Brazil’s vote in the UN Human Rights Council in support of a rapporteur to monitor human rights in Iran, proposed by the US, signals the first great divergence in foreign policy between the current administration of President Dilma Rousseff and her predecessor and mentor Lula da Silva.
This is the first time in the last ten years that Brazil adopts such a position together with 20 other countries including Colombia and Panama. Against such a motion voted among others Ecuador and Cuba.
The Geneva vote by Ambassador Maria de Nazaré Farani marks the opening of the “Dilma era” in foreign policy with a special attention to human rights, both inside and outside the country.
Former Foreign Affairs minister Celso Amorim said he would have most probably voted against the motion in line with what had been the Lula da Silva administration focus since 2003.
“Brazil believes that all countries, no exception, have challenges to face in this field. President Rousseff made it quite plain that she will closely monitor the human rights situation globally, beginning with Brazil”, said Ambassador Maria de Nazaré Farani.
A few days before taking office January first, the former cabinet chief of President Lula da Silva marked her differences in foreign policy with the founder of the Brazilian Workers party, having criticized Brazil’s abstention at the UN Human rights council vote on Iran in 2010.
“That is not my position”, was Rousseff’ strong reply. She added in an interview with the Washington Post that the capital punishment sentence by lapidating imposed on the Iranian woman Sakineh Ashtiani for alleged complicity in the killing of her husband was “unacceptable”.
Brazil justified the vote in support of the US motion arguing that “it is a motive of particular concern for us the non observance of a moratorium on the death penalty, not only in Iran but in all those countries that still practice such an execution as punishment”.
The reference is obvious and looks for a balance since the United States like Iran continues to apply the death penalty.
Interviewed in Sao Paulo former Foreign Secretary Amorim said that “probably I would have not voted. If we want to be coherent we need a rapporteur for Iran, for Guantamano, for immigrants in Europe. Further more, on naming a rapporteur you severe the chances of dialogue with Iran”.
He added that currently there are two positions regarding Iran: “dialogue or condemnation” and defended Lula da Silva attempt to mediate, with the Turkish Prime Minister Tavvip Erdogan, on the Iranian nuclear program. The mediation reached an understanding on uranium enrichment outside Iran, which Washington ignored point blank.
“Brazil never had a strategic alliance with Iran: we were only after relations with a large country such as Iran. This idea that Brazil is a good buddy of Iran is a distorted version of events launched by the US press and was followed by the rest”, insisted Celso Amorim.
He revealed that Lula da Silva was “stimulated” by President Obama to find a framework of trust with President Mahmud Ahmadinejad, and when it was reached, the US turned its back and voted sanctions on Teheran.
Amorim added that Lula da Silva’s policy was effective in solving problems and obtaining the liberation of foreigners in Iran.
The vice-president of the Brazilian Upper House Foreign Affaire Committee, Senator Cristovam Buarque, from the Democratic Labour party, member of the ruling coalition described the vote in Geneva as “correct” and accepted there are differences between Rousseff and Lula da Silva.
“Ther are differences between Dilma and Lula. The vote was correct, it does not condemn Iran; rather it accepts an investigation. The bottom line is that Brazil believes there are certain universal policies that define human rights”, said Senator Buarque who was Education minister with the Lula da Silva administration.
The Geneva-based U.N. Human Rights Council approved the resolution Thursday with 22 votes in favor, seven against and 14 abstentions. Four of the 47 member-nations did not vote.
Iran has labeled political the decision of the top U.N. human rights body to appoint a rapporteur to monitor human rights abuses in that country. A spokesman for the Iranian foreign ministry said Friday the decision is unjust, unjustifiable, and totally political. He said the move is meant to divert attention from human rights violations in the West, particularly in the United States.
Iran is not a member of the council and has not admitted international human rights experts into the country for at least a decade.
In Washington, White House National Security Adviser Tom Donilon welcomed the decision as a historic milestone that reaffirms the global consensus and alarm about the dismal state of human rights in Iran.
The U.N. Human Rights Council was established in 2006 as a successor to the widely criticized U.N. Commission on Human Rights. The United States became a member in 2009.