The Inter-American Democratic Charter commits the OAS to respond to "an unconstitutional alteration of the constitutional regime that seriously impairs the democratic order in a member state." The Declaration of Florida envisions the possibility of an OAS mechanism to "address[] situations that might affect the workings of the political process of democratic institutions or the legitimate exercise of power." Other organizations have similar commitments. MERCOSUR, a free trade association among several South American nations, agreed in 1996 to respond to any "interruption in the democratic order" of its members or associates. The Organization of African Unity formally bound itself in 2000 to protect democracy against "unconstitutional changes of government." The Economic Community of West African States (ECOW AS) agreed in 2001 to respond to situations where "democracy is abruptly brought to an end by any means" in member states. Emphasis on constitutional fidelity does less to resolve the paradox than one might hope, for the practice of responding to coups or other interruptions in democratic government requires surprisingly intrusive and contestable interpretations of other countries' constitutions. A recent example from the West African Republic of Togo vividly illustrates this problem-and suggests that it may be common to any regional effort to protect constitutional democracy



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.