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Posted June 9, 2003
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Intervention at the Plenary of the General Assembly of the Organization of American States
Secretary Colin L. Powell Santiago, Chile June 9, 2003

SECRETARY POWELL: Madam Chairman, Distinguished Colleagues, Twelve years ago, at the last general assembly in Santiago, our heads of delegation approved the ?Santiago Commitment to Democracy and the Renewal of the Inter-American System.? The meeting set an ambitious agenda to promote and defend representative democracy and human rights. We as a hemisphere have made much progress since 1991. The Americas have truly emerged from the shadow of authoritarian rule. As President Bush has stated, ?This hemisphere is on the path of reform, and our nations travel it together. We share a vision ? a partnership of strong, equal and prosperous countries, living and trading in freedom.?

The Inter-American Democratic Charter we adopted nearly two years ago in Lima is the purest expression of our common conviction that democracy is the only legitimate form of government and that our people deserve nothing less. Experience has shown time and again that freedom works, and political and economic freedoms work together, they work in concert.

Collectively, we have recognized that only a sustained commitment to political and economic liberty can help millions of poor people in our hemisphere lift themselves out of misery. But our distinguished host country has rightly called our attention to the fact that we have not completed the work that was begun here in 1991. Our citizens know that free and fair elections alone do not guarantee effective, accountable government. Nor does an unfettered market alone guarantee sustained development.

We are here today to make sure that democracy delivers for the people of this hemisphere. Political democracy and economic opportunity come together in good governance. Respect for the rule of law, fairness, accountability in government and sound economic policies bring hope and opportunity equally to all.

Our Inter-American Democratic Charter is correct to declare that ?democracy and social and economic development are interdependent and are mutually reinforcing.? By focusing our discussion on ?democratic governance? at this meeting, the government of Chile has wisely placed the emphasis on what states can and must do to extend economic opportunity to all of their people.

New democracies created with high hopes can founder if the lives of ordinary citizens do not change for the better. Transitions can be chaotic. Transitions can be wrenching. We know that corruption will squander a nation's treasure and more importantly, it will undermine public trust. And extremists will feed on frustration and fears about the future. That is why it is so important that we meet the goal set by our heads of state and government through the Summit of the Americas process to create by 2005 the Free Trade Area of the Americas. This Free Trade Area would create greater prosperity for nearly 800 million people in 34 countries of our hemisphere. Free trade and open markets can bring investment and job-generating growth, if they rest on a foundation of fairness. Governments must be willing to put what resources they have in quality education, adequate health and nutritional care, basic sanitation, and personal security.

President Bush is determined to help countries across the globe struggling to do the right thing for their people. This February he presented his groundbreaking Millennium Challenge Account Initiative to the United States Congress. As President Bush has said, the Millennium Challenge Initiative is a powerful way "to draw whole nations into an expanding circle of opportunity and enterprise." If fully funded, the initiative would provide the largest increase in US development assistance since the Marshall Plan. By 2006, it would represent an addition of 50% to our core development assistance funding of 2002. From 2006 onward, we would put $5 billion per year in the Millennium Challenge Account.

The Millennium Challenge Account would target only countries that govern justly, invest in their people and encourage economic freedom. Several countries in the hemisphere meet the basic income threshold to compete for Millennium Challenge Account funds during the first year of the program. And many more countries in the Americas are likely to do so in succeeding years. Innovative bilateral efforts such as the Millennium Challenge Account Initiative are important. At the same time, regional cooperation is imperative, because so many of the domestic problems countries confront also have major transnational implications. Twelve years ago, the OAS didn't have the mechanisms for regional cooperation that were needed. Today, we do.

The Inter-American Convention Against Corruption and its follow-up mechanism immediately come to mind. Twelve years ago, it would have been unthinkable to suggest that the countries of the hemisphere should evaluate each other’s efforts to combat corruption. But that is precisely what the convention provides for. The increased effectiveness of the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission is another case in point. Inherent in the commission's mandate is the consensus that drug abuse and drug trafficking threaten all of our societies and that we must work in concert to stop them. After September 11, 2001, we worked together to reenergize the Inter-American Committee Against Terrorism. And our approval at last year’s general assembly in Barbados of the Inter-American Convention Against Terrorism underscores our determination to protect our region against this vicious enemy that knows no limits, national or moral.

Regional efforts have played an important role in defense of democracy itself. As we all know, for over a year, Venezuela’s democracy has been under serious strain. The United States welcomes the May 29 agreement reached between the Government of Venezuela and the opposition Democratic Coordinating Committee. The Secretary General’s tireless efforts were instrumental in this process, and we thank you. Venezuelans must take responsibility for their own future, but we are committed to working with the OAS, the Group of Friends and others to bolster implementation of this agreement with practical support. The people of Haiti have waited a long time -- too long - for their leaders to meet their obligations under OAS Resolutions 806 and 822. Haiti's democracy and economic growth are undermined by the government's failure to create the conditions for an electoral solution to the political impasse.

Led by the efforts of OAS Assistant Secretary General Einaudi and the OAS Special Mission, the international community has provided substantial support for strengthening Haiti’s institutional capacity and civil society. As a further sign of the commitment of the United States to this effort, I am pleased to announce that the United States will provide an additional $1 million to the OAS Special Mission to help improve the security climate for what we hope will be free and fair elections in Haiti. In addition, the United States has increased our humanitarian assistance to $70 million in the current fiscal year. However, if by this September the government of Haiti has not created the climate of security essential to the formation of a credible, neutral and independent provisional electoral council, we should reevaluate the role of the OAS in Haiti. The OAS has taken other important initiatives in support of democracy in our region. Member states raised their voices in unison to denounce the appalling terrorist bombing of a club in Colombia last February. We realize that the narco-trafficking attacks against the people of Colombia are a threat to all of us -- to our human and democratic values and to our shared interests in a secure and prosperous hemisphere. Colombia deserves our steadfast solidarity and our full support.

The people of Cuba increasingly look to the OAS for help in defending their fundamental freedoms against the depredations of our hemisphere’s only dictatorship. We deplore the crackdown of recent weeks against Cuban citizens seeking to act upon their basic human rights. We protest the harsh sentences that are being meted out to them. The Inter-American Democratic Charter declares that “the peoples of the Americas have a right to democracy.” It does not say that the peoples of the Americas, except Cubans, have a right to democracy. I commend the OAS members who stood by their principles and the Cuban people by supporting the recent declaration on human rights in Cuba on the floor of the permanent council. My government looks forward to working with our partners in the OAS to find ways to hasten the inevitable democratic transition in Cuba. If our experience over the last quarter century in this hemisphere and across the globe has taught us anything, it is that dictatorships cannot withstand the force of freedom.

My friends; tyrants, traffickers and terrorists cannot thrive in an inter-American community of robust democracies, healthy citizenries and dynamic economies. President Bush remains deeply determined to working with fellow signatories of the Inter-American Democratic Charter to achieve our shared vision: a hemisphere of hopes realized. Making hopes real is why the theme of this general assembly -- "a new commitment to good governance" is so timely and important. Making hopes real is why each of our delegations need to pay special attention to the "Declaration of Santiago on Democracy and the Public Trust."

We must take concrete steps to keep freedom's hope strong among the people of our hemisphere. The citizens of the Americas expect to see results, sooner not later, they expect to see results from their democracies and from having market economies. We must not fail them. We must deliver. Thank you very much, Madame Chairman. [End]

Released on June 9, 2003

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