Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Venezuela to Officially Withdraw from Inter-American Court

After repeatedly threatening to do so, it seems Venezuela is now withdrawing from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. According to El Universal, Yesterday President Hugo Chavez announced that he had instructed Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro to begin the necessary steps to withdraw the country from the OAS human rights body. Characterizing the Court’s recent work as an “indescribable” violation of sovereignty, Chavez said that the move was necessary in order to defend the dignity of the Venezuelan people.

The BBC notes that he highlighted the Court’s recent ruling in favor of Venezuelan Raul Diaz, accused of orchestrating 2003 bombings of the Colombian consulate Spanish Embassy and in Caracas. Though he was sentenced to 9 years in prison, Diaz claimed he had nothing to do with the bombings. He fled the country in 2010 after a judge allowed him to work outside of prison. The Court found that Venezuela had violated Diaz's rights by imprisoning him in “inhumane” conditions, a ruling that Chavez said sided with “terrorism.”

Venezuela’s withdrawal is a worrisome development for human rights activists in the country, who will have less ability to raise awareness of abuses internationally. In April, Chavez announced that Venezuela would also withdraw from the Court’s sister body, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
But the decision also has regional implications as well. Several of Chavez’s allies in the ALBA bloc have come under increasing fire from the Inter-American human rights system, and this could set the precedent for Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua to withdraw as well.

News Briefs
  • Paraguay’s ousted ex-president, Fernando Lugo, has been called to testify in an official investigation into accusations that Venezuela’s foreign minister attempted to convince the Paraguayan military to intervene in Lugo’s impeachment. Prosecutor Stella Mary Cano told the AP that if Lugo fails to show at court on Monday, court officials could “use the public force to bring him in following the law."
  • Anti-globalization symbol and spokesman for the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) Subcomandante Marcos may be dying of lung cancer, reports Milenio. In a forthcoming book, Luis H. Alvarez, a former director of negotiations between the indigenous movement and the government, alleges that Marcos suffers from lung cancer and has sought help from the federal government to obtain treatment.
  • The New York Times profiles Mexico’s only gun store, which is operated by the military. The paper notes that despite Mexico’s violent reputation, most Mexicans are in favor of strict gun controls, and view the comparatively easy access to guns in the United States with disbelief.
  • Skepticism over the cause of Cuban opposition activist Oswaldo Paya’s death in a car accident last Sunday has grown, with Paya’s daughter claiming to have evidence that her father’s car had been followed by another vehicle which may have been trying to run it off the road. AFP reports that the Spanish activist who was driving the automobile at the time of the crash has been detained for questioning at a Spanish consulate. Diplomats interviewed by Reuters say there is so far no evidence to suspect foul play, and that Paya likely died when the car hit a large pothole and swerved into a tree.
  • After Paya’s funeral yesterday, opposition activists staged a protest, which was reportedly met by an aggressive government crackdown. The Miami Herald reports that at least 40 protesters were arrested, and many claim to have been beaten by police. Opposition members told El Universal that the vast majority had been freed by late last night.
  • The Washington Post has an editorial commemorating Paya’s work, celebrating his emphasis on peaceful change that, in his own words, involved “no lynchings, no revenge, no exclusions.” The Post also features an op-ed by Carl Gershman, president of the National Endowment for Democracy, who argues that Paya’s activism posed a threat to the government, providing it with a very real motive to want him dead.
  • The constitutional crisis in El Salvador appears to have come to an end yesterday, after the leaders of all the country’s major political parties met to discuss the issue. The leaders all committed themselves to respecting the country’s Supreme Court, and to a resolution in which there would be “no winners or losers.” El Faro notes that the meeting signified a reversal for Funes, who had previously advocated taking the issue to the Central American Court of Justice. The talks will continue Thursday.
  • Colombia’s FARC rebels have released a new statement in which the group rejects talks held with the government “behind the country’s back,” reports Semana. The guerrillas maintain that while they are in favor of a peace process, secret talks will only serve to intensify the conflict.
  • Peruvian human rights organizations expressed widespread outrage on Tuesday in the wake of a Supreme Court ruling which would allow for the release of military death squad members accused of killing 25 people under the Fuijimori regime. President Ollanta Humala joined in the criticism, and his administration will likely seek to appeal the decision.
  • The Associated Press with a look at Brazil’s iconic Havaianas flip-flops, which have become a popular fashion statement throughout the world over the past 50 years. The wire service claims Havaianas have joined soccer and samba as “one of the great social equalizers” in Brazil’s highly unequal society.