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Human Rights Defenders in the Americas

    December 01, 2017

    Last month, Amnesty International Canada's Tara Scurr and Kathy Price joined a delegation of Amnesty colleagues from Spain, Sweden, Mexico and the United States for a research and solidarity mission to Guatemala and Honduras. Tara reports from their meetings with human rights defenders and officials in Guatemala.  

    Fortified with strong, sweet coffee after a pre-dawn flight from Honduras to Guatemala, our delegation listened intently as a full room of international and Guatemalan civil society organizations methodically unpacked the situation facing human rights defenders in Guatemala. 

    June 09, 2017
    Lolita Chavez Guatemala Indigenous defenders

    Maya-K’iche human rights defender Lolita Chavez is known to Canadians for her determined and principled stance on the right of Indigenous peoples to determine what happens in their territories. Lolita has spoken to Canadian leaders, investors and the public about the ways in which the Guatemalan government has failed to protect Indigenous peoples and how this leaves them exposed to abuses by corporate actors, such as mining, hydro-electric or logging interests. Most people in the region rely on subsistence farming for their livelihoods and are concerned that these industrial activities would destroy sources of water needed for irrigation and drinking. Lolita organized a community referendum on resource development in Santa Cruz del Quiche, Quiche department and residents overwhelmingly voted ‘NO’ to any form of industrial development on their lands.

    February 22, 2017

    Last week, Amnesty International's director for the Americas, Erika Guevara Rosas delivered more than 150,000 solidarity messages to support Peruvian land defender Máxima Acuña. 

    Activists from Canada, the United Kingdom, Norway, France, Taiwan, Chile, New Zealand, Italy and Peru, among others, wrote to the Peruvian government as part of the global 'Write for Rights' campaign to protect Máxima Acuña and her family from threats of assault and intimidation.

    The Minister of Justice and Human Rights, Marisol Pérez Tello was present to receive the 150 thousand signatures and messages that Amnesty International collected in solidarity to tell the Peruvian government that 'Máxima is not alone'.

    December 07, 2016
    Peruvian water and land defender Máxima Acuña is one of 10 individuals and communities we're taking action for during Write for Rights on Saturday, December 10th, International Human Rights Day. Join Write for Rights to stand with Máxima! 

    Máxima Acuña is a water and land defender in Peru. She has survived years of harassment, intimidation and vicious beatings by police and mining company security personnel over her right to defend the environment and her home from a massive gold and copper mine.

    Her property shares a watershed with 4 lagoons that, if the company gets its way, would be drained and turned into tailings ponds. She has been forced into court to defend her family’s property rights to the land where they live and grow crops –and she has won. In September, she was beaten severely. It is staggering to comprehend the level of violence she has endured to defend her rights. 

    May 06, 2016

    By Josefina Salomón, News Writer at Amnesty International

    The armed men who burst into the house of Honduran Indigenous leader Berta Cáceres on 3 March had a simple plan: find her, kill her, and leave.

    What they didn’t expect, however, is for Gustavo Castro, a human rights activist working with Friends of the Earth Mexico and a close friend of Berta’s, to be in the next room.

    “I was working on a presentation when I heard a loud bang,” said Gustavo, who is now in Mexico. “I thought something had fallen, but when Berta screamed, ‘Who’s there?’, I knew it was bad, that it was the end.”

    When they heard him, one of the armed men rushed to Gustavo’s room. He pointed a gun at his face, shot him and ran.

    April 20, 2016

    By Kathy Price, AI Canada's Latin America campaigner

    It was a killing that could and should have been prevented.

    On numerous occasions, the renowned Lenca Indigenous leader Berta Cáceres had reported receiving death threats as she led David-against-Goliath efforts to stop a big dam project in Honduras that threatened Indigenous lands and rights.  

    The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights recognized the risks and called on the Honduran government to provide protection measures.

    Yet Berta was gunned down on March 3 in her home in La Esperanza, ironically Spanish for “hope”.

    The pain of losing such a vital, beloved leader was quickly followed by fear. Berta’s tireless efforts had won her the prestigious 2015 Goldman Environmental Prize.

     

    If someone as celebrated and well-connected as Berta could be murdered at will, then what about others less well-known?

     

    The answer came days later. Community leader Nelson García was shot in the face and killed as he returned from helping victims of a land eviction.

    September 30, 2015

    By Tara Scurr, Campaigner, Business and Human Rights  

     

    One year ago, Alex Neve and I were sitting in the Hotel Continental in Guatemala City, waiting for reporters to turn up for our press conference. We were about to launch a new Amnesty International report on mining and human rights. We’d been warned by our experienced Guatemalan media handler not to expect many reporters to show up. Imagine our delight when our press conference began and we saw that the room was packed with radio, print and TV reporters, NGOs, and human rights defenders from  communities affected by mining. It was standing room only.

    May 08, 2015

    By Gloria Nafziger
    Refugee, Migrants and Country Campaigner, Amnesty International

    I first met Luis and his family shortly after they arrived in Canada sometime in 1993.  He was a writer and human rights activist from Colombia.  Both he and his wife Diana had been targeted in Colombia because of their work in support of human rights.  Shortly after they arrived in Canada they made a refugee claim. We couldn't talk much, because his English was poor and my Spanish was even worse; but from the beginning I considered him to be a compañero. My first vivid memory of Luis is a day in December 2003 when Luis, Diana and their friends from the Mennonite church came to our office to share the good news that just an hour or so earlier their refugee claim had been accepted on the spot at their refugee hearing.  There were many hugs and much happiness.  Luis and Diana began to plan to begin their new lives in Canada and quickly made their application to become permanent residents.

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