Democracy In Latin America Fades As Nations Decline To Intervene

Christopher Sabatini, an adjunct professor at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, recently wrote in The Washington Post laments the fact that Latin American nations have not fulfilled the pledge they made in 2001 with the signing of the Inter-American Democratic Charter.

On September 11, 2001 the members of the Organization of American States (OAS) committed in the charter to defend democracy by ensuring free and fair elections, as well as basic human rights, freedom of expression, and respect for the rule of law.

However, they have not invoked the charter once since it was signed, despite numerous crackdowns against those rights, most recently in Venezuela under the regime of President Nicolas Maduro.

“Latin America has reverted to an earlier time, when the diplomatic imperative seems to be for each country to mind its own business, never mind what a neighboring regime may be doing to its own population. In retrospect, it’s become easier to appreciate how exceptional the turn of the century moment was for Latin America, in terms of the cohesion and optimism around a shared democratic vision,” he writes.

Mac Margolis of Bloomberg News also notes the diffidence many Latin American nations have toward the abuses committed by their neighbors.

“Uruguay’s Jose Mujica spent 13 years in a dictator’s dungeon, and Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff was tortured by the military. Chilean President Michelle Bachelet lost her father to generalissimo Augusto Pinochet’s dirty war. Still, few heads of state have been willing to speak out against their club-footed peers, whether in Cuba, Ecuador or Venezuela,” he reports.

The crackdown has resulted in threats from the Obama administration and today the White House did call for the release of all political prisoners. The administration also announced it was declaring Venezuela a national-security threat and freezing the assets of seven senior officials over alleged rights abuses and political repression.

The administration’s approach to Honduras is more like its outreach to Cuba, despite the Honduran government’s poor human rights record, as Grace Frank details in an article in Foreign Policy.

“While Obama has made stellar progress on Cuba — finally opening the door to diplomatic relations and signaling a willingness to turn away from Cold War rigidity — in Honduras he is sending a very different and dangerous message to the region: The United States is willing to enthusiastically back a repressive regime in order to solidify and expand U.S. military and economic power,” she asserts.


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