The Americas remained the most dangerous region in the world for human rights defenders and asylum seekers in 2019, according to Amnesty International’s annual report into human rights.

The charity’s 68-page report details how millions of citizens took to protesting against corruption, inequality and violence – and how the response from governments was to use increasingly militarised tactics.

It reveals that last year at least 210 people died violently in a protest context across the region: 83 in Haiti, 47 in Venezuela, 35 in Bolivia, 31 in Chile, eight in Ecuador and six in Honduras. A separate report from earlier this year shows that this equates to over two-thirds of the total killing of human rights defenders.

Those seeking safety outside of their native countries were also restricted by governments across the continent.

Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International, said in a press release: “2019 brought a renewed assault on human rights across much of the Americas, with intolerant and increasingly authoritarian leaders turning to ever-more violent tactics to stop people from protesting or seeking safety in another country.”

Several protest movements arose last year; Chilean, Haitian, Colombian and Ecuadorian protests stemmed from rising fuel prices and economic reform, whilst corruption, fraud and political scandal were at the centre of Bolivia, Honduras, Venezuela and Puerto Rico’s demonstrations.

The human rights organisation also condemned the restrictive stances taken by governments against migrants and asylum seekers; by the end of 2019, the ongoing human rights crisis in Venezuela had resulted in 4.8 million refugees – more than any country in the world excluding Syria – but the new entry requirements from Peru, Chile and Ecuador’s means those seeking safety are “concerted attempts” to foster division.

The increased number of protests have been met by unlawful violence and increased militarisation, according to the report. | Photo: Juan Manuel Nunez Mendez, Unsplash

Amnesty also said, however, that repression has been countered by resistance, with protests often being led by young people.

“We also saw young people stand up and demand change all over the region, triggering broader demonstrations on a massive scale. Their bravery in the face of vicious state repression gives us hope and shows that future generations will not be bullied,” Guevara-Rosas said.

“With yet more social unrest, political instability and environmental destruction looming over the region in 2020, the fight for human rights is as urgent as ever.”

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