Of all the policy goals the United States has for Latin America, the pursuit of effective democratic governance is absolutely vital. "Very little of what we might help accomplish in other areas will be sustainable, or bring full benefit to people," said U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Arturo Valenzuela, "unless they are based on the firm foundations of capable, legitimate, and responsive institutions."
Most Latin American countries now enjoy peaceful electoral transfers of power. But in many of these countries, there continue to be flawed democratic practices and procedures. They include attempts to expand populist rule at the expense of the rights of minority parties and democratic governance based on dialogue and respect for the rule of law. Assistant Secretary Valenzuela said that the United States "remains steadfast in our commitment to core principles and recognition of key values like human and labor rights, press freedom, and the importance and solid democratic institutions."
These values continue to guide America's approach toward Cuba. "Reaching out to the Cuban people in support of their desire to freely determine their country’s future and to increase their independence from the state have been key drivers of our policy," said Assistant Secretary Valenzuela, "and the reasons behind our efforts to enhance contact with the Cuban people. While we welcome the ongoing release of political prisoners, we await the day when the fundamental rights of the Cuban people are fully respected."
While the United States continues to look for ways to cooperate with Cuba on certain issues of mutual interest such as migration and establishing direct postal service, the arrest of Alan Gross, a U.S. citizen whom the Cuban government has detained without charge since last December, has made it difficult for dialogue to advance. The United States calls on Cuba to release Alan Gross immediately and without condition.
International institutions, such as the Organization of American States, or OAS, also have a key role to play in advancing these common interests. In order to live up to its ideals, said Assistant Secretary Valenzuela, "the OAS must refocus on its core mission of advancing strong democratic institutions that foster peace, citizen security, and opportunity for all," and "move ahead with implementing the Inter-American Democratic Charter" to "turn this vision into reality."
The United States is committed to working together with Latin American countries to strengthen democratic institutions, respect for human rights, tolerance, and pluralism.