Democracy in Latin America

, Irene Warren, Leave a comment

Frantically and with great urgency, the Human Rights Foundation in New York drafted a letter beckoning the Inter American Democratic Charter and Secretary-General Jose Miguel Insulza, with the Organization of American States (OAS), to honor the agreement to protect Latin American citizens from militant extremists. In addition, the organization invited Insulza to join its new program called The Inter-American Democratic Charter, as a way to bring global attention to his efforts in improving human rights in the Americas.

Several regional experts took part in an event at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research recently to discuss the region’s future challenge in establishing democratic institutions within its region, as Roger F. Noriega, a visiting fellow at AEI, explained.

“Despite the signing of the Inter-American Democratic Charter nearly seven years ago, you have repeatedly failed in your responsibility to activate its democratic clause,” the president of the foundation stated in a handwritten letter that he had addressed to Insulza, August 20, 2008. “As a result, the human rights situation in Latin America has fallen into a perilous state unlike any since military dictatorships ruled the continent in the 1980s.”

Further, Thor Halvorssen, the leader of the foundation, noted that “since the inception of the OAS, tens of thousands of people have been persecuted, detained, tortured and killed because of their political beliefs in the Americas.” Thus, “their pain and suffering finally led to the design of a mechanism to both prevent the systematic violation of human rights in the Americas and clearly denounce the violators.” However, Halvorssen warns Insulza, “with your constant unwillingness to implement the democratic clause, individuals throughout the continent are suffering terrible violations of their human rights.”

It took Latin America more than 50 years to adopt democratic customs, “during which times innumerable violations of human rights went unpunished,” Halvorssen wrote. Halvorssen explained, “according to Article 7 of the Inter-American Democratic Charter, democracy is indispensable for the protection of fundamental freedoms and human rights.”

“Currently, the Cuban dictatorship, which is rightfully excluded from OAS participation, is not the only perpetrator of persecution, arbitrary detention, torture and even murder in the Americas; offending countries include those with democratically-elected governments, such as Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador,” according to the letter that Halvorssen provided.

“Leaders in Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua seek to replace already weak governing institutions with personalized political movements,” the panelists noted in a handout given to the audience. “This axis of caudillos already has dissolved the historic pan-American consensus in favor of democracy and now seeks to internationalize its anti-United States, antidemocratic campaign by inviting Russia and Iran onto the U.S. doorstep.”

“Bolivia is going through such difficult times, due to violent speech of the government,” Javier El-Hage, the general counsel of the Human Rights Foundation added. “Constitutional courts do not exist and the senate is controlled by opposition.” Further, he explained that Bolivia violates all facets of democracy and therefore is deemed a threat to democratic efforts.

“The death toll under the current government’s watch is over 40, with most deaths occurring as a result of the government’s political intolerance and racial hatred overtly incited by high officials and President Evo Morales himself,” Halvorssen noted.

“Day after day, these governments are strengthening repressive instruments within their military, police and intelligence services, aimed at destroying the freedom and livelihood of those who dissent from their policies,” Halvorsseen claimed.

The panelists agreed that democratic leaders “govern moderately and responsibly in Brazil, Chile and Peru,” but claimed that “Venezuela’s firebrand, Hugo Chavez and his acolytes in South America continue to tear down democratic institutions to put congresses, courts and the media in the service of their own radical agenda: sowing class warfare, social division and political polarization.”

“In creation of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, [the OAS] established the current Inter-American system for the protection of human rights;—even though the commission and the court have conducted very important reports on the status of human rights in member countries, systematic violations of human rights in the continent have continued to occur without an effective effort on behalf of the OAS to stop them,” Halvorssen noted in his letter. “In an attempt to correct this, on Sept. 11, 2001, the OAS approved the Inter-American Democratic Charter as a guide to help formulate rules and principles that would identify and sanction governments that violate human rights.”

Irene Warren is an intern at the American Journalism Center, a training program run by Accuracy in Media and Accuracy in Academia.


 

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