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Column 040813 Brewer

Monday, April 8, 2013

The Human Rights Systems in Latin America Require Sustenance

By Jerry Brewer 

Although eradicating poverty in the world would be a monolithic achievement for mankind as the greatest human rights challenge, documented abuses in 159 countries by governments blocking “advances in international justice by standing above the law on human rights, shielding allies from criticism and acting only when politically convenient” (per Amnesty International)  has been a common occurrence. 

Latin America, especially in recent years, has seen incredibly violent transnational organized criminal networks competing for control of the illegal global economy.  

The Organization of American States (OAS) reports that Latin America is the region of the world with the highest murder rate.  The murder rate in Latin America is 25.6 per 100,000 residents, according to the study by the OAS Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. 

A significant addendum to the violent death rate within the Western Hemisphere is the murder rate in the Caribbean.  “The average murder rate for the countries of the Caribbean is 30 per 100,000 residents.” A challenging world comparison graphically demonstrates the murder rate in Europe is 8.9 per 100,000 residents, while that for the Western Pacific region is 3.4 and in Southeast Asia it is 5.8. 

Record setting murder rates in the northern triangle of Central America are attributed to transnational criminal insurgents traversing the area from Mexico, as well as from Central and South America.  While Latin America has 8 percent of the world’s population, it is the region where 40 percent of the world’s homicides and 66 percent of the kidnappings for ransom are committed. 

Human rights issues that are also paramount to a world’s scrutiny are those citizens no longer willing to endure systems of governance that are not built on justice and the rule of law, and seeking  accountability and transparency, and the promotion of equality. 

Resistance to injustice and repression takes many forms, often forcing many who face seemingly insuperable obstacles to sound off and, at times, inspiring acts of enormous courage that are met with threats and attacks by corrupt government and police officials. The ultimate results routinely are continued indifference for those seeking answers. Cuba and Venezuela are classic examples of leftist dictatorial and oppressive regimes, with the Castro brothers and the late President Hugo Chavez.  

A true democratic government generally has a clear commitment to the people by protecting, promoting, and respecting the human rights of all without discrimination, and placing a high value on human life. These cannot be obstacles to government, but are true indicators to measure the efforts and effectiveness of the state.   

In terms of the rule of law and justice in proactively facing violence and criminal acts, the major concerns of the OAS rights commission have been the victims and the perpetrators of violence and crime in Latin America, people that are “between the ages of 15 and 29, with the murder rate rising to 68.9 per 100,000 among those groups.” The homicide rate was 89.7 per 100,000 among the poor and middle classes.

Equally disturbing is that in the last two decades murder rates around the world have either stayed steady or declined, except in Latin America and the Caribbean where they increased significantly. 

Effective conflict resolution in these regions will require a hemispheric partnership in adapting to and strategically engaging the ever changing environment of criminal insurgency and countering their movement by also targeting their massive revenues. Nations should also look within themselves for corruption at the highest levels that encourage and facilitate the acts of organized crime and personal wealth garnered from these acts.  

Democracy is distinguished from other systems by institutional response to abuses. A nation that respects human rights “is one that not only does not commit violations, but also one in which any instance of abuse triggers the machinery of control of the State so that such actions are investigated, prosecuted and punished in good faith.”
 
Latin America recently rejected leftist regimes among their ranks who were attempting to silence the region's human rights watchdog, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). The IACHR had criticized human rights abuses in those nations governed by “authoritarian populists.” Some of the nations were attempting to suggest reforms that would have restricted the IACHR’s budget. Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez and Ecuador’s Rafael Correa have previously waged a bitter feud against them. Chavez frequently hurled insults at them for their claims.

Democratic partners within the hemisphere continue to face critical security challenges, while seeking to achieve enduring peace and shared prosperity. Commitment is needed to protect citizens and communities. Fundamental guarantees should include freedom of speech; safeguards against tyranny and oppression; protection for vulnerable members; the freedom to leave and return to their country; and the right to not be deprived of property without due process of law.

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Jerry Brewer is C.E.O. of Criminal Justice International Associates, a global threat mitigation firm headquartered in northern Virginia.  His website is located at www.cjiausa.org.


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