During a visit to Latin America, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the United States is committed to a Western hemisphere united around the values of democracy and free trade. Two decades ago, she said, there were fourteen dictatorships in Latin America. Now, there is only one: Cuba:
"Today, our citizens share the common bond of having overcome tyranny through all our commitment to freedom and democracy. Now it is our historic duty to tell the world that tyranny is a crime of man, not a fact of nature. Our goal must always be the elimination of tyranny in our world."
Many Latin American countries are working to consolidate democratic reforms and ensure respect for human rights. In the words of Chile's president Ricardo Lagos, "Democracy is not only choosing or electing in freedom; it's also making citizens feel that their political leadership is fulfilling their hopes." Yet many people in Latin America do not trust democracy. A 2002 poll showed that only about half of the respondents considered democracy preferable to any other form of government. Secretary of State Rice says citizens living in young democracies need patience. "As a black American who grew up in the South of my country during racial segregation," Ms. Rice said, "I know what it means to be impatient with the pace of democratic reform.":
The history of the march of democracy contains a message for every person in this region who feels that they have not yet seen its benefits. Do not lose your hope. Do not lose your courage. And most of all, do not turn back now. The answers are to be found in more democratic reform, not less."
The United States will continue to promote openness, good governance, and the rule of law in Latin America and elsewhere. "Freedom, democracy and human rights are not American principles or Western values," says Secretary of State Rice, "These ideals are shared by all people. They are the non-negotiable demands of human dignity."
The preceeding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States government.