Mid-September is a special time for IRI.
It marks the independence celebrations of our immediate southern neighbors, the Central American States of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua (September 15, 1821), and the independence of Mexico (September 16, 1810). It’s an important time in the United States for millions of U.S. citizens who either come from or whose ancestors hailed from these countries.
As much as British rule came to a halt in the American colonies in 1776 after our forefathers became fed up with remote control, Spain’s rule began to crumble in the Americas with France’s invasion and subsequent installation of Joseph Bonaparte on the Spanish throne. So, we have historical parallels. While our colonial past under the British parliamentary system may have more easily prepared us for democracy following independence, our southern neighbors also looked toward a democratic future eventually adopting constitutions similar to the U.S. model. For some, the road toward civilian-elected leadership has been harder than for others. But for all, democracy is the dominant, aspirational model.
Making democracy function is hard work. It requires citizen participation in decision-making and public oversight of government activities. It begs a mindset in which citizens understand that government serves them, not the other way around. And it requires people to run for office, and endure public scrutiny. For all of us, it is a work in progress. With offices in Guatemala and Mexico, IRI is pleased to accompany its government and civil society partners on the journey they have chosen to improve their democratic and governing processes. As much as we share with them, we also learn from them.
Happy Independence Day to all.