The human rights branch of the Organization of American States issued a blistering 300-page report Wednesday against Venezuela, saying that the oil-rich country run by President Hugo Chávez constrains free expression, the rights of its citizens to protest and the ability of opposition politicians to function.
The report, compiled and written by the OAS’s Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, reflects growing concern in the region over how one of the organization’s member states is governed. The document holds legitimacy for human rights investigators and diplomats because it has the imprimatur of the commission, which is run independently from the OAS and largely free of its political machinations.
“This is a professional report, and the commission has been progressively more critical about Chávez over the years,” said Michael Shifter, an analyst who tracks Venezuela for the Inter-American Dialogue in Washington. “There’s a growing sense of the greater risks of human rights abuses and authoritarianism in Venezuela.”
The commission has in the past issued major reports about serious violations in a number of countries, notably targeting the military junta in 1970s-era Argentina and the quasi-dictatorship of Alberto Fujimori in Peru.
Chávez has railed against the OAS as beholden to the interests of the United States. Venezuela declined to cooperate with the commission, its members said, prompting commissioners — jurists and rights activists from Antigua, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, El Salvador and the United States — to hold hearings and seek out Venezuelan activists and politicians to compile information about the suspected abuses.
Was about time they did.
Related reading: Cancun secrets
I used this article in the podcast but didn’t have time to link to them before air time,
US refuses to endorse British sovereignty in Falklands oil dispute
Senior US officials insisted that Washington’s position on the Falklands was one of longstanding neutrality. This is in stark contrast to the public backing and vital intelligence offered by President Reagan to Margaret Thatcher once she had made the decision to recover the islands by force in 1982.
“We are aware not only of the current situation but also of the history, but our position remains one of neutrality,” a State Department spokesman told The Times. “The US recognises de facto UK administration of the islands but takes no position on the sovereignty claims of either party.”
Well, I’ll say this for Obama: He’s consistent. Whether it’s the Poles, the Czechs, or the Brits, the message is clear. On his watch (too kind a word) longstanding American allies can be expected to be taken for granted, insulted and, if convenient, dumped. Now, every country (including, of course, the U.S.) must do what it needs do in the pursuit of its national interests, and those alone. In foreign policy nothing else should count. But a clear view of what those interests are is indispensable, and that must include a full understanding of what the consequence of particular actions might be. If Obama is again showing that, with him at the helm, the U.S. is not a reliable ally to its friends, then he must learn to expect less from those friends.
In the words of a State Department spokesman:
“We are aware not only of the current situation but also of the history, but our position remains one of neutrality. The US recognises de facto UK administration of the islands but takes no position on the sovereignty claims of either party.”
The remarks had echoes of an earlier statement by a senior State Department protocol official who, when asked about the shoddy treatment of the British Prime Minister in March last year, responded:
“There’s nothing special about Britain. You’re just the same as the other 190 countries in the world. You shouldn’t expect special treatment.”
Even by the relentlessly poor standards of the Obama administration, whose doctrine unfailingly appears to be “kiss your enemies and kick your allies”, this is a new low. The White House’s neutrality in a major dispute between America’s closest friend and the likes of Venezuelan tyrant Hugo Chavez, Argentina’s biggest backer, represents the appalling appeasement of an alliance of anti-Western Latin American regimes, stretching from Caracas to Havana – combined with a callous indifference towards the Anglo-American alliance.
President Obama, once hailed as our first European President, has thrown out the United State’s long-standing special relationship with our closest ally. Obama chose, under a false pretense of neutrality, to side with a corrupt, agressive Argentine government that is backed by Hugo Chavez and is threatening a blockade of British territory.