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LATIN AMERICA / THE CARIBBEAN
Violence and inequality persist
Latinamerica Press
3/19/2017
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Rhetoric that goes against human rights, racist and discriminatory abounds in political campaigns and the media.

2016 was a year of mayor setbacks in regards to human rights, said Amnesty International (AI) in its Report 2016/2017 “The State of the World’s Human Rights,” published on February 22, which analyzes 159 countries from around the world, 23 of them from the Americas.

“Despite public discourse about democracy and economic progress as well as hopes of an end at last to its remaining armed conflict in Colombia, the Americas remained one of the world’s most violent and unequal regions,” said the report. “Across the region, the year was marked by a trend of anti-rights, racial and discriminatory rhetoric in political campaigns and by state officials, which was accepted and normalized by mainstream media.”

Similarly, the barriers and restrictions to justice and fundamental freedoms have increased.

“Waves of repression became more visible and violent, with states frequently misusing their justice and security apparatus to ruthlessly respond to and crush dissent, and increasing public discontent,” denounced AI.

The issues of discrimination, insecurity, poverty and environmental damages were also addressed in the report, as well as the huge inequality in the distribution of wealth, social wellbeing and access to justice, directly linked to corruption and the lack of accountability.

According to Erika Guevara-Rosas, director for the Americas at AI, “we are facing one of the most constant attacks to human rights in the last decades. The rhetoric of hate and anti rights that has permeated the discourse and actions from most politicians in the region is putting the safety and the lives of millions of people in jeopardy.”

“From the alarming rate of violence perpetrated by the security forces, to the growing wave of attacks against those who defend human rights and the lack of action to end the refugee crisis, the Americas are facing one of their worst moments in regards to human rights and justice,” said Guevara-Rosas during the presentation of the report in Mexico. “Many of the leaders in the region must curb their intolerance and concentrate their efforts in the search for practical and long-lasting solutions to bring inequality to an end and guarantee justice.”

Humanitarian crisis
The Peace Agreement signed between the Colombian government and the Armed Revolutionary Forces of Colombia (FARC) was considered one of the most important events in 2016, along with the trip to Cuba by former US President Barack Obama (2009-2017), to consolidate the opening of diplomatic relations between those two countries.

However, AI highlighted that in the region “political repression, discrimination, violence and poverty drove another deepening but largely forgotten humanitarian crisis.”

“Hundreds of thousands of refugees — largely from Central America — were forced to flee from their homes to seek protection, frequently placing themselves at risk of further human rights abuses and risking their lives,” the report said.“Many governments displayed a deepening intolerance to criticism, as they stifled dissent and muzzled freedom of speech.”

One of the main points in the report is the denounce on how dangerous the defense of human rights in Latin America could be.

“Journalists, lawyers, judges, political opponents and witnesses were particularly targeted with threats, attacks, torture and enforced disappearances; some were even killed by state and non-state actors as a way to silence them. Human rights activists also faced smear campaigns and vilification. Yet there was little progress in investigating these attacks or bringing perpetrators to justice.”

Honduras and Guatemala were considered by AI as the most dangerous countries in the world for those defending land, territory and the environment.

The case of Honduran indigenous leader Berta Caceres, who was killed on Mar. 2, 2016, “highlighted the generalization of violence against those working to protect land, territory and the environment in the country.” The 90 percent of killings and attacks against human rights defenders in Honduras remain unpunished.

Of the 281 murders of human rights defenders recorded worldwide in 2016, 217 took place in the American continent; 85 of them in Colombia followed by Brazil with 58.

Salil Shetty, Secretary General at AI, made a call saying “courageous voices are needed, ordinary heroes who will stand up against injustice and repression. Nobody can take on the whole world, but everyone can change their own world. Everyone can take a stand against dehumanization, acting locally to recognize the dignity and the equal and inalienable rights of all, and thus lay the foundations of freedom and justice in the world. 2017 needs human rights heroes.”  —Latinamerica Press


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Thousands of people in Central America leave their homes fleeing violence, at risk of being victims of new abuses and even losing their lives. /Amnesty International
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