The phenomenon of bogus—or what Columbia University Professor Alex Cooley calls zombie—election monitors in the region continues. On October 15th, it was the unknown Council of Electoral Specialists of Latin America (CEELA) that showed up to praise Venezuela’s regional elections, calling the elections “free, respectful and successful.” That a team of individuals with no apparent methodology or commitment to free and fair elections should show up to “observe” Venezuela’s elections should not be a surprise. What is, though, is that governments in the region didn’t demand that Venezuela admit credible, objective, professional, and technically qualified observers. Because in the end, the result was predictable: the election results were questioned, the country became even more polarized, and people became even more disillusioned in the electoral process as a potential exit to the crisis. The regional community needs to be alert to and be prepared to address the troubling deterioration of standards for election observation efforts. It may only be part of the larger pattern of the deterioration of democratic and human rights norms in the hemisphere, but recovering those standards and demands that countries only use credible groups is essential if the region is ever to restore institutionalism and public confidence in many countries in the hemisphere.
In other matters, however, the region has started to find its voice on Venezuela, with the Grupo de Lima and the efforts by OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro to create a commission to consider referring Venezuela to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes against humanity. Nevertheless, as the above paragraph alludes to, there is a greater need to anticipate events and put more teeth into declarations and resolutions.
Meanwhile, the region’s progressive commitment to human rights continues, as we describe in the chapter on LGBTI rights. While there are still great challenges to protect the lives and rights of LGBTI individuals, the advances at the multilateral level—especially in the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights—and in a handful of countries, such as Argentina, Brazil and Colombia—are inspiring. But in terms of laws and protections country by country there is huge variation with countries like Barbados, Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago failing even to have the most basic protections: laws de-criminalizing homosexual relations between consenting adults and anti-discrimination laws.
Perhaps it should not be surprising given what we have noted in other areas of progressive rights—such as women’s rights and the rights of indigenous to previous, free and informed consent—but for all of its talk of 21st Century Socialism, Venezuela remains one of the worst countries for legal protections for LGBTI individuals. So much for the progressive revolution.
Last, as we report in our chapter on the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, in its return to participate in Commission hearings, the U.S. has taken an oddly aggressive rhetorical position. In the two hearings covered here, the U.S. reportedly reminded the body that the U.S. had not signed the Inter-American Convention on Human Rights—implying that it was therefore not responsible to the system—and reminded the IACHR that it was not a court and only had the power to give recommendations. While both are true, that the U.S. stated them in a hearing in an attempt to assert its independence is a troubling precedent, not just for the United States but for the inter-American system generally. The inter-American system of human rights rests on a delicate consensus of respect and the moral commitment of its members to uphold its authority. The U.S.’s new discourse in the hearings, if it continues, will only further weaken one of the most important organizations in the region by giving license to any country to avoid its commitments, not just to the body, but to its own citizens and their rights.
2. “In case you missed it: The OAS General Assembly.” For full article, please visit: http:// theglobalamericans.org/2017/06/icymi-oas-general-assembly.
3. Organization of American States, “Meeting of Foreign Ministers on Venezuela. Part 2 June 19th, 2017.” Youtube. For broadcast, please visit: https://www.youtube.com /watch?v=8mZfPYf0aPc&t=300s.
4. Secretaría de Relaciones Exteriores del Estado de México. “Statement on the Second Meeting of the Lima Group on the Situation in Venezuela.” Press release, Sep. 23, 2017. For more information, please visit: https://www.gob.mx/sre/en/prensa/statement-on-the-second-meeting-of-the-lima- group-on-the-situation-in-venezuela.
5. Organization of American States, “Secretary General of the OAS Announces the Appointment of Independent Panel of International Experts.” Press release, Sep. 14, 2017. For more information, please visit: http://www.oas.org/en/media_center/press_release.asp?sCodigo=E-069/17.
6. Organization of American States. “First Round of Audiences to Analyze Possible Crimes against Humanity in Venezuela.” Livestream, Sep. 2017. For broadcast, please visit: https://livestream.com /OAS2/LIVE/videos/162811375.
7. Organization of American States. “Second Round of Audiences to Analyze Possible Crimes against Humanity in Venezuela.” Livestream, Oct. 17, 2017. For broadcast, please visit: https:// livestream.com/OAS2/LIVE.
8. Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, “The Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Persons in the Americas.” Brochure. For more information, please visit: http://www.oas.org/es/cidh/lgtbi/docs/Brochure-Rapporteurship-2014.pdf
9. Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Violence against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Persons in the Americas, 2015. For more information, please visit: http://www.oas.org /en/iachr/reports/pdfs/violencelgbtipersons.pdf
10. Argentina, Barbados, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, United States, Uruguay, and Venezuela.
11. IACHR, Violence against LGBTI Persons in the Americas, p. 214.
12. Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Ecuador, Mexico, Panama, Peru, and Uruguay.
13. Argentina, Belize, Bolivia, Colombia, Cuba, Ecuador, Panama, and Uruguay.
14. IACHR, Violence against LGBTI Persons in the Americas, p. 15.
15. Transrespect versus Transphobia Worldwide, TMM Update, Trans Day of Remembrance 2016. For more information, please visit: http://transrespect.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/11 /TDoR2016-map.png
16. Article 1: https://www.cbd.int/convention/articles/default.shtml?a=cbd-01