Responses to the outbreak in Latin America have put human rights defenders in extreme risk. At the same time, hunger and poverty are set to spike in Latin America as the impact of the novel coronavirus ravages the region's economies and disrupts supply chains. We will be speaking to those under siege from state and non-state actors doing their best to continue supporting their communities. Seasoned diplomat John Dew will introduce the panel of Latin American human rights defenders.
International journalist Dina Meza will discuss the political implications of COVID-19 in Honduras, as well as the situation as it stands for journalists in the country. Esteemed lawyer and CAJAR member Alirio Uribe will tell us about the rise in assassination of human rights defenders and collapse of the criminal justice system in Colombia, and Yadira Sandoval will talk to us about the effect of the outbreak on refugees in Costa Rica and peasant communities in Nicaragua. Yadira Sandoval has been a member of the Nicaraguan peasant movement since 2013 and is currently in Costa Rica organising for the Nicaraguan community in exile.
John Dew is a PBI UK patron and former ambassador to Colombia. He joined the Diplomatic Service in 1973 before working in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, where he served postings in Ireland, the Falklands, and Madrid. After returning to the FCO as Head of the Latin America and Caribbean Department 2000–03, he was seconded to Lehman Brothers in London 2003–04 as Senior Policy Adviser before being appointed HMA, Havana in May 2004. His retirement posting in Bogota ended in 2012, when he began a new career as a painter and printmaker.
Dina Meza is an award-winning journalist, human rights defender, and founder of PEN Honduras, an organisation which supports at-risk journalists. She founded and edits Pasos de Animal Grande, an online-only newspaper which documents human rights abuses in Honduras, as a way to have her work more widely seen, and avoid the censorship of her work she encounters in her home country. She is a member of la Asociacion por la Democracia y los Derechos Humanos (ASOPODEHU) and has reported on key cases such as the murder of environmental activist Berta Caceres. Meza was named as one of Reporters Without Borders’ "100 Heroes and Heroines of Information" in 2014.
Yadira Sandoval is a land and territory defender from Nicaragua. She has been a member of the Nicaraguan peasant movement since 2013. She is currently in Costa Rica collaborating in the organizational work in favour of the Nicaraguan community in exile, for her rights exist as recognition of the existence of people and must be respected in all its manifestations.
Alirio Uribe Muñoz is a high profile human rights lawyer and Executive Director of CCAJAR, the renowned ‘Jose Alvear Restrepo’ Lawyers’ Collective. Alirio Uribe has been fighting against corruption and impunity in Colombia since the early 1990s. His work has focused on investigating and prosecuting those responsible for political killings, disappearances and the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Colombians. Alirio Uribe was honoured with the 2003 Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders. He received this prestigious award, which is given each year by a jury of leading global human rights organisations, for his dedication to working for the victims of human rights violations in Colombia despite the numerous death threats he has received.