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COVID-19: Our Country Must Stand for Human Rights at Home, and Abroad!

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Author: Antonio Saadipour Sellés

To say that we are living through devastating times is quite the understatement. The racist fabric of the United States is being brought to light, and many are now grappling with the realization that we are not the land of the free. Black bodies in this country and around the world are subjected to daily acts of violence that further divide us as a people and as a country. We stand in solidarity with anyone fighting for a future where everyone is treated equally and skin color is perceived as nothing more than a physical trait, rather than a physical threat. Read our full statement about the movement currently unfolding here.

Events here at home have made it easy to neglect what’s going on in Latin America and the Caribbean, but if there were ever a time our brothers and sisters down south needed us, it is now. 

As promised, we are back to share with you more ways that you can help Latin America and the Caribbean fight this pandemic! Last week we asked you to write your senators to urge our government to provide more aid to the region to address the pandemic. This week we’re asking you to urge our country to speak out against governments in the region that are using the pandemic to take repressive or authoritarian actions against their citizens. But first, you need to understand what’s going on.  


What is Happening?

We know from what we’ve seen in Latin American countrieslike Honduras and El Salvador that some governments are using the pandemic to expand corrupt or repressive rule or respond with police brutality. Others, like Bolsonaro in Brazil, are willfully disregarding their duty to protect their citizens. Across Latin America and the Caribbean, the pandemic is bringing out the worst in some governments, and citizens are the ones paying the price. And these are just a couple of examples. See our infographic “How COVID-19 is Exposing Repression in Latin America” for more.

Fortunately, we have advocates in Congress who refuse to sit idly by and let oppressive governments hide behind the chaos of a pandemic while simultaneously consolidating power, squashing protests, and silencing the opposition without ever having to take accountability.

On May 7, the Protecting Human Rights During Pandemic Act, a bipartisan bill aimed at preventing human rights abuses from being carried out under the guise of coronavirus response, was introduced in the Senate by Senators Edward J. Markey (D-MA) and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and in the House by Representatives James McGovern (D-MA-2), Ann Wagner (R-MO-2) and Tom Malinowski (D-NJ-7).

This legislation, recognizing the United States’ duty to champion human rights globally, would authorize funding for “programs that support democratic institutions, civil society, human rights defenders, and protect freedom of the press and other internationally recognized human rights.” It would provide the State Department and Congress special oversight powers to address, assess, and report on violations of human rights during and in the aftermath of the coronavirus response and how countries are meeting or violating their human rights obligations.


Here’s what you do:

Call!

  • Call your representative and both of your senators. Find your representative here and your senators here.
  • Ask them to co-sponsor the Protecting Human Rights During Pandemic Act: H.R. 6986 in the House and S. 3819 in the Senate.
  • Here’s a sample script:
    • “My name is _____, and I am a constituent from [City, State, Zip Code]. I urge Representative ________ to co-sponsor H.R. 6896./I urge Senator ________ to co-sponsor S. 3819, the Protecting Human Rights During Pandemic Act. The United States was one of the lead drafters of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and should encourage the protection of internationally recognized human rights during the pandemic, both in its own policies at home, and through diplomacy and humanitarian assistance abroad. Though governments should be enforcing strict preventative measures to protect public health and deter the spread of the virus, this should never result in the violation of human rights. Right now, governments all over the world are using the pandemic to expand their oppressive rule and we can’t allow ourselves to be bystanders to these injustices—here or abroad.”

Write!

  • Send an email to your representative and both of your senators urging them to co-sponsor the Protecting Human Rights During Pandemic Act.
  • Use the links above to find them and be directed to their websites.
  • Go to their “Contact” pages and follow the necessary steps to write them.
  • Copy our sample script for phone calls into the body of the email.

Share!

  • Download our infographic. Also available in PDF format here.
  • Post to Facebook and Twitter (see below for sample posts and don’t forget to attach the infographic).
  • Share our posts on Facebook and Twitter.

Sample posts:

Facebook: “On top of having to worry about pandemic, our neighbors in Latin America and the Caribbean now have to fear their governments repressing or taking authoritarian action against them. The very institutions that should be protecting them are the ones inciting more panic and pain. From police brutality and widespread corruption to the neglect of indigenous populations and refusal to lead country through a crisis, cases of repression in the region vary dramatically. I refuse to sit quietly while people’s suffering is exacerbated and demand that the U.S. provide the assistance needed and take the action necessary to prevent future instances of government repression, especially as the world grapples with the COVID-19 crisis. We must urge Congress to pass the Protecting Human Rights During Pandemic Act.”

Twitter: “Governments across #LatinAmerica & the Caribbean are using this pandemic to repress or take authoritarian actions against their citizens. I urge Congress to pass the Protecting Human Rights During Pandemic act. #HumanRights abuses shouldn’t be a credible fear during a pandemic!”

Just because it’s not happening here doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be paying attention. Read about what’s happening. Get angry. Then let the world know. But more importantly, let your representative and senators know. If there’s anything to be learned from what’s currently going on in this country, it’s that we must always speak up for the most vulnerable among us!


Need some more background resources? Check out our COVID-19 pageAnd don’t forget to stay tuned for the next couple of actions!