San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Amnesty International: Violations not prosecuted

Human rights workers in Latin America were the target of 300 acts of aggression between January 2010 and September 2012, and authorities have not prosecuted a single person responsible, according to Amnesty International, which issued a regional report on rights abuses on Tuesday in Mexico. 

Of those 300 cases, “not even five cases have resulted in arrests, and none of the planners of the attacks have been identified,” Amnesty International’s Daniel Zapico said.

Rights activists in the region are targets of aggression including death threats, kidnappings and murder, the group said.

“Attacks aren’t only committed by criminals and organized crime, but also, in many cases, by authorities,” Zapico said. 

Nearly half of human rights workers who reported being attacked or receiving threats work on land rights or natural resources issues, and in many cases, private, multinational companies are behind the attacks. 

“None of the companies, nor their personnel, have been found guilty in civil or criminal proceedings,” the report, called “Transforming Pain to Hope,” noted. 

In Mexico, 47 attacks against human rights workers were registered during the period. Among the worst cases was that of Marisela Escobedo, murdered in 2010 in front of the Government Palace in Chihuahua, in the north of the country, where she had been protesting the killing of her daughter, a crime that was never prosecuted. 

Amnesty International also highlighted the case of Nepomuceno Moreno, killed in November 2011 after he denounced the disappearance of his son in the northern Mexican state of Sonora. Police officers were allegedly involved in the crime.

“These times are not good ones for us,” said Alexandre Anderson, president of Hombres y Mujeres del Mar de Brasil, an organization of fishermen who are fighting a petrochemical complex in Río de Janeiro. “We are being harassed and pursued; we’re being hunted and we’re being killed.”

Anderson’s testimony, reported in the Amnesty International report, said that in the past three years, he has survived six attempts on his life, while four members of his organization have been assassinated. 

Cleiner María Almanza, a community organizer in Colombia who works with displaced women, said that police ignored her when she asked for help after being kidnapped and raped on Jan. 12 by an unknown group of men. 

“I shouted, I cried, I begged for help. … I identified myself; I told [police officers] that I was a leader of a human rights group. When I said that, they laughed,” she said.

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