Central America Campaign - General Info

Central America Special Actions

For over 20 years the St Albans AIUK Group has taken a particular interest in human rights in Central America and written thousands of letters to the authorities there. The countries to which we most frequently write are Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.

Mexico vastly exceeds in both population and area the other 3 put together. Mexico has an estimated population of 113 million; Guatemala 13 and a quarter million; Honduras 7 and three quarter million; El Salvador 6 and a quarter million. All suffer from human rights abuses and violence.

In Guatemala the ‘internal armed conflict’ (1960-1996), and in El Salvador the civil war (1980-1992) have left an aftermath of violence. Some 700 children disappeared in the El Salvador war and a very belated but welcome development has been the setting up of the Comision Nacional de Busqueda de Ninos Desaparecidos (National Search commission for Disappeared Children) in 2010.

During 2006-2008 we followed closely the protests in Oaxaca, Mexico, which resulted, during their suppression, in arbitrary detentions, torture and rape of some protesters. We wrote several times to the authorities there, not to take sides in what appeared to be a popular uprising, but to call for the protection of the human rights of all concerned. We have been following closely the coup in Honduras on June 28 2009 and the subsequent intensified human rights abuses in 2009 and 2010.

More recently, the protection of human rights of migrants passing through Mexico en route for the USA has been of great concern. They are particularly vulnerable and have been abducted and sometimes murdered as they passed through. In Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras mining has been undertaken sometimes polluting water supply, without consulting local communities, who have protested. We have written in support of their protests. Indigenous communities are scattered across Central America and are often neglected and marginalised: we have written in their support too.

Violence against women is seen in the notorious series of murders of women in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico; and  UN Women estimated in June 2012 that on average two women a day are killed in Guatemala. In January 2012 an independent fact-finding delegation, set up by the Nobel Women's initiative and Just Associates, visited Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras and reported on the extent of violence to women in those countries.

In the 4 main countries there are numerous non-governmental organisations (NGOs) dedicated to the protection of human rights and investigation of abuses. This work exposes these human rights defenders to persecution, intimidation and death-threats from those who do not wish human rights to be defended. Increasingly AI asks us to write preventative letters urging the authorities to ensure the safety of members of NGOs under threat. In Honduras journalists are at particular risk: at least 18 have been murdered between 2010 and 2012.

More rarely we write to the authorities In Nicaragua. Amnesty has taken the position that abortion should be decriminalised in Nicaragua and El Salvador. This is controversial and not every Amnesty member accepts it.

Despite the violence, there are shining examples of human rights defenders, who gave their lives for their work. Digna Ochoa y Placido, a human rights lawyer, was assassinated in Mexico in 2001. Dionisio Díaz García, known as ‘the lawyer of the poor’ was assassinated in Honduras in 2006.

From May 2010 the Group 'adopted' Raul Hernandez of Mexico as its prisoner of conscience for special campaigning. The very good news is that Raul was acquitted of the crimes of which was accused and released on August 27, 2010. The bad news is that on his release he immediately received death threats. With Raul's release the Group has adopted the organisation of which he is a leader as its 'Group at risk': Organizacion del Pueblo Indigena Me'Phaa (Me'phaa Indigenous People's Organisation).

In 2012 Mexico, Guatemala and Nicaragua have inaugurated new Presidents, Enrique Pena Nieto, Otto Perez Molina, and Daniel Ortega respectively (the last named for a third term). Will the human rights situation in these countries improve?

Peter Smith looks after this campaign


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