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Step Up, Latin America

April 08, 2002

In Fidel Castro's Cuba, human rights violations are egregious. Since taking power in 1959, the dictator has stifled freedom of expression, association and assembly. The justice system is an appendix of the so-called revolutionary regime. The island is devoid of democratic institutions.

For these reasons, the United Nations Human Rights Commission, based in Geneva, has voted to condemn the Castro government in 12 of the past 13 years. These resolutions have been sponsored by either the United States or the Czech Republic with encouragement from Washington.

Last year the U.S. was thrown out of the Human Rights Commission, leaving open the question of who will sponsor the resolution when the body votes this month. Representatives of Libya, Venezuela, China and Saudi Arabia routinely try, usually without much success, to shield the abuses of the Cuban leader by voting against the U.N. resolution. Argentina, Canada, Costa Rica, Britain, Guatemala, Italy, Norway, Spain and Uruguay are among the nations that have shown their commitment to human rights and democracy and voted to condemn the Castro regime. But none have had the nerve to sponsor the resolution. Now's the perfect time for a Latin American country--or maybe Canada--to break from the cowering pack and do it.

This symbolic annual act has special significance in this hemisphere. Following many setbacks and lots of caution, Latin America's nations have embraced democratic values. They have opened their economies and adopted the defense of human rights as a cornerstone of their domestic and international policies.

For two years the Castro regime has conducted a relentless campaign to dissuade countries from pursuing the defense of human rights for Cubans. In an attack against Mexico--historically Cuba's most faithful ally--Castro's state-sponsored publication Granma threatened to disclose embarrassing information about Mexico's foreign minister if that nation pushed the rights issue.

The best way to confront this buffoonish bullying by the region's only remaining dictator is for someone in the hemisphere--Canadian, Argentine, Costa Rican, Peruvian, Uruguayan or, most appropriately, Mexican--to stand up and sponsor this year's resolution condemning Cuba's human rights violations.

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