Monday, March 25, 2013

IACHR Reform Proposals Shot Down, but the Debate Will Continue

After a marathon 12-hour session, Friday’s Organization of American States (OAS) General Assembly ended with a watered-down resolution on reforming the region’s human rights body that ensured continued debate on the issue.

Ultimately, Ecuador’s proposed reforms to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) --which were vocally supported by Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua -- were defeated. The General Assembly voted neither to alter the IACHR’s mandate nor its controversial ability to recommend that states take “precautionary measures” to protect those whose rights are at risk of being violated.

It also voted not to prohibit contributions to the IACHR from countries outside the region and limit the commission’s budget to OAS funds, a proposal which Commission President Jose de Jesus Orozco said amounted to “financial strangulation” of the human rights body.

But while the specific reforms sought by Ecuador and its allies in the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA) bloc were defeated, they were able to ensure continued debate on the issue.  According to La Nacion, Ecuador refused to sign any resolution which did not lay out a blueprint for future reforms, threatening to withdraw from the Inter-American human rights system altogether if its government’s concerns were not addressed.

Eventually a compromise was brokered by the Argentine government, which proposed a resolution which includes a call to “continue the dialogue regarding the core aspects for strengthening” the Inter-American system. This was approved, and the final resolution was passed by a unanimous vote.

The fact that controversial changes to the IACHR were struck down is good news for the human rights body, but the provision to allow future debate leaves the door open to continued attacks on the commission and its independence.


News Briefs
  • An official medical exam of imprisoned Peruvian ex-president Alberto Fujimori has found no evidence that he is currently suffering from tongue cancer, La Republica reports. Members of Fujimori’s family filed a formal appeal in October asking President Ollanta Humala for his release on health grounds, citing his repeated operations for tongue cancer and overall deteriorating health. The medical team, which has reported its findings to an administration commission tasked with assessing the Fujimoris’ appeal, did find that the former president suffers from depression, but they are split over its severity. With his cancer seemingly in remission, depression alone may not be enough to grant him a pardon on health grounds, especially considering the recently-released footage of him in which he appears to be healthy and in good spirits. On the other hand, polls show that nearly two--thirds of the Peruvian public supports a pardon, a factor which could force Humala’s hand.
  • In a NYT op-ed, Afro-Cuban essayist Roberto Zurbano discusses the difficulties faced by blacks in Cuba. Although he is optimistic about Cuba’s economic reforms, he believes that blacks are not in a position to take advantage of them due to historic disenfranchisement. One of the clearest examples of this, according to Zulano, is the fact that white Cubans dominate the tourist industry, the country’s most lucrative economic sector.
  • Although some claim the ALBA regional bloc is in decline after Hugo Chavez’s death, Uruguay has become the latest country to request to join its monetary system, EFE reports.
  • The New York Times Lede blog has an interview with Cuban dissident Yoani Sanchez in which she makes her case against the United States embargo of Cuba, arguing that it provides the government with a handy external excuse for its own economic and political failures. “If there aren’t potatoes, it’s because of the embargo. If there aren’t tomatoes, it’s the embargo. If there aren’t freedoms, it’s the embargo’s fault,” Sanchez said. The dissident blogger’s meeting with pro-embargo U.S. lawmakers last week in Washington failed to change their stance on the issue. Florida Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, one of the most vocal anti-Castro members of Congress, told Reuters that “there has not been a change in attitude or position about dissidents who advocate for freedom and democracy in Cuba."
  • During a visit to Ecuador on Friday, Argentine Vice President Amado Boudou’s vehicle was attacked in an apparent robbery attempt. La Nacion reports that Ecuadorean intelligence officers intervened and captured the suspects involved, who were apparently clueless as to the identity of their intended victim.
  • The New York Times reports on how Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto’s proposed reforms to educations and the country’s telecommunications industry have bolstered his popularity. This may make it easier for him to implement other, more controversial reforms such as opening up the state oil monopoly to private investment.
  • Also in the Times, Randal C. Archibald highlights endemic poverty in the Panamanian city of Colon, which has not seen the same rapid growth as the capital city due partially to a strong a racial divide in Panama.
  • On Friday, Brazilian police evicted a group of indigenous Brazilians from building that they had been occupying in Rio de Janeiro for more than six years. The site is a former indigenous museum, which protestors say has historical significance and should not be torn down. Human rights activists condemned the operation, in which police fired tear gas and used pepper spray against the protestors gathered to support the squatter. As urban studies expert Christopher Gaffney pointed out to the NYT, “By resorting to force, this reflects the general attitude of state authorities toward the people getting in the way of their sports projects.”
  • This Sunday was the 33rd anniversary of the death of Archbishop Oscar Romero, who was killed by the military government of El Salvador in 1980. The Washington Post profiles hope among Salvadorans that the appointment of Pope Francis, who has advocated for the poor, will pave the way for Romero to be beatified and eventually sainted.
  • The fact that many have taken to calling Pope Francis the first “Latino pope” has fueled a debate over what it means to be “Latino,” the Associated Press reports. Because the pope’s parents were born in Italy, for many Latinos in the U.S. he cannot be considered a true Latino.