On March 22, the Organization of American States (OAS) held its 44th Special Session of the General Assembly to approve recommendations presented by the Permanent Council for strengthening the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). Last week, Freedom House signed on to a declaration by almost 100 policy figures and former heads of state that urged the OAS to sustain the commission’s mandate to protect fundamental freedoms in Latin America. Freedom House trustee Diana Villiers Negroponte shares her views on the significance of the final resolution, agreed upon after 12 hours of deliberation by OAS foreign ministers, and what it means for the future of the IACHR as an independent watchdog in the region.
This Sunday, Ecuadorians will go to the polls to choose a president in what is expected to be a landslide reelection victory for President Rafael Correa. Pollsters predict that Correa will win by as many as 40-50% over the leading opposition candidate, Guillermo Lasso, the former head of the Ecuadorian bank, Banco de Guayaquil. Correa’s PAIS party is also likely to win an overwhelming majority of the 137 National Assembly seats, which will be contested on the same day. While Correa’s victory will serve to reinforce the global perception that he is an immensely popular president, there is a far darker reality: Correa has managed one of Latin America’s largest democratic declines in recent decades.
The spirited exchange at last Thursday's vice presidential debate elevated attention to foreign policy, which will be a dominant theme of the next two debates. President Barack Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney have begun to flesh out their views on the challenges America faces abroad, but they have said little about a range of pressing international issues and skirted critical aspects of stories that currently grab the news headlines. In an effort to stimulate deeper debate on U.S. foreign policy, particularly on the future of democracy and human rights around the world, Freedom House has submitted a series of questions to the presidential candidates.
For some time, Latin America was identified as one of the success stories from the wave of democratic development that accompanied the waning years of the Cold War. Over the span of a relatively few years, a region notable for violent insurgencies, military juntas, oligarchies, and caudillo rule underwent a historic transformation that left practically every country with a freely elected government and a civic environment in which an array of liberties were respected. After the democratic upsurge, the lone holdout was Cuba, with its inflexible and increasingly anachronistic Communist dictatorship. Over the past decade, however, the commitment of governments in the region to democratic standards has wavered, in some cases considerably.