Nations Vow Corruption Fight
Nations Vow Corruption Fight
QUITO - Thirty-four member nations of the Organization of American States vowed to fight widespread corruption in the hemisphere Tuesday as the OAS wrapped up its annual general assembly.
The final document adopted at the end of the three-day session recognized ``that corruption has a serious impact on public and private institutions, weakens economic growth and impinges upon the needs and fundamental interests of a country's most vulnerable social groups.''
Member nations also pledged to deny refuge to corrupt officials from other countries and agreed to cooperate in the recovery of stolen funds. The details of the agreement will be hashed out at a meeting in Nicaragua within a month.
In other action, the OAS adopted a resolution on Haiti, following hours of negotiations, that was much weaker than the wording proposed by the 14 nations in the Caribbean Community that also belong to the OAS.
The resolution's sponsors had been pushing for a tough stand against the armed revolt that led to the Feb. 29 departure of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, citing the situation as a violation of an OAS pledge to defend democratically elected governments.
Without specifically mentioning Haiti, Ambassador Ellsworth John of St. Vincent and the Grenadines told the general assembly that the OAS must take a leadership role in such cases.
''We must not allow our democracies to be weakened. We must not allow our elected governments and institutions to be undermined,'' John said.
''This organization should never compromise on its whole principle, which includes adhering to democratic norms,'' he said. ``Until, and unless, we step onto the plate, be honest and take strong principled and transparent positions, this organization will become a footnote.''
Haitian Foreign Minister Yvon Siméon responded by extending a diplomatic handshake to his Caribbean neighbors, saying that the transitional government that replaced Aristide ``wants to assure our friends and brothers of CARICOM of our desire to cooperate.''
Siméon pledged that general elections to replace Aristide would be held in 2005. Haiti is a CARICOM member.
Also Tuesday, the OAS' Inter-American Commission on Human Rights issued a report condemning abuses in Haiti, Venezuela, Colombia and Cuba, though Havana's membership in the OAS has been suspended since 1962.
The report said there is concern about Haiti's continuing deterioration of human rights and weak judicial and security systems. It also cited fragile institutions in Venezuela, where it said that President Hugo Chávez's government has asserted its control over most public institutions, and armed groups act with impunity, including attacks against the media.
The commission also raised concerns about the deaths of innocent civilians in Colombia's armed conflict and abuses by rightist paramilitary groups. Cuba, the report added, continues to be a country of persistent violations, including the crackdown last year against government opponents.
''Within a climate of general disrespect for political rights and public liberties, including the rights to freedom of expression and association, new grave acts of repression have been carried out in a systematic fashion against dissidents and independent journalists,'' said José Zalaquett, commission president.
The commission visits member countries to analyze and report on the status of human rights.
Asked what concrete steps could be taken to resolve the abuses cited in the commission's report, Zalaquett said: ``Persuasion and shaming. Those are the tools.''