Over the last two decades, Latin America has been transformed from a region dominated by repressive, authoritarian regimes to one in which most countries have democratically elected governments. But according to a U.S. State Department report, many Latin American countries are still struggling to consolidate democratic reforms and ensure respect for human rights.
Haiti faces political upheaval and internal strife. In Venezuela, the government is taking an increasingly anti-democratic and militaristic direction, while cultivating ties to destabilizing forces in the region. And then there is Cuba.
For forty-six years, the Communist dictatorship of Fidel Castro has consistently spurned calls to respect human rights and allow democratic change. The Cuban government maintains a tight media monopoly and harasses and imprisons pro-democracy activists and independent journalists. Dissidents receive sham trials and suffer in prison conditions that are life-threatening. Cubans do not have the right to even talk about changing their government.
The United States is working to hasten the peaceful transition to democracy in Cuba. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says that individual freedoms and rights can be repressed for a time by authoritarian regimes, but history shows that progress toward democracy is inevitable:
"Freedom, democracy and human rights are not American principles or Western values. These ideals are shared by all people. They are the non-negotiable demands of human dignity."
The United States will continue to call the world's attention to the serious violations of human rights and dignity in Cuba. And the U.S. will continue to work to strengthen democratic institutions and promote openness, good governance, and the rule of law throughout Latin America.
The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States government.