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Links to Sites About Human Rights Latin America:

Comments: There is a wide variation in the rights accorded to people of various ethnic groups throughout Latin America. Some countries (such as Peru, for example) are alleged to have oppressive leadership, while areas within some are influenced by militant rebel groups (Peru) or those involved in illegal drug activity (Columbia). Still others (Bolivia, Chile, etc.) can be relatively safe and stable for both residents and visitors, though such relative local tranquility has not always been the case.

It is important to note that the paranoia and sanctioned oppression (and the resulting "guilt by association" attitude) alleged to be exhibited by the Fujimori government of Peru are not prevalent in modern day Bolivia, which has policies that are far more civilized by comparison. As a result, Bolivia experiences little or no armed domestic insurgency. For a comparison of the human rights situation in these two countries:

If you think that's bad:

Comments About Human Rights Latin America:

The purpose of this section is to call attention to the oppression and atrocities that occur on a regular basis in some parts of Latin America. The mainstream media considers it big news when the rights of people in many parts of the world are abridged, but little heed is paid to the disenfranchised of Latin America, many of whom show they are noble and beautiful people as they patiently and silently endure the great hardships imposed upon them.

This site is not intended to champion the cause of rebel groups in Latin America. There are some legitimate rebel groups, but there are also some which pervert local religions, thrive on militant dogma and hatred, and commit shameful atrocities. Getting truly accurate information about these groups and their actions can be difficult if not impossible.

Some rebel groups are founded on admirable motives and have it as their goal (at least initially) to make life better for themselves and the majority of their fellow citizens. In countries where the government has used death squads or other means to slaughter innocent civilians, armed insurgency was a predictable outcome, since many people would feel that they had nothing to lose, and much to gain, from fighting. Some rebel groups (such as the FMLN in El Salvador) may have started out on the right foot, but over the years, many of them have had to adopt (or at least appear to adopt) a communist dogma in order to obtain the arms necessary to survive the massive onslaught of foreign arms provided to the corrupt governments of their respective countries. Ultimately, some of these groups have obtained political recognition, but usually at great cost in terms of lives lost. Foreign supply of arms often results in a copious increase in the number of casualties.

Other rebel groups (such as those prevalent in Guatemala during the 1980's) routinely pillaged property and killed their fellow citizens. In many cases like this, oppression and even killings by the government have been the catalyst for rebellion. Desperate times call for desperate measures, but there is no excuse for the slaughter of civilians and neutral noncombatants by rebel groups. During such a rebellion, government forces have told citizens: "Don't give aid or supplies to the rebels, or we will kill you and your family." Then the rebels have said: "Give us supplies, or we will kill you and your family." This leaves people to wonder: "Will I be killed by my government or will I be killed by rebels?" -- and many were indeed killed. No wonder so many Central Americans wanted to leave their respective countries! Many of us who have lived in more developed countries get all bent out of shape just when we get conflicting orders from different bosses at work. We have no idea what it is like to be in the shoes of the unfortunates of Latin America. Some rebel groups (such as the Shining Path in Peru) have perverted local religions to manipulate people, thrived on militant dogma and hatred, caused trouble outside their own country, and are alleged to have committed even more atrocities than the governments they sought to depose. That is a lot of atrocities. The oppressed in countries like Peru do need a voice, but when the rebels become oppressors themselves, the people gain nothing. The jury is still out on the MRTA in regard to oppression.

Most socioeconomic problems in Latin America may seem easy to define: Many of those controlling the wealth in their respective countries are seen as greedy, racist, exploitative, short sighted, and corrupt; however, this is an oversimplification. In some cultures, racism, greed and corruption are accepted as "normal" - and even we in the U.S. don't have to look too far away from home or too far back in time to see this.

One thing is for sure. The United States should not be used as the sole model in addressing these problems. In spite of liberal rhetoric to the contrary, forced integration was often a miserable failure in the U.S. It moved people around but often accomplished little. In some cases, it even engendered resentment. Many people in various ethnic groups simply do not want to be integrated, and they should not be forced to do so by a bunch of social elitists. It is possible to achieve equality without forced integration. Equality of opportunity is the issue, and this does not have to be determined by location, or even by quotas. Resistance to forced integration is not racism. Forced integration is racism - it says that a certain number of people have to live in a certain area because of their race. Those who want to integrate should simply be allowed do so by choice, just as those who do not want to integrate should be free not to.

Segregation or integration by individual choice allows there to be true diversity, where members of various cultures can preserve their cultural heritage rather than losing it in a melting pot. Churches are some of the few places left in the U.S. where one can experience the depth and richness of true cultural diversity. It comes as no surprise that churches are also about the only institution that has not been forced into government imposed social experiments. I have often attended Latino churches in the U.S., and some of these are very similar to churches I visited in Latin America. This rich manifestation of culture would not be possible if Latino people had not been allowed to segregate themselves to some degree. Latino churches in the U.S. do tend to have a greater mixture of Spanish speaking people of both Indigenous and European origin, but this integration is typically by choice. Diversity does not have to exist in every neighborhood; and diversity, segregation, or integration should never be ends in themselves. The will of the people should prevail. Social elitists can experiment with themselves and leave the rest of us alone. Everyone has their own life to live.

There many complex issues, and there are no easy answers. One thing seems clear: The torch of inhumanity held by the government of El Salvador during the 1980's has been passed to the Fujimori government of Peru, and both he and Peruvian rebel groups like the Shining Path have received it with enthusiasm, to the detriment of their fellow citizens.

Those born in the U.S. who casually speak of overthrowing the government should get a reality check and count the true cost of revolution by taking a look at Latin America. If they did so, they would be silent. People die in revolutions. People in the U.S. are free complain. They may be harassed by law enforcement if they make threats of insurgency, but they'd be very, very dead if they did so in many other parts of the world.

Additional comments are at the end of the paper entitled: Cultural Reality at Your Eclipse Destination; When Caution may be in Order


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This document originated on: 14 Feb. 1997
Document text last modified on: 20 April, 1998
Links last modified on: 18 Feb, 2004