Latin America: left leaders diss OAS rights group

The 42nd General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS), held June 3-5 in Cochabamba, Bolivia, was dominated by calls from leftist South American leaders for restructuring the group and ending domination by the US. Bolivian president Evo Morales, the host of the meeting, set the tone by declaring that “for the OAS there are two roads: either it dies in the service of imperialism, or it is reborn to serve the peoples of America.” Headquartered in Washington, DC, the OAS includes every country in the hemisphere except Cuba, which was denied representation in 1962 under pressure from the US.

A special target for leaders on the left was the OAS rights organization, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR, or CIDH in Spanish), which is based in Washington, DC, with an affiliated human rights court in San José, Costa Rica. “If it doesn’t want to watch over individual guarantees in the US, it’s better that the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights should disappear,” Morales said at the General Assembly. Ecuador‘s president Rafael Correa, who was criticized by the IACHR in a dispute he had with the Ecuadoran newspaper El Universo, described the organization as a “defender of the freedom of the press to extort” that “is totally influenced by hegemonic nations, by the NGOs [nongovernmental organizations] and the interests of big capital.” (La Jornada, Mexico, June 4, from AFP, Xinhua, Reuters)

Peru made similar criticisms of the IACHR in January, when the commission agreed to hear a case concerning accusations that Peruvian security forces carried out summary executions in the 1997 hostage rescue mission at the Japanese ambassador’s residence in Lima.

Right-wing Miami Herald columnist Andrés Oppenheimer pointed out on June 9 that the IACHR has in fact frequently criticized the US, along with US allies in Latin America. “Last year,” he wrote, “the commission passed 11 resolutions requesting the United States to take urgent actions to correct human rights abuses. The only country that received more commission requests for urgent corrective actions was Honduras, which was the target of 12 commission resolutions. Colombia ranked third among the countries with the most commission urgent action requests, Mexico fourth, and Argentina and Cuba were tied for fifth place, with three requests each. By comparison, the commission passed only one urgent action request against Venezuela, one against Bolivia and one against Ecuador last year.” Oppenheimer noted that in 2011 the IACHR had criticized the US government’s routine detention of undocumented immigrants, the deportation of Haitians with health problems, and the indefinite detention of Muslim prisoners in the US naval base in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. (Kansas City Star, June 9)

Oppenheimer didn’t note, however, that the US government and media paid little attention to the IACHR’s criticisms of the US in 2011. Probably very few people in the US were aware of the IACHR documents Oppenheimer cited; or of the commission’s statements on the judicial executions of Manuel Valle, Mark Anthony Stroman and Humberto Leal García in the US; or of an IACHR rapporteur’s “concern over the arrests and assaults on journalists and media workers during the coverage of the demonstrations of the Occupy Wall Street groups in Nashville and Oakland” in November 2011.

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, June 10.