Originally: Reaping the Benefits of Hemispheric Solidarity
April 28, 2003
I thank Eric Farnsworth for that very generous introduction. I must say,
however, that Eric’s decision to have me speak right after the Secretary of
State has led me to reevaluate our friendship. He is indeed a tough act to
But I welcome the opportunity to be here with you this afternoon.
The fact that you are here today suggests that you see the Western Hemisphere
as more than market for your goods or services. More than a group of countries
thrown together by geography. More than a source of labor or raw materials.
Like you, I see a community of nations, sharing common political values,
sharing peaceful borders, and sharing an economic destiny. Close to home, we
find two of our top three trade partners, three of our top four energy
suppliers, and a fairly peaceful neighborhood.
Where some see flat economic growth, we see governments adhering to a
responsible economic path and recessions bottoming out as our own economy
continues to rebound.
Where some see persistent poverty, we see leaders stoking the engine of robust
trade and investment that will generate enough income so that the poor can
improve their lives.
Where some see people questioning democracy itself, we see them choosing their
leaders and settling disputes through peaceful, constitutional means with
democratic traditions and institutions growing stronger every day.
Where some see a sister republics under attack by narcoterrorists, we see
strong, determined, democratic presidents leading their people and meeting the
challenge and worthy of our help.
Where some see popular skepticism toward the United States in Latin America, we
see ourselves inexorably growing together in every sense of that expression.
Opportunities abound in the Americas not merely to build a trade area
embracing 800 million consumers and $14 trillion in GDP, but to consolidate a
community of friendly nations that share our commitment to democracy, free
enterprise, and broad-based economic growth.
Cultivating such a stable international partnership has never been more
important for the United States. For our neighbors who have made hard-won
gains but who still face acute challenges U.S. engagement has never been more
President Bush s policies will help our friends overcome short-term obstacles
as well as help secure a century s worth of freedom and prosperity for our
neighbors and ourselves.
My role today is tell you about two key instruments of our Hemispheric
solidarity: the Organization of American States and the Summit of the Americas.
For the last 19 months, I have had the privilege of serving as U.S. Ambassador
to the Organization of American States (OAS). I also serve as U.S. National
At the OAS, every member state large and small deals with the others as
equals and we generally make our decisions by consensus. This way of doing
business works for us all because of the profound unity in favor of
representative democracy and free-market principles that prevails in the
Americas today. My experience at the OAS has given me an even greater
appreciation for our neighbors and even more profound respect for their points
A friend of mine told me not long ago that a person could specialize in Latin
American affairs their whole life, and not have to know a thing about the OAS.
Obviously, he was not a very good friend, but many of you probably think the
same thing about the OAS if you think about it at all.
The fact is, the more you know about that organization, the more interested you
will be in its success. The OAS has never been more relevant in addressing key
hemispheric concerns than it is today. The work of the OAS spans a wide
spectrum, but roughly parallels all United States policy interests in the
Americas: promoting democracy, human rights, free trade, economic development,
and education; fighting terrorism, illegal drugs, and corruption; fostering
academic and cultural exchange.
And, the OAS is poised to play an increasingly important role in advancing
policies and programs that benefit all of its member states. At the OAS, we can
promote our highest common values, not merely the lowest common denominator.
Whether our goal is fighting drugs, terrorism, or corruption, the
Inter-American System has created a series of legally-binding treaties and
action-oriented commissions that commit our neighbors to practical cooperation.
One of the most important accomplishments in recent months was the adoption of
the Inter-American Democratic Charter, which has become the focal point of the
most serious work that the OAS is called upon to perform to maintain,
support, strengthen, and defend democracy in the Western Hemisphere.
The Democratic Charter opens with the bold statement: The peoples of the
Americas have a right to democracy and their governments have an obligation to
promote and defend it, and the Charter goes on to outline the essential
elements of representative democracy.
The document further outlines the relationship between democracy and human
rights and illustrates the mutually reinforcing action between democracy and
economic development. It then lays out a series of actions to be taken to
strengthen and defend democracy in the region in the event that a member state
should fail to uphold the essential elements of democratic life or if there is
a clear interruption of democratic order.
The Charter essentially establishes representative democracy as a condition of
membership in the OAS.
The Charter contemplates a gradual, measured response to political crisis,
incorporating practical measures both remedial and preventive that range
from on-site visits by the Secretary General at the invitation of the affected
member state to the suspension of a member state from participation in the OAS.
But the accent is not on sanctions but on prevention of a crisis. For example,
one of the most important articles allows a member state to request assistance
from the OAS when it considers that its democratic process or institutions are
Guided by the Democratic Charter, in Venezuela, the OAS is close to defining a
path toward a peaceful solution to the political impasse and polarization that
threaten Venezuela s democracy. OAS Secretary General Gaviria has succeeded in
brokering an April 11 accord that spells out a modus vivendi for reaching a
revocatory referendum late this year in which voters can decide whether
President Chavez should complete his full term in office. The opposition is
prepared to abide by the agreement, and we hope the government will do so as
The OAS also remains engaged in Haiti, defining a course of action whereby the
Haitian government could get back on a democratic track. In our view, the
Aristide regime has failed to meet its commitments to the OAS. We can not
continue to carry on business as usual with a government that defies the will
of the inter-American community and has left the Haitian people without
responsible, democratic leadership.
In both Venezuela and Haiti, all sides now must work for a peaceful and
democratic solution to the current impasse. President Chavez and President
Aristide have, in their own way, contributed willfully to a polarized and
As with any elected leader, they have a unique obligation to govern
democratically, to reduce political tension, and to protect the rights of all
their citizens. Ultimately, their neighbors will hold them accountable for
their commitments under the Inter-American Democratic Charter.
It is my fervent hope that the good people of Cuba are studying the Democratic
Charter, because it represents a path to their reintegration into the free
President Bush has made it clear that the United States will not make
unilateral concessions to the Castro dictatorship. Just as important, we are
committed to supporting the democratic struggle on the island with new
creativity and vigor. To that end, we must redouble our bilateral and
multilateral efforts to hasten the inevitable democratic transition on the
The recent ruthless crackdown on dissidents and independent journalists
demonstrates that the Castro regime is threatened by the growing internal
opposition groups and by their expanding network of international support.
The inter-American community should do more than wish for Cuba s freedom, we
should work together like never before to make it a reality.
In addition to strengthening democracy, the inter-American system includes
legally binding treaties and practical mechanisms to help us confront terrorism
For example, after the terrible events of September 11, 2001, the OAS member
states committed to work together to fight terrorism.
A new Inter-American Convention Against Terrorism was signed in June 2002. The
Inter-American Committee Against Terrorism (CICTE) has become a model for other
regions of the world to organize themselves to coordinate practical measures to
confront this deadly threat.
That anti-terrorism group is modeled on the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control
Commission, known as CICAD. That Commission was formed over a decade ago, when
it was considered insolent to even suggest that drug trafficking was a problem,
let alone propose that we work together to confront it.
Today, CICAD is a robust instrument that helps each country implement practical
anti-drug plans and apply the rule of law effectively against narcotrafficking.
One feature of CICAD is a multilateral evaluation mechanism, by which experts
representing each country review the anti-drug efforts of others. Through
expert assessments and peer review, CICAD is a constructive tool to enlist all
countries to pull their weight in the struggle against the deadly drug trade.
Similarly, the OAS is confronting corruption, another widespread threat to our
common well-being. Guided by the ground-breaking Inter-American Convention
Against Corruption, the member states of the OAS have joined in a
comprehensive, multilateral effort to combat this scourge.
The Convention prescribes mutual legal assistance, technical cooperation,
extradition, and seizure of assets. It also requires countries to criminalize
bribery of government officials.
Through a formal Follow-Up Mechanism, experts from the 28 parties to the
Convention monitor each other s progress in implementing their commitments.
Anti-corruption efforts, crucial in bolstering the rule of law and freeing up
resources for the common good in each country, also will help ensure the
success of trade and investment agreements, which require transparency and a
level legal playing field to reach their full potential.
I have described how the OAS is confronting the toughest of challenges:
terrorism, drugs, and corruption. The formula works: we identify the highest
standards through multilateral, transparent negotiations. We make formal
commitments to abide by these standards. And we establish expert-driven,
depoliticized mechanisms to help ensure that each government can and does meet
This model can be used to confront other challenges. For instance, if we can
identify the best practices in development, education, science, and technology,
we can use OAS fora to prescribe the best policies and encourage countries
using their own resources but counting on OAS expert advice to implement
policies that are good for their own people and good for the Hemisphere as a
The Summit of the Americas process is another tool for setting high standards
and commiting our governments to address common needs.
The 2001 Summit in Quebec City underscored this commitment to trade and
democracy, demonstrating that the region s leaders envision building a
prosperous community of nations linked by common political values.
The agreement to conclude negotiations for a Free Trade Area of the Americas by
January 2005 and the entry into force of the FTAA by the end of the year is the
best-known Summit initiative.
But that is only part of a much broader hemispheric action plan which
President Bush and his 33 democratically-elected counterparts in the Americas
laid out at Quebec City to strengthen democracy and human rights, promote
sustainable development, improve education and health systems, and fight
terrorism, drugs, and corruption.
A summary of the Summit agenda and a list of many accomplishments has been
distributed to you. I hope you agree with me that this agenda represents an
abundant and practical commitment to improving the quality of life of all
persons, from every walk of life, in the Americas.
I am pleased to report that Hemispheric leaders have agreed to meet again late
this year at an interim Summit to review the state of affairs in the Hemisphere
and renew their commitment to good governance and broad-based economic growth.
The OAS and the Summit process represent multilateralism that works. It works
because it is based on common values and neighbors working together for our
In conclusion, let me note that, we must be realistic about the challenges in
the Americas today. The free-market model and even democracy itself are being
sorely tested in some countries.
However, it is just as important to consider the tremendous progress that the
people of the region have made in just the last 10-15 years, building
governments that are more accountable and just and economies that are more open
in every respect.
But, this progress is not irreversible. In many countries today, there are
dynamic, democratic leaders who recognize that free-market led policies are the
formula for success. But, in too many cases, there are opposition leaders
waiting to take their countries down a very different path.
For decades, the United States has supported political and economic reform, and
we must respond urgently to consolidate and build on these hard-won gains
before they slip away. To seize this opportunity, U.S. policy must be
forward-looking, constructive, and optimistic.
The steps we take in the next few months and years to defend democracy and to
bolster broad-based economic growth in the Americas will be decisive in
shoring-up our key partners at a crucial hour. It is in our essential economic
and political interest that we do this.
All of my colleagues look forward to working with each of you to seize the
opportunity in the Americas.
Thank you very much.
Released on April 28, 2003