Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Britain's man for Latin America

"Proud member of Amnesty International, Anglican ex-seminarian, a liberation theology sympathizer, and fan of the music of Pablo Milanés, Nacha Guevara and Mercedes Sosa, the new British Secretary of State for Latin America, Chris Bryant (47), is not your typical politican." Thus begins EFE's profile of Britain's point person for Latin American diplomacy.

And the article goes on to say that the hermano speaks fluent Spanish as a result of spending at least part of his seminarian days on the continent where he lived with a community of Columban Fathers in Comas, Peru, met liberation theologian Gustavo Gutiérrez, studied theology at the Instituto Superior de Estudios Evangélicos Teológicos in Buenos Aires, and experienced his share of human rights atrocities committed by the Pinochet regime in Chile. It was the experience of being struck by tear gas grenades ("Made in Britain") while attending the funeral of a young victim of the Chilean military that led Bryant to join Amnesty International and change his party identification from Tory to Labor and leave the religious life for a political career.

Bryant describes Latin America as a "sleeping giant" that has both great potential and great problems, not the least of which is its rampant economic inequality, as well as ongoing human rights issues in some countries. Bryant also indicated his interest in dealing with problems of climate change, particularly with Brazil and Mexico, and with drug trafficking.

This is a man who "gets it" and it would be my fondest hope that maybe, in the spirit of international dialogue, he could stop by Washington and share some of his experience and perspective with Mrs. Clinton.


  1. is this the same Chris Bryant who supports Alan Garcia's government in Peru?

    What about the massacre at Bagua?

    When will he speak out

  2. He hasn't spoken out? Please get your facts straight. From "The House of Commons Hansard" (6-19-09):

    19 Jun 2009 : Column 526W

    Peru: Ethnic Groups
    Colin Burgon: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports he has received on recent incidents of violence in Peru which resulted in the deaths of 54 people from indigenous groups during an operation by the national police in that country. [281385]

    Chris Bryant: Our embassy in Lima provided reports on protests in Peru’s Amazon over land use legislation, which turned violent on 5 June 2009. EU heads of mission in Lima issued the following statement on 9 June 2009 following this tragic development:

    “The EU profoundly regrets the tragic events of recent days in the Peruvian Amazon, in particular the loss of human lives, including more than 20 members of the National Police of Peru and an as yet undetermined number of civilians. The EU sends its condolences to the government and people of Peru and to the families of all the victims. The EU calls for restraint to avoid further violence and for a peaceful and lasting solution to the situation through dialogue.”

    The Peruvian Ombudsman has given the number of confirmed deaths resulting from the violence on 5 and 6 June 2009 as 33. 23 of these were members of the police force and 10 were civilians, including four members of indigenous communities.

    Colin Burgon: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make representations to the government of Peru on the establishment of an independent investigation into the recent deaths of indigenous people during incidents of violence in Peru. [281386]

    Chris Bryant: Since the outbreak of violence on 5 June we have urged all sides to avoid further violence and resolve the dispute through dialogue. This has included contacts between our ambassador to Peru together with EU colleagues and the Peruvian Foreign Minister and between our director for the Americas and the Peruvian ambassador to the UK. We are pleased that a formal dialogue mechanism has now been established between the Government and indigenous leaders. We welcome the Peruvian Government’s invitation to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms of Indigenous People to investigate these events and the decision by the Peruvian Congress to appoint a multiparty Congressional Commission to carry out its own investigation.