After the authoritarian military governments of South America came to an end in the 1980s and peace agreements were signed in Central America in the 1990s, democracy was established as the only legitimate political system in the region. Each country went through its transition, and the electoral process was enshrined as the only legitimate mechanism for gaining power. At that point, another difficult and ongoing task began: that of consolidating democracy.
The 10th anniversary of the Inter-American Democratic Charter offers a useful framework for identifying achievements thus far in the construction of democracy, and it helps us to recognize the role of the Organization of American States in defending and strengthening democracy and in identifying the most important challenges to democracy in the region.
The spirit of democracy is more alive today than ever. Democracy is not just a kind of political system; it is also a set of values and rights that are sustained and defended by citizens, social sectors, and civil society organizations all over the hemisphere.
The five-year period of economic growth experienced by the region from 2003 to 2008--and which resumed last year--coincided with the...