May 5, 2008
ROME, Italy.—The Secretary for North American Relations and former Puerto Rican Independence Party senator, Manuel Rodríguez Orellana, attended a series of events together with a number of Latin American and European diplomatic delegations to the Vatican government of the Holy See presided by Pope Benedict XVI, who recently visited the United States and delivered a major address at the United Nations.
The main event took place in Rome, last Friday (May 2) at the Pontifical University Regina Apostolorum, to discuss the status and development of Human Rights in Latin America upon the 60th anniversary of the promulgation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights at the U.N. It was officially sponsored by the Chilean, Costa Rican, and U.S. embassies to the Holy See, to discuss the subject of "Latin America and the International Human Rights Project: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow."
Among the topics discussed were, "The Origins of the Human Rights Tradition in Latin America," and "Latin American and Caribbean Influences on the U.N. Charter and the Universal Declaration."
Rodríguez Orellana was a guest of the U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See, Mary Ann Glendon, a former law professor of the PIP Secretary for North American Relations. Rodríguez Orellana, now retired from teaching, was himself a professor of International Law in Boston's Northeastern University and Puerto Rico's Inter-American University law schools, as well as a Visiting Scholar at Harvard Law School.
According to Rodríguez Orellana, "Puerto Rico's colonial status is a continuous affront to the peoples of Latin America and a violation of the inalienable right to self determination, which has been universally recognized and incorporated into the principal international Human Rights treaties and documents."
"One cannot properly address Human Rights projects for Latin America while ignoring Puerto Rico, a Latin American nation of the Caribbean under a U.S. colonial regime for more than a century," Rodríguez Orellana added.
In the days following the forum, Puerto Rican Independence Party North American Relations Secretary Rodríguez Orellana was a guest at a prayer service conducted by Pope Benedict at the Santa María Maggiore Basilica in Rome where the two met personally. Subsequently, the former PIP senator held private meetings with top officials of the diplomatic corps from Europe, the United Kingdom, and the Vatican itself.
Several well-known Latin American jurists, diplomats, and intellectuals participated in Friday's forum, among them Pablo Cabrera Gaete, Lawrence Chewing, and Vera Barrouin Machado, ambassadors to the Vatican from Chile, Panama, and Brasil, respectively. Pablo Pérez-Cisneros, a Cuban banker currently residing in the U.S. reminisced about his father, Guy Pérez-Cisneros, who was the Cuban delegate at the U.N. Founding Conference and ambassador before the General Assembly in 1948. Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Thomas A. Shannon, also shared his views on the development of U.S. policy towards Human Rights in the afternoon panel on "Building on the Legacy: Today and Tomorrow."
The historical and analytical bases of Latin America's contributions to the process culminating in the adoption of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights were discussed in detail by Dr. Paolo Carozza, President of the Inter-American Comission of Human Rights, professor of law at Notre Dame Law School and currently visiting professor at Harvard Law School; and professor Mary Ann Glendon, U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, currently on leave from Harvard Law School, who also delivered the forum's closing remarks.