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Attacked for activism: How do we protect activists in Latin America?

Author: Fund for Global Human Rights and Just Associates (JASS), Published on: 12 July 2017

"Activists need new tools to protect themselves", 11 Jul 2017

A record number of activists are being killed in Latin America – and old methods of security aren’t working. How do we protect activists facing threats from shadowy actors and complicit governments? To begin answering this question, the Fund for Global Human Rights and Just Associates (JASS) brought together activists from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and Colombia as well as international organizations in January of this year. The groups homed in on the changing needs of human rights defenders in light of the increasing trend of non-state actors attacking activists. This new context for activists requires new tools. The groups concluded that human rights defenders need more sophisticated methods to detect and prevent attacks, and support for collective, community-led protection approaches. Below are the full interviews (in Spanish, with an English transcription) with activists who attended the convening in Mexico City.

Interviews with Latin American activists:

Interview with Claudia Samayoa, the general coordinator for the Protection of Unit of Human Rights Defenders in Guatemala, known as UDEFEGUA. Transcript available here.

"We must take up an old practice, from the 1970s and 80s: to thoroughly comprehend whom we are facing. We must break the silence that surrounds organized crime. We must accept that we are terrified of them, but we must also recognize that our adversary has its weaknesses, as did other adversaries we faced in the past. And we can only do this together, because this is a globalized world and organized crime is transnational, because usually the extractive companies that order assassinations and attacks are also transnational, and this way we can find weaknesses in these powerful actors."

Interview with Miriam Miranda, general coordinator of the Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras (Ofraneh). Transcript available here

"Today we cannot speak of an advocate or a human rights defender as an individual, or think that they are up there, defending something ethereal. We are on the ground, in territories organizing collective defenses of collective rights. And one of the fundamental changes is that we must promote processes to articulate and strengthen organizational processes, so that we have greater strength. And we must build that strength up from a local level." 

Interview with Abel Barrera Hernández, director of the Tlachinollan Mountain Human Rights Center (CDHM), based in Tlapa, Guerrero, Mexico. Transcript available here

“Human rights defenders are at risk, because we are raising our voices, because we are denouncing these crimes, because we are exposing the collusion between organized crime, the police and some politicians that are damaging the life of our society.”

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