It sounds like a joke, but it isn't: Soon, the 33-country Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) - a 2-year-old organization that lists promoting democracy among its top goals - will swear-in Cuban dictator Gen.
What's just as crazy, Gen. Castro will become
European diplomats, who pride themselves on attaching "democracy clauses" demanding free elections to their countries' trade agreements with developing nations, are already shaking their heads about the prospect of appearing in smiling pictures with Gen. Castro.
Granted, while CELAC's creation was heralded by Venezuelan President
The group was created to bring together Latin American and
But, while CELAC is just the latest of many similar regional groups that were quickly forgotten after grandiose debuts, the fact is that its 33 member governments have assigned it event-organizing functions. That means that CELAC has the power to convene and set the agenda of some regional and bi-regional meetings, which - while all of the group's decisions are taken by consensus under internal rules - is nothing to be sneered at.
Ironically, CELAC's founding document signed at the
Article No. 3 of the CELAC charter signed in Rivera Maya states that the group "reaffirms that the preservation of democracy and democratic values, the respect for institutions and the rule of law" and the "preservations of all human rights for all, are essential goals of our countries."
Isn't it a joke that a regional organization committed to democracy elects as its new chairman none other than the region's last military president, I asked OAS Secretary General
Perhaps trying not to criticize a rival organization, Insulza responded: "The fact that the president of
My opinion: Hmm. I respectfully disagree. This is not a matter of right and left, but of democracy and dictatorship.
Unfortunately, Castro, Chavez, and others in recent years have succeeded in changing
As somebody who has always opposed both rightist and leftist dictatorships - and, for the record, immediately condemned both the 1992 coup attempt by Chavez and the 2002 coup attempt against Chavez - I don't think that Gen. Castro's appointment as new CELAC leader is a sign of any kind of "new tolerance" that should be praised.
On the contrary, it is a betrayal of democratic and human-rights principles that many have fought hard to win.
If Latin American leaders want to be taken seriously, they should either delete the promotion of democracy from CELAC's founding principles, or keep from passing on the CELAC chairmanship to Gen. Castro. They can't claim to defend democracy while they appoint the region's worst dictator to lead their group.
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