U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Thursday it is the historic duty of the world's democracies to eliminate political tyranny. She addressed officials from more than 100 countries at the Community of Democracies meeting in Santiago.
Ms. Rice has made the promotion of democracy and free-market economics the theme of her current four-nation trip to South America, her first since taking office.
And in her address to the Community of Democracies, she said the world's democrats should strive for nothing less than the end of dictatorial rule: "Every nation in this room has experienced moments of tyranny in its history, some long ago, some very recently. Today our citizens share the common bond of having overcome tyranny through 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," she said.
The Community of democracies is an informal grouping founded in 2000 to improve and advance democratic governance.
Ms. Rice said the selection of Chile for the group's third ministerial meeting was a fitting choice, given what she said was that country's triumphant return to democracy after a 1973 military coup.
In her address, the Secretary of State endorsed a Hungarian proposal to host a Democracy Transition Center to help countries in the process of becoming democratic.
She also urged support for the creation of what she termed a legitimate human rights body within the United Nations.
The Bush administration has been critical of the existing U.N. Human Rights Commission in Geneva, which earlier this week awarded seats to countries widely accused of human rights violations including Zimbabwe, China and Sudan.
Ms. Rice began her Santiago visit with a meeting with Chilean President Ricardo Lagos that covered, among other things, Chilean-led peacekeeping efforts in Haiti, recent political unrest in Ecuador and Bolivia, and the deadlocked contest between Mexican and Chilean candidates to be the next Secretary-General of the Organization of American States.
The United States has backed the candidacy of Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Ernesto Derbez, though in a joint press appearance with Mr. Lagos, Ms. Rice also praised the Chilean contender, Interior Minister Jose Miguel Insulza, and said she hopes for a solution that preserves O.A.S. unity:
"Our task has to be to talk and to discuss how we might move forward on a basis that once again brings us to unity so that we can move forward with a very important organization. Because the key here is really not about personalities or about ideology; this is about the Organization of American States, which has been an important institution in the past, for instance in the way that it has dealt with several crises in the region over time, and which can do even much more on a regional basis for a hemisphere that has a lot of challenges but a lot of opportunities," she said.
For his part, President Lagos said he agreed that both men are excellent leaders and said there should no north-south or ideological confrontation within the OAS.
He said it is important to look for what he termed other consensus mechanisms to end the impasse but did not elaborate.
OAS ministers convene at the organization's headquarters in Washington Monday for another attempt to resolve the issue.
The OAS has been without a Secretary-General since former Colombian President Cesar Gaviria retired last year.