In Support of Democracy

Sunday, February 14, 2010
From Andres Oppenheimer's column in the Miami Herald:
Chile's new leader vows to speak out for democracy

Chile's president-elect Sebastian Piñera, the right-of-center billionaire who is scheduled to chair the 23-country Rio Group of Latin American nations, sounds like he will not be shy about pushing for the collective defense of democratic freedoms in Venezuela, Cuba and other autocratic countries.

In his first interview with a foreign journalist, Piñera told me that once he takes office on March 11, he will follow Chile's traditional foreign policy of noninterference in other countries affairs, and said his priority will be seeking closer ties with Argentina, Peru and Bolivia.

But when asked if he will be more vocal in speaking out for fundamental freedoms in Venezuela and Cuba, he responded with a resolute "Yes."

"Prudence is a virtue that presidents must practice, but so is frankness," Piñera said. "I believe that Cuba is not a democracy, and I also think that human rights are not respected in Cuba... That's why, as president of Chile, I aspire to do as much as I can to seek that the Organization of American States Charter and the OAS mandate to defend democracy and human rights be made more effective."

Piñera, a Harvard Ph.D in economics who opposed the dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet, noted the OAS Democratic Charter does not effectively allow member countries' legislative or judicial branches to seek regional support when under assault by autocratic leaders.