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Oscar Arias Farewell in Cancun - 2010

Oscar Arias Farewell in Cancun - 2010

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Published by Joel Hirst

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Categories:Topics, Art & Design
Published by: Joel Hirst on Sep 01, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Most excellent heads of state and government of Latin America and the Caribbean, friends: thisis my last participation in an international summit. I don¶t pretend to take my leave of Latin America or the Caribbean. The dreams of this region are bound to the center of my life. But Imust say goodbye to you, colleagues, brothers, and partners in my journey. I must say goodbyeto this auditorium that sums up, in a group of voices, the hopes of 600 million people, almost atenth of humanity. It is in the name of that Latin American heritage that I want to share with you a few reflections. It is in the name of that lineage that lies beyond these doors, and thatdemands from us the boldness to build a more dignified place under the sun.Despite the speeches and applauses, the reality is that our región has advanced little in the lastdecades. In certain areas, it has marched resolutely backwards. Many wish to board a rusted wagon to the past, to the ideological trenches that divided the world during the cold war. Latin America runs the risk of adding to its astonishing collection of lost generations. It runs the risk of wasting, yet again, its opportunity upon the earth. It falls to us, and who come after, to avoidthat this happens. It falls to us to honor the debt to democracy, to development and to the peaceof our peoples, a debt that came due many centuries ago. Honoring the debt to democracy means much more than promulgating political constitutions, signing democratic charters orcelebrating periodic elections. It means building trustworthy institutions, well beyond theanemic structures structures that today sustain our apparatus¶ of state. It means guaranteeingthe supremacy of the rule of law, that some insist in poll vaulting.This means strengthening our systems of checks and balance, which are profoundly threatened by the presence of tentacular governments that have erased the boundaries between governor,party and state. It means assuring the employ of a solid nucleus of fundamental rights andguarantees, which are chronically debilitated in a large part of the Latin American region. And itmeans, first of all, the use of political power to achieve a better level of human development, theimprovement of the conditions of life of our inhabitants and the expansion of freedoms of ourcitizens. We should not confuse the democratic origins of a regime with the democratic governance of astate. In our region there are governments that use electoral results to justify their desire torestrict individual liberties and to pursue their adversaries. They use democratic mechanisms tosubvert the bases of their democracy. A true democrat with no opposition should set about thetask of creating one. A true democrat demonstrates their energy combating poverty, ignoranceand insecurity and not foreign empires and imaginary conspiracies. This region, tired of empty promises and hollow words, needs a legion of statesmen every day more tolerant, not a legion of governors every day more authoritarian. It is very easy to defend the rights of those who think the same as us. Defending the rights of those who think differently, that is the challenge of atrue democrat. I hope that our countries have the wisdom to elect leaders who do not find thegarments democracy ill-fitting. And hopefully they know how to resist the temptation of those that promise them orchardsspringing from participative democracy, which can be a dangerous weapon in the hands of populism and demagoguery. The problems of Latin America will not be resolved substituting adysfunctional representative democracy with a chaotic participatory democracy.Paraphrasing Octavio Paz, I dare to say that in our región democracy does not need to grow  wings, but roots. Before selling tickets to paradise, let us first worry about consolidating ourenfeebled institutions, about guaranteeing our fundamental rights, assure the equality of opportunities for our citizens, to increasing the transparency of our governments, and, above all,increasing the effectiveness of our bureaucracies. My experience in government has proven to
me that ours are sclerotic and hypertrophied states, incapable of satisfying the needs of ourpeoples and in providing the fruit that democracy is obligated to give.This affords serious consequences in our ability to honor the second debt that I want to mention,or debt to development. A debt which, I repeat, we ourselves must honor. Neither Spanishcolonialism, lack of natural resources, or the hegemony of the United States, or any other theory product of the eternal victimization of Latin America can explain the fact that we refuse toincrease our expenditure on innovation, to charge taxes to our rich, to graduate professionals inengineering and hard sciences, and to promote competence, construct infrastructure or bringlegal security to companies. The time has come that each mast holds the weight of its ownprogress. With what right does Latin America complain about the inequalties that divide its peoples, whenit receives almost half its income in indirect taxes, and the fiscal budgets of some countries inthe region reaches only 10% of its GDP. With what right does Latin America complain about itsunderdevelopment, if she demonstrates a resistance to change each time somebody mentionssadapting to new circumstances. With what right does Latin America complain about the lack of quality jobs, if she permits that the average education is only 8 years? And what right does Latin America complain about her poverty when she spends, every year, almost $60 billion in armsand soldiers?Our debt to peace is the most embarasing, because it demonstrates the amnesia of a región thatfeeds teh return to an arms race, directed in many cases to combat chosts and phantoms. Itdemonstrates, a total incapacity to establish priorities in Latin America, a practice that preventsthe concretion of a true agenda for development. There are countries with internal conflicts thatcan justify an increase in their national defense expenditure. But in the majority of ourcountries, an increase in military expenditure is inexcusable before the needs of our people whose true enemies are hunger, sickness, illiteracy, inequality, criminality and environmentaldegredation. It is a shame that in this Summit of Unity Honduras is absent, whose people fell victim to militarization and who do not deserve punishment, but help.If they would have asked me twenty years ago that in 2010 I would still be condemning theincrease in military spending in Latin America, I would probably have been surprised. How,after seeing the destroyed bodies of young people and children injured in war, could this region yearn for a return to weapons? How can it permit the Dante-esque parade of rockets, missilesand rifles that march in front of destroyed desks, empty lunchboxes and clinics withoutmedicine? Some would say that I err in trusting in a future of peace. I don¶t think so. Hope isnever an error, no matter how many times it is cheated.I still hope for a new day for Latin America and the Caribbean. I hope for a future of greatnessfor our peoples. The day will come when democracy, development and peace fill the pantries of the region. The day will come in which will cease the counting of lost generations. It could betomorrow, if we dare to do it. It could be next year, or the next decade, or the next century. Formy part, I will keep fighting. Without caring about the shadows, I will seek waiting the light atthe end of the rainbow. I will keep fighting until that day comes.Dear friends, sharing with you this forum, the same as so many others, has been my honouredand true priviledge. This is my last summit and in saying goodbye, I want you to know that inOscar Arias you will always have a true friend.Thank you.

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