OUR CARIBBEAN: This remarkable advocate for human rights
Today, as Cuba celebrates the most popular date in its revolutionary calendar to end, six decades ago, the infamous dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista, a courageous Salvadoran human rights campaigner is involved in the process of bringing closure to a significant aspect of almost a quarter century of his public life in the promotion and defence of fundamental human rights.
The Salvadoran citizen is Dr Roberto Cuellar of El Salvador, a Central American nation still struggling to cope with its own tragic past history of grotesque human rights violations, including kidnappings and assassinations under varying dictatorial and corrupt regimes.
Dr Cuellar was then just over a year old when, under Fidel Castro’s revolutionary leadership, the first significant blow was struck by Cuba against the United States-supported Batista dictatorship. However with the Roman Catholic church in El Salvador playing an influential role in his early years of education with an orientation on human rights, Roberto Cuellar was to develop a deep commitment for social justice and advocacy for basic human freedoms.
He was very much focused on human rights issues when the internationally renowned advocate of human rights, Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador, was assassinated. That enormous tragedy was to further steel the then youthful worker for social justice and human rights.
Subsequently, as Director of the San Jose-based Inter-American Institute of Human Rights (IIDH), he was to passionately devote his intellect and energy to creative pioneering work in the promotion and defence of fundamental human rights in Central America, later extended to the Caribbean region.
Under his stewardship the IIDH has produced ten educational reports on fundamental human rights (available also in English) between 2002 and 2010.
Cueller worked assiduously on the subject of human rights education, and while he extends credit to all of his fellow colleagues, he had played a most valuable role in gaining deserved recognition by the Organization of American States (OAS) for a series of pertinent resolutions between 2002-2010 that were to contribute to positioning human rights education on the hemisphere’s political agenda.
The sterling contributions of the IIDH have been available over recent years for information and guidance among networking human rights agencies within the Central America-Caribbean region.
It was my good fortune to develop an acquaintance with Dr Cuellar, the amiable, committed Salvadorean human rights educator and advocate during his visits to the CARICOM region while I served as communications consultant to the then Barbados-based Caribbean Human Rights Network (Caribbean Rights).
Thirteen of Dr Cueller’s almost 25 years with the IIDH were as executive director, dedicated to promotion of democracy and the eradication of inequality among the poorest of the poor – those without land and food, or without a roof over their heads and as he would sadly note, “no schools and without assurance of justice . . . .”
• Rickey Singh is a noted Caribbean journalist.