WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas


12 Sep 2019 | Press Release

WOLA Human Rights Awards Honor Venezuela’s Efecto Cocuyo and U.S. Representative Norma Torres

Washington, D.C.—Today, the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) will present its prestigious Human Rights Awards to two recipients whose work epitomizes the defense of human rights in the Americas: the independent Venezualan journalism site, Efecto Cocuyo, and a champion for human rights in the U.S. Congress, Representative Norma Torres. At a moment when democracies are threatened by the rise of authoritarianism across the Western Hemisphere, this year’s honorees have been fearless in standing against the abuse of power and for human dignity.

Venezuelan news site Efecto Cocuyo has persevered in covering the human cost of Venezuela’s ongoing political and humanitarian crisis, despite a dangerous environment that has forced many journalists to flee the country. The site has produced various award-winning reports, shining a spotlight on the journeys of migrants struggling to build new lives outside of Venezuela, revealing the inner workings of the illegal gold trade, and tracking the stories of children who lost their lives because of a lack of access to basic medicines. The award will be accepted by Efecto Cocuyo co-founder and director Luz Mely Reyes.

Representative Norma Torres (D-Ca.) of California’s 35th district is a founder of the Central America Caucus in Congress. She has led efforts to address the root causes of migration and has challenged the Trump administration’s cruel policies toward migrants and asylum seekers. In particular, her advocacy has focused on supporting anti-corruption efforts in Guatemala and calling for the protection of those in the region who fight for human rights and the rule of law. She has enacted legislation that strengthens transparency and accountability by requiring the U.S. government to report to Congress on corrupt officials in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras.

“Our honorees this year energize us with their courageous dedication to amplifying the voices of those in vulnerable situations, ” said WOLA President Matt Clausen. “The work of independent journalists and intrepid political leaders is vital to confronting violence, abuse, and corruption. Our honorees this year stand for the power of human rights at a time of dangerous pushback against truth-tellers.”

Gala attendees include Members of Congress, policymakers, and other prominent leaders in the non-profit, media, and the business sector.

“It is an honor and a responsibility to receive this recognition. Our commitment is to push for an independent journalism at a time when freedom of expression in Venezuela is at risk,” said Luz Mely Reyes, co-founder and director of Efecto Cocuyo. “Journalists in and out of Venezuela will continue to tell the stories of our country despite efforts to censor us. But more than anything, we will continue to fight to keep democratic values alive in Venezuela to seek a future where human rights, as well as freedom of expression, are respected.”

“I am honored to receive this recognition from the Washington Office on Latin America, who has been an unwavering partner in the fight against corruption in Central America and in resisting President Trump’s hateful policies towards migrants,” said Representative Torres. “As Guatemala enters a new chapter, I know that WOLA will be there to confront new threats to the rule of law that fuel human suffering and insecurity to build a better future for the Guatemalan people.”

Since 2006, WOLA’s annual Human Rights Award has recognized organizations or individuals who exemplify a commitment to WOLA’s vision of the future, where human rights and social justice are the foundation for public policy. Previous honorees include former President of Chile Michelle Bachelet, Mexican actor Gael García Bernal, Salvadoran online newspaper El Faro, Commissioner Iván Velásquez Gómez of the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), and U.S. Congressman James P. McGovern. To learn more, click here.