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Syria and the political divisions in Latin America
June 28, 2012
The UPR of Syria revealed an evident split in the region. On the one hand, Venezuela, Cuba and Ecuador are the leading countries that support authoritarian practices, while Chile, Brazil, Uruguay and Peru follow the European Union's pro-market, democratic model.
By Gabriel C. Salvia y María Rosario Savini

In the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Syria at the United Nations Human Rights Council on October 7, 2011, the unconditional support shown for the Syrian regime by the ALBA countries and the neutral or critical positions taken by others offered a very clear picture of the region's political landscape.

The UPR of Syria revealed an evident split in the region. On the one hand, Venezuela, Cuba and Ecuador are the leading countries that support authoritarian practices, while Chile, Brazil, Uruguay and Peru follow the European Union's pro-market, democratic model.

A good example of the latter is Brazil, which showed great concern for the situation of human rights in Syria at the UPR's interactive dialogue, stating that a violent response to peaceful protests was unacceptable.

Uruguay in turn highlighted its concerns over the violent repression of peaceful protests as well as the increase in breaches of international human rights laws, and declared that Syria must free its prisoners of conscience and those who have been arbitrarily detained.

Similarly, Chile urged Syria to bring about the necessary conditions to put an end to repression and violence, thus guaranteeing fundamental human rights and liberties. The country also insisted the state of emergency must be lifted if human rights are to be guaranteed. Peru expressed strong regret that Syria had failed to keep the commitments made in March 2011 over the maintenance of high standards in the protection of human rights. It also pointed out that Syria had failed to issue a standing invitation to special procedures in the country or to authorize access to the Special Rapporteur for the situation of human rights activists in the country.

Cuba, on the other hand, congratulated Syria on having adopted a series of measures and entering into dialogue with the opposition. As a political solution to the difficult situation the country currently finds itself in, Cuba advised Syria to continue to confront any foreign attempts of intervention in its internal affairs and to continue to take measures at the national level as suggested by its legitimate authorities.

Similarly, Ecuador reaffirmed the people's right to self-determination, the respect of sovereignty, of territorial integrity and the principle of non-intervention in the internal affairs of other nations. The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela went a step further than the other ALBA countries by declaring that "despite the serious difficulties and sufferings, Syria had shown its commitment to human rights". It also called attention to the efforts made by the country in question to achieve peace and national reconciliation through the promotion of reforms to ensure social and economic rights. Venezuela reiterated its support for Syria's attempts to preserve national unity and stability and recommended the country make the most of "this opportune moment in order to improve legislation and institutions". Venezuela even encouraged Syria to "continue its efforts towards the creation of a harmonious environment for citizens, maintaining the country's security, integrity and public order as well as protecting public and private property".

It is evident that it would be very difficult to reach a common position on the international promotion of human rights in organisms such as UNASUR, Mercosur or the recently inaugurated CELAC. As a result, the pro-market democracies of South America, those that guarantee the alternation of people and parties in power, should find a more transcendent alternative for regional integration, whitewashing the drastic political, economic and institutional differences between Latin American countries, which the situation in Syria has brought to light like never before.

The statements of these countries regarding Syria is, without doubt, an example that further illuminates their respective positions in the global development ranking "Democracy, Market and Transparency": Chile 15, Uruguay 25, Brazil 55, Peru 57 against Cuba 161, Venezuela 155 and Ecuador 120.

Gabriel C. Salvia is the General Director of the Center for the Opening and Development of Latin America (CADAL) and María Rosario Savini is Coordinator of the International Relations Observatory and DDHH of CADAL's Puente Democrático Project.

Translated by Lucila Silvester.