US warns of proliferation of anti-democratic leaders in Americas

Lima, Oct 6 (EFE).- US Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned here Thursday at a meeting of the Organization of American States about an increasing number of anti-democratic leaders in the region and stressed the need to put democracy above ideology and party loyalties.

In remarks at the OAS General Assembly’s first plenary session, the United States’ top diplomat urged the region’s countries to “unequivocally condemn the authoritarian regimes in our region and take collective steps to hold them accountable.”

He accused Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega’s government of “arbitrarily locking up its political opponents, brutally cracking down on protesters, committing flagrant election fraud (and) attacking and imprisoning journalists and human rights defenders.”

Blinken also said Cuba is continuing to imprison hundreds of people detained during July 2021 protests “for the supposed crime of coming out into the streets to peacefully call on their government to meet their basic needs, and for demanding human rights.”

Referring to Venezuela, whose economy has been hard hit by US sanctions on its lifeblood oil industry, Blinken said leftist President Nicolas Maduro’s government has “caused a humanitarian catastrophe that’s displaced more than 6 million Venezuelan refugees and migrants.”

The secretary of state, whose government has promised to ease sanctions on Caracas if Maduro sits down again at the negotiating table with the opposition, urged all countries of the region to “come together to support a negotiated solution that leads to free and fair elections in Venezuela in 2024.”

Blinken also expressed concern about democratically elected leaders who “borrow from the playbook of autocrats.”

Without specifically mentioning any head of state in particular, he cited actions that include “passing legislation that grants the government overly broad powers to crack down on the media and civil society, extending term limits (and) harassing, persecuting or firing independent government officials like prosecutors and judges for doing their job.”

“We’re seeing more leaders taking these anti-democratic steps, often under the false justification that they enjoy popular support.”

The secretary of state said the US will work to enlist more partners – “civil society organizations, the private sector, youth groups, and other parts of our governments” – to denounce these abuses.

“But I want to be very clear that this is not about picking sides between left and right or between liberal and conservative. It’s about putting our shared commitment to democracy above loyalty to ideology or to party,” Blinken said.

During Thursday’s meeting, the US secretary of state also announced that his country will provide an additional $240 million in humanitarian aid to address the needs of refugees and migrants.

In comments about the war in Ukraine, Blinken praised the OAS for suspending Russia’s membership as a permanent observer of that organization.

And he said it is crucial for all of the countries of the region to remain united in “condemning Russia’s sham referenda as a violation of international law, and unequivocally rejecting any attempts to illegally annex Ukrainian territory.”

On Thursday, a group of 24 countries backed a Guatemala-led initiative demanding an end to Russian aggression in Ukraine.

Among the signatories was Colombia, a close US ally that for the first time has a leftist president.

But three of the largest countries of the region – rightist-led Brazil and leftist-led Mexico and Argentina – did not add their names to the list.

Blinken, who visited Colombia and Chile earlier in the week, met with Peru’s leftist president, Pedro Castillo, on Thursday evening. EFE


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