WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas

(AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

9 Nov 2020 | WOLA Statement

An Opportunity to Reset and Renew Commitments to Human Rights and Democracy Under the Biden Administration

Washington, D.C.—The election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as president and vice president of the United States represents a historic opportunity to renew the nation’s commitment to human rights and democracy and reverse the damage that has been inflicted over the past four years. We urge the incoming administration to place human rights at the heart of U.S. policy as they move through the transition and when they take office in January.

We call on Donald Trump to respect the will of the voters, rather than challenging widely accepted election outcomes or spreading false narratives about a fraudulent election. Despite efforts to purge voter rolls, impose voting restrictions, and sow distrust in mail-in and early voting, people across the United States came out to vote in record numbers, exhibiting courage and a desire to have their voices heard.

President-elect Biden and the incoming Congress face daunting challenges in their first 100 days of office. In the aftermath of a polarizing election, they will have to rebuild trust and working relationships with their opponents. Bridging this divide will help our country address pressing domestic issues—reversing the deadly trend of COVID-19 infections and deaths, addressing police brutality and systemic racism, and restoring a commitment to human rights. But there are also critical Latin American policy and human rights matters that need to be addressed urgently, because there are millions of lives on the line.

The Trump administration left a disastrous legacy in Latin America: an erosion of trust in the U.S. government as a credible leader for human rights and rule of law; a myopic focus on migration and a transactional foreign policy that opened up opportunities for political and economic elites to tear down successful anti-corruption and good governance initiatives; the proliferation of authoritarian leaders emboldened by Trump’s disdain for checks and balances, politicization of judicial institutions; and attacks on the press. 

With COVID-19 surging in countries across Latin America, migration numbers creeping back up since the summer, and concerning security and authoritarian trends developing in the region, the Biden administration and Congress must move quickly to enact a forward-looking human rights-centered agenda in the region. This includes acting promptly to end Trump’s deadly assault on asylum, restoring support for rule of law and anti-corruption efforts in Latin America, and seeking partnerships with courageous civil society leaders in the region.

Above all, the Biden administration and Congress should engage with Latin America with an approach grounded on respect and shared responsibilities. They must reach out to the willing partners in government and civil society that want to implement good governance mechanisms, fight corruption, and protect their citizens from the pandemic and violence. After four years of a transactional and counterproductive foreign policy approach to Latin America, the United States has the opportunity to reset and renew its relationship with the region in a way that protects human rights and fosters democracy.

Using advocacy, new strategies, and campaigns, WOLA will work with partners to press the Biden administration to defend and advance human rights, rule of law, and democratic governance throughout Latin America.