As a new member of the OAS, Canada states in its first report, "Canada is a federal state, composed of ten provinces (Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Quebec and Saskatchewan) and two territories (the Northwest Territories and the Yukon)."  In the Canadian Confederation, the legislative powers are exercised by the Canadian parliament and the provincial legislatures in accordance with the distribution of powers established in the  Constitution Act of 1867.  As a result, the responsibilities for matters of human rights are shared by the provincial governments to protect and enforce human rights in each of their jurisdictions.

          As relates to constitutional protection of human rights, in April 1982, the Constitution Act was entrenched in the Constitution of Canada.  Part I of this Act consists of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  This charter went into effect on the same date as the Act, with the exception of section 15 which was proclaimed three years later in order to give the governments enough time to bring their legislation into conformity with its provisions.

          The charter applies both to the parliament and Government of Canada and to the legislatures and governments of each province and territory with respect to matters within their authority.  This charter provides for the protection of the following rights:  fundamental freedoms, democratic rights, mobility rights, legal rights, equality rights, the official languages of Canada, the minority language education rights, the Canada's multi-cultural heritage and the rights of the native peoples of Canada.

          In addition, section 15 is a key regulation for protecting people against discrimination.  It states:

          (1) Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to equal protection and equal benefits of the law, without discrimination, and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, color, religion, sex, age or physical or mental impairment.

          Although certain rights in the Charter are guaranteed only to Canadian citizens, ie. electoral rights, certain mobility rights, and minority language educational rights, for the most part the rights and freedoms set forth in the Charter are guaranteed to all persons in Canada.  This includes landed immigrants, refugees and migrant workers.

          Under section 36 of the Constitution Act, 1982 Parliament and the legislatures, together with the Government of Canada and the provincial and territorial governments, are committed to:

          (a) Promoting equal opportunities for the well-being of Canadians;

          (b) Advancing economic development to reduce disparity in opportunities;

          (c) Providing essential public services of reasonable quality to all Canadians.

          In this same section, Parliament and the Government of Canada are committed to the principle of making equalization payments to ensure that provincial governments have sufficient revenue to provide reasonably comparable levels of public services at reasonably comparable levels of taxation.

          The federal, provincial and territorial governments have all adopted legislation to protect human rights within their respective spheres of competence.  This legislation provides for enforcement mechanisms as well as for educational programs and affirmative action programs, among other things.

          Although the human rights legislation does not have the same authority as constitutional provisions (which supersede all other legislative provisions), in recent years, the Supreme Court of Canada has taken the position that the human rights legislation requires a broad and liberal interpretation in order to further the objective of promoting the equality and dignity of individuals, and has generally recognized it as being "almost constitutional" in its primacy over other inconsistent laws.

          Human rights agencies have been established in most jurisdictions.  The main function of these agencies is the investigation and resolution of alleged violations of the rights guaranteed in the legislation.  In addition, these agencies are generally mandated to carry out educational programs to elaborate and/or approve affirmative action programs, and any other program that might be required by the enabling legislation.

          Other relevant human rights legislative provisions recognize the right of the individual to equality before the law and the protection of the law without discrimination, as well as equality in the work place, and equal pay for work of equal value on the basis of sex.  Multiculturalism policies have been put in legislation by the federal and some provincial governments.  A number of provisions of the Criminal Code and other legislations can be used to curb hate propaganda.  Most provinces have created the function of ombudsman.  In most jurisdictions, police commissions or similar bodies have been established to review complaints against the police.  In 1987, the Parliament of Canada amended the Criminal Code to create a specific offense of torture.  The federal, provincial and territorial governments have adopted mechanisms for the advancement of women.  Some governments have established secretariats or other bodies to foster the rights of persons with disabilities.  The Government of Canada has established the Immigration and Refugee Board in order to deal effectively with the large number of people seeking refugee status in Canada.

          In Canada, the provinces and the territories develop their own educational structures and institutions.  The Canadian government is responsible for providing education to personnel of the armed forces, to aboriginal peoples residing on reservations or Crown lands, and to inmates in correctional institutions.  However, human rights teaching, and programs developed to provide this teaching, is dispensed through the concerted efforts of the provinces, territories, the federal government, and non-governmental organizations.  The impact these organizations have on the general public is important because they are directly involved with Canadian citizens at all levels of the community and with governments.  Even organizations that are not commissioned to promote human rights, frequently engage in activities which either influence or are linked to human rights issues.  For example, ethnocultural organizations work to overcome barriers that prevent full participation in Canadian society of all its members.


          The information submitted on Colombia regarding the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights in that member state came from reports submitted by Colombia to other international agencies.

          Colombia stated initially certain matters referring to the political, social and institutional changes underway since 1990 in that country when the new government was formed.

          Likewise, it indicated that the National Constituent Assembly had completed in July 1991 the drafting of the new Constitution whose Chapter II, title II, referred to economic, social and cultural rights and guaranteed, among other things, the protection of intellectual property, access of all to education on conditions of equality, recognition of the equal dignity of all cultures in the country, protection by the state of the cultural patrimony of the nation and education as a right of the individual and public service which had a social function.

          It was stated that two institutions are responsible in Colombia for the work of promoting human rights:  the Office of the Presidential Advisor for Defense, Protection and Promotion of Human Rights, and the School of Public Administration, which trains high public officials, particularly in the area of respect for human rights.  It also organizes seminars and other programs on human rights, especially for members of the judicial branch of government and law enforcement agencies.  The statement added that, as part of the National Rehabilitation Plan, the Colombian government had built a network of roads in outlying parts of the country and had created schools, health centers and regional hospitals.  The homes to protect infants contained approximately 190,000 children.  The government hoped that by the end of 1992, two-thirds of the plan would have been carried out.  That plan was funded in full out of the national budget and has received no assistance from international cooperation.

          With respect to the problem of "children of violence" and children exploited by drug traffickers who use these children as the instruments of their "private justice,"  a special group had been created under the Office of the President of the Republic to see to it that these youngsters could be successfully re-incorporated into society.

          The report stated that in accordance with the present Constitution, treaties had to be approved by the National Assembly before they became an integral part of the national legislation.  However, the President of the Republic could order the temporary application of certain international agreements of an economic and commercial type that had been arranged under the framework of international organizations.

          In referring to the right of all persons to education, it stated that the Colombian government attempted to resolve problems of inadequate schooling and illiteracy through two main programs.  One was the Basic Education for All and the other, the National Rehabilitation Plan, primarily for outlying regions of the country.  The 1991 and 1992 budgets had appropriated very large sums of money to both programs.

          The report added that to guarantee full exercise of the right of every person to education, a reform of study programs had been started.  The teaching system reform approved was applied with the collaboration of UNESCO.  The aforementioned program had the purpose of improving teaching structures throughout the country.  In addition to traditional instruction, the program provided measures for literacy instruction and adult education, dissemination of fundamental notions of hygiene and health care, and a training program for improvement of health.  The public information media perform a major role in supporting educational programs.

          School instruction also involves a civic education program designed to spread information about human rights and, with the collaboration of the communications media, campaigns to promote human rights have been started in the area of education and out of school activities.  Within the framework of teaching system studies, future teachers took courses in civics instruction.  The salaries of teachers vary in accordance with their level of formal education and, by way of example, this level was equal to 40% of the amount received by a supreme court justice.  In the biennium 1989-1991, the Basic Education for All program had made it possible to reduce illiteracy from 12% to 7 or 8%.  School performance of boys and girls was similar and, in universities, women were represented in proportion to their numbers, just as men were.  Mandatory education, governed by the constitution itself, covered children up to 15 years of age and education was free of charge in public establishments.  As concerns the role of the private sector in education, it was stated that the school age or university age population accounted for 40% of the national population.

          The report indicated that it was considered necessary to diversify teacher training programs in normal schools by incorporating new teaching techniques of a specialized type to provide service for the mentally retarded, deaf and mute or children with behavioral problems.

          In the area of cultural development, information was reported on the establishment of special programs for comprehensive development of youth, one of which was designed in particular to prevent drug addiction among adolescents.  In addition, the Colombian Institute of Culture, COLCULTURA, was responsible for applying cultural policies formulated by the National Council of Economic and Social Policy and for that purpose, prepared cultural development programs at the national level.

          The dissemination of indigenous culture is included as part of general public policy.  The 1991 Constitution extends official recognition to indigenous languages.  However, the regulations that would make it possible to apply that provision have still not been adopted.

          As relates to archaeological research, the report pointed out that the new rules recently promulgated for this matter do not have the purpose of prohibiting excavations, but protecting the cultural patrimony of the country and safeguarding sites which are places of worship for Indian peoples.  For these people, archaeological excavations pose a threat to their cultural identity.        


          The response that Mexico sent to the IACHR indicates the following with respect to economic, social and cultural rights:

          The Government of Mexico, pursuant to the American Convention on Human Rights, recognizes the prescription of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that the indivisibility between civil and political rights is the ideal of every democratic society, and further recognizes the rights to self-determination, sovereignty over wealth and natural resources, peace and a healthy and ecologically balanced environment.

          The reply mentioned that, at the start of his term, President Carlos Salinas de Gortari stated the firm commitment to combat extreme poverty was one of the highest priorities of his administration.  That would achieve full social justice in which all Mexicans could enjoy health, good diet, education and housing.  The hope was to establish the fight against poverty as the standing policy of the Mexican state.

          For that reason, the present administration, by reaffirming its commitment to social justice, has strengthened its capacity to provide better quality coverage of basic social services.  In this sense, the resources appropriated for social development increased for 36.3% of total programmable spending in 1988 to 44.8% in 1991.

          As relates to the right to education, Mexico stated that its government provides general primary education in a formal setting, in accordance with the plan and programs of study for the six grades included in that level.

          For children aged 6 to 14 years who are members of indigenous populations of the country, the teaching-learning process takes place in schools that have special teaching support systems, in addition to free textbooks, so that the students achieve the purposes of a primary bilingual and bicultural education.

          As for the availability of secondary education in general, 82% of the real demand is met in the different forms of secondary education for workers, and through technical and distance secondary education.  This enables all Mexicans who want it to have access to this service, depending on where they live, and even taking their work into account.

          As for the education of children and youngsters who have learning disabilities, there are services relating to hearing and language problems, visual problems, neuro-motor problems, problems of learning and mental deficiency, and double therapy of learning and language is provided.  Prior to such therapy, diagnosis work and channeling of demand are carried out.

          As an essential requirement for national development, efforts have been made to enhance the quality of education, primarily by revising educational content.  During the 1991-1992 school year, approximately 25 million students were helped in school services.  In the area of health, priority was given to primary level medical care, mainly in rural and poor urban zones.

          In 1991, the National Vaccination Council was created and the Universal Vaccination Program went into effect.  The latter helped achieve full immunization coverage of children younger than five years.  Advances have been made on meeting housing needs by establishing specific care systems for different segments of the population.  Public housing agencies continued adapting their financing systems, and commercial banks have expanded their involvement in housing financing by offering terms ranging from five to twenty years.

          In the area of ecology, a regulatory framework was established at the national level to compel all economic and social activities to follow environmental criteria.  Actions were promoted and arranged to call out more private investment in environmental protection projects.  In 1991, for the first time, public spending to protect and restore the environment was achieved through the Single Ecology Budget.

          With respect to the right to work and fair pay, Mexico stated that the freedom of employment was recognized in Article 5 of its Constitution.  In addition, Article 123 of the Federal Labor Law (LFT) which was a regulation for Article 123 of the Constitution, embodied the right to dignified and socially useful labor.  The aforementioned law extends the power to all individuals to be employed in any activity, whenever it is licit.

          In 1991, the National Training and Productivity Program went into operation.  This program involves an extensive job of promotion and arrangement with diverse sectors of the society to help raise the skill levels of the working population and to enhance the productivity and quality of businesses.

          To improve conditions in the work place, and to reduce and prevent work accidents and illnesses, special interest was given to promoting and enhancing the operations of the Combined Safety and Health Committees in federal and local jurisdiction enterprises.  The number of such committees increased from the 110 existing to 206.  To regulate the use of substances that could affect worker health, ten draft laws on standards were prepared and six instructions in the General Safety and Hygiene Regulations were reviewed and updated.  In addition, two manuals on work place medicine were completed.

          Work inspection activities were aimed at ensuring that employers observe the economic obligations for which they are responsible and that work places comply with the terms stipulated in current labor laws, and to pay particular attention to work by minors.

          As regards the rights to social security, preservation of health and well-being, Mexico indicated that its social security law provides the rights to social security, medical insurance, maternity insurance and to the social benefits to which workers and their families are entitled.

          In the area of protecting and assisting families, Article 4 of the constitution provides that the law shall protect the organization and development of the family, and recognizes the right of every person to decide freely, responsibly and in an informed manner on their number of children and the timing of their births.  The same article guarantees to the family the right to protect their health and to enjoy dignified and suitable housing.

          Activities to promote new attitudes toward health culture have been started, and continue, by promoting and disseminating good habits of hygiene and personal care, both in medical units and in communities.

          Actions to prevent and regulate transmissible diseases have been improved by consolidating and strengthening existing programs and starting other programs necessary to prevent the spread of illnesses that pose major health problems.  Of leading importance is the operation of the Universal Vaccination Program and the creation of the National Vaccination Council.  These help consolidate the work of planning, coordination and evaluation to achieve total vaccination coverage of children younger than five years.  In 1991, 86,105,000 doses of medicines were applied, including the work under the "National Polio Vaccination Days."

          In the field of environmental pollution controls and ecological care, several programs have been carried out.  For his actions to protect the environment, the President of the Republic was honored with the 1991 United Earth Award which he received in the name of the nation.

          The Ministry of Social Development (SEDESOL) is responsible for formulation, conduct and evaluation of the general social development policy, particularly the policy for human settlements, regional and urban development, housing and ecology.

          As relates to the right to benefits of culture, a noteworthy development was the creation of the National Council for Culture and the Arts (CNCA), through the presidential degree of December 7, 1988, as a decentralized administrative agency under the Ministry of Public Education.  This council exercises powers in the area of conservation, promotion and dissemination of culture and the arts which are under the aforementioned ministry.

          Mexico added that the creation, conservation and dissemination of the cultural assets of the society, the free expression of art, as well as the reaffirmation of its national identity are fundamental aspects which the Government of Mexico conserves and fosters through its cultural policy.

          The Ministers of Culture of the Rio Group met in Caracas, Venezuela in September 1992 and considered that a first step toward regional cultural integration could be the establishment of a common market for Latin American books and, in the area of movies, they decided to support the signing of the Cinematographic Integration Agreement and the Agreement for the Creation of the Common Market.

          It was further decided to establish a special program for artistic and professional training by offering fellowships and internships, promotion of exchanges of professors and specialized personnel in artistic and cultural work, organization of meetings of Latin American artists and creators in a variety of specialties, the signing of a cooperation agreement among public theaters, museums and cultural centers, and several cooperation projects for libraries and protection of cultural patrimony.


          Based on the report from Panama, presented to the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in 1991, the IACHR was able to extract the following information on the enjoyment of those rights in that country.

          Panama stated that its political constitution guaranteed economic, social and cultural rights.  However, the application of several of those rights had been impaired by the economic crisis which resulted from the economic sanctions that the United States of America has imposed since 1988, and by the vandalism and disorder that accompanied the subsequent invasion of Panama by United States forces.  It was added that more than 250 commercial or industrial firms had seen their operations severely affected, thus worsening their problems of unemployment and underemployment.  It was pointed out, however, that in recent years the problem of unemployment has declined and that private companies had made progress in their reconstruction work.

          Despite these advances, the public sector continued facing difficulties since economic assistance from several international agencies had remained insufficient.  The social and economic situation had changed significantly from 1986.  In the labor area, Panama indicated that the ILO had observed problems in application of ILO Agreement No. 81 on inspection of labor, and with respect to certain measures recently adopted by the Government of Panama which restricted the right to strike.  It was added that Panama had been experiencing for some time disagreements with application of the ILO labor agreements.  This was one reason its government had requested the ILO for technical assistance to implement its rules in Panama.

          It was explained that the exercise by Panamanians of their economic, social and cultural rights was not subject to any type of restriction or racial discrimination.  It mentioned the existence of judicial and administrative procedures that all Panamanian citizens could turn to.  In the field of international cooperation, it was noted that Panama received no loans or financial assistance from international agencies to support its social projects.

          In dealing specifically with the right to work in Panama, the right to choose employment freely is guaranteed in the constitution and in practice, Panamanians are not forced to remain on their jobs nor are they obligated to work overtime, except in the case of a life or death emergency.  The Panamanian labor code protects workers against arbitrary dismissal and provides special protection measures for trade union leaders, pregnant women and nursing mothers.

          It was pointed out that in 1987, the unemployment rate was 20% in metropolitan areas, representing some 45,000 unemployed at that time.  One year later, the number had almost tripled to 125,158.  Judging by the latest numbers, unemployment has declined in recent years to 15.7%.  Protection of the right to work meant, in practice, that the government had to adopt policies that would promote full employment of all citizens.

          With respect to labor performed by convicts, according to the provisions of the penal code, such persons could receive a two-day reduction of their sentence for each day of work performed in public service.  In no way did this constitute forced labor.

          In matters relating to any type of discrimination in employment in the Canal Zone, the Panama Canal Zone is administered by the United States of America and therefore, is outside the jurisdiction of Panamanian laws and regulations.  Even though there were approximately 14,000 Panamanians working in the zone, the security area of the zone is reserved exclusively for United States citizens on the basis on the 1977 agreement negotiated between Panama and the United States.

          Conclusions and recommendations

          In conclusion, following the information drawn from the replies as well as the reports of the countries studied as a representative sampling of the hemisphere, one can see that despite major efforts made by the governments of the area to implement and ensure the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights to the people of their countries, the reality is that the situation of enjoyment of these rights is rather restricted to the possibilities of each member state to carry out wide application and implementation programs within their boundaries.

          The economic and financial situation that the hemisphere is experiencing makes it difficult for the states to comply fully with the provisions of applicable international instruments.  For this reason, and despite the difficulties expressed, the member countries are urged to make greater efforts to achieve a minimal level of development.  In many cases, misery is a source of political and social conflict which spills over into the strictly economic sphere.  As a result of this, it is now internationally recognized that, "The new name of peace is development."  In certain parts of the hemisphere, one can see outbreaks of widespread violence owed to dissatisfaction which has been spreading to larger segments of the society who see their expectations of development frustrated by the shortage of physical and material means.

          The Commission recommends to all the member states of the Organization that have still not done so that they ratify all the instruments of human rights which are recognized internationally, in particular, the American Convention on Human Rights and its additional protocol in matters of economic, social and cultural rights, the Protocol of San Salvador.  Furthermore, the IACHR requests the governments of the hemisphere to continue forwarding information on the variety of human rights situations in their countries and, in this specific case, the actual status of economic, social and cultural rights in their territories.



          Based on the recommendations included in the Resolutions of the General Assembly of the Organization of American States at its twenty-first and twenty-second regular sessions, held in Santiago, Chile, on June 3-8, 1991 and Nassau, The Bahamas, on May 18-21, 1992, two resolutions were issued relating to the annual report of the IACHR.  The first of them was AG/RES. 1112 (XX-0/91) on "Strengthening of the OAS in the area of Human Rights", paragraph (g) of which requested the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to, inter alia, monitor and report on observance of the rights of minors in the hemisphere.

          In response to this request the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights prepared a study on "Strengthening of the OAS with regard to Human Rights:  Observance of the Rights of Minors" that was incorporated into its previous annual report.[12]  This report will follow the same working methodology, i.e. a general review of the subject, followed by discussion of the status of children in the hemisphere and a review of literature of other organizations and reports received from the member states.[13]

          Protection of Minors in the Various Human Rights Instruments

          The rights of children have been a constant concern of the inter-American system; it is accordingly appropriate to review the pertinent inter-American instruments.  The American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man specifically protects the rights of minors in its Article VII.

          In the same way, in Chapter II of the American Convention on Human Rights (Pact of San José), Article 4 relating to the Right to Life clearly extends protection to the life of all inhabitants of the hemisphere.

          Further analysis of the Pact of San José reveals that protection of minors is included in Article 18, on the Right to a Name for everybody, and specifically in Article 19 on the Rights of Children.

Rights of the Child

          Every minor child has the right to the measures of protection required by his condition as a minor on the part of his family, society and the State.

          Nevertheless, the latest instrument produced by the system, the Additional Protocol to the American Convention on Human Rights or "Protocol of San Salvador", which deals primarily with the protection of economic, social and cultural rights in the hemisphere, also includes provision for protection of the rights of minors in the hemisphere.  Article 16 of this important innovative instrument specifically focuses on the rights of children.

          Within this context human rights protection, and more specifically with respect to the rights of children, the universal system operating through the United Nations Organization decided to create a specific instrument in light of the importance of children and the special protection they deserve.  Accordingly, on November 20, 1989, the United Nations General Assembly unanimously adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child, on the occasion of the thirtieth anniversary of the Declaration of the Rights of the Child in 1959.  The new convention entered into force on September 2, 1990.

          This convention is a reaffirmation of a broad spectrum of fundamental rights that leaves no doubt as to the importance of the rights of children in international human rights law.

          Not only are children granted a special quality of protection by it, but they also benefit from the protection of all human rights recognized by international law.

          With regard to application of the convention in the internal sphere, the States Parties undertake, by ratifying it, to respect the rights referred to and to ensure their application to all children under the jurisdiction, and also to adopt all such administrative, legislative and other measures as may be needed to render the rights recognized by the convention effective.  Up to the present 117 states in the hemisphere have ratified this instrument; it has not yet been ratified by Antigua and Barbuda, Haiti and St. Lucia, while the United States and St. Vincent and the Grenadines are not signatories.

          Situation of Children in the Latin American Region and the Caribbean

          A global overview of the situation of minors in the Latin American Region and the Caribbean reveals that despite the geographic divisions of this area of the countries of the inter-American system, certain specific problems are common to these countries because their development conditions are similar.

          According to data from the Inter-American Children's Institute and the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), there are presently around 195 million children in Latin America and the Caribbean, who make up approximately 45% of the region's 440 million inhabitants.  The majority of these children live in conditions of extreme poverty.  From these estimates it can be deduced that some 115 million children suffer from multiple deficiencies and deprivations as a result of the poverty in which they live.

          In the context of the protection of children's rights, at both the regional and the universal level, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), taking into account that the economic situation of the developing countries is becoming increasingly critical, does not actually prohibit children from working, but sets minimum ages and regulates such employment in a humane fashion to prevent them being exploited.  However, and notwithstanding the large number of international instruments protecting the rights of children, the present reality in the Americas is rather different.[14]

          Cases of murder, torture, exploitation of all types, sexual abuse, abandonment, use of minors as involuntary organ donors, sale and forced prostitution of children, malnutrition, high illiteracy rates, and growing numbers of youngsters being ensnared in drug addition, are very frequent.  These, together with other factors, are the circumstances that erode the dignity and integrity of minors in the hemisphere.

          The phenomenon of "street children"--children who live literally in the streets--is becoming increasingly prevalent in the hemisphere's large cities.  In this situation there is in Peru a category of street children known as "wawas guerra" or war children (using the Quechua word for children), who are for the most part the surviving orphans of peasant families whose parents were killed by the Armed Forces or guerrillas, and who have fled for refuge to the country's big cities, often trekking down from the Andes to the coastal cities on foot.  Once these children reach a city, which in many cases will be Lima, the capital, they will either swell the ranks of the existing host of street children and join the numbers of "pirañitas" (little piranhas) or petty thieves who band together in groups to rob passers-by, or else will become victims of exploitation by unscrupulous persons who take advantage of their helplessness.

          Moreover, these children, precisely because they are uncared for, tend to start abusing toxic substances and strong drugs at an early age.  The street children in Peru use a plastic glue called "Terokal", which when put in plastic bags and inhaled produces hallucinogenic and euphoric effects.  Children who do this are called "terokaleros".  In the same way, children in Honduras "sniff" an industrial glue called "Resistol", which causes them to be referred to as "ristoleros".  Glue sniffing has also come into vogue in Mexico City since the beginning of the 1990s, with children as young as nine years old being involved.[15]  Another drug consumed by children in this position, particularly in South American countries such as Colombia, Peru and Bolivia, goes by the name of "basuco".  This consists of a combination of cigarettes with a very low quality cocaine product, and derives its name from the Spanish "base de coca".  It is highly toxic because it contains household kerosene, sulfuric acid and other poisonous chemicals used in the extraction of cocaine from the coca leaf.

          In this same context, street children in Guatemala are reported to be using glues and paint thinner, together with more powerful drugs.[16]  The situation in the United States is also quite critical, with extensive reports of minors using "crack" (a mixture of cocaine diluted in other low quality components which is highly addictive and extremely harmful to the user's health).  The main users are minors belonging to ethnic minorities, i.e. black and latino children.

          Another significant phenomenon that should be noted is what is happening in Brazil, where despite the considerable governmental efforts to ensure protection of children there are death squads at work which slaughter street children in so-called "social cleansing" operations.  These killers are hired by businesses or consortia of merchants who want to rid themselves of street children.  A particular instance is what happened in the Lagarto Police District, where two police officers and a local landowner were charged by the Brazilian police themselves with the murder of two adolescent boys, Erivan José da Silva, age 14, and José Fernandes de Almeida, age 15, on May 5, 1992, in the city of Lagarto, Sergipe, Brazil.  This and other reported cases are the outcome of unimaginable violence against innocent youngsters.  In the same way, and also in Brazil, on November 16, 1990, the bodies of four children, Antonio Carlos Pereira, age 11, Genilson Francisco, age 13, Carlos Meneses, age 10, and Lucio Roberto, age 12, were found in two different places on the slopes of the Aracaju mountain.  They had each been killed by three shots in the head and abdomen.  A police officer and three civilians were charged with the killings.  On October 28, 1991, Flavio Silva Dias, a street child who was an eyewitness of the murders, was killed by a bullet in the head.  Flavio Dias was to have testified on November 19, 1991 in the case against the alleged murderers.  With the elimination of this important witness, Brazilian legal sources have expressed doubts about the progress of the case owing to lack of sufficient evidence.[17]

          According to UNICEF figures, there are about 12 million street children in Brazil.  Some of them apparently have families who visit them every so often, but the great majority are simply abandoned.  It is estimated that there are several thousands of them in the cities of Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo and Recife, in all of which bodies of murdered youngsters have been found in dumps and empty lots, with signs of vicious physical mistreatment including, in some cases, evidence of sexual violation.  All were shot to death.

          In Colombia, reliable sources put the number of street children in the country's cities at some 50,000 for 1991.  It is estimated that around 7,000 of these are in the streets of the capital, Bogota, a city of about 6 million inhabitants, of whom some 43% are from other regions of the country.  The study in question found that around 1,500 of Bogota's street children who had been put in resocialization programs had escaped from the centers in which the authorities concerned had placed them.  These Colombian "gamines" form veritable street communities that survive not only by robbing passers-by but also by thieving from the businesses and restaurants from which they get their food.  According to estimates, a "gamín" can make a total of about US$250 per month from snatching earrings and watches and other petty thievery.

          On March 23-28, 1992, an international workshop was held in the Colombian town of Tenjo, under the auspices of the British "Save the Children" foundation, on strategies for working with children in situations of violence.  This workshop's main conclusion was as follows:

          The situations of violence and murder against street children and the areas of conflict in the Latin American countries, especially Colombia, Guatemala, Peru, Brazil, Nicaragua and El Salvador, are a disgrace for the democratic governments (....)  It is evident that for the Latin American governments children--who form more than 50% of the population--are not a priority in their social and economic development policies.  Less still are the children who are victims of the armed conflicts and the situation of extreme poverty. (....)  In recent months killings of street children in Brazil and Guatemala by the state security forces have increased.  In last November (1991), in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, six street children were killed by unidentified groups in the same circumstances as 142 children who were killed in Rio de Janeiro State in 1991.  In some cases police involvement has been proven, but only three of the officers concerned have been jailed (....)  Similarly in Guatemala eight arrest warrants are out for police officers wanted for killing and torturing street children, but none of them has been brought in because of the impunity with which such things are done.

          In light of declarations collected recently the stark fact is apparent that primarily for reasons of extreme poverty, deprivation, abandonment and lack of resources, the inhabitants of the hemisphere cannot be assured of enjoyment, even at an early age, of their most elementary human rights, namely the right to life and the right to physical integrity.

          In the same way, in the course of recent excavations and exhumations in El Salvador a team of forensic anthropologists uncovered at El Mozote approximately 37 cadavers and skeletons--the majority of them children--who had been buried in the small priest's house adjoining the ruins of the church, where local witnesses stated that on December 11, 1981 the Atlacalt Battalion had attacked a group of children whom they knifed and beat to death and then hid the corpses.  This discovery confirmed the testimony of the local people who had given this version of what happened.

          In this context, the situation of minors in Guatemala is quite disturbing.  Particular mention should be made of the constant attacks against the Casa Alianza and its staff.  The Casa Alianza is a center that works with street children or "gaviotas" as they are also called in Guatemala.  Among other instances, it is important to note one case in which the Casa Alianza was able to obtain convictions following attacks against its children.  This was the case of Nahamán Carmona López, who died after being assaulted by four police officers on March 4, 1990.  After various appeals, the Appeals Court upheld the convictions on July 22, 1992, but reduced the prison terms to twelve years.  Various of the witnesses are still being threatened, so much so that two of them have been obliged to leave the country, while others have suffered physical abuse and sexual violations (as in the case of a nurse in the center).  In the same way, a member of the security agency, which is connected with the military intelligence service, was sentenced in March 1992 to ten years imprisonment for the death on April 28, 1991, of the child Francisco Chacón Torres.  These are two of the proven cases of abuse of Guatemalan minors by the law enforcement agencies known to the IACHR.

          Mention should also be made of the use of minors in armed confrontations by guerrilla groups, especially in Colombia, Peru and Guatemala in particular.

          With regard to the use and exploitation of children in work that is unsuited for them as minors, it is important to note what has been happening in the Dominican Republic, in the "bateyes" or sugar estates, which hire youngsters born on Dominican soil but of Haitian origin, who have no rights whatsoever and are made to work under totally unsuitable conditions.[18]

          Specific Situation in Certain OAS Countries


          Argentina can be considered a case sui generis, since the existence of numbers of children of parents who disappeared during the so-called "dirty war" has formed a heavy and difficult legacy for the subsequent democratic governments.  The present government is accordingly doing its utmost to put an end to and resolve--in the best possible way--the resulting tragic clandestine adoptions.  With regard to the rights of children, Articles 126-139 of the current Argentine Civil Code deal with the rights of minors, defining minors as persons who have not reached the age of 21 (prebuscent minors up to age 14; adult minors from age 14 to 21) and specifying the conditions for and effects of the emancipation of minors.

          In its turn, Law No. 14,394 on minors and the family protects the rights of minors regarding inheritances.  The reform of the Civil Code by Law No. 23,515 has raised the minimum age for marriage to 16 years for the woman and 18 years for the man, and the rules governing adoption of minors laid down in Law NO. 19,134 have been updated with the amendments contained in Law No. 23,264.  The Argentine Commercial Code also stipulates the conditions under which adult minors can engage in trade.  The Labor Contract Law also contains provisions regulating work by minors.  In the criminal sphere, Law Nº 22, 278 on the Criminal System Governing Minors sets the age of responsibility at 16 years and lays down rules for the serving of sentences.  The Criminal Code protects minors, especially in cases of abandonment of persons, violation and rape, corruption, and deprivation of civil status.

          With regard to the right to a name, Law No. 18,248 of 1969 regulates the names of persons.


          The information provided by Canada on the subject of minors in response to the IACHR's request stated the following:

          1.          Regarding illiteracy, it noted that no comprehensive studies on rates of literacy among the young population were available, but that attendance in school was compulsory up to a specified age (15 years in Newfoundland and 16 years in all the other provinces).  All young people therefore have the opportunity to acquire basic literacy skills.

          Some indication of the situation among younger age groups can be found in the Survey of Literacy Skills Used in Daily Activities which was conducted in 1989.  The study concentrated on examining "everyday literacy skills" among the adult population between the ages of 16 and 69.  It should be noted out that among the minors (aged 16-24) surveyed, many may still be continuing to improve their literacy skills and may score higher in similar studies in later years.

          2.          Regarding international instruments for the protection of minors to which Canada is a party, the reply noted that Canada has ratified 25 international human rights conventions, which cover the rights of both children and adults.  Certain of these instruments are concerned expressly with the rights of children, the most important ones being:

- In 1991, Canada ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

- In 1976, Canada ratified the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and its Optional Protocol.

- In 1976, Canada ratified the United Nations International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

- In 1981, Canada ratified the Convention for the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women.

          The other human rights conventions that Canada has ratified relate to such matters as employment practices, slavery, torture, refugees and armed conflicts.

          3.          With regard to the measures that the Canadian Government takes to protect and assist abandoned children, the following was noted:

          In Canada, all jurisdictions have a wide variety of services that support and assist families in difficult times.  Where it is determined that family breakdown is harmful or destructive to the safety or welfare of the child, legislation provides for the relinquishing of parental responsibility to the State on a temporary or permanent basis.  The guiding principal for determining custodial responsibility is the best interests of the child.

          Throughout Canada, child welfare services provide substitute care for children, usually through foster homes, or permanent arrangements through adoption.  Provincial laws govern these protection services and their cost is shared with the Federal Government under the Canada Assistance Plan.

          As to the adoption of minors, Canada has its National Adoption Desk.  All  jurisdictions in Canada support the idea of adoption of abandoned or mistreated children, where such adoption is demonstrably in the best interest of the child.

          4.          Concerning employment of minors, Canada noted that:

          All jurisdictions in Canada (i.e. the federal, provincial and territorial governments) prohibit the employment of children below the school leaving age (15 in Newfoundland and 16 in all other provinces and territories), except for light work performed outside school hours under prescribed conditions and which is not likely to endanger their health and development.

          5.          As to the contribution Canada makes to children in the third world and in Latin America in particular, the following was stated:

          Canada played a major role in the 1990 World Children's Summit, which was cochaired by Prime Minister Brian Mulroney.  Canada signed the Declaration on the Survival, Protection and Development of Children, together with the accompanying Plan of Action to improve the lives of children worldwide.  On December 11, 1991, the Prime Minister ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  "Brighter Futures", Canada's national response in the World Summit, is a plan of action for future assistance to children in Canada and in developing countries.  At the international level, a $20-million program--known as the "Partnership for Children Fund"--aims to help the children of the world by introducing projects through nongovernmental organizations over the course of the next four years.

          This new program is in conjunction with Canada's longstanding support of children in developing countries.  The Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) has a budget of $3 billion.  In 1991-92, some $350 million (approximately $1 million per day) was allocated to activities directly benefiting children, such as:  medical care, clean drinking water, education, improved nutrition, support of women as nurturers and providers, or other areas.  Canada has been a member of UNICEF's Board of Directors since its establishment in 1946 and was ranked as the fourth donor country in 1990.  In 1991-92 Canada contributed a total of $51.5 million to UNICEF.  Canada participated very actively in the U.N. Universal Child Immunization Program, with about a hundred projects in 50 countries, including in Latin America.

          Canada has allocated a budget of $50 million over a five-year period, to continue participating in universal immunization.  In addition, $2 million has been earmarked for a World Health Organization project that seeks to develop new vaccines against childhood diseases.  Moreover, through the Pan American Health Organization Canada is also supporting other programs designed to improve vaccines to benefit the children of the Americas.  CIDA has provided $2 million to assist the Canadian nongovernmental organizations seeking to solve the plight of street children, child laborers or child prostitutes in developing including in Latin America.

          In 1991-92 total disbursements in support of projects for children in the Americas was approximately $24.5 million, a 40% increase over the preceding year.  In addition, roughly $3.9 million of bilateral food aid went to Latin American children in the same year.  The total amount of programmed funds for promoting the welfare of Latin American children, both directly and indirectly, are estimated at around $102.8 million, the vast majority of which were in support of health programs, agricultural programs, population and human settlement, and water and sanitation.

          Costa Rica

          In its response to the IACHR, Costa Rica stated that it is seeking to modernize its legislation and procedure to take account of the economic, social and cultural that have come about with the passage of time.  Basic general education is compulsory and free in Costa Rica, in accordance with Article 78 of the Constitution, and the country has modernized its education methods and programs.  The same applies to the official programs to extend health care coverage, in which medical care for children from the gestation period onward is specifically emphasized.  Training programs or activities have been organized for the administrative police with a view to improving their approach to and treatment of minors they have to deal with in their official capacity, together with programs for the care and training of minors who are working or in specially difficult circumstances, and also training for those responsible for the formal and informal education of minors.  These training schemes and programs have been set up to meet the requirements of Article 51 of the Constitution, which establishes the obligation of the State to provide special protection for minors.

          Article 78 of the Constitution is also the basis for the existence of a special institution--the Patronato Nacional de la Infancia--through which the State's special concern for the protection of minors is implemented and which focuses on minors who are at risk and those in irregular of hazardous social situations.  The country has a system of Guardianship Magistrates and a special law governing legal action concerning minors, including measures applicable to them and institutional treatment as referred to in the Organic Law on Guardianship of Minors.  Costa Rica has a Minors Code and a Family Code, which are separate from the Civil Code.

          Costa Rica further has a National Commission for Monitoring and Verification of Application of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, as well as a Special Legislative Commission which investigates all matters connected with the traffic in minors for adoption abroad, disappearance of children and the traffic in organs.

          Various legal and regulatory instruments have been established, such as new regulations covering the declaring of minors abandoned, a manual of procedures and new regulations on departures of minors from the country.  In addition, a National Committee on the Rights of the Child has been established by Executive Decree for the purpose of, among other things, examining the progress achieved in implementing the obligations assumed by the government through the signature, approval and ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  In the same way, and also by Executive Decree, a Commission has been set up to study and analyze the situation concerning Costa Rican immigrant families who fail to meet their family responsibilities.

          However, Costa Rica underscored that it should not be inferred that the problems connected with children and young people have all been taken care of.  A new body known as the Defensoría de la Infancia has accordingly been established at a level between the Executive Branch and the public social welfare institutions and children or their representatives, to which the latter may turn if they feel their rights have been violated or impaired by acts or failures to act on the part of those responsible for ensuring compliance with the law.

          United States

          The report submitted by the United States to the Inter-American Children's Institute on November 11-15, 1992, was most revealing.  This report stated that there were estimated to be approximately 64 million young persons under age 18 in the United States and that one out of every five children in the country lived in a family whose income was below the federal poverty level.

          The average income of a working mother who was also head of household was only 40% of that of working fathers.  In recent years the local child protection agencies, including the states, had received around 2 million reports per year of alleged child abuse.  In 1986, approximately 280,000 children were separated from their parents and placed in foster homes.  The increase in abuse of hallucinogenic substances, especially "crack", among minors has been a major factor in the increase in requests for state aid for children and the necessity of separating them from their families.  As a result, some 400,000 children were placed in specialized institutions for their protection in 1990.  The report also noted that many children did not have access to basic health services.


          The report submitted by Venezuela to the Inter-American Children's Institute stated that protection of minors was handled by both governmental and nongovernmental bodies.  The first category includes the Instituto Nacional del Minor (INAM), the Ministry of Family affairs, the Ministry of Health and Social Assistance, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of labor, the Office of the Attorney General and the Children's Foundation, together with autonomous institutes such as the National Nutrition Institute (INN), the Venezuelan Institute of Scientific research (IVIC), the "Rafael Rangel" National Institute of Hygiene and the "Caracas University Hospital" Institute, attached to the Ministry of Health and Social Assistance.  In addition, there are the National Sports Institute (IND), attached to the Ministry of Family Affairs, and the National Institution of Educational Cooperation (INCE), attached to the Ministry of Education.  This category further includes the Government of the Federal District and the other state governments and the Federal District Public Welfare Board, to which are attached, among others, the "J.M. de los Ríos" Children's Hospital and the "Concepción Palacios" Maternity Hospital.  All these bodies are responsible for ensuring and overseeing the Welfare, health and normal development of Venezuelan minors.

          In addition, as already noted, Venezuela also has nongovernmental organizations concerned with the protection of minors, among which the following stand out on account of their efforts in the context of a Latin American country beset with serious economic problems:  the Asociación Venezolana de Padres y Amigos de Niños Excepcionales (AVEPANE) and the Fundación del Niño Maltratado (FONDENIMA).  AVEPANE was founded in Caracas, the capital, on August 1, 1963.  FONDENIMA was established in 1984, under the name of National Office for Reporting Abused Children, and is based in the "J.M. de los Ríos" Hospital.  The foundation receives reports on child abuse and processes them through the offices of the public attorneys with responsibility for minors.  It also gives between six and seven seminars a year designed to arouse awareness among members of certain communities; the multiplier effect of these seminars works to the advantage of dissemination of information concerning all facets of prevention and treatment of child abuse.  Within this context, FONDENIMA has established a Parents School which works with parents who have abused their children in order to help them resolve their problems.

          The report also mentions the "Asociación Muchachos de la Calle" (Street Boys Association), which forms part of the Latin American and Caribbean Network for Children and the Family, an organization which is the arm of the Union for the Protection of Children (UPC) for Latin America.

          However, despite the efforts made by some government officials and representatives of the nongovernmental bodies to integrate these assistance resources, Venezuela does not yet have a system that structures the care and protection services for minors.

          There is no system for handling child-related problems because despite the various organizations active in this sphere, they are not reciprocally dependent on one another as regards their operating methods or their goals.  As a result, the state bodies and the nongovernmental organizations do not form a single structured whole that can be considered as such.  For this goal to be achieved, the wide diversity of institutions in the public and private sectors would have to be integrated and operate under unified policies.[19]

          Conclusions and Recommendations

          The Commission considers that notwithstanding the efforts that are being made to deal with the problems outlined, the situation in the hemisphere continues to be most disturbing.

          It is important to underscore that the rights set down in the Convention on the Rights of the Child represent a minimum to be achieved and observed.  It should also be noted that the inter-American system has the mechanism established by the American Convention on Human Rights, which provides for the reception and processing of individual cases and human rights violations by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

          In view of the serious situation prevailing in the hemisphere with regard to protection of children, the Directing Council of the Inter-American Children's Institute and the General Assembly of the OAS approved, at the beginning of the 1990s, the Inter-American Plan of Action for Disadvantaged Children, which covers social, educational, legal and information-related matters, together with questions of civil registry and vital statistics, drug addiction prevention and handicapped children.

          The Commission urges that greater efforts be made to protect and watch over the rights of minors, who are the future of our nations, through greater investment in the social sectors of each country, in conjunction with international cooperation and solidarity and ratification of the pertinent instruments of both the universal system and those of inter-American scope for protection of the human rights discussed in this report and more specifically those relating to the human rights of minors.

          Taking into consideration the special condition of minors, who are exposed to different forms of violence and abandonment, and to torture and violent death; to drug addiction and to exploitation and sexual abuse; to delinquency and forced labor amounting in some cases to outright slavery; to malnutrition and illiteracy; to abduction for purposes of illegal adoption or to be used as involuntary organ donors as well as those who are exposed to armed conflicts, being in many cases direct participants in armed confrontations, the Commission proposes:

          1.          Recommending to the member states that they take the necessary steps, both at internal level and through international assistance, to put an end to the various situations of human rights violations document in their territories so that they will then be able to guarantee the effectiveness and enjoyment of all the human rights recognized in accordance with the American Convention on Human Rights and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.  This should be based on internal constitutional, legal and administrative changes that will make it possible to bring the countries concerned into line with international standards, causing those standards with specific human rights contents to prevail.

          2.          Reiterating to the OAS member states that have not yet done so that they should send in the information requested by the IACHR on strengthening of the OAS in the area of the human rights of minors, pursuant to Resolution AG/RES. 1112 (XX-0/91), adopted by the General Assembly at its twenty-first regular session.

          3.          Exhorting the states that have not yet done so to ratify, as early as possible and in accordance with their specific situations, the following instruments:

          - The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child;

          - The American Convention on Human Rights;

 - The Additional Protocol to the American Convention on Human Rights with regard to Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (Protocol of San Salvador);

          - The Inter-American Convention on Maintenance Obligations;

          - The Inter-American Convention on the International Restitution of Minors;

- The Inter-American Convention on Conflicts of Laws with regard to Adoption of Minors; and

          - The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of the International Abduction of Minors.


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    [12]      Cf. Annual Report of the IACHR, 1991, pp. 323-338.

    [13]      On August 20, 1992, the IACHR sent communications to all OAS member states requesting information on the topics considered in this chapter of the IACHR Annual Report, concerning the specific mandates of the OAS General Assembly to the IACHR on "Strengthening of the OAS in the area of Human Rights".

    [14] See:  United Nations Children's Fund.  The State of the World's Children 1992.  UNICEF.  Oxford University Press, Oxford, U.K.

    [15] Data provided by Childhope, The International Movement on Behalf of Street Children.  Fact Sheet on Street Children and Drug Abuse.  Washington, D.C.  1991.

    [16] Ibid.

    [17] Information received by the IACHR from Amnesty International and other nongovernmental human rights organizations and the various international media, 1992.

    [18] Cf. IACHR Annual Report for 1991, Chapter V.  See also:  A Childhood Abducted, Children Cutting Sugar Cane in the Dominican Republic, Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, New York, May 1991, pp. 5-12.

    [19] Information obtained from the report submitted by Dr. Dámaso Villaroel, Representative of Venezuela to the directing Council of the Inter-American Children's Institute.  Caracas, Venezuela, October 15, 1991.