Latin America: democracy under strain


“We are at an interesting moment in modern history,” according to Luis Almagro, Secretary General of the Organization of American States.

“There appears to be a growing appetite for populist politics in some of the most developed economies around the world,” he told a forum at the National Endowment for Democracy yesterday (above). But “we must resist a shift towards isolationism, where communities retreat into what and who they know, and instead renew our commitments to pluralism, openness and inclusivity,” he added in remarks at the launching of Latin America and the Liberal World Order, a report from Global Americans which tracks the foreign policies of Latin American governments with respect to human rights norms and democracy standards.

Democracy and human rights are under strain in some parts of the hemisphere – but the OAS has unique instruments and tools to ensure their eventual triumph over inequality, social exclusion, corruption, the erosion of political rights, and the closure of civic space, said Almagro (right) on a panel which also featured Chris Sabatini, Executive Director of Global Americans; Katya Salazar, Executive Director of the Due Process of Law Foundation and Miriam Kornblith, the NED’s Senior Director for Latin America and the Caribbean:

We cannot become complacent because there are real and present risks in many countries across the region. With growing demands from citizens throughout the Hemisphere, the principal threats and challenges are a result of weak government institutions and poor social services. Weak rule of law and growing insecurity, inequality and social exclusion; political polarization, corruption, the erosion of political and human rights, weak political parties, and the closure of civic space all undermine democratic consolidation.

“Corruption has proven to be a central challenge to the success of the region’s growth and stability because it not only affects citizens economically but undermine the public’s trust in the governments elected to serve them,” Almagro added:

Across the Americas, political corruption has mobilized citizens to take to the streets to demand transparency and accountability, and end impunity. Political campaigns have been fought, and won over it. In Honduras, the bold and ambitious Mission to Support the Fight against Corruption and Impunity in Honduras, the MACCIH, was established to respond to the people protests and indignation over government corruption. We must continue fight every day against corruption to address the enormous inequalities our citizens face and ensure more rights.

The OAS has sought to promote dialogue to end the impasse in Venezuela, but an “insincere” process has failed, Almagro said, “instead only serving to perpetuate the conditions”:

This past fall, the opposition in Venezuela had galvanized the citizenry behind a constitutional solution to the political crisis through the recall referendum. This constitutional solution was not achieved. The International Community had used the Inter-American Democratic Charter and the democratic clause in MERCOSUR to help pressure the regime in Caracas regime to find a democratic solution. With this momentum, the Opposition agreed to a new phase of the dialogue, and this phase dialogue has moved backwards- the National Assembly lost even more power through decisions of the Supreme Court; the total amount of political prisoners has grown; Inflation continues to grow to unprecedented levels, while the GDP is in freefall; and the last opportunity for a constitutional solution – the recall referendum has passed.

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