MEXICO CITY Mexico -- The secretary general of the Organization of American States (OAS), José Miguel Insulza, said on Wednesday at the opening ceremony of the Third Latin American Democracy Forum in Mexico City, that "at present the democracies of Latin America and the Caribbean face three major risks to their integrity: inequality, organized crime, and the lack of dialogue between political actors."
"These are aspects of democracy that need improvement, because they put at risk the very existence of democracy, but I think that with time they will be overcome," said the leader of the OAS.
The Third Latin American Democracy Forum, entitled "Democracy and crisis of representation: who wins the election, wins the power?” is organized by the OAS, the Federal Electoral Institute of Mexico (IFE), International IDEA and the College of Mexico and will run until Friday at the headquarters of the College.
On the issue of inequality, an issue that promotes discussion on a hemispheric level, the secretary general said, "A democratic society, in which all individuals have equal political rights nominally, is incompatible with the degree of inequality that exists in our countries in economic and social terms."
He added, "In this regard the monetary issue is critical."
As an example, he compared the income distribution system in Europe and Latin America and the Caribbean.
"While in Europe, before and after-tax the distribution of income improves by 12 percentage points, while in our region before and after taxes the income distribution is the same," he said.
Insulza talked about the risk represented by the growing influence of organized crime in some regions of the Americas. "It is also incompatible in a democratic society the existence of groups acting outside the framework of the law, which are governed by their own rules, have their own forces, and even have the chance to take control of territories within the democratic state."
Among the advances in this field, Insulza mentioned the peace process of the gangs of El Salvador, in which the OAS played an important role.
"The truce between the two main maras (gangs) has been important, because the murder rate has dropped to less than half. We are talking about 1,600 fewer young people killed this year during the night battles of San Salvador," he said.
"This means that organized crime groups have an impact on society far greater than we can imagine, and this is also incompatible with democracy," he added.
Finally, the OAS leader explained how the lack of political dialogue significantly affects the functioning of the democratic system.
"Democracy is not only going to vote every four years, is not only the meetings of democratic institutions, but it is the forging of networks of trust that enable all citizens to feel part of the same institutions, the same nation," he said.
To Insulza, "in many of our countries, that dialogue has been replaced - whether by the facts or by way of political confrontation - by the existence of tight divisions that turns every democratic election into almost a last resort, and that is not good for democracy either."
"In democracy, the best is when winning candidates take office and those who do not win do not feel excluded from the electoral system, and do not feel that society and democracy do not represent them," added the OAS secretary general.
Consolidated as a meeting place for politicians, academics, public policy experts, government officials and electoral authorities, among others, the Democracy Forum helps to identify problems and challenges and to explore and share different approaches, perspectives and paths in the care of outstanding issues on the agenda of democracy of citizens.