On Vice President Pence’s Participation in the Summit of the Americas: The U.S. Should Strengthen Human Rights, Not Build Walls

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Press Release


Andrea Fernández Aponte, Program Associate
(202) 546 7010 | afernandezaponte@lawg.org

April 12, 2018

On Vice President Pence’s Participation in the Summit of the Americas: The U.S. Should Strengthen Human Rights, Not Build Walls

Washington, D.C.—On the occasion of Vice President Pence’s participation in the Organization of American States (OAS) Eighth Summit of the Americas, addressing the central theme, “Democratic Governance Against Corruption,” which will take place on April 13 and 14 in Lima, Peru, the Latin America Working Group (LAWG) calls for a relationship between the United States and Latin America and the Caribbean based on mutual respect and a shared commitment to the human rights of all the peoples of the Americas. LAWG rejects President Trump’s recent rhetoric towards Latin American countries, including Mexico, as well as towards immigrant communities in the United States, which has been nothing short of disrespectful, xenophobic, and hostile.

“The Trump Administration should urge Latin American governments—left, right, and center—to combat corruption, improve human rights standards, and protect human rights defenders,” said Lisa Haugaard, LAWG’s Executive Director. “What it should not do is build literal and rhetorical walls between the United States and the region, or pursue military solutions to the region’s problems.”

Countries in Latin America face many challenges to upholding human rights and democratic values, including corruption, the theme of this summit. The region is one of the most dangerous in the world for human rights defenders—including environmental defenders, LGBTI activists, Afro-descendant and indigenous community leaders, and journalists—and impunity remains the norm for human rights violations and attacks against these defenders. Nearly 60 percent of the environmental defenders murdered worldwide in 2017 were from the Latin American and Caribbean region.

Moreover, human rights violations across the region are inextricably linked to corruption involving government officials, non-state actors, and the private sector. The tide of corruption that is currently sweeping Latin America includes the sacking of the Honduran health care system, the web of corruption and human rights abuses that affect Guatemala, the Odebrecht contracting scandal that has ensnared so many Latin American politicians, including the former president of Peru, the summit’s host country. Many of the human rights defenders and journalists threatened and killed in the region have challenged corrupt businesses and political leaders.

Impunity for corruption and human rights violations, alongside violence has also driven forced migration in the hemisphere. In the Northern Triangle countries of Central Americas—Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras—high impunity rates (at or over 95 percent for such crimes in all three countries) foster widespread violence and distrust in government, which forces citizens to go into hiding and be displaced internally first before often migrating outside of their borders.

“We strongly condemn President Trump’s repeated attacks against Latin American immigrants and communities aimed at demonizing and painting them as threats to our security. The majority of the migrants arriving at our borders are asylum-seeking individuals, families, and children from Central America who are fleeing corruption and violence in their home countries. We should do the right thing and embrace with open arms the refugees our own policies have created, as well as protect family unity,” states Daniella Burgi-Palomino, LAWG Senior Associate for Mexico, Migrant Rights and Border Issues. “On the occasion of the summit, the United States should also help catalyze a regional humanitarian response to help the hundreds of thousands of Venezuelan refugees who have fled and continue fleeing their country.”

During the summit, Vice President Pence is expected to have a bilateral meeting with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos. “Vice President Pence should reinforce U.S. support for peace in Colombia and to press the Colombian government to accelerate peace accord implementation, so this historic opportunity to end a fifty-year war that has killed over 260,000 and displaced 7 million people is not lost,” said Haugaard.