by the honourable Denis Paradis
Secretary of State for Latin America and Africa
to the XXIX Special Session of the General Assembly
of the Organization of American States
april 18, 2002
me begin by thanking the secretary general for his report on the
mission to venezuela which he led earlier this week under the mandate
of oas permanent council resolution 811. The report presents a
disturbing picture of the situation in venezuela and offers guidance
to our deliberations here today.
Canada stood in solidarity with oas member states in invoking article 20 of the inter-american democratic charter and adopting resolution 811 which condemned the attempted coup - or to use charter language reflected in the resolution, condemned “ the alteration of the constitutional order in venezuela”.
must stress that this first invocation of the recently adopted
democratic charter strikes a special chord for canada and canadians.
Indeed, it was in quebec city, at the summit of the americas, only one
year ago, that all our countries united in an historic effort further
to protect democracy in our hemisphere. In the declaration of the
quebec summit, our leaders included a democracy clause and, as an
additional measure, mandated the oas to prepare an inter-american
democratic charter – a mechanism unprecedented in the world. In so
doing, we took a major step forward in the history of the americas.
was indeed a remarkable reflection of our common commitment toward
democracy that led to the expeditious preparation and adoption of the
charter less than five months later, on september 11, in lima, peru.
As we know, however, the adoption of the charter was overshadowed by
the tragic events that took place on the same day here in washington
and in new york and pennsylvania.
seven months after its adoption and barely a year after quebec city,
it took another regrettable event in our hemisphere to bring the
charter to the foreground. With the attempted coup in venezuela we
witnessed armed forces playing a role that is utterly inappropriate
and unacceptable in any democratic order. In the words of canada’s
permanent representative early on april 13 to the oas permanent
council, we also witnessed “interim authorities that had no
democratic legitimacy either in the way they assumed power or in the
actions they had taken since assuming power - namely the dismissal of
charter was invoked and follow-up action was initiated through
resolution 811. I believe we are justified in saying that the
pressure brought to bear by the hemisphere through its invocation of
the charter was among the factors that influenced developments in
venezuela and led to the end of the attempted coup. In resolution
811, the charter survived its first test.
Incidentally, the attempted coup led canada, as chair of the summit of
the americas process, to give serious consideration to invoking the
democracy clause, which stipulates that “any unconstitutional
alteration or interruption of the democratic order in a state of the
hemisphere constitutes an insurmountable obstacle to the participation
of that state's government in the summit of the americas process.”
With the return of constitutional order in venezuela, it is no longer
necessary to invoke the democracy clause or its corollary, article 19
of the democratic charter.
I would like us to shift our focus at this point from the decisions which we have taken over the past few days to those which we are about to take here today. We should recall that the spirit which imbued the quebec city summit and both the development of the democratic charter and its adoption in lima, was one of strengthening and safeguarding democracy. It is therefore particularly disappointing that the first invocation of this mechanism was punitive in nature, responding to an outright assault on democratic processes and institutions in a member state.
would draw our attention to the fact that much of the democratic
charter was built around a range of measures that are fundamentally
preventative and remedial in nature rather than punitive. It is
canada`s deepest hope that in future we will no longer see situations
arise that require invoking the charter for punitive purposes.
Instead, we would hope to see its invocation in order to invite oas
assistance and expertise with preventative and remedial measures that
would further strengthen democracy.
It is at this preventative and remedial stage that we find ourselves today. The events of the last few days have underscored the fragility of democracy in venezuela and the underlying threat of violence. For this reason, canada encourages venezuela to take advantage of the assistance available through the oas, including the institutional and technical support which can be provided by the unit for the promotion of democracy. In this regard, we are pleased to note the planned in-situ visit of the inter-american commission on human rights to venezuela, at the invitation of the government of venezuela, and trust it will be undertaken with dispatch.
Canada is determined to accompany venezuela, through the oas and the
mechanisms at its disposal, as set out in the inter-american
democratic charter, in taking the measures needed to strengthen
further its approach and its democratic institutions.
accordance with the democratic principles contained in the democratic
charter, and with the due process of the venezuelan constitution, we
hope to see rapid and sustained progress in a number of key areas,
including the following:
· respect for basic freedoms, in particular
freedom of expression and freedom of the press.
· respect for the autonomy of institutions and
strengthening of the latter to ensure the separation of powers.
· establishment within venezuelan society of a climate conducive to consensus decision-making.
are pleased to note that the congress and the supreme court are
functioning once again. Canada takes note of the appeal for
reconciliation by president chavez, his firm commitment to the due
process of law, and his promise to hold consultations on national
issues involving all sectors in society.
is only through the profound commitment of president chavez and his
government to rapid and sustainable progress in these areas that a
viable and stable democracy can be actively promoted in venezuela.
However, the shared commitment of all oas member states to seeing a
viable and stable democracy thrive in venezuela will be equally
important in ensuring that it is achieved.
It is in this spirit of shared commitment that canada proposes we move quickly to the adoption of a resolution that reflects that commitment and will provide concrete support to democracy in venezuela.