In a speech to the Organization of American States, President George W. Bush said the United States is committed to a Western hemisphere united by the values of democracy:
"In 1974, the last time the O-A-S General Assembly met in the United States, fewer than half its members had democratically elected governments. Today, all thirty-four countries participating in this General Assembly have democratic, constitutional governments. Only one country in this hemisphere sits outside this society of democratic nations -- and one day the tide of freedom will reach Cuba's shores, as well."
Many Latin American countries are struggling to combat corruption, encourage free markets, and ensure respect for human rights. In fact, disillusionment with politics and unsuccessful policies have led many Latin Americans to mistrust democracy. President Bush says patience is often needed to effect real change:
"Democratic change and free elections are exhilarating events. Yet we know from experience they can be followed by moments of uncertainty. When people risk everything to vote, it can raise expectations that their lives will improve immediately. But history teaches us that the path to a free and prosperous society is long and not always smooth. Each nation must follow its own course, according to its own history. Yet the old and new democracies of the Americas share a common interest in showing every citizen of our hemisphere that freedom brings not just peace -- it brings a better life for themselves and their families."
The nations of Latin America, said Mr. Bush, can choose to continue to work for representative government and integration into world markets, or they can choose to roll back democratic progress by "playing to fear, pitting neighbor against neighbor and blaming others for their own failures to provide for their people."
The U.S. is confident that most Latin American countries will put their faith in freedom. For, as President Bush said, the Organization of American States "represents many different countries with different traditions and different mother tongues -- but today, we can say with pride that we all speak the common language of liberty."
The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States government.