Little has changed in terms of governments’ voting behavior on liberal issues since our last report. What has changed are the governments in Argentina, Brazil and Peru. Unfortunately any change in their voting actions is not yet reflected in this report.
Nevertheless, in the interim, there have been advances. The Organization of American States’ discussion under the Inter-American Democratic Charter on the situation in Venezuela—and the surprising support it received from some Caribbean nations—indicates a changing tide in the region. Ironically, the appeal by the government of impeached Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to denounce the impeachment process as a coup indicates a curiously late embrace of the extra-national system of rule of law. Only a few years earlier the same government briefly allied itself with Ecuador and Bolivia to weaken the Commission. Perhaps Brazil’s last-minute appeal will serve as a message to other governments and leaders that international norms and rule of law that defend basic norms—even though they may occasionally sanction you—may some day be your ally.
But even if there is a broader shift toward human rights and democracy in the hemisphere, other practices and transparency norms are at risk. As we detail, not only have countries started to bend or even reject electoral standards and conventions and domestic laws governing transparency, the fault line is not just between the ALBA countries and all the rest. UNASUR—as we detail on page 13—has weakened electoral standards and multilateral norms. Governments such as the Dominican Republic have subtly bucked long-standing OAS election observation standards, even while inviting the OAS and outside observers, by limiting their scope and action. At the same time, governments’ commitment to transparency standards on issues of access to information and OECD anti-bribery standards, despite having been a trend a little more than a decade ago, is on the retreat.
The unknown is whether the region is turning a corner. As we revealed in our last report, Argentina had been a stalwart defender of human rights internationally under the governments of Néstor and Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, but it did less well on matters of regional human rights standards. Under the government of President Mauricio Macri, the hope is that the international human rights profile of Argentina will continue, but with a stronger defense of human rights standards regionally and domestically. Similarly, in Brazil the controversial government of interim president Michel Temer and his outspoken foreign minister José Serra have started to stake out a new, more pro-democracy position in the hemisphere. And Pedro Pablo Kuczynski in Peru has also called for more regional engagement on mediating the democratic and humanitarian crisis in Venezuela.
But beyond the individual crises, or votes to reject a rogue regime from assuming the leadership of Mercosur, the larger issue is whether these new administrations will be willing to invest political capital to recover international norms and standards in areas such as elections and to support the regional human rights commission—all the while distancing themselves from or even opposing the anti-liberal domestic and international agendas of the governments in Russia or China.
We’ll see. Better yet, in our our next report we’ll tell you.