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RESPECTING HUMAN RIGHTS CRUCIAL FOR STRONG
DEMOCRACY, ASSERTS FORMER HONDURAN PRESIDENT

March 6, 1998

Former Honduran president Carlos Roberto Reina on Thursday proposed the establishment of a national and international legal system to protect not only the present human status but also his potentials. "That is the ultimate meaning of human rights," he stressed.

Participating in a panel discussing "Human Rights in a Democratic Era," part of the Conference of the Americas at the Organization of American States (OAS) in Washington, the former leader surveyed the human rights question, its relationship to democratic governance and its international consolidation.

Dr. Reina maintained that promotion and respect of human rights were vital to democracy and governance. "Vital to democracy because democratic regimes are based on recognition of the human person as the object and subject of social action, and vital to the latter as governance is but civil counsel or support for the practices of good governance," he said.

In his presentation, Dr. Reina also proposed that the international legal and economic community revisit the issue of critical poverty and the unjust system whereby the vast majority of those who produce the wealth --and barely eke out an existence-- have limited access to the fruits of their labor.

"The poverty that burdens our people is a threat to our democracies and if we fail, we who subscribed to the democratic creed would return to regimes that left a tremendous record of flagrant violations of the rights that are basic to the human being."

In the discussion that ensued after Dr. Reina spoke, the audience heard from Virginia Vargas, president of the Flora Tristán Women's Center of Peru, Ann Petitpierre, vice president of the International Committee of the Red Cross and Oliver Clarke, president of the Inter-American Press Association, who is also chairman of the Jamaican Gleaner newspaper. Venezuelan jurist Carlos Ayala, president of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, was moderator.

Thursday evening ended with an "Encounter of Nobel Laureates of the Americas," a dialogue on the future of the hemisphere, involving Oscar Arias, Baruj Benacerraf, Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, Mario Molina, John Polanyi, Derek Walcott and Jody Williams.


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