WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas
3 May 2021 | Press Release

WOLA Announces New President

Carolina Jiménez Sandoval to Lead WOLA Starting August 1, 2021

Washington, D.C.—The Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) is pleased to announce today that Carolina Jiménez Sandoval has been selected to succeed WOLA’s current President, Geoff Thale. Dr. Jiménez will assume the position of President-elect of the organization on August 1, 2021, and will assume the position of President after Geoff Thale’s retirement in September. She will be the first Latin American to lead the research and advocacy organization.  

Dr. Jiménez has spent her professional career dedicated to human rights advocacy in the Americas. She comes to WOLA from Amnesty International, where she held the position of deputy research director for Latin America, based in Mexico. She worked for the Open Society Foundations as a program officer focused on migration for the Latin America Program and the International Migration Initiative, based in their Washington D.C. office. She also led the Jesuit Refugee Service at the Colombia-Venezuela border earlier in her career. She holds a doctorate in International Studies from Waseda University in Tokyo, and a Master’s in International Relations from Cambridge. A native of Venezuela, Dr. Jiménez has worked in Venezuela, Colombia, Argentina, Mexico, and the United States. She brings to WOLA deep knowledge of the Americas and its human rights challenges and extensive experience with policy advocacy regionally and internationally, and in the United States, as well as a robust and successful track record in leading teams to impact human rights policies in the region.

“It is a great honor to accept this opportunity to lead WOLA into the future,” said Dr. Jiménez. “Activists and civil society groups across the Americas are facing grave challenges in their fight for social justice and human rights, from the pandemic’s disproportionate impact on those forced to live on the margins, to the undermining of asylum and lack of protections for migrants, to the threats against democratic institutions and the ongoing attacks against Afro-descendant, Indigenous, and other activists striving to create a more just world. Despite all these challenges, our region also has a vibrant civil society and engaged social movements, with the strength to fight against the backlash on human rights. All this makes WOLA’s role in championing the work of courageous reformers and connecting them to policymakers in Washington more important than ever. Together with WOLA’s staff, board, and supporters, we will push forward our research, campaigns and advocacy for social change in our hemisphere.”  

WOLA’s President is appointed by the Board of Directors; the selection of Dr. Jiménez follows a rigorous search and review process. Nancy Belden, Chair of WOLA’s Board, in announcing Dr. Jimenez’s appointment said, “Carolina Jiménez’s understanding of the value of coalition work, her strategic thinking about policy recommendations, research, and new media frontiers, and her passion for advancing social justice in Latin America are some of the top reasons why we are thrilled she will be guiding WOLA’s advocacy and partnerships. Her deep experience and her values will enable WOLA to build on its 47 years of work defending human rights and shaping policy debates, maintaining its unique strengths while evolving to address the emerging challenges in the hemisphere.”

Dr. Jiménez will succeed current WOLA President Geoff Thale. Thale first came to WOLA in 1995, working on Central America and subsequently establishing the Cuba program. He then served as WOLA’s Vice President for Programs for 14 years, leading program staff advocacy on Colombia, drug policy, Mexico, Venezuela, and other issues. He assumed WOLA’s presidency in the fall of 2019, and will retire in September 2021. 

“Carolina Jiménez joins WOLA at a pivotal moment for the defense of human rights in the Americas. She has enormous experience and dedication, and I am delighted that she will lead WOLA and its supporters in defending human rights, justice, and equity for all,” said Thale.    

As Dr. Jiménez comes on as WOLA’s President, the Board of Directors, staff, and other members of the WOLA family are planning future initiatives to honor, celebrate, and thank Mr. Thale for his decades of successful leadership and impact at WOLA. 

WOLA is a leading research and advocacy organization advancing human rights in the Americas. Based in Washington, it is non-governmental, and non-partisan. Since its founding in 1974, after the brutal military coup in Chile, WOLA has worked to bring the voices of Latin Americans themselves to policy debates in the United States, and has worked in partnership with courageous Latin Americans making social change—activists, advocacy organizations, academics, religious and business leaders, artists, and government officials—to advocate for more just societies in the Americas.