In early June, the Organization of American States (OAS) elected three new members to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), an OAS body, whose sole purpose is to promote and protect human rights in the region.
The candidate from Ecuador, Erick Roberts Garcés, was not elected, and for that, defenders of human rights can breathe a sigh of relief.
Electing Garcés would have been more than slightly ironic, given that Ecuador under President Rafael Correa is on Human Rights Watch’s list for suppressing speech and censoring its press and attempts to discredit human rights groups in the country. Ecuador is also a member of ALBA, the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas.
ALBA is Latin America’s club of left-wingers, the ideological heirs of Fidel Castro and the late Hugo Chavez, and a focal point of anti-Americanism in the region. In the name of “people’s democracy” or “participatory democracy,” ALBA members have worked hard to restrict media freedom, crush democratic institutions, and enshrine “collective rights” over individual rights while curtailing economic freedom. ALBA states have a well-known disregard for human rights and preservation of democratic institutions, as well as the OAS itself.
However, the fact that all three new IACHR members have impressive human rights credentials is an indication that the defense of democracy and human rights in the Americas is not a lost cause. The OAS still has an important role to play by encouraging member states to live up to the Inter-American Democratic Charter and pushing back against ALBA when it seeks to curtail human rights.
It is up to the Obama Administration to continue to defend individual rights and liberty where threats remain in countries such as Bolivia, Ecuador, Venezuela, and Cuba, where a 50-year-plus dictatorship still denies the Cuban people even the most basic rights.
Noelle Suarez-Murias is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please click here.