Human rights organizations in Latin America have had much to celebrate in recent decades. The “justice cascade” forced the retreat of brutal regimes in the Southern Cone and Central America, with many authoritarian leaders losing their immunity and facing trial and jail terms. Human rights campaigns saved lives, freed prisoners, improved jail conditions, and aided in the demise of numerous military dictatorships. Some scholars and activists, however, have questioned whether the global human rights movement focused too much on preventing the state from committing heinous deeds and overlooked growing global inequalities. According to this view, human rights organizations shed light on, limited, and even prosecuted brutal imprisonments or forced disappearances (negative human rights, what the state cannot or should not do to individuals) but failed to pay sufficient attention to the accumulation of wealth and power among the top 1 percent. Critics, such as law and history professor Sam Moyn, recognize the achievements but highlight dire inequalities across the globe.
March 4, 2021
Berkeley Review of Latin American Studies Article