March 7, 2013

It is unfortunate that, in his March 4 op-ed column on the future of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, “The end of a freedom fighter?,” Jackson Diehl resorted to fact-twisting and finger-pointing rather than a serious analysis of a complicated issue. Mr. Diehl’s column could have benefited from some further context.

First, the reforms of the commission have been advanced not by a small collection of countries that has “imposed” its will, as Mr. Diehl described it, but rather by a consensus of 34 Organization of American States member countries.

Second, the reforms are intended to strengthen and democratize the commission, making it more responsive to needs on the ground, rather than to whims of big-power geopolitics. Under the current system, the commission’s eight rapporteurships oversee important issues dealing with women, children and indigenous people, among others, but only the body dedicated to freedom of expression has been given the funds for a full-time staff. The proposed reforms will elevate all eight bodies to such a level, giving the commission greater independence, transparency and capacity.

As for Mr. Diehl’s criticism of Ecuador’s record on freedom of speech, his conceit is that he believes this freedom involves yet another man in Washington dictating how Latin Americans should think. Nine paragraphs were spent mischaracterizing the issue of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights reform, but only one throwaway line acknowledged that the United States has never ratified the convention that governs the commission.

Reform must be guided by new ideas and voices. The institution of arrogance that has brought us coup d’etats and neoliberalism also must change, and this may be the tougher of our challenges.

Maria Isabel Salvador, Washington

The writer is Ecuador’s representative to the Organization of American States.