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The Role of the International Community
A Spanish judge and the United Kingdom made historic strides towards establishing accountability for crimes against humanity in October, when British police arrested former Chilean dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet Ugarte, after he traveled to London for medical treatment. Spanish judge Baltasar Garzón asked that Pinochet be detained for the presumed murder of dozens of Spanish and Chilean citizens during the seventeen years in which Pinochet and the military governed Chile, a time of widespread and egregious violations of the right to life, liberty, and physical integrity, including some 3,000 assassinations or “disappearances.” The arrest emanated from an investigation by Spanish judges into the so-called Operation Condor, in which military rulers of Chile, Argentina, and Uruguay cooperated in the assassinations of leftists during the 1970s. The Chilean government officially protested Pinochet’s arrest on the grounds that he was traveling on a diplomatic passport based on his status as senator-for-life, even though the general’s trip to London was personal. Reportedly Pinochet had intended to travel to France, but was denied a visa.

United States
Unfortunately, at this writing the Clinton administration reportedly had not provided useful information from the files of government agencies to Judge Garzón, limiting the information it has turned over to press accounts and other public documents. Washington’s support for the Pinochet dictatorship during the 1970s most likely generated a wealth of documents held in the archives of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Defense Department that could aid in Pinochet’s prosecution.

In October, the Clinton administration released heavily redacted excerpts from an investigation by the CIA’s inspector general into death squad activities in Honduras in the 1980s. The inspector general’s report had been ordered by then-Director of Central Intelligence John Deutch in 1995, following news reports about CIA connections with a secret military intelligence unit, Battalion 3-16, responsible for scores of “disappearances.” In the portions of the report not blotted out, the agency acknowledged “reporting inadequacies” by the CIA to other agencies of the federal government as well as to the Congress. The portions of the report made public did not confront the principal issues of U.S. complicity in Battalion 3-16 atrocities: the longstanding U.S. support for the unit, through funding and CIA training, even as it was engaged in atrocities, and the visits an American CIA agent paid to a 3-16clandestine safehouse where “disappearance” victims were held. Instead, the agency report denied that its officers “either authorized or were directly involved in human rights abuses....” And without addressing the presence of an agency official at a 3-16 safehouse, the report denied “that any CIA employee was present during sessions of hostile interrogation or torture in Honduras.”

The United States policy of unrelenting confrontation towards Cuba came under increasing attack from all corners of the globe. By a record margin, the United Nations General Assembly in October approved a nonbinding resolution calling for an end to the nearly forty-year-old U.S. embargo against Cuba, with only the U.S. and Israel objecting. The number of countries opposing U.S. policy on Cuba at the General Assembly has steadily increased in recent years. Washington’s embargo against Cuba was also denounced by Pope John Paul II and in unusually strong terms by Canadian Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy. Washington’s policy was widely seen as not only ineffective in its political goal — bringing down the Castro government — but also counterproductive with reference to human rights conditions. Moreover, the indiscriminate nature of the sanctions meant that the population as a whole paid a price in terms of health and welfare for the animosity of the United States towards their government.

An increasingly broad sector of U.S. society voiced opposition to the embargo in 1998, including business leaders and editorial boards of the nation’s most important newspapers. In October, conservative politicians such as Henry Kissinger, Lawrence Eagleburger, and Republican Sen. John Warner reportedly asked Clinton to name an independent commission to reexamine U.S. policy towards Cuba. Prior to that initiative— whose outcome was unclear at this writing— the Republican congressional leadership remained impervious to the growing calls for a policy review. Since enactment of the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act (also known as Helms-Burton) of 1996, which codified the embargo, the executive branch was no longer at liberty to modify or lift the embargo. The only events that could bring an end to the embargo were a revolution in Cuba or new legislation passed by the Republican-controlled U.S. Congress.

The State Department’s annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices , as in past years, provided an accurate and detailed description of human rights problems and practices in the region, largely free from the ideological bias that had marred reports under previous administrations. Yet these reports seemed to have little bearing on U.S. policies towards the region, which gave human rights a very low priority.

Washington’s policy towards Colombia—the region’s greatest human rights emergency—became suddenly muted with the arrival of a new U.S. ambassador, who maintained a complete silence on human rights issues. This policy sent the wrong message to Colombia’s military: even if U.S. officials raised human rights matters privately, military officers were unlikely to take them seriously if they were not voiced in public as well. In the meantime, pressure from the Pentagon and the Congress to support Colombia’s anti-narcotics efforts regardless of the associated human rights violations undermined several positive signals emanating from the administration, such as the May denial of a visa to Colombian Gen. Iván Ramírez and the State Department’s highly critical human rights report.













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