WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas

(AP Photo/Salvador Melendez)

18 Nov 2021 | Press Release

Latest Installment of the Central America Monitor Documents Need for Policies to Alleviate the Justice, Security and Human Rights Crises in the Northern Triangle

The Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) and partner organizations in Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala are releasing updated data that will be of critical importance to understanding the conditions of security and the rule of law in the Northern Triangle. The latest installment of this extensive research project highlights some concerning developments such as setbacks in judicial independence, high level of attacks against human rights defenders, and the persistence of gender inequality within these countries’ judicial systems

With a historic record of migration from the Northern Triangle of Central America as well as other Latin American countries and the world, and with the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change exacerbating inequalities, it’s more important than ever that public policy and investment by governments, international and private agencies be based on solid data and guided by a human rights perspective. 

“With data, governments, donors, and civil society organizations have the tools to identify gaps and propose evidence-based policies and strategies to strengthen institutions, the rule of law, and citizen security in the Northern Triangle countries,” affirms Maureen Meyer, WOLA Vice President for Programs. 

Changes in foreign investment and assistance policies and programs could stem migration from these countries whose residents are victimized daily by government officials, security forces, and different criminal groups. Current conditions often prevent people from accessing basic services such as health, education, and security, as well as strip them of the guarantee for a fair and independent judicial system, and reduce the potential for participation in the electoral processes. 

“It is not about dumping money, and even less so in a context of such high corruption.” said Lissette Vasquez of the Myrna Mack Foundation in Guatemala. “The fact that despite investing significant money and time during the last decade there have not been  significant improvements in the human rights situation for the majority of the inhabitants of these countries, who still prefer to flee despite the risks posed by migration and a new life, reveals important lessons for the future.”

Analysis of data from the Central American Monitor points to the urgency of a new paradigm where the strengthening of justice institutions, the rule of law, and a focus on violence prevention would prevail over failed militarized security policies. It underscores the need for the creation of an environment that encourages the effective work of civil society and international agencies to implement projects based on human rights and public health as well as the need to immediately address the threats to the people who represent these groups and environmental causes, LGBTQ+, and women’s rights. 

“Although the prevalent patriarchal culture in many of these societies makes gender-based violence invisible through underreporting and impunity, in recent years we have seen a reflection of how this culture has become a security threat that goes beyond families and national borders, promoting the migration of women and families,” said Laura Andrade of IUDOP in El Salvador. “In this context, the current regressive public health laws for women and the vulnerability of households in the face of illegal economies must be prioritized if these problems are to be addressed.” 

Since 2017, the Central America Monitor has collected information on various indicators related to security, rule of law, and human rights  in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. This analysis aims to promote more informed decision-making on the part of state actors and to focus on improving the quality of life of the residents of the Northern Triangle. We began with a set of base indicators of the institutions in these Central American countries from 2014 to 2017. These shed light on the challenges the region is facing in terms of insecurity and strengthening judicial institutions. The Monitor will update this database on a regular basis and, currently, much of the data is available up to 2019.


“In the current context, the United States and the international community must promote the implementation of laws and initiatives that ensure justice and an environment conducive to action by civil society organizations that represent not only the fight against corruption, but also many other groups of victims or individuals in a vulnerable situation, including women, indigenous people, environmental defenders, and the LGBTQ+ community,” said Migdonia Ayestas of IUDPAS in Honduras. “Currently the legislative agenda of the Congress and Presidency of the three countries seems more focused on passing laws and reforms that ensure impunity for cases of corruption, organized crime, atrocious war crimes, and serious human rights violations, committed by themselves of their inner circle, including funders of political campaigns.” 

The Central America Monitor is possible thanks to the collaboration between WOLA, the Myrna Mack Foundation in Guatemala, the University Institute of Public Opinion (Iudop) of the Central American University José Simeón Cañas (UCA) of El Salvador, and the University Institute in Democracy, Peace, and Security (IUDPAS) in Honduras. Learn more about the indicators and why we chose them here.