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Debate on reforming Latin America's premier human rights body raged late Friday, as a bloc of leftist nations joined to stall US-supported reforms.
The special Organization of American States (OAS) meeting was held to finalize a two-year process to reform the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).
"For more than five decades, the Commission has served as the hemisphere's moral conscience," US Undersecretary of State William Burns said during the special session.
Argentine Foreign Minister Hector Timerman delivered a passionate defense of the Commission.
"The people of the region remember, and those people know that it's better to have an Inter-American Commission than not have one, because today we are going through a period of democracy -- but when we need it to fight a dictatorship, if we don't protect [the Commission] today, it won't be there to help us," he said.
The leftist bloc of Ecuador, Venezuela, Nicaragua and Bolivia however are wary about ways of financing the IACHR, and presented a surprise draft resolution calling to extend discussions on reforms at least until June.
Those countries see the OAS as a group that favors US interests, and the Rights Commission as a way for Washington and its supporters to meddle in their internal affairs.
Further debate was needed on issues like moving the commission out of Washington, defining its authority to demand that governments take "cautionary measures" in human rights cases, and the role of its special investigators, said Ecuadoran Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino.
One demand is for the commission to be banned from accepting donations from outside the region, where a full third of its budget comes from.
In particular, the commission's special rapporteur on freedom of expression depends exclusively on donations, half from European countries.
This special rapporteur has angered Ecuador and Venezuela by repeatedly accusing their governments of harassing the media.
However IACHR chairman Jose de Jesus Orozco said the funds are necessary for them to do their job properly.
The United States, which along with Mexico and Canada is calling for an immediate end to discussions, announced a special $1 million contribution to the Commission, whose annual budget is $9.5 million.
"A stronger and more capable Commission is in all our interests," Burns said.
Mexico announced $300,000 in aid, while Chile provided unspecified "additional" contributions. Argentina has previously said it would give $400,000.
Last year Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez announced that his country would withdraw from the IACHR.
Caracas has been on the Commission's black list since 2002, and since that year Venezuela has refused to allow IACHR staff to visit the country.