The most recent annual report from Amnesty International was concise concerning the reality of human rights across the globe. In Latin America, migration conflicts, gender violence and murder rates head the list of wounds that seem far from healed.
Marcos Ortiz F.
“Worldwide, leaders and politicians in search of power articulated discourses of fear and disunity, blaming ‘others’ for the complaints, real or imagined, from the electorate”. The words from the general secretary of Amnesty International, Salil Shetty, were incisive.
From “the venomous rhetoric of the Donald Trump campaign” to the introduction of “one of the world’s largest mass surveillance regimes” in the UK, the 2016/17 report on the situation of global human rights was devastating.
Latin America, described as “one of the most violent and unequal regions in the world”, occupies a large part of the concerns of the NGO, which published its first annual report in 1965. This despite the positive appraisal of public discourse on democracy and economic progress, and the steps to end the armed conflict in Colombia.
The refugee crisis
In addition to listing a series of cases of human rights defenders whose lives were in danger in many countries, migration continues to be one of the problems heading their concerns.
Although indeed the large media outlets have in recent years recounted in detail the migration crisis in countries like Syria and the controversial welcome of refugees into Europe, the reality of Latin America has not stopped being a concern. Among the motives listed by Latin refugees – the majority Central American – are “political repression, discrimination, violence and poverty”.
Mexico and the United States received, among other countries, more frequent asylum requests at levels not seen in decades. Mexico became in many cases a stopover to try to reach its northern neighbour. However, Mexico was also the final destination for many refugees.
Not everyone was equally lucky. Although indeed some got the requested asylum, Mexico and The United States also deported many. Amnesty International specifies that this was implemented despite “overwhelming indications that many asylum seekers were running the risk of suffering extreme violence if they did not get asylum. On being sent back, many people were returning to the situations of mortal danger that they had been fleeing”.
It is estimated that in 2016 alone, 147,370 people were deported by Mexico, 97% of whom were from Central America.
The figure is rising, as since 2010 deportations from Mexico have increased to El Salvador (231%), Guatemala (188%) and Honduras (145%). Other worrying migration flows happened in the Bahamas (with Haitian and Cuban immigrants) and in the Dominican Republic (with the Haitians). Some dramatic cases appeared in The Dominican Republic, given that having Dominican nationality by birth many became stateless after their deportation, adding to the nearly 10 million people who suffer the same fate worldwide.
In total, the Amnesty International annual report lists 36 countries in the world that deported refugees despite them running into extreme danger in their native countries.
Gender violence and reproductive rights
The figure is chilling. Twelve women and girls are murdered every day in Latin America and the Caribbean due to gender. Femicide, however, remains unpunished in most cases.
Something similar is happening with attacks against transgender people, an area in which Brazil holds first place in the world for murder rates, with a life expectancy of just 33 years.
Other countries registering high levels of hate crimes towards sexual minorities were Argentina, The Bahamas, El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, The Dominican Republic and Venezuela.
According to Amnesty International, advances concerning women’s reproductive rights are still rare. It is estimated, for example, that Latin America has the highest concentration of countries where abortion is completely prohibited, imprisoning women just on suspicion of having had a spontaneous abortion or when the mother’s life was at risk.
Murders and excessive use of force
Six Latin American countries today head the global murder rates. Brazil, El Salvador, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico and Venezuela show, according to the report, evidence of violence and endemic insecurity in which crime has taken over whole territories.
Murder rates in the so-called Central American Northern Triangle – El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras – are in many cases higher than those in war zones in the rest of the world. In El Salvador, for example, 108 out of every 100,000 inhabitants die due to murder.
Police repression against various demonstrations is another concern in Latin America. The Amnesty International report included among these countries Brazil, The Bahamas, Chile, Ecuador, El Salvador, Jamaica, Mexico, Peru, The Dominican Republic and Venezuela.
This situation was made worse in some cases due to the lack of political will from the authorities to investigate these violations of human rights.
On a global level, the general secretary of Amnesty International concluded that 2016 “was a year in which the idea of dignity and human equality, the very concept of human family, was subjected to intense and relentless attack through discourses of blame, fear and the search for scapegoats, propagated by those wanting to take power or cling on to it at almost any cost”.
The sombre view concerning these events, however, is tinged with a more hopeful vision for 2017: “Anyone can fight against dehumanisation, acting locally to recognise dignity and equal, inalienable rights for everyone, and thus establish the foundations of freedom and justice in the world. 2017 needs heroes, heroes for human rights”.
Photos: Amnesty International and Pixabay – (Translated by Claire Donneky – Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)