Founded in 1982 by Jimmy Carter, the Carter Center is a nonprofit, public policy institute that is associated with Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. Its programs aim to contribute to resolving conflicts, eradicating disease, and promoting human rights and democracy all over the world. Of these, the Latin American and Caribbean Program was established in September 1985. It sponsored a conference in April 1986 to propose strategies for solving the Latin American debt crisis. The program officially opened the Carter Center's new facilities, dedicated in October 1986, with a major conference the following month called Reinforcing Democracy in the Americas. Co-chaired by Carter and former president Gerald Ford, the gathering included fourteen current and former presidents and prime ministers. These leaders formed a Council of Freely Elected Heads of Government, which expanded to thirty-five members. The Council has promoted democracy and advanced free trade and development in the Americas and beyond.
Beginning in 1987 with a visit to try to shore up the electoral process in Haiti, the council became deeply engaged in monitoring and helping to mediate democratic transitions. They sent a team under Carter and Ford to observe elections in Panama in May 1989. When General Manuel Noriega tried to manipulate the results, Carter denounced him and encouraged the Organization of American States to take action to restore democracy. In August 1989 the Carter Center was invited by Nicaragua's leaders to observe the country's elections in February 1990. During the next six months, Carter and council members developed election mediation as a new technique of conflict resolution whereby the council would mediate the terms of a free and fair election among the leaders of the country. That model was then applied to more than sixty countries in the Americas and the world. The program was renamed the Americas Program in 1990 and has continued to work to deepen the democratic process in the Americas.
Robert A. Exiting the Whirlpool: U.S. Foreign Policy toward Latin America and the Caribbean. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 2001.
Robert A. Pastor