Human rights and US Security Assistance in Latin America

Rick V Elefano
October 25, 2012

On September 28th I attended the Just the Facts Conference on Human Rights and Militarization in Latin America help in Washington, D.C. There seems to be no end to reports on how human rights are being disregarded, denied, and violated in Latin America– drug wars, human trafficking, economic injustice, border militarization, environment devastation, etc.  Meanwhile, US security assistance to Latin American countries continues to flow.  But whether this aid tends to promote respect for human rights or exacerbate their violation seems to depend on whose narrative is being told.

Latin America countries support human rights.  They hold human rights as a policy of the government.  After all, they are signatories of the UN Charter.  And yet human rights violations are still rampant in some of them, and oftentimes committed with impunity!  Why?  How could that happen?

It would seem that different countries and people attach different meaning and importance to human rights according to their cultures and political leanings.  It would also appear that countries and peoples get to mature diversely in their understanding and experience of human rights over time.  Thus, the justice system of one nation could be essentially different, even contradictory to another country’s system, and yet both countries would profess respect for the same human rights and remain UN members of good standing!

How could the family of nations get to have a common understanding of and valuing as regards human rights?  What are the dynamics involved?  Who would dare teach and educate countries and peoples to develop a culture of human rights?  Should free and developed countries resort to any or all means in order to forcibly win human rights for the oppressed people of other nations?

The US security assistance program is meant to be an aid to Latin America countries.  But just like any good thing, it can be put into bad or improper use.  It can be abused or misused.  Nonetheless, this assistance could also have hidden elements which might not sit well with the aid concept of the targeted beneficiary country.  Thus, the need and value of building and fostering trust, respect, and transparency between the donor and the recipient countries.  Yet what remains to be of paramount importance in  this relationship is the mutual commitment that human rights will be respected and protected, knowing that they emanate, neither from the State nor from any country, not even from the family of nations, but only from God, the supreme creator of all, to whom everyone is accountable.