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Three dictatorships in Latin America on International Human Rights Day

Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua on the 71st anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

In Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela, above all, no reference will be made. Or if any is done it will sound ironic. Like the one made on Tuesday morning by the newspaper Granma, the official organ of the Cuban Communist Party regarding a new anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

“Human rights in Cuba enshrines the full dignity of humankind,” surprises one of Granma’s main headlines. A strange interpretation when the Havana government systematical persecutes its opponents and holds dozens of political prisoners —with opposition activist Jose Daniel Ferrer arrested, tortured and in solitary confinement, heading the list.

The transcendental document was signed on December 10, 1948 —71 years ago today—, in Paris three years after the end of World War II. In that dark period, in the Nazi concentration camps against the Jewish population, the most sinister of the spirit of mankind was synthetized. The horror had been engraved in those who managed to survive and gave testimony of the aberrations suffered. The world leaders tried to put in writing those basic parameters that no enlightened Messianic leader should trespass: justice, equality and dignity. The day became historical.

Latin America remembers it today with unequal plenitude. Justice is one of the profound and most persistent debts in the region. It is perhaps the weakest institutional base with the resurgence of caudillo strongman leaders that sooner rather than later emerge as saviors.

Institutions are rammed and trampled with the sole and fallacious argument of establishing themselves as the exclusive defenders and interpreters of the popular will. They are installed by votes and from there many violate democratic structures and justify their subsequent excesses. Justice, that should be the retaining dike and the constitutional safeguard, does not act, instead it is ransacked or dismembered by the imposition of these leaders.

Equality in the region is another structural deficit that no administration —even the most organized, like the Chilean—, manages to balance. When the macroeconomic figures of those efforts that benefit from the jumps in the international value their natural resources flourish, the heads of state are tempted into a fictitious distribution instead of laying down the foundations for achieving permanent development.

Subsidies, embezzlement and corruption on the one hand; constitutional reforms, and friendly courts on the other. That path is the one that makes possible the long-awaited reelections over the bronze of history.  The examples abound: Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Argentina, Brazil. Golden eras of full pockets with no structural and educational development.

Dignity continues to be one of the great pending debts. Especially in those nations whose leaders trample upon the human rights of their people. The dictator Nicolas Maduro’s record causes chills: 7,000 are the victims of his tyranny. The human debt of Caracas is absolute. So much so that the United Nations, the cradle where that Declaration was born, was responsible for enumerating the violations that the regime embodies.

The report was signed by Michelle Bachelet, High Commissioner for Human Rights of the UN, former President of Chile and whose family suffered in their own flesh the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. The authorized voice of the Chilean infuriated Maduro’s Miraflores Palace. It exposed to the entire world the tortures and extrajudicial executions that the Chavista leaders ordered against those who rose against them.

The diaspora is another of the humanitarian dramas that Maduro promoted. In total there are 4,769,498 displaced Venezuelans who had to start a new life, mainly, in the rest of the region. Most of them sought refuge in Colombia (1,630,903), Peru (863,613) and Ecuador (385,042). The data belongs to the UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency. Each one of them suffered some type of abuse by members of the regime, went hungry or did not have the necessary resources to survive. It’s the story of a nation that bleeds to death.

The Nicaragua of Daniel Ortega and his wife/VP Rosario Murillo is just one step behind Venezuela, but does not escape international calls to cease their political persecution against opponents. “The government must end the persistent repression of dissent and arbitrary detentions, and refrain from criminalizing and attacking human right defenders, political opponents and any other dissenting voice,” points out one of the UN reports on the Central American country.

In November, it was the European Union that urged the autocrat to put an end to his methods. “The UE calls on the Government of Nicaragua and its security forces to release all people arrested and withdraw charges, lift the siege of the Church and guarantee full respect for the constitutional rights of the entire Nicaraguan population, in particular freedom of expression, assembly, religion and peaceful protest.”

Ortega ignores it. Since the beginning of the protests in April 2018 over the Social Security reforms, around 320 people lost their lives as a result of government repression. There, the emigration of its citizens began slowly.

Behind them is Cuba. Havana functions as the ideological bastion and the advisor who orders how to act in each adverse situation. Their leaders are experts in gaining time and avoiding the demands of their population. They have been doing it for more than 60 years. Their interference in the regimes of Caracas and Managua is absolute. They are the ones who dishonor that Declaration that 71 years ago changed the planet.

This text was first published in Infobae.

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