Washington, D.C.—On October 24, 2013, the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) gave its prestigious WOLA Human Rights Awards to three courageous individuals who embody WOLA’s vision for the future, where human rights and justice form the foundation of public policies in Latin America.
This year, WOLA honors:
- U.S. Senator Tom Harkin, (D-IA), whose 40 years of congressional leadership on human and labor rights issues have left an enduring legacy. Senator Harkin spearheaded efforts to oppose the military dictatorships that swept South America in the 1970s and 1980s. In 1974, after visiting Chile to investigate human rights abuses in death camps throughout the country, Senator Harkin proposed an amendment to the 1975 Foreign Assistance Act that prohibited all non-humanitarian U.S. aid to countries with gross violations of human rights and ensured that human rights would be taken into consideration in the provision of any form of U.S. economic assistance. More recently, Senator Harkin has been a champion of labor rights worldwide.
- Ambassador Milton Romani Gerner, Uruguay’s Permanent Representative to the Organization of American States (OAS), whose commitment to promoting human rights in Uruguay during the years of military dictatorship and the restoration of democracy, and whose pioneering work to promote a human rights-oriented drug policy in Uruguay and internationally reflects Uruguay’s own commitment to social justice and human rights.
- Marcela Turati, Reporter for Mexican Magazine Proceso and co-founder of Periodistas de a Pie, a journalism network created to protect reporters under threat in Mexico and ensure that the press is not silenced. Ms. Turati’s courageous coverage as a journalist has shown the human toll of Mexico’s drug war. She has fearlessly worked on the frontlines—often at great risk—to expose human rights abuses and stories of human tragedy behind the 70,000 deaths and 26,000 disappeared in Mexico in the past six years.
For nearly 40 years, WOLA has been a leading voice in Washington on human rights issues facing Latin America, providing channels through which people living in the region can voice human rights concerns directly to policymakers.
“The WOLA Human Rights Award is our chance to honor people who have inspired us by their deep commitment to human rights and social justice in Latin America. This year’s recipients have changed the course of Latin America from the 1970s to today.” said WOLA’s Executive Director Joy Olson. “We recognize Senator Harkin for his role in making human rights a part of U.S. foreign policy in Latin America. We celebrate Ambassador Romani for his dedicated work in Uruguay and the international community to pioneer new approaches to drug policy. We honor Ms. Turati for her fearless reporting on the drug war in Mexico as well as her work to elevate the courageous voices of those who risk their lives to expose some of regions most violent criminal organizations,” Olson added.
Upon receiving the WOLA 2013 Human Rights Award, Senator Harkin said: "In order for the global economy to prosper, it is critical to protect the jobs and livelihoods of the most vulnerable populations at home and abroad. That has been my goal since first entering Congress in 1975,” said Harkin. “Early in my career, I authored an amendment to the Foreign Assistance Act prohibiting assistance to governments engaged in a consistent pattern of gross human rights violations. And I have worked to end exploitative child labor and expand disability rights around the globe. I am honored to accept the 2013 WOLA Human Rights Award. The advocacy and dedication of the Washington Office on Latin America is critical to helping consumers and policymakers make informed decisions about the industries and countries that continue to impede social justice and the advancement of human rights. As we celebrate our progress, we must continue our efforts to fight for a sustainable global system and to fight abusive and manipulative labor policies in countries around the globe that exploit vulnerable workers."
After Sen. Harkin’s speech, Mexican journalist Marcela Turati was presented with the WOLA 2013 Human Rights Award. Turati said, “I hope this award helps bring attention to the daily efforts that a number of Mexican journalists carry out without the support of the owners of the media outlets or the government to continue to inform society of the violence that some want to keep hidden. With the change in government, the official rhetoric about the war changed, but we still don’t have peace. The victims of violence continue to mount, without justice or answers.”
The last award of the night was presented to Ambassador Milton Romani, who said: "I’m very grateful for this award. WOLA is an organization that did a lot for human rights during the military dictatorships in the Southern Cone. Today WOLA confronts many of the challenges facing Latin America. This award also underscores the pioneering role that Uruguay has played in developing and implementing evidence-based drug policies rooted in human rights and public health.”
This year, the honorary and host committees for the WOLA Human Rights Awards include Former Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, Senator Christopher Dodd, Representative Jim McGovern, Former Representative David Bonior, and actor and director Diego Luna.
Past award honorees include Mexican actor Gael García Bernal, former Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, Tlachinollan Human Rights Center of Mexico, and the Salvadoran online newspaper El Faro.
The awards ceremony was held at the French Embassy on October 24, at 7:00 p.m.
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