The Ecuadorian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Integration, Ricardo Patiño began a six-day trip on Wednesday to eight countries in the region where he is meeting with counterparts regarding proposed reforms to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).
The first leg of his trip is already complete, which included visits to Venezuela and Mexico. Patiño first met with Mexican Foreign Minister Jose Antonio Meade on Wednesday agreeing that there was room for changes to the IACHR, such as improving its management and transparency and for "balanced funding for all rapporteurs and the necessary political and financial appropriation of the system.” Patiño is also visiting Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Dominican Republic, and Haiti before a March 8 meeting in Guayaquil, Ecuador where signatories to the American Convention of Human Rights will meet to discuss reforms. The meeting was convened by UNASAUR.
As detailed in an AQ Web Exclusive last week, “in mid-2011 the Organization of American States (OAS) began its initiative to ‘strengthen’ the inter-American system— with the main proponents of this process being the ALBA countries, most notably Ecuador and Venezuela. These countries have submitted proposals to weaken the independence and effectiveness of the Commission in several ways: by cutting its possibilities for financing; by denying it the power to issue reports on the countries of greatest concern; and by limiting its ability to seek urgent protective actions when serious threats of human rights violations arise.”
José Miguel Vivanco, director of Human Rights Watch’s Americas division, voiced concern that the March 8 meeting will "negotiate formulas that will weaken IACHR," and that it "seems to be rather an ambush against IACHR and freedom of expression promoted by the Ecuadorian government.”
The reforms will be voted on during an Extraordinary General Assembly of the OAS on March 22.
Top stories this week are likely to include: effect of Fernando Lugo’s impeachment; Supreme Court verdict on Arizona’s immigration law; Mexico elects a new government; Julian Assange’s asylum request to Ecuador; and Mercosur summit in Argentina.
Backlash to Lugo’s Ouster: After former Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo was impeached last Friday by the opposition-dominated legislature in a 39-4 vote, his vice president, Federico Franco, was sworn in later that evening as the country’s new head of state. Lugo, while accepting the decision of Congress, likened the move to a “parliamentary coup.” Franco belongs to the same coalition—the Patriotic Alliance for Change—as Lugo, who was ousted due to his handling of deadly land clashes the week prior that killed at least 17 people. In response, Brazil, Chile, Uruguay, and Venezuela removed their ambassadors to Paraguay while other countries such as Colombia recalled its ambassador in Asunción for consultations. According to CNN, the governments in Venezuela, Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador, and the Dominican Republic said they will not recognize Franco as the legitimate leader of Paraguay. It was just announced this morning that Paraguay will be suspended from this week’s Mercosur summit in Mendoza, Argentina, although Lugo will still attend. However, pay attention for any official declarations from Mercosur later this week on the Paraguay situation. Notes AQ Editor-in-Chief Christopher Sabatini, “As we saw in the case of Honduras in 2009, democratic institutions and rules—when weak—can be manipulated to undemocratic ends. In both cases, presidents were denied fundamental rights of due process. I fully expect that at the Mercosur summit member governments will take action to threaten punishment of the post-Lugo government. UNASUR will likely do the same. The question is: Will anyone care if the OAS does?”
Supreme Court Verdict on SB 1070: The U.S. Supreme Court verdict on Arizona’s restrictive immigration legislation—SB 1070—was delivered this morning, which invalidated three of the four controversial provisions of the law but did uphold the “papers please” provision, which permits police officers to ask for documentation from anyone they suspect of being in Arizona illegally. This ruling could have ripple effects in other U.S. states that have adopted similar legislation, such as Utah, Indiana, Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina. AQ Senior Editor Jason Marczak observes: “Today’s ruling is a partial victory for the rights of immigrants and for any American who may appear to be an immigrant. By blocking three of the four provisions, including the section that would have allowed police officers to arrest anyone if there was probable cause of their being in the U.S. without authorization, the Court by and large held firm that federal regulations must supersede the growing patchwork of state-level immigration laws. It is unfortunate that the Court upheld the bill’s provision whereby police officers can conduct status checks, but it did severely restrict when and how those checks can be applied.”
Mexico Elections on Sunday: Aside from the presidency, all 628 seats in the Mexican legislature (500 in the Chamber of Deputies, 128 in the Senate) are up for grabs in the nationwide election on Sunday, July 1. In addition, the executive and legislative branches of the Federal District government will be chosen as well as the governorships in the states of Guanajuato, Jalisco and Morelos. While Partido Revolucionario Institucional (Institutional Revolutionary Party—PRI) presidential candidate Enrique Peña Nieto looks poised for victory as he has led the polls for months, a Barclays Capital analysis predicts a PRI win in Congress.
Assange’s Asylum Request: WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange broke terms of his house arrest in London last week when he sought refuge in Ecuador’s embassy to the United Kingdom, claiming asylum under the UN Declaration on Human Rights. Sweden is seeking Assange’s extradition from the UK based on sexual assault charges; Assange fears that Sweden will turn him over to the United States. Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Ricardo Patiño has said that Ecuador is considering the request, based on Assange’s account that he is being persecuted. Sabatini says that an agreement from Ecuador to take in Assange “would be said because he would effectively be given asylum for rape charges, not as a martyr for freedom of expression.”
Mercosur Assembly in Mendoza: An annual meeting of Mercosur members and observers is taking place this week in Mendoza, as Argentina holds the rotating presidency of the trade bloc. Higher-level meetings will occur on Thursday and Friday. While this summit has been planned for months, Friday’s news of Lugo’s ouster—Paraguay is a founding member of Mercosur—has thrown Paraguay’s future status in the alliance under speculation. A statement this morning from the Argentine foreign ministry, signed by all Mercosur nations, “energetically condemns the rupture of the democratic order in the Republic of Paraguay for not having respected the right to due process.” Observes Sabatini, “Watch for the member governments to take formal action to isolate the post-Lugo government.”
Meeting yesterday in Quito, Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Ricardo Patiño and his Colombian counterpart, María Ángela Holguín, reaffirmed their commitment to strengthen their countries’ bilateral relationship and to work together on issues of common concern.
Upon arriving in Quito on Wednesday morning, Minister Holguín greeted the Ecuadorian public, saying she felt “truly at home.”
During the meeting, which lasted nearly six hours and was also attended by other government officials, Holguín and Patiño focused largely on border issues, including deepening police and military controls to reduce the flow in gas and oil contraband, promoting development and tourism and facilitating free trade.
Criticizing the truce agreement reached two weeks ago by Colombia and Ecuador’s heavy transport associations—which ended a 60-day blockade of goods transport over claims by Colombian truckers of “unfair competition”—Holguín affirmed that “it is the governments of Ecuador and Colombia who establish transit norms.” Patiño agreed: “Transport organizations are not the ones who define the mechanisms, norms, or, worse, sanctions” on the transit of goods.
Ministers Holguín and Patiño also discussed infrastructure and energy, including expanding the Rumichaca Bridge (the principal passage between Ecuador and Colombia), developing a new point of connection at the International Bridge of San Miguel, and collaborating on a geothermal project. They confirmed that President Santos will meet with Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa next Monday, in addition to Ecuadorian business leaders. His visit will be the first by a Colombian head of state to Ecuador after the resumption of diplomatic relations between the two countries in November 2009. Relations had been severed in March 2008 after Colombian security forces conducted a deadly attack against a FARC camp on Ecuadorian territory.
Minister Holguín also brought to Quito Colombia’s ratification of the treaty establishing UNASUR, making it the last country to do so.