When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

CLARIN

Latin America's Shameful Silence On Venezuela Human Rights Violations

Latin American history in the 20th century is stained with autocrats and human rights violations. But with former victims now elected leaders, why don't they speak up about political prisoners in Venezuela?

At a rally in support of Lopez's release from jail.
At a rally in support of Lopez's release from jail.
Santiago A. Canton*

-OpEd-

BUENOS AIRES — Since 1983, a major part of Argentina's credibility on the international stage had been its defense of human rights. The extraordinary achievement of the late Raúl Alfonsín, the president who succeeded the military regime in the 1980s and put junta members on trial, and the later progress made under President Néstor Kirchner ending impunity for rights violators, have made Argentina an example to the world.

The vision of certain national political leaders and the will of the Argentine people was the natural extension of the revolution that began on Dec.10, 1948, when the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was ratified. From that moment, the individual became the state's ultimate objective, and the impregnable wall of sovereignty and nonintervention showed its first crack in favor of preventing the violation of human rights.

Unfortunately, the ultra-conservative ideas that defend sovereignty and nonintervention in the internal affairs of states, even in cases of rights violations, continue to affect billions of people. Our region is no exception. Despite approving numerous instruments for protecting human rights, many regional governments and entities prefer to remain silent or, worse, to justify these violations.

The recent sentencing in Venezuela of opposition politician Leopoldo López is an example of the persistent difficulty of defending human rights. Without a doubt, López is a political prisoner, as several reputable organizations have declared. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and the High Commissioner for Human Rights, among others, have urged his release. Amnesty International calls him a prisoner of conscience.

The gravity of the situation in Venezuela is not limited to López's arbitrary detention. There are 70 other political detainees. The UN Committee Against Torture has reported more than 1,200 cases of extra-judicial executions, and the Inter-American Court recently determined that failure to renew the broadcasting licence for RCTV, one of the main television channels, violated free expression. All these bodies and other international and UN entities have unequivocally voiced their concerns about the state of human rights in Venezuela.

Standing by doing nothing

But while the rest of the world is indignant, Latin America wallows in a ghastly silence. For the regional trading group Mercosur, it seems that political prisoners don't affect democracy. So far, it has been mute. Worse is the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), which not only has observed the deteriorating violations over the past two years, but also has actually legitimized López's detention by issuing a communiqué respecting the court decision.

On the other hand, Luis Almagro, the new secretary-general of the Organization of American States, has done in two months what his predecessor failed to do in 10 years: He has met with the opposition and criticized Venezuela's leftist government. Let's hope the impetus will not be lost and the body will soon join voices with those giving priority to human rights and urging López's release.

Fortunately, certain states in the region haven't forgotten that our history is replete with political prisoners. That's true for Peru and Chile, while in Uruguay, it was the Sen. Rafael Michelini who raised his voice for justice, in contrast with so many Argentine politicians.

Argentina and Brazil are key actors — Brazil, as the chief regional power, and Argentina as Venezuela's ally. Brazil has at least taken the step of naming a special envoy in one of the most important politicians of the recent decade, Nelson Jobim. It is especially significant knowing the cautious nature of Brazilian diplomacy.

And where is Argentine President Cristina Kirchner? Why is her government staying quiet? It wasn't just Argentine society collectively that suffered under the junta in the 1970s, but her party in particular, which endured persecution for decades. Its historical leaders were also prisoners of conscience in their time.

[rebelmouse-image 27089446 alt="""" original_size="1024x768" expand=1]

A memorial to the desaparecidos of the Argentine Dirty War. Photo: Wikilaurent

Is it to avoid meddling in Venezuela's internal affairs? Considering her silence in the face of support from important foreign politicians to her favored candidate in upcoming presidential elections, it doesn't seem that she's particularly bothered by the idea of interfering in a country's internal affairs. Is it because López is right-wing? I don't think so. The president comes from a party that spans practically the entire political spectrum, and her favored successor to the presidency, Daniel Scioli, doesn't seem like a typical representative of the revolutionary or progressive left, even if some supporters pretend to believe he is.

Both the entire government and Scioli himself are remaining silent. Faced with questions about López's incarceration, he said he would "not comment on such questions." Somebody should urgently explain to him that "such questions" involve violations of human rights that cannot be ignored, under any circumstance.

The president has the opportunity to help pick up a Venezuela teetering near the precipice, but she prefers to keep quiet. The revolution begun in 1948, and our history in Argentina and Latin America are sufficiently strong arguments to justify a firm condemnation of the López jail sentence. The keys to his cell doors are in your hands, Madame President. Stop looking the other way.

*Santiago A. Canton is the director of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights.

You've reached your monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
  • $2.90/month or $19.90/year. No hidden charges. Cancel anytime.
Already a subscriber? Log in

When the world gets closer, we help you see farther

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
Geopolitics

New Probe Finds Pro-Bolsonaro Fake News Dominated Social Media Through Campaign

Ahead of Brazil's national elections Sunday, the most interacted-with posts on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Telegram and WhatsApp contradict trustworthy information about the public’s voting intentions.

Jair Bolsonaro bogus claims perform well online

Cris Faga/ZUMA
Laura Scofield and Matheus Santino

SÂO PAULO — If you only got your news from social media, you might be mistaken for thinking that Jair Bolsonaro is leading the polls for Brazil’s upcoming presidential elections, which will take place this Sunday. Such a view flies in the face of what most of the polling institutes registered with the Superior Electoral Court indicate.

An exclusive investigation by the Brazilian investigative journalism agency Agência Pública has revealed how the most interacted-with and shared posts in Brazil on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Telegram and WhatsApp share data and polls that suggest victory is certain for the incumbent Bolsonaro, as well as propagating conspiracy theories based on false allegations that research institutes carrying out polling have been bribed by Bolsonaro’s main rival, former president Luís Inácio Lula da Silva, or by his party, the Workers’ Party.

Agência Pública’s reporters analyzed the most-shared posts containing the phrase “pesquisa eleitoral” [electoral polls] in the period between the official start of the campaigning period, on August 16, to September 6. The analysis revealed that the most interacted-with and shared posts on social media spread false information or predicted victory for Jair Bolsonaro.

Keep reading...Show less

When the world gets closer, we help you see farther

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
You've reached your monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
  • $2.90/month or $19.90/year. No hidden charges. Cancel anytime.
Already a subscriber? Log in
THE LATEST
FOCUS
TRENDING TOPICS

Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

Yet one month on, a quick look at the map shows that many of the worst-hit cities are those where Russian is the predominant language: Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson.

Watch VideoShow less
MOST READ