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Paraguayan Protesters Face Off over Gender Laws, Greet OAS with Violence

By: Belén Marty - @belenmarty - Jun 4, 2014, 7:15 am

EspañolThe 44th Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS) began in Asunción, Paraguay, on Tuesday, under the motto of “development with social inclusion.” The most pressing resolution, however, and the one that generated the most concern among the Paraguayan population — as it similarly divides the member countries — condemns discrimination on account of sexual orientation or gender identity. So heated has been the debate that on the eve of the event, violent confrontations arose outside of the official venue.

The event, to continue until Thursday, has 1,500 diplomats, ministers, chancellors, journalists, social organization leaders, and businessmen from all over the continent. Among the invited are two ambassadors and 29 foreign ministers, in addition to representatives from the 69 countries invited as observers.

foto oas
OAS Secretary José Miguel Insulza, met with Paraguayan President Horacio Cartes. Source: OAS.

The controversial document, the “Human Rights, Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity Draft Resolution,” to be voted on in this meeting, seeks to eliminate barriers to participation that this segment of the population face when trying to get into politics.

This proposal has the support of Brazil and is co-sponsored by Argentina, Colombia, the United States, and Uruguay, but it is strongly rejected by the Paraguayan delegation, the host country.

Paraguayan foreign minister Eladio Loizaga announced this past Friday that his country would not back the resolution. “Paraguay will not join the consensus” he said, without a national debate beforehand. He added that the “National Constitution contains clear principles about the family and what constitutes marriage.”

This particular proposal has been under review by the OAS since 2008 and will be voted on later this month. The document’s clauses call on the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (CIDH) to prepare a report on the current laws in member countries that violate human rights, to promote a guide to discourage the criminalization of homosexuality.

Paraguayan Citizens Come Out in Force

On one hand, the Paraguayan group SomosGay (we’re gay) made public its anger through a statement condemning the rejection of this initiative, as they push for constitutional prohibitions against disparate treatment of homosexuals and transsexuals.

In addition, SomosGay organized a peaceful demonstration on Monday evening at 7:00 EDT in front of the headquarters of the assembly. But yesterday they denounced, via social media, what they saw as harassment and police violence levied against the activists in attendance.

Simón Cazal, SomosGay director, believes that “the National Government of Paraguay, by placing itself against this measure, not only promotes intolerance and discrimination, but it also assaults the dignity and respect of the human condition of all the people in the country.

On the other hand, 25,000 activists — according to figures reported by their organizers — from socially conservative and religious movements who hold pro-life and and pro-family beliefs also got together on Monday in front of the venue to request that Paraguay reject the resolution.

“This night is a night of many blessings because we pray that the country will be one of the few nations that will not implement this unconstitutional law, that is mistakenly in the name of liberty and anti-discrimination,” expressed the archbishop of Asunción, Pastor Cuquejo.

Beyond OAS Gender Initiative

Flyer de invitación a la marcha en respaldo a la resolución. Fuente: SomosGay
Invitation flyer to the march in support of the resolution. Source: SomosGay.

Among the other leading topics to be addressed in the plenary session is the question of the Falkland Islands (scheduled for today). Members are likely to sign a new resolution in support of Argentina and jointly call for the United Kingdom to sit down with Argentina to negotiate the sovereignty of those islands.

“Development with social inclusion” is the principal theme of the meeting, since the host country proposed it. Therefore, the outcome will be known as the “Declaration of Asunción,” as agreed to by the OAS Permanent Council in Washington, D.C., whose stated objective is to promote the economic and social progress of Latin America.

Albert Ramdin, OAS adjunct secretary general, met with the president of Paraguay and explained that this declaration seeks “to expand economic development alongside with equity” and that it reflects common concerns in the region.

Venezuela will also receive attention, as will the request by members of the Union of South American Countries (UNASUR) to move the headquarters of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights away from Washington, D.C. UNASUR affirms this request with the argument that the United States did not ratify the American Convention on Human Rights (known as the Pact of San José, Costa Rica)

Today the Organization of American States is the world’s oldest international body (founded in 1889), created for the purpose of maintaining among its members “an order of peace and justice, fostering its solidarity, strengthening its collaboration, and defending its sovereignty, their territorial integrity and their independence.” The OEA unites the 35 independent states of the American continent, except for Cuba, which despite being free to participate in the meetings since 2009 — when its expulsion from organization was lifted — has declined.

Translation by José Niño.

Belén Marty Belén Marty

Belén Marty is the Libertarian Latina, a journalist based in Buenos Aires, Argentina. She has lived in Guatemala, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States and is a former candidate for local office with Argentina's Libertarian Party. Follow @BelenMarty.