Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Who needs a new Latin American human rights group?

THIS is a very strange news report:
Mexico on Monday proposed creating a regional organization to promote and evaluate human rights throughout Latin America, a mechanism meant partly to depoliticize conflicts with Cuba over the island's human rights record.

The gathering comes as the U.N. Human Rights Commission in Geneva prepares to publish reports on the rights records of individual countries. That event usually prompts strained relations with Cuba, which contends the U.N. criticisms result from behind-the-scenes maneuvering by Washington to force other countries to support negative assessments.

Mexican Foreign Secretary Luis Ernesto Derbez told representatives of 30 countries that the plan would help build a culture of human rights throughout the region. The Cuban ambassador to Mexico, Jorge Bolanos, also endorsed the idea.

The reason this sounds strange to me is that the Mexican official making this proposal is also one of three candidates in the running to become the new OAS chief. But the OAS already has a regional human rights organization, the Inter-American Human Rights Commission.

But let's read the rest of the article, and then the purpose may become more clear:

"We are here to participate, to make our contributions and we wish it success," Bolanos said.

In November, Mexico's Deputy Foreign Secretary Miguel Hakim said the idea to create a regional human rights organization was inspired partly by the system that nations in the Americas already use to evaluate progress in efforts to curb drug trafficking.

Each nation is asked to fill out a questionnaire about its anti-drug actions, and the results are studied by an international panel which issues reports. Governments then are asked to give a formal response.

Mexico's votes to criticize Cuba at recent U.N. Human Rights Commission meetings were among the factors that led to a deterioration in diplomatic relations between the two states last year.

Bolanos told The Associated Press that the U.N. commission should be restructured to prevent countries such as the United States from imposing their will on other nations. He said countries should "participate under equal conditions" and should avoid a division between the "the condemned of the Earth and the condemners."

Cuba has repeatedly accused the United States of surreptitiously sponsoring annual U.N. resolutions criticizing the communist-governed island. The 2004 resolution sponsored by Honduras was approved 22-21, with 10 abstentions.

Perhaps then, one could surmise, this is part of a Mexican strategy to demonstrate that its candidate for the OAS would not be subservient to U.S. interests, something that might appeal to many countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.

UPDATE: More on the Flores candidacy can be found in this week's El Faro (Salvadoran online weekly.)

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