Vivas, Leonardo. “Latin America: A Backlash in Human Rights?” Harvard International Review 36, no. 2 (2014): 17-21.

This journal article, published in the Harvard International Review, written by Leonardo Vivas, a lecturer on Latin America in the Global Studies and International Relations Program at Northeastern University, discusses the progressions of democracy in Latin America, the challenges that have arisen, and conditions that have helped facilitate the proliferation of democracy. Vivas also discusses the international perspective of Latin American affairs and how these perspectives have shifted away from the topic of human rights violations of the late 20th century to the democratization process of the 21st century. Lastly, Vivas discusses the presence of human rights violations in a variety of countries through the form of excessive and unlawful force against citizens.

Human rights concerns have been largely removed from the international perspective, but human rights concerns have not been sufficiently addressed in Latin America. An observational bias has emerged in Latin America. With the emergence of democracies, the presence and progress of democracy has become the front-page coverage, while the ongoing and significantly more pervasive human rights conditions of Latin America have been pushed to page 12 after economics, commerce, and even sports. As observations of human rights violations have been pushed aside, a system of enabling has occurred in which actors on all scales can operate in defiance of human rights with success. While democratization has occurred at a tremendously beneficial rate, democratization does not guarantee human rights. The rate in which Latin American countries have experienced democratization is proportional to the rate in which they have increased observations, implementation, and protections of human rights. Countries with a slower rate of progress towards democracy often lag behind in their human rights adherences. Furthermore, democracy does not force a democratic society. Authoritarian regimes have still emerged alongside a visage of democracy. These authoritarian uprisings often heavily suppress both democracy – despite being formed from it – as well as human rights. Venezuela, for example, has experienced an authoritarian state under the guise of democracy for the better part of the last two decades. Excessive use of force, kidnappings, torture, unlawful detainment, and extrajudicial killings by internal security forces have become all too normal in Venezuela. These tools have been used to create a system of political and social oppression that have been largely ignored on an international scale because Venezuela is a “democracy”.

The selected citation opens an opportunity for a rich perspective on the idea of political empowerment and enabling through observation or lack thereof. The context of an action is regarded only as such by its observers. If the world is not observing violations of human rights, they can be disregarded by those committing the acts. The context of these acts can be twisted and contorted to suit a bias, a political agenda, or even as a political stunt. To better suit the success of human rights violations in a democratic situation, the process is given ease by the reliance on an adherence to democracy as a free pass to these violations.

The context of the selected image is that in March 2017, the Venezuelan Supreme Court dissolved the opposition-controlled National Assembly in order to secure and increase the power of Nicolás Maduro. The public response widely consisted of public riots, protests, and counter protests. The Venezuelan security forces – controlled by Maduro’s party – were mobilized to shut down protests. This image is of Venezuelan security forces firing a shotgun into a crowd of protestors. In the months following this event, over 100 people were killed and an unknown but estimated over 1000 people were injured.

Source: CARLOS BECERRA/AFP/Getty Images. Retrieved from

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: