Summit of the Americas right here in Miami in 1994. The Summit process is now the new architecture of hemispheric relations based on a common agenda of democracy, free market economies, and free and open trade.
In the 1956 Presidential Summit in Panama, there were 11 dictators in the Hemisphere. In Punta del Este in 1967, 10 dictators. In Miami in 1994 and Chile 1998 only one dictator remained in the family of the Americas. In Quebec City 2001, we hope none still endure.
The Summit provides a forum to discuss common political, economic, and social issues in an environment of mutual respect and cooperation. The Summit agenda is a common agenda that reflects a shared commitment to democracy, human rights, and economic freedom and which charges countries with the shared responsibility to promote and guard against threats to these values and to be proactive in their defense.
Shared Values, Shared Responsibilities
The Third Summit, which will take place in April 2001 in Quebec City, Canada, will be important for a variety of reasons. First, it will be one of the new President's first foreign policy trips -- coming a mere 90 days into his administration. This means that the Western Hemisphere will be a foreign policy priority early on in the next Administration. Second, the Summit provides a unique opportunity for the new U.S. President to meet his hemispheric counterparts. Third and most important, this Summit is important because it seeks to improve the quality of life for the people who live in the hemisphere.
Parallel to our common efforts to support democratic rule, another way we are improving lives is by promoting open markets.
The most well known achievement of the Summit of the Americas was the launching of FTAA process in 1994. These negotiations are moving ahead and by 2005 or before, we hope to have a single market for the Americas encompassing more than 850 million people and boasting a gross domestic product of more than $9 trillion.
We are on our way to achieving the goal of a common market for the Americas -- first NAFTA, now Chile. Yesterday, we had our first meeting with the Chilean Government about the U.S.-Chile Free Trade Agreement negotiation announced last week and we expect that the negotiations will move quickly.
President Clinton also recently signed into law an enhanced version of the Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI) that will put our small island neighbors in the Caribbean on an equal trade footing with our NAFTA partners.
But the Summit is not confined to trade issues.
The Summit also produced the Inter-American Convention Against Corruption that has been ratified by 20 countries and has encouraged governments at all levels to become more transparent and accessible to citizens. Thanks to the Summit process, transportation ministers are working to create safer, integrated, and more efficient transportation systems. Governments, regional institutions, and non-governmental organizations are working together in a variety of areas from increasing the quality and access to education, to modernizing telecommunications infrastructure, to providing the poor access to credit and giving them legal titles to their land. And thanks in great part to the Summit, civil society organizations and business groups have a greater voice and influence in the policymaking process of various countries and within the Summit process.
Of course, much work remains to be done. But as we look forward to the Third Summit, we can build on these successes to address many of the new and more complex challenges we face.
Just last week I, along with my 34 hemispheric national coordinators counterparts, met in Washington DC to discuss the agenda and priorities for the next Summit. I am pleased to report that the agenda for Quebec City is concrete, focused, and relevant to our people.
For example, we are developing policies to make governments across the hemisphere more transparent, accessible, and less corrupt. We are looking for ways to promote the administration of justice, increase respect for human rights, and strengthen the rule of law. We are looking at ways to improve countries' ability to prepare and respond to natural disasters and to improve people's access to quality health care and to a quality education. We are looking for ways to improve labor and environmental conditions in the hemisphere and developing initiatives to take advantage of advances in information and telecommunication technologies so that we can begin bridging the digital divide. These are all areas that will have a real impact on people's lives.
As we look into the future, we are also devising ways to ensure that the Summit remains credible for real people and continues to enjoy the active participation of all countries. The Summit must be real, for real people, and meaningful in their everyday lives. It must break through the fears created by globalization.
As political theorist Yaron Erzalhi notes:"The more citizens begin to feel that in this new system of globalization things are controlled from afar, not from home, the more the globalizers in these countries will be exposed to attacks. Clearly, one the biggest challenges ... in this globalization era is how to give citizens a sense that they can exercise their will, not only over their own government, but over at least some of the global forces shaping their lives."
Despite the turmoil in Latin America over the last several months, we have watched the seeds of our commitment bear fruit. This hemisphere, with one exception -- Cuba -- is united around two key beliefs: that democracy is the only valid form of government and that open markets and free trade are the best route to prosperity.
Since the Miami Summit in 1994 and the Santiago Summit in 1998, we have and will continue to face difficult and complex challenges in the region. To address these challenges we must work collectively as equal partners. As a result of the Summit of the Americas process we have built the framework for greater cooperation and true partnerships in the Hemisphere. The next President can build on this foundation and use the Quebec City Summit as a unique opportunity to set the tone of U.S. policy in the hemisphere and to advance the causes of democracy and prosperity in the hemisphere.
Thank you very much.
[end of document]
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