Children of the Mixteca community in Zimatlan, Mexico, who were under state of siege by an armed group. A humanitarian caravan organized by the Centro de Derechos Humanos y Asesoria a Pueblos Indigenas A.C. made it possible to transfer the children under safe conditions.

Latin America and Caribbean

 

In 2011, NED grantees in Latin America and the Caribbean addressed a multitude of challenges associated with the wide variety of regimes and political systems of the region.

At one end of this spectrum is Cuba, the only dictatorship in the Americas. Though still repressive, timid economic reforms were recently set in motion and a significant number of political prisoners were released and exiled in 2011. NED programs supported ordinary Cubans interested in taking advantage of new economic opportunities by providing legal assistance to navigate the complicated Cuban legal system, while continuing to support human rights activists and their families. In addition, NED grantees focused on enhancing the use of new communication technologies by providing increased support and training to independent journalists and youth, increasing the flow of information both inside and outside Cuba.

NED grantees engaged emerging actors (such as youth, artists, bloggers, women, and churches) to strengthen civil society in the island. Finally, NED assisted recently-released political prisoners living in exile in Spain and other countries to raise international awareness of human and labor rights violations and the lack of freedom and democracy in Cuba.

Haiti’s challenges are also substantial, with the country currently ranked fifth on Foreign Policy’s list of failed states. During 2011, the NED family focused on promoting local ownership of the reconstruction process following the 2010 earthquake, and on strengthening the ability of local organizations to better interact with the international donor community and the Haitian government. NED supported programs to promote peaceful conflict resolution, improve relations with elected officials and strengthen nascent civil society organizations. In 2011, NED supported organizations focused on growing electoral participation, enhancing advocacy and oversight capacity of civil society organizations, and building the capacity of legislators and union leaders.

Meanwhile, in Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua and Venezuela, NED assistance focused on defending and strengthening democratic institutions, processes and actors under attack by governments with authoritarian leanings. Freedom of expression was curtailed in these four countries, as networks of state-owned media expanded and opposition and independent actors came under attack; during 2011 these assaults took place most prominently, but not exclusively, in Ecuador. NED concentrated on programs addressing freedom of expression, access to information and protection for journalists in response to these challenges. During 2011, NED-sustained programs focused on promoting free, fair and competitive elections in characteristically unequal playing fields, including the Constitutional Referendum in Ecuador, the election of judicial authorities in Bolivia, the presidential and legislative elections in Nicaragua and the upcoming elections in Venezuela.

Through good governance and government accountability programs, NED funding increased citizen participation and oversight of governments at the national, regional and local levels. In the four countries, NED-supported programs addressed political, social and ethnic polarization through promoting dialogue, pluralism and multi-sectoral participation. Specifically, NED supported programs to increase the participation and inclusion of indigenous communities in Bolivia, and to identify and educate emerging Venezuelan leaders in pluralistic and democratic values.

NED also worked to help new democracies succeed. While Argentina, Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Paraguay and Peru differ in their levels of democratic consolidation, the decentralization process that has occurred in each has provided an opportunity to strengthen democracy amongst all of them. In this set of countries, NED supported programs to promote citizen participation, improve candidate selection and public policy formation, advance accountability and transparency, and increase elected officials’ capacity to respond to constituent demands, among other programs at the regional and local levels.

However, emergent non-traditional challenges related to organized crime, illegal armed forces, drug, arms and human trafficking, and ordinary delinquency have led to an increase in violence and citizen insecurity across the region. NED grantees addressed these complex challenges through a range of domestic and cross-regional programs, several of which were conducted in Mexico and Central America.

Within this framework of common conventional and non-conventional challenges and opportunities, specific NED programs standout for each country. In Argentina, programs sought to protect freedom of expression and promote presidential debates on public policies. Programs in Colombia supported displaced people and victims of the armed conflict, especially Afro-Colombian communities. In Guatemala, NED sponsored programs aimed to defend the rights of women and indigenous populations, foster accountability in social programs, and promote comprehensive fiscal reform. Programs in Honduras focused on diminishing polarization, redefining civil-military relations, protecting freedom of expression and strengthening the legislative branch and political parties.

In Mexico, NED support focused on empowering civil society to address citizen insecurity, improve the capacity of trade unions, defend freedom of expression and journalists, and protect women and indigenous populations. Programs in Paraguay worked to strengthen nascent civil society and the three branches of power. Programs in Peru addressed conflicts over natural resource exploitation, indigenous rights, and transparency in public universities.

There were also opportunities to support several programs with a regional focus, including strengthening trade unions, improving political parties and the capacity of elected officials, and supporting the market economy. Other regional programs included fighting impunity and protecting the rights of the victims of human rights abuses; litigation before the Inter-American System; an online version of the Journal of Democracy in Portuguese; citizen security; conflicts surrounding natural resource exploitation in the Andean region; and building a cross-regional network of civil society activists to defend and promote democracy.