EL PASO, Texas — Despite the decay of democratic institutions in Latin America, democracy is on the rise in the region because citizens are demanding better government.
“Challenges are big for the Western Hemisphere, but the principal idea behind solving those challenges is that governments should act responsibly to resolve them,” said Ambassador Jeffrey Davidow president of Institute of the Americas in San Diego, California speaking in the Millennium Lecture Series at the University of Texas at El Paso.
The maintenance of democracy is a pressing issue in many Latin American countries. Many promises that governments there have made to their citizens have been broken, but the most important failure is to provide security for their citizens. “Safety is a big issue in every country. We were used to leaving our houses knowing that we would return safely, but now we can’t because of insecurity,” said Davidow.
A prime example of this insecurity can be found in México, especially in the border city of Ciudad Juárez, where nearly 5,000 persons have been killed in a bloody drug war that has been raging for three years. Security is challenged there every day as people die in the streets of what once was a great progressive city. People need to feel secure to be comfortable in a place, he said. If insecurity becomes an issue of everyday life, then governments are not committed to their people, he said.
“Citizen safety is an issue that needs to be solved in Latin America, but I have been asked many times if the U.S. can solve this problems, and my answer is no, we can’t solve these problems and President Obama knows it,” he said.
On the other hand, it is known that the United States has openly announced it will try to help resolve the problems in Latin America. “We are working with the World Bank to help economies in Latin America and also we are working to uphold the concepts of democracy in this hemisphere,” Davidow said.
Davidow told the UTEP audience that poverty is also a main scourge in Latin America and that the United States has helped make a difference in some of the countries affected with extreme poverty.
“There are too many poor people in Latino America, but mainly this is because most of them can’t speak up to their governments. We have Hugo Chávez in Venezuela who has made that economy really bad,” he said. As for México, he said, the Mexican government can do a better job, but it needs much more help from the U.S.
“I am very optimistic that 20 years from now this situation will be better for Latin American countries,” Davidow said.