A Shared Commitment to Democracy

Article excerpt

New Ink 2011--an Americas-sponsored contest that invited collaboration from young writers in OAS member countries--concluded successfully in July.

Ninety-seven writers from fifteen different countries participated, and the winners were:

Third Place: Andrea Bandeira de Mello (Brazil) with an essay titled, "The Inter-American Democratic Charter: Freedom of Expression as a Pillar of Latin American Democracy."

Second Place: Franco Cravero Fabrizzi (Argentina) with "The Virtuous Circle of Democracy and Development: A Brief Analysis of the Legacy of the Inter-American Charter."

First Place: William Prado (Peru) with "A Shared Commitment to Democracy" (published here).

"It should be mandatory for governments to teach their citizens about important documents like the Inter-American Democratic Charter"

"I really didn't know that the Inter-American Democratic Charter existed, let alone that it had been signed almost eleven years ago in our country (Peru)," said Cirilo Julca Garcia, a member of the community of Totoras, located in the district of Sanagoran in Sanchez Carrion, an Andean province of the region of La Libertad.

What Cirilo didn't know was also an unknown for the more than 30 community correspondents of Radio Los Andes, a radio station in Huamachuco, the capital of Sanchez Carrion. Huamachuco is located more than 11,400 feet above sea level in a place where poverty and illiteracy exist side by side as inseparable brothers.

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As part of my work as professor at the Cesar Vallejo University, I arrived in this Andean town on July 3 to give a workshop on "Journalism and Democracy" to the correspondents of Radio Los Andes, one of the media outlets with the greatest reach in this part of the Peruvian Andes.

My students that day were not a typical audience; they were empirical journalists from an influential radio-communications network. But none of them had ever heard of the Inter-American Democratic Charter, signed September 11, 2001 in Lima and then adopted by the governments of all of the OAS member countries, including Peru.

In the training program I asked the question: What is democracy? The answers were as similar as they were discouraging. "It's a system where politicians do what they want," said Gumercindo Nima Boca from the community of Marcabal Grande. "It's the process through which we elect authorities and then they forget about their promises," added Santos Vega Agguilar from the community of Chulote in the district of Sarin.

Their responses showed that leaders of communications media in various provinces of Peru are unclear not only about the content of the inter-American Democratic Charter, but also about the meaning of democracy itself. …