The region reveals its inconsistencies regarding human rights and the division in foreign policy between the countries in Latin America.
Last 18th of November the UN General Assembly considered a critical resolution on the situation of human rights in North Korea. In that opportunity 111 countries voted in favor, 55 abstained and 19 voted against it. The Latin American countries, which voted in favor were Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay; El Salvador, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic abstained; against the resolution voted Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador and Venezuela.
As seen above, facing an emblematic case in which fundamental freedoms are severely violated, the position of the Latin American countries is contradictory, even between those countries as Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay that keep an indulgent silence about the political repression in Cuba and Venezuela.
It should also be taken into consideration that the Democratic People's Republic of Korea is considered the most closed and repressive regime on earth. The report by Léo Moreau on the second rounds of the Universal Periodic Review of North Korea in the UN Human Rights Council emphasizes the severity of the situation there. One of them is the social structure of North Korea, typically Orwellian, which differentiates three groups: the “essential”, the “hesitant” and the “hostile” class.
The report, published by the International Relations and Human Rights Observatory of the Puente Democrático Program of CADAL shows that in North Korea there are four types of basic punishment: death penalty, forced correctional labor of indefinite duration, forced correctional labor of definite duration and work instruction. Furthermore, there are “concentration camps for political prisoners” (kwan-li-so).
During the Universal Periodic Review of North Korea, that took place this year in Geneva, Argentina expressed its concern about the situation of human rights in that country and showed that the situation of a person deprived of liberty in prison camps requires special attention. That is why it recommended to make efforts to respect all fundamental rights and liberties of all the population, especially those of women and children. Argentina also recommended adopting certain necessary measures that enable the fight against impunity of the perpetrators of violent acts and all human rights violations as well as ending the practice of imprisonment in special camps, closing them and promoting necessary reforms in the juridical system to enable fair trials and the guarantee of rules of procedure.
For its part, completely opposing the Argentinian statement, the Cuban government made evident its rejection of the Universal Periodic Review of Human Rights, and noted that North Korea “is working on strengthening a socialist society over the aggressive anti-imperialist politics aiming at the country”. In like manner, Bolivia lauded the “progress North Korea made” and encouraged the country to continue “strengthen the protection of human rights on the institutional, legal and normative level”.
Meanwhile an exemplary democracy as Sweden, was alarmed by the results of the investigation commission, which revealed “systematic violations of human rights, atrocities committed against political prisoners and prove that there have been committed severe crimes against humanity”, Venezuela lauded the progress made during the observed period.
Also worth mentioning are the erratic positions of Ecuador and El Salvador. The government of Rafael Correa that voted against the resolution of the General Assembly, previously had expressed in the Universal Periodic Review of North Korea a recommendation to fight the investigated impunity and to appropriately prosecute those responsible for violent acts and violation of human rights. It underlines especially those committed by officials and authorities and proposed to postpone the death penalty.
For its part, El Salvador, which abstained in the voting about the situation of human rights in North Korea, at the moment it is president of the Community of Democracies, and therefore, its opinion is questionable due to its indifference towards the most repressive regime in the world, which shows that the country is not in the position of leading the organization with headquarters in Warsaw.
Despite of not having the communications of the developed democracies during the Universal Periodic Review of North Korea at least the majority of the Latin American countries voted on November 18th in favor of the critical resolution about the situation of human rights in this country and like that the political division of the region was shown again.
However, when some Latin American countries – which condemn the disgraceful North Korean regime- at the same time act like accomplices with the Cuban dictatorship, the criminal repression by the Venezuelan government and the growing authoritarianism inBolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua, proves a big and worrying inconsistency in their Foreign Policy in Human Rights.
Gabriel C. Salvia is presidentof the Centre for the Opening and Development of Latin America (CADAL).