Latin America promotes but doesn’t respect human rights

Latin American countries such as Brazil and Mexico have been strong on promoting human rights internationally and in supporting the UN human rights machinery during 2007.

But unless the gap between their policies internationally and their performance at home is closed their credibility as human rights champions will be challenged, according to this week’s report from Amnesty International on human rights around the world.

You can access the report here and click on the links at the top for specific country reports.

Techniques traditionally used by Latin American countries to oppress political dissidents have been turned on human rights defenders and, in countries such as Mexico, journalists.

The war in Colombia continues to hit civilians the hardest:

“Civilians continued to bear the brunt of Colombia’s long-running internal armed conflict. Although the number of those killed or kidnapped continued to fall, all parties to the conflict – the security forces, paramilitaries and guerrilla groups – continued to commit serious human rights abuses. Hundreds of thousands of people were again displaced by confrontations between the warring parties.”

The United States seems to be softening on th death penalty:

“For many years, US policy on the death penalty has run counter to the abolitionist trend in the rest of the region. While 2007 saw death sentences imposed in the Bahamas, Trinidad and Tobago, and the USA, the USA was the only country to carry out executions. However, even in the USA, there are signs that support for the death penalty is softening.”

And there seems to have been some progress on women’s rights:

“Latin America continued to take important and innovative steps to stamp out violence against women and make gender equality a reality. Mexico and Venezuela, for example, passed new laws to combat violence against women. These laws broaden the definition of violence against women and provide a more comprehensive framework of protection mechanisms. Some initiatives to tackle violence against women – for example the pioneering women’s police stations in Brazil – continued to be hampered by a lack of adequate resources and continuing misconceptions about the nature and extent of the problem.”

Impunity however, is still rife in the region due to corruption, inefficiency and a lack of political will on the part of each country’s justice system.

Although there are some effective justice processes taking place in Argentina, Peru and Chile for past abuses during the dirty wars on those countries – see this week’s post La Plaza on that – perpetrators of human rights abuses, particularly agents of the state, went unpunished:

“Human rights violations committed by agents of the state continued to be poorly investigated in most countries. In Brazil, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti and Jamaica, for example, human rights violations committed by law enforcement officials were rarely, if ever, prosecuted.”

See last year’s post on Amnesty’s Mexico Report.


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