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Constant and mutating threats to Human Rights

miércoles 14 de diciembre de 2011 In Latin America and the Caribbean, human rights agreed by states in 1948 have never been fashionable ... among governments. Human rights in themselves carry an inherent contradiction: those who should guarantee them (states), are the very ones who violate them.

Por Equipo Otramérica

In Latin America and the Caribbean, human rights agreed by states in 1948 have never been fashionable ... among governments. During the last few weeks we have witnessed Rafael Correa, president of Ecuador, lashing out against the Inter-American Human Rights System, Brazil has disobeyed the Inter-American Human Rights Commission, and when it comes down to it almost no government likes the reports on Human Rights violations published by independent organisations. There is a constant lack of fulfillment of judgments passed by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, and the evaluation mechanisms of the UN Human Rights Council are so mired in diplomacy that they shy away from ruffling the feathers of strong governments and end up crushing the weakest.

 

Human rights in themselves carry an inherent contradiction: those who should guarantee them (states), are the very ones who violate them. They were drafted by northern powers during a particular time and historical context. Today, in 2011, they appear inadequate and far-removed from problems such as the violation of community rights, environmental rights and political participation.

Nevertheless, December 10 is Human Rights Day and, although Otramérica shares the doubts of many analysts with regards to the fixed nature of agreed human rights, we believe it is a good time to carry out a review of the threats to these rights which we consider to be collective as well as individual (although they were originally based on the separation of State and the individual) *. By clicking on the featured links you can remind yourself of the most significant cases.

 

  • Honduras, structural repression: This is probably the country where the human rights situation has deteriorated most dramatically in the last two years. So far in 2011 there have been 59 political murders, in addition to 61 such cases in 2010. Moreover, 17 journalists have been murdered in the last two years. The coup in 2009 worsened the situation of violence in the country and ushered in an era of repression and harassment. Read: Interview with Berta Oliva of COFADEH.
  • Colombia, the State that never stops killing: Just three days ago the office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Colombia denounced a smear campaign against human rights defenders in the country. Between June 2010 and May 2011 54 human rights defenders were killed and 255 different types of attack were recorded. The International Verification Mission, with 40 delegates from 15 countries, has reported that the violation of human rights "is increasing." Colombia continues to be a graveyard for human rights  where impunity is especially striking in cases like that of the 2,500 “false positives” or extrajudicial executions in which the army, under the command of Juan Manuel Santos, murdered young people in poor areas of cities and presented them as guerrillas.
  • Mexico, beyond the narco bloodbath: The situation goes beyond the illegal drugs cartel violence and the government´s so called 'drug war' (which has left 50,000 dead, 250,000 displaced and an increase in the violent deaths of women and children). Human rights violations carried out by the State and private companies are constant in the country. The violation of labour rights, repression by the state security forces, persecution of human rights defenders (63 killed during the government of Felipe Calderon), the use of paramilitary groups  to harass communities struggling against megaprojects...
  • Small and hidden: The Governments of the many 'invisible' countries can violate human rights with greater ease. Hardly anyone has been paying attention to the brutal repression of the demonstrations of those dissatisfied with the electoral count in Guyana or in Nicaragua. Not enough attention is being focused on Guatemala, where the situation is already out of control and now there is a military president in office; nor on Panama, where the human rights situation has deteriorated significantly in the last two years. Haiti is no longer news, two years after the earthquake that buried what was already in ruins and everything is justified by a kind of chronic 'inability' or curse upon an entire people (too easy); Jamaica only gets into the media when the cracks begin to show in the narco-State; Suriname and its former military dictator president do not usually figure in reports about state violence in collusion with mining companies, carried out against numerous African descent and indigenous communities ...
  • Indigenous peoples: resistance is punished. Indigenous peoples suffer particularly severe forms of harassment. Their resistance in their lands against the surge in mining, energy or agribusiness projects has placed indigenous peoples at the forefront of an invisible but very real war. Some cases of note are those of the Mapuches in Chile, the Awá People of Colombia and Ecuador, imprisonment of indigenous leaders in Ecuador, the 64 indigenous peoples threatened with extinction in Colombia, or the repression of the peoples defending the TIPNIS park in Bolivia. In Brazil, there have been two massive violations of human rights: the Belo Monte Dam (river Xingu) and the Guaraní in Mato Grosso.
  • Police brutality, military resurgence. Perhaps it is a tautology to say this, but the police in Latin America and the Caribbean have become the source of almost uncontrollable violence. The loss of credibility and allegations of Human Rights violations this year have affected institutions in the Dominican Republic , Honduras, Mexico, Colombia, Chile, Bolivia and Ecuador. Corruption, excessive use of force, torture, collusion with organized crime ... The events that damage confidence in the police are causing the re-militarization of some areas in the region. In Honduras a state of emergency for public safety has been declared so that the Army can return to the streets; in Guatemala, a soldier suspected of crimes against humanity has come to power; in Panama investment in weapons has exceeded 500 million dollars, the number of troops in Mexico and Colombia is growing; and military investments in countries like Chile remain exorbitant.
  • Women, killings and threats. Paramilitary violence has shown no mercy especially to women in Colombia, meanwhile, femicide in Mexico has ceased to be a news item because of the massive number of cases. The human rights of girls, adolescents and adult women in Latin America are under serious risk. Feminist organisations and women´s organisations are becoming more active and their public presence is a threat to traditional powers. In Bolivia, women are at the forefront in the process of decolonization; in Argentina they are confronting the soya industry; in Mexico they are the reference in the struggle for human rights ... the voices and actions of women are a threat and they are paying with death.
  • Afro-descendants silence. The UN, as part of its habit of celebrating anniversaries, decided that 2011 was the year of Afro descendant people. Obviously, the initiative has had little success in a world that has inherited an unqualified racist and colonial mentality.  It is estimated that some 80% of the 150 million Afro-descendants living in Latin America and the Caribbean today, live in poverty and political exclusion: a total and unquestionable violation of their human rights.
  • Megaprojects, the killer business: Many of the violations of the individual and collective rights of indigenous peoples and Afro-descendants are related to the development of multinational companies´ economic mega-projects (energy, agribusiness, mining...) or governmental macroeconomic projects, such as Brazil´s sub-imperial project which is leading to a number of impacts in the region. Megaprojects are seriously and intensely affecting land rights, self-determination, security and food sovereignty and the cultural development of the peoples and nations of Latin America and the Caribbean.

 

Would you like to continue adding to this list of human rights violations? Would you like to identify the perpetrators? Please, go ahead…

 

* For those of you who may be wondering: human rights violations also occur in Cuba and Venezuela, but these facts are so well covered (and sometimes magnified) by most of the media that we thought it relevant to look just a little further

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