NED Grants in Action
An Asylum Access volunteer teaches displaced Colombians about their rights as refugees in Ecuador.


The region encompasses regimes facing diverse democratic challenges and opportunities. Solid democracies such as Costa Rica, Chile and Uruguay coexist with Cuba, the only remaining dictatorship and Haiti, the weakest state in the Western Hemisphere. Latin America also includes countries experiencing authoritarian backsliding such as Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua and Venezuela, and countries showing some of the highest international rates of homicide and crime such as El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico. In the economic sphere, after almost a decade of growth, the region is experiencing the impact of the deceleration of international commodity markets, which is affecting its overall economic and fiscal performance and challenging each country differently.

Within this mixed picture, both progress and setbacks marked the dynamics of the region throughout 2014. Several countries underwent an intense electoral cycle. The reelection trend favored incumbent presidential candidates in Bolivia, Brazil and Colombia, and candidates from the ruling parties in El Salvador and Uruguay; non-incumbent candidates won in Panama and Costa Rica. At the local level, opposition mayoral candidates won in Ecuador’s 10 largest cities, including Quito. Across the region, NED partners promoted free and fair elections and contributed to leveling uneven electoral playing fields.

Venezuela’s accumulated economic, institutional and political decay continued throughout 2014 and worsened in the last months with the severe drop in international oil prices, fueling acute shortages of basic goods and services and citizen dissatisfaction. The country faced a turbulent period of widespread demonstrations during the first half of 2014 resulting in 43 deaths, massive violations of human rights, significant cases of political imprisonment, and severe limitations of citizen’s civic and political rights. NED supported programs addressing human rights, citizen insecurity, freedom of expression and independent media, strengthening local democratic governance, electoral processes and free markets, among others.

A particularly salient event which marked the end of the year was the restoration of the bilateral diplomatic relationship between the U.S. and Cuba. This decision will generate consequences beyond the bilateral relations and have an impact on the region. NED supported Cuban activists and human rights defenders to present cases of violations of human and civil rights before the United Nations and Inter-American Commission of Human Rights, and to participate in trainings to improve their capacity to document cases and share experiences with counterparts. Programs fostered consensus and cooperation among Cuban democratic players, provided ordinary citizens with access to uncensored information, defended the rights of Afro-Cubans and underrepresented communities, promoted freedom of religion, and encouraged solidarity in Latin America and globally with Cuba’s quest for democracy.

In Haiti, the institutional and political crisis continued to unravel during 2014 due to the inability of its political leadership to pass an electoral law and to call for long overdue elections. The crisis led to institutional gridlock and street protests, paving the way for the dissolution of Parliament and rule by Presidential decree. NED grantees in Haiti encouraged peaceful conflict resolution and inclusive electoral processes, as well as human rights and access to justice, among other issues.

Countries in the Andean region also faced distinct difficulties. Bolivia continued to confront serious challenges to democratic governance, expressed in the concentration of power in the executive branch, heightened political polarization, and limitations on freedom of expression. Ecuador experienced severe democratic decay. The Correa government increased censorship and control of independent media and journalists, used the judicial system to criminalize dissent and imposed limitations on independent civil society organizations. NED grantees in both countries promoted democratic debate on policy issues, and improved citizen oversight of transparency in the use of public resources. In Peru, grantees worked to advance debates and consensus among political parties, as well as promote conflict resolution at the local level, among other initiatives.

Meanwhile, Colombia made significant progress in peace negotiations between the government and the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC), the country’s oldest armed guerilla movement. Despite setbacks, the year concluded with meaningful agreements, including the FARC proposing a unilateral cease fire. NED supported programs working to defend the rights of conflict victims, especially women and Afro-Colombian communities, to sustain journalists and freedom of expression, and to enforce implementation of the Victims Law and legislative action to address post-conflict demands.

In Central America, Nicaragua continued on a path of increased authoritarianism, with the elimination of term limits on elected officials, the antagonizing of local and international independent NGOs, and expansive government control of the media. As a result, NED grantees monitored the legislature and defined common strategies to defend democracy, fostered independent media, and raised awareness about constitutional rights. In response to rising crime rates in Guatemala and Honduras, grantees promoted dialogue between citizens and authorities to deal with insecurity and violence prevention, and encouraged youth involvement in citizen security policies.

Mexico continued to face major security challenges associated with drugs, arms, and human trafficking. Among several cases, the kidnapping and disappearance of 43 college students in Guerrero state drew condemnation both domestically and internationally. NED grantees supported judicial and penitentiary reform, as well as access to justice for indigenous communities and victims of human rights violations. Grantees also championed freedom of expression and anti-corruption measures.

In the Southern Cone, Argentina and Paraguay continued to struggle with corruption, the deterioration of democratic institutions, and declining freedom of expression. NED partners in both countries focused on increasing oversight of local and national governments, strengthening the legislative and judicial branches, and defending freedom of expression. Regional partners worked on a broad spectrum of issues, from strengthening workers’ rights and unions, to promoting the use of new information technologies among political parties. Programs also addressed the challenges of Afro-Latino communities, strengthening the Inter-American System, and encouraging regional solidarity between democrats facing authoritarian threats.

To learn more about NED grants and grantees, explore the regional links on this site.




South America:

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