The Miami Herald | EDITORIAL

Cuba, Venezuela, Honduras top most repressive list in hemisphere

Another report on human rights points out the worst culprits in Latin America: Cuba, Honduras, Venezuela.

The 2012 report released recently by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, a fact-finding arm of the Organization of American States, focuses on the nastiest violators in the hemisphere without regard to their politics, whether from the left or the right. The United States, for instance, has rightly been criticized by the commission for abuses at the Guantánamo Naval Base in Cuba, where terror suspects have been held for more than a decade.

In its latest report, the OAS commission points out continued repression in communist Cuba and socialist Venezuela, as well as Honduras after a right-wing coup in 2009.

• Cuba. Even though Cuba finally freed the dissidents who were arrested in the so-called Black Spring of 2003, it has continued its crackdown. Among those treated to arbitrary beatings and detentions are the Ladies in White, who have been marching peacefully throughout Cuba for human rights. “Cuba is the only country in the Americas in which one can say that there is no guarantee whatsoever for the right to freedom of expression,” the report notes.

There were more than 3,000 temporary detentions of dissidents in the first six months of 2012 alone.

• Venezuela. From constitutional changes that turn the president into king — giving him powers that usurp the legislative and judicial branches — to a shameful murder rate and kidnappings of political opponents, Venezuela is far from a democracy. The commission “received information to the effect that 60 percent of the victims of the homicides on record as of January 2012 had been shot at least four times. It was said that one barometer of the severity of the violence in Venezuela is the number of officers of the court killed, which by February 2012 had reached 12,” the report said.

Aside from using supporters as Bolivarian militias to harass independent labor unions, business people, religious institutions and independent media, Venezuela also has adopted the Cuban model of detentions without charges.

• Honduras. Since the 2009 coup, the report states, “There have been human rights violations that have gravely affected the Honduran population.”

A deadly fire at the Comayagua National Penitentiary, the assassination of human rights activists, community leaders and journalists, and the stacking of the judiciary to remove its independence — all raise serious questions about Honduran President Porfirio Lobo’s commitment to democracy.

The commission also points to discrimination of indigenous citizens and women, and no serious follow up to the recommendations by Honduras’ own Truth and Reconciliation Commission to end the violence and prevent more coups.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has long stood up for the fundamental rights of each citizen. Not surprisingly, there has been a push by those disgruntled with its findings — particularly Venezuela and led by Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa — to weaken the commission and the OAS human rights court. That move failed at the OAS general assembly on March 22, but there will be other attempts.

They must not be allowed to succeed. Whether the assault on liberty comes from the left or right, the commission gives the hemisphere’s most desperate citizens a voice on a global platform, focusing on universal human rights that all nations must honor.

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