Condoleezza Rice has now taken her freedom-and-democracy tour South of the Border. Since becoming secretary of state, Rice has been busy — one could say preoccupied — preaching the Bush administration's gospel extolling the virtues of good governance and democratic rule.
In Bogota, after meeting with President Uribe and his top officials, Rice said she had "a chance to discuss the region" and to describe "the kind of hemisphere we want to see ... where there is a commitment to transparency, to accountability, to the strengthening of democratic institutions and to fight corruption."
This has become standard phraseology for Rice almost everywhere she goes. She has used this or similar language in Europe, South Asia and now South America, and one of the administration's highest priorities is to bring democracy to the Middle East. The message clearly is one they want to encourage in their own back yard.
Rice's remarks in Brasilia, where she began her current trip, sounded the same themes. "These three principles — security, prosperity and dignity — are essential to the health of all democracies. And Latin American democracies are securing these principles for their people." Rice knows the struggle is hard and often her remarks are intended to buck up those who are not seeing the fruits of democracy.
Venezuela, where President Hugo Chavez has abandoned some democratic principles, and Ecuador, where the elected president recently fled into exile in Brazil, are just two examples in the region where democratic progress has run into problems. In her Brasilia speech Rice's message was one of positive reinforcement: "Do not lose hope. Do not lose your courage. And most of all, do not turn back now. The answers are to be found in more democratic reform, not less. In time, the blessings of democracy come to everyone who keeps faith with the principles of democracy."