Documents on Democracy

Issue Date January 1993
Volume 4
Issue 1
Page Numbers 135-37
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On 13 April 1992 the Organization of American States (OAS) convened a meeting of foreign ministers in Washington, D.C., to address the “presidential coup” carried out in Peru eight days earlier by Alberto Fujimori (see the article by Eduardo Ferrero Costa on pp. 28-40 above). The resolution adopted on that occasion is excerpted below:

The ad hoc meeting of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs . . .

Reaffirming: …That the solidarity of the American states and the high aims that are sought through it require the political organization of those states on the basis of the effective exercise of representative democracy.

Resolves: 1. To strongly deplore the events that have taken place in Peru, and to express the highest level of concern, since such events seriously prejudice the effectiveness of the institutional mechanisms of representative democracy in that country and in the region.

2. To appeal for the immediate reestablishment of democratic institutional order in Peru, for an end to all actions that impair the observance of human rights, and for abstention from the adoption of any new measures that will further aggravate the situation . . . .

6. To request the President of the ad hoc meeting of Ministers of Foreign Affairs, together with those ministers he designates and the Secretary General, to travel to Peru and take immediate measures to bring about a dialogue among the Peruvian authorities and the political forces represented in the legislature, with the participation of other democratic sectors, for the purpose of establishing the necessary conditions and securing the commitment of the parties concerned to reinstate the democratic institutional order, with full respect for the separation of powers, human rights, and the rule of law.

7. To ask . . , all states that they continue examining the situation in Peru, and that, taking into account the pace of the reestablishment of democratic institutional order in Peru, they reassess their relations with that country, as well as the assistance they give Peru. [End Page 135]

On May 18 the foreign ministers, reconvening at Nassau in the Bahamas with Fujimori in attendance, adopted a second resolution, excerpts from which appear below:

The Ministers of Foreign Affairs . . .

Resolve: 1. To reaffirm the provisions of [the resolution of April 13], and to take note of the commitment made by the President of Peru to call immediate elections for a Constitutional Congress, in an electoral process fully guaranteeing free expression of the will of the people, in such a way as to restore representative democracy in his country.

2. To urge the Peruvian authorities to effect the return to the system of representative democracy at the earliest possible opportunity, with full respect for the principle of separation of powers and the rule of law, thereby facilitating complete restoration of international aid and assistance.

3. To recommend to the Secretary General of the OAS that, subject to prior consideration by the [OAS] Permanent Council and in light of developments in the political situation in Peru and in particular, the timely compliance with President Fujimori’s commitment, be provide such assistance as may be formally requested of him, including observation of the elections for a prompt return to the system of representative democratic government.


In 1984, Argentine president Raúl Alfonsín appointed the National Commission on Disappeared Persons, headed by writer Ernesto Sábato, to investigate the human rights abuses that occurred during the preceding years of military rule (see the essays by Jamal Benomar and Raúf Alfonsín on pp. 3-19 above). Excerpts from the prologue to the Commission’s report, entitled Nunca Más (Never Again), appear below:

During the 1970s, Argentina was convulsed by terror from both the extreme right and the extreme left . . . .

The armed forces responded to the terrorists’ crimes with a terrorism far worse than the one they were combatting, since after 24 March 1976 they could count on the power and impunity of an absolute state, which they misused to abduct, torture, and kill thousands of human beings.

Our Commission was set up not to sit in judgment, because that is the task of the constitutionally appointed judges, but to investigate the fate of the people who disappeared during those ill-omened years of our national life. After receiving several thousand statements and testimonies, verifying or establishing the existence of hundreds of secret detention centers, and compiling over 50,000 pages of documentation, we are [End Page 136] convinced that the most recent military dictatorship brought about the greatest and most savage tragedy in the history of Argentina . . . . All this went far beyond what might be considered criminal offenses and takes us into the shadowy realm of crimes against humanity. Through the technique of “disappearance” and its consequences, all the ethical principles that the great religions and the noblest philosophies have evolved through millennia of suffering and calamity have been trampled underfoot and barbarously ignored.

Throughout history there have been many pronouncements on the sacred rights of the individual. In modern times, these have ranged from the rights enshrined by the French Revolution to those expressed in the universal declarations of human rights and the great encyclicals of this century. Every civilized nation, including our own, has laid down in its constitution guarantees that can never be suspended, not even in the most catastrophic state of emergency: the right to life; the right to security of the person; the right to a trial; the right not to suffer the inhuman conditions of detention, denial of justice, or summary execution.

The enormous amount of documentation that we have gathered shows that these human rights were systematically violated by the Argentine state through the repression carried out by its armed forces . . . .

In the course of our investigations we have been insulted and threatened by the very people who committed these crimes. Far from expressing any repentance, they continue to repeat the old excuses that they were engaged in a “dirty war,” and that they were saving the country and its Western, Christian values—precisely the values that they dragged down inside the bloody walls of the dungeons of repression. They accuse us of hindering national reconciliation, of stirring up hatred and resentment, of not allowing the past to be forgotten. This is not the case. We were not motivated by resentment or vengeance. All we are asking for is truth and justice, in the same way that the churches of various denominations have done, in the understanding that there can be no true reconciliation until the guilty repent and we have justice founded upon truth. If this does not happen, then the transcendent mission that the judicial power fulfills in all civilized communities will prove completely valueless. Truth and justice, moreover, will allow the innocent members of the armed forces to live with honor; otherwise they risk being besmirched by an unjust, all-embracing condemnation. . . .

Great catastrophes are always instructive. The tragedy that began with the military dictatorship in March 1976, the most terrible tragedy our nation has ever suffered, will undoubtedly help us understand that it is only democracy which can save a people from similar horror, only democracy which can preserve and safeguard the sacred and essential rights of human beings. Only with democracy can we be certain that NEVER AGAIN will events such as these, which have made us so sadly infamous throughout the civilized world, be repeated in our country. [End Page 137]