Politics, Business & Culture in the Americas

Monday Memo: [i]AQ[/i]’s Top Expected Stories for the Week of June 4



Top stories this week are likely to include: proposed OAS human rights commission reform; OAS meeting underway in Bolivia; Pacific Alliance meeting on Wednesday; Peru-Chile relations; and no end in sight to the anti-mining protests in Peru.

OAS Human Rights Reform Considered: Organization of American States (OAS) member states such as Ecuador and Venezuela are calling for reforms to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), the independent human rights organ of the regional body. Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Ricardo Patiño called for changes such as cutting funding for the OAS special rapporteur on press freedom, warning that the OAS “will disappear” otherwise, which earned the endorsement of Venezuela. Insulza has further called for renegotiation of the IACHR’s statute and procedures including allowing governments to decide how the IACHR monitors them. Last Friday, the Washington Post editorial board responded to these proposals, writing, “It’s not surprising that Venezuela and its allies would push for noxious initiatives, or that Mr. Insulza would serve as their frontman […] Canada and the United States… and their democratic allies should work to ensure that the Insulza proposals are rejected—and that the OAS is perserved as an institution committed to democracy and human rights.”

AQ Editor-in-Chief Christopher Sabatini concurs: “The reasoning behind the proposals that Insulza is bringing to the General Assembly is unclear. What is clear is that their effect would be to whittle away at much of the independent voice of the Commission—the most effective office in the OAS—and he’s doing it by making common cause with some suspect governments.”

Developments at the OAS General Assembly: Representatives from the 35 OAS member states are in Cochabamba, Bolivia, from June 3 to 5 for the organization’s 42nd General Assembly. In addition to the IACHR reforms, other issues on the table include Bolivian President Evo Morales’ desire for forward movement in regard to his country’s lack of access to the Pacific Ocean, a longstanding dispute with Chile. Argentina’s leadership wishes to rally hemispheric consensus around its claim to the Falkland (Malvinas) Islands. OAS Secretary-General José Miguel Insulza briefed the assembly that Latin America is still far from achieving the UN’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The UN has set 2015 as its target date for achievement of the MDGs. But expectations for concrete results are not high, notes Sabatini: “The OAS general assembly has become a theater for overreach and meaningless debate.” 

Pacific Alliance Meeting: Presidents of the four founding nations of the Pacific Alliance—Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru—will convene in Antofagasta, Chile, on Wednesday for the alliance’s fourth summit. This meeting represents the next step of the nascent group, founded in April 2011 to deepen integration of human and capital resources across Latin America’s Pacific Rim and formulate further ties with its East Asian partners. Notes Sabatini: “The Pacific Alliance represents one of the most exciting new initiatives in the hemisphere: to deepen the region’s economic ties with Asian economies in ways that will strengthen their competitive edge toward China and build a positive, progressive pole of modern, pro-market economies.”

Peru-Chile Relations: In advance of this week’s Pacific Alliance meeting, Peruvian President Ollanta Humala expressed a hope to work out a negotiated settlement of his country’s border area abutting Chile, which is riddled with mines. In fact, a Peruvian citizen died last week while driving in the border when his car activated the detonation of a mine. Perhaps this week’s summit in Chile will lead to a breakthrough in this bilateral dispute as Humala has noted that his participation will hinge on that. AQ Senior Editor Jason Marczak observes: “The potential of joint cooperation in demining border areas, along with an eventual solution to the maritime dispute in The Hague, are two key pillars for advancing a bilateral relationship that is increasingly based on economies rather than historical disagreements.” 

Further Troubles with Xstrata: The anti-mining protests among Indigenous communities in rural Espinar, Peru, hit a further snag when Espinar’s mayor was ordered to preventative detention for up to five months. Will this scare tactic lead to a drop-off in protests, or will it reinvigorate local activists, prompting the national government to extend its state of emergency?

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