OAS Secretary General Said the Fiftieth Anniversary of Parlatino Is "A Sign of the Strength of Democracy in Latin America"
The Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), José Miguel Insulza, today participated in Panama City in a commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of the Latin American Parliament (Parlatino), an event which, he said, is a good sign of how democracy is working in the region.
"The half-century of existence of the Latin American Parliament is a sign of the strength of Latin American democracy and, therefore, a cause for celebration we should all join," said Secretary General Insulza. He added that, "as a democrat and Latin American" he has seen democracies built and destroyed throughout his life, "so I've learned to appreciate the importance of political and ideological pluralism, dialogue, tolerance and civic friendship."
In his speech, the leader of the OAS noted the coincidence of the ideals of Parlatino and those of the hemispheric institution. "In my capacity as Secretary General of the OAS, I cannot help but appreciate and share the values of Latin American integration, non-intervention, self-determination of peoples, the legal equality of states, the condemnation of the threat and use of force against the political independence and territorial integrity of States; the peaceful, just and negotiated settlement of international disputes and the prevalence of international law. They are all also rules that the Latin American Parliament defined as its permanent and unalterable principles," he added.
Secretary General Insulza said that these principles promoted during the past five decades are those being celebrated today, and he congratulated the Parlatino "and, through it, all national parliaments of our Latin American states." "Parliament is the place where people speak, argue and reach agreements representing social consensus at every moment in the history of our nations," he added.
At another point in his speech, Secretary General Insulza recalled that it had been more than a quarter century since the fall of the last dictatorships in South America, and more than 20 years since peace was achieved in Central America. "All governments participating in the OAS have been elected by the vote of their fellow citizens. Democracy is founded above all on this fact, the cornerstone of the system, because the legitimacy of the political process originates from democratic, clean, competitive and inclusive elections," he said. He also said that "democracy also includes compliance with certain conditions, values and rights such as human rights and freedom of expression, respect for the rule of law, political pluralism and balance of powers, respect for fundamental freedoms, non-discrimination and the promotion of human development and social inclusion, defined as the end of the democratic process and as a means to consolidate stability."
The OAS leader said that unlike in the past, democracy in Latin America is no longer defined as an aspiration of the peoples of the Americas, but is now recognized as "a right, and promoting and defending it is an obligation of their governments,” according to the first article of the Inter-American Democratic Charter.
Referring to the major challenges of democracy in the region today, Insulza considered poverty and extreme poverty as "excessive in our region." He said that "inequality and discrimination frustrate many millions who, having already escaped poverty, remain in an alarming situation of vulnerability and lack of opportunity. These conditions of social exclusion are also forms of discrimination against women or minorities, which are particularly affected," and he also indicated that indigenous peoples and Afro-descendants suffer greater deprivation than the average population, as do an excessive number of female-headed single parent households, the disabled and the elderly.
Violence and crime were also identified by Secretary General Insulza as elements that threaten democratic life. He warned that "these problems are not solved by the market, as much as the maintenance of adequate levels of economic growth is needed to address them. They require decisive action by governments, and state policies suited to their seriousness." Therefore, he added, "strengthening the rule of law is not only necessary to maintain governability, but to adopt public policies and create public services that improve the condition of the people of Latin America who believe in democracy, but expect their governments to make progress in addressing these weaknesses and threats."
The OAS Secretary General said that the lack of accountability on the part of rulers is another of the challenges facing democratic governments in the region. "What is behind this concept is the idea that the exercise of power in democracy has limits; It can never be exercised absolutely, because, if so, personal leadership, even if it has the affirmative vote of a majority, finally replaces the popular will," he said. "The history of our region is, unfortunately, full of examples of rulers who, having come to power through elections, end up perpetuating their rule," added Secretary General Insulza.