Latin America

Guatemala: "Without Justice, Bloody Histories Have a Way of Repeating Themselves"

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The pursuit of justice “is a challenge that we have been called to take on, and we have no idea how far this journey will lead us,” said Guatemalan human rights defender Jesús Tecú Osorio at a reception in his honor on May 17th, 2010. Human Rights First and the Guatemala Human Rights Commission (GHRC) organized this gathering to celebrate Tecú’s selection as winner of the 2010 Roger N. Baldwin Medal of Liberty Award for international human rights defenders.

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Still Waiting for Change: The Obama Administration & Latin America

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President Obama was elected with a campaign of hope, and change.  Those of us who care about Latin America hoped that U.S. foreign policy towards the region, too often unilateral and focused on military solutions, would also change.

A year ago, at a summit of Latin America’s leaders, President Obama hit a note that resonated well with his counterparts: “I pledge to you that we seek an equal partnership. There is no senior partner and junior partner in our relations.”

After that hopeful moment, though, the new administration stumbled at the starting gate. 2009 was a rough year for U.S. policy toward Latin America and the Caribbean. Latin American governments and civil society groups were disappointed by the Obama Administration’s inattention, vacillation on democracy and human rights, and failure of imagination in creating more humane policies, especially after it secretly negotiated a defense agreement with Colombia and backed off from efforts to urge resignation of the coup regime in Honduras despite an admirably united Latin American and OAS response to protect the democratic order.

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Colombia: Justice Still Out of Reach

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In March, two major annual human rights reports on Colombia were released by the State Department and the United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights’ office in Colombia. They highlight some advances, most notably a decline in killings of civilians by the army (extrajudicial executions), but point to numerous ongoing problems, including the major scandal of illegal wiretapping by the government’s DAS intelligence agency, a pronounced slowness in achieving justice in extrajudicial execution cases, threats and attacks against human rights defenders and failures by the government in protecting them, a resurgence of illegal armed groups following the paramilitary demobilization, and sexual violence in the context of the conflict.

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No End to Human Rights Violations in Honduras

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Extremely serious human rights violations have taken place since the inauguration of Honduran President Porfirio Lobo on January 27th. Since that date, there has been a notable increase in attacks against people opposed to the June 28th coup d’état and their family members, as well as a surge in attacks against journalists. A teacher was slain in front of his class. Three campesino leaders from the community of Aguán were assassinated.  

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Words Matter: An Apology for the Murder of Archbishop Romero

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On the 30th anniversary of the murder of Archbishop Oscar Romero, Salvadoran President Mauricio Funes apologized for the role of the Salvadoran government in this cataclysmic event.

His words are so moving they require no further introduction.

For text of the speech in Spanish, click here.

For a New York Times article about President Funes' speech, click here.

An English translation of the speech follows.

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