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

Latin America and the Caribbean countries faced diverse democratic challenges and opportunities in 2013. The region encompasses solid democracies such as Costa Rica, Chile and Uruguay; Cuba, the only remaining dictatorship in the Western Hemisphere; countries experiencing authoritarian threats such as Ecuador, Nicaragua and Venezuela; and countries challenged by organized crime and citizen insecurity such as Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico.

Programs in Cuba took advantage of the new migration law that lifted the ban on international travel for Cubans. Cuban activists and human rights defenders presented cases of violations of human and civil rights before the United Nations and Inter-American Commission of Human Rights and participated in trainings to improve their ability to document cases. Cuban activists attended international workshops to share information and experiences with counterparts who face similar challenges. Programs raised international awareness about repression on the island, provided ordinary citizens with access to uncensored information and legal support, trained young Cubans to use new social media, and defended the rights of Afro-Cubans and underrepresented communities.

Despite its fragility, Haiti experienced progress. Programs promoted the participation of youth in their communities to encourage communication between citizens and local elected officials, increase accountability of public officials, and mitigate election-related violence. Programs fostered journalistic investigation to improve voter registration, supported lawyers to revise the penal code, and empowered and defended the rights of women and Haitian workers.

Bolivia faces the challenges of concentration of power in the executive branch, heightened political polarization, and limitations on freedom of expression and freedom of association of independent civil society organizations. NED partners focused on reducing political, regional, and ethnic polarization, improving government transparency at the national and regional levels, defending freedom of expression, documenting violations of human rights, raising international awareness about threats against fundamental rights, defending the rights of indigenous communities and of women and ordinary citizens suffering unjustified periods of pre-trial detention.

Ecuador experienced severe democratic decay. The Correa government increased censorship and control of independent media and journalists, and used the justice system to criminalize all forms of dissent. Organizations worked to sustain freedom of expression, reduce political polarization, monitor the legislative branch, protect the rights of Afro-Ecuadorian populations, encourage youth leadership and entrepreneurship, and foster the legitimacy of NGOs. Nicaragua followed a similar path of increased authoritarianism, eliminating term limits on elected officials and antagonizing local independent NGOs. Nonetheless, these organizations monitored the National Assembly and defined common strategies to defend democracy. Programs fostered independent media, assisted victims of human rights abuses, supported the rights of women and indigenous communities, and promoted discussions on citizen security and on issue-based policies.

Venezuela faced a tumultuous year due to the death of President Chávez. Under his successor, Nicolás Maduro, Venezuela’s political and socioeconomic system declined further, reaching record levels of inflation, citizen insecurity and scarcity of basic products. The new administration tightened information and media censorship, expanded the role of the armed forces, and further degraded the rule of law. Nonetheless, NED grantees struggled on. NED support helped civil society groups protect human rights, defend journalists and promote good governance at the local level.

In Guatemala, NED partners promoted transparency and accountability in the legislative and judicial branches, and worked to strengthen the rule of law related to extractive industries. Programs also focused on fostering public debate on fiscal reform, on citizen security policies at the municipal level and on expanding youth engagement in democracy. In Honduras, NGOs aimed at strengthening access to public information and independent media, promoting pluralistic dialogue about citizen security, fostering fiscal transparency and oversight of public expenditures and of the legislative branch.

NED partners in Argentina focused on defending freedom of expression. In Colombia, they worked to defend the rights of the victims of the armed conflict, especially Afro-Colombian communities, and on contributing to the peace and reconciliation process. In Mexico, organizations aimed at protecting journalists and the victims of organized crime, fostering the rights of vulnerable and excluded workers, improving implementation of criminal justice reform, strengthening accountability of the legislative branch and providing civil society input on citizen security policies. In Paraguay, programs focused on increasing citizen oversight of local governments, engaging women and youth in civic and political participation, accessing public information, and strengthening the judicial branch. In Peru, grantees worked to foster debate and consensus among political parties, promote dialogue and conflict resolution at the local level, develop leadership skills, democratic values and entrepreneurship among youth, improve democratic governance in indigenous communities and strengthen women’s participation and leadership.

NED supported regional programs in Central America to prepare elected officials and political parties to implement issue-based policy recommendations, help municipal governments strengthen democratic governance and promote dialogue on citizen security. Regional programs also worked on a broad spectrum of needs, from strengthening workers’ rights and unions to promoting the use of new information technologies among political parties, and encouraging freedom of association and collective bargaining.