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“The Right to Information” Gaining Ground in Latin America?

November 10, 2011

By Claire Navarro

After decades of fighting, civil society groups in Latin America are beginning to pull the truth surrounding enforced disappearances from the tightly clasped hands of their reluctant governments.  On November 4th, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) held two hearings regarding the efforts of Latin American NGOs to establish a culture of openness within their governments.

Commissioners of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (

During the first hearing, “Access to Public Information in Latin America,” petitioners Ramiro Álvarez Ugarte, Edison Lanza and Moises Sanchez of the Latin American NGO, Regional Alliance for Free Expression and Information (Allanza Regional por la Libre Expresion e Informacion), presented their request for IACHR-endorsed transparency standards throughout Latin America to pressure Latin American governments into cooperating with ongoing and future investigations of human rights abuses by releasing requested documents.

The petitioners made several points about Latin American nations, particularly Nicaragua, Paraguay, Panama, El Salvador, Argentina, Honduras, Chile, Venezuela, and the Dominican Republic:

  • Lingering remnants of the 1960s-1990s “culture of secrecy” have impeded the progress of government openness;
  • Latin American governments exploit the vagueness of present regulation as a loophole to evade the release of information; and
  • Latin American states obstruct free access to information by ceasing production of government-sensitive material anticipated to be of interest to the public; and by claiming that requested documentation poses a threat to National Security or does not exist or was destroyed.

Though the specifics of the petitioners’ call to action were somewhat vague, their emphasis on the need for legal support of the people’s right to freely access information as well as the need for public criticism of state-imposed impediments were important points.

The second, more localized hearing, addressed a concern for preserving the work and safety of Guatemala’s Historical Archive of the National Police, a collection of nearly 80 million pages of documents discovered by accident at an abandoned munitions depot in Guatemalan City in 2005. During the hearing, “Protection and Guarantee of Access to the National Police Historical Archive in Guatemala,” the petitioners – Gustavo Palma of La Asociación Para El Avance De Las Ciencias Sociales En Guatemala (AVANSCO), Maynor Alvarado of El Grupo De Apoyo Mutuo (GAM), and Mónica Leonardo of La Fundación Myrna Mack – called the Commission to enhance the rule of law by creating a standard that would pressure the State of Guatemala to:

  • Ensure the physical and mental integrity of those who work within the Archives;
  • Promote the maintained security and integrity of the Archive documents and free access to information regulations;
  • Endorse the adaptation of Guatemalan legislation to sustain the legal protection of all archives, including the National Police Historical Archive; and
  • Protect the right of the citizen to freely access government information.

The petitioners also called attention to the indispensability of the Guatemalan Historical Archive of the National Police*, and the underlying need for the Archive’s continued protection and availability.  Documents within the Archive have identified the Guatemalan ex-military officials responsible for the abduction of leftist student, Edgar Fernando Garcia.

The Guatemalan Historic Archives of the National Police

In response to the petitioners, State Representatives, Hugo Martinez and Maria Elena Rodríguez; Secretary of Peace of the State of Guatemala, Eddy Armas; Director of the Peace Archives, Mario Tulio Álvarez; and Representative of the Department of the Public of Guatemala, Aura Mancilla agreed that the protection and guarantee of free access to information would be essential to the strengthening of Guatemala’s democracy.  The two sides further agreed that the reparation of the country’s historic memory would help to advance the nation forward into a better future.  Paz (peace) and concordia (harmony) were cited multiple times by both sides as the ultimate consequences of guaranteed and protected free access to information.

Dinah Shelton, President of the IACHR and Mario Tulio Álvarez, Director of the Guatemalan Peace Archive explained the challenge that the Guatemalan Presidential elections would have on the progress of the free access to information movement.  Tulio Álvarez advocated signing a free access to information policy into law.  Eddy Armas, the Secretary of Peace of the State of Guatemala, suggested the creation of a civil society Commission to carry the movement from one administration to the next.   Both sides spoke of opening up the academic curriculum to examine the armed conflict during the country’s dictatorship.

Though little progress has been made and many ideas may be too ambiguous or overly-idealistic, these hearings attest to the growing awareness, dialogue and action being taken to use free access of information to ensure accountability and reconciliation for past human rights cases.

For Spanish-language audio and visual recordings of the 24 October 2011 “Access to Public Information in Latin America” and “Protection and Guarantee of Access to the National Police Historical Archive in Guatemala” IACHR 143rd session hearings, click here.

*To see the recent report released by the Historical Archive of the National Police, check out the National Security Archive’s electronic briefing book, “From Silence to Memory: A Celebration of the Report of the Historical Archives of the National Police.”

  1. November 14, 2011 3:25 pm

    Gary Christensen TV Show and Magazine Channel 54, Tele Plus Cable, and CableMas Television –

    Say Yes to Peace and No to Costa Rican Human Rights abuses by Laura Chinchilla, Oscar Arias and their secret Presidential Police – la DIS

    Dear distinguished citizens:
    Navi Pillary United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Felipe González President Inter-American Court of Human Rights, students, leaders, workers, mothers, fathers, families, Interpol, Human Rights organizations and Presidents.

    Please help Costa Rica: Say Yes to Peace and NO! to “flagrant human rights abuses”, violence, constitutional violations, intimidation and persecution by the ruthless dictator ex-President Oscar Arias of Costa Rica, Laura Chinchilla and their “ultra repressive” Presidential police – la DIS.

    Oscar Arias, Rodrigo Arias and Laura Chinchilla “exclusively” give orders to their secret Presidential Police-la DIS for beatings, extortion, constitutional fraud and violence to instill fear into the population for subjugation to their financial and political dictates.

    Please note: although Oscar Arias is not presently the acting president let there be no doubt that he and his brother, Rodrigo Arias continue to rule the government of Costa Rica.

    “Laura Chinchilla is the president and the (brothers) Oscar and Rodrigo Arias are the ‘leaders’

    Laura Chinchilla, Rodrigo Arias, Oscar Arias and their U.S. Embassy backed business cartel associates use the press and the Presidential Police of Costa Rica – la DIS to promote their own economic gain and enrichment through persecution, terror , media prevarications/disinformation/cover-up and extortion to attack among others their favorite targets: ‘the elderly, pedestrians, the handicapped” and the “business sector.”

    “The Arias control of the media is almost total.”

    “The regime of the Arias brothers and the newspaper La Nacion, (along with almost 100% of all the national and international press, internet, TV & radio) produce an involution of democracy by means of a totalitarian propaganda machine and an enormous power apparatus that tramples the Constitution and the Rule of Law which has been converted into the cogwheels of the Legislature, the Constitutional Court, the Court of Elections, the Central Bank, etc…, etc., and so on”

    — ex President of Costa Rica, Luis Alberto Monge

    The Presidential Police of the Arias-Chinchilla-U.S. Business Cartel spy on, violently attack Congressional representatives of Costa Rica and threaten and intimidate entire families and extended families using fear tactics and physical violence (see section to bring resolution to their breathtakingly brutal policies.

    It is this efficient means of terrorizing the family, bypassing intermediate persuasion and directly attacking – flensing the core of the family unit and its foundations, the heart, that brings successful conclusion to their policies of exclusion and prosecution of fear & terror against established structured mores.

    “The Presidential Police – la DIS has served as an effective tool for all kinds of abuses of power by the ruling elites who control it. ”

    – Congress of Costa Rica
    The U.S. Embassy in Costa Rica- Ann Andrews and the US State Department are making every effort to deflect, block communications and cover-up these transgressions against the population of Costa Rica.

    The Presidential Police of Arias and Chinchilla “spy” out of control and have total immunity from the law through violations of Article #11 of the political Constitution of Costa Rica through ownership the Supreme court system.

    For a short time on Sunday May 1, 2011 these constitutional violations reached a stunning climax when Oscar Arias and Laura Chinchilla preempted constitutional law and effected a “golpe de estado”- a “coup d’état of the constitutional Government of Costa Rica.

    Shortly thereafter outraged citizens took to the streets to protest the illegal overthrow of the institutional government, due process and established law to bring an end to what has been termed ” the darkest day moment in the history of Costa Rica in the last 60 years.”

    Please say NO! to the continuing and unchecked abuse of Presidential powers by Oscar Arias and Laura Chinchilla who with their secret Presidential Police have repeatedly harassed, blocked constitutional process, embezzled public funds, humiliated, assaulted, blackmailed and spied on thousands upon thousands of victims- families, students, judges, journalists, lawyers, congressmen and the vulnerable.

    Other Rodrigo – Oscar Arias and Laura Chinchilla proclivities include their gigantic nationwide money laundering & extortion cartel operating inside the Presidential house and child pornography.

    Recently our program uncovered a 300 agent spy and extortion ring of the Presidential Police-la DIS and OIJ (F.B.I.) whose principle function was and still is to intimidate and extort citizens.

    See also La Asamblea Legislativa de la República de Costa Rica.

    Human Rights abuses in whatever of its evil forms affects each and every one of us regardless of time or distance.

    Acceptance of this malfeasance will only perpetuate their regime and more importantly provide a shield of protection under the false guise of “Presidential” for continued Human Rights Abuses.

    The Arias-Chinchilla fear tactics and violence transcends all levels of society and does not discriminate. It metastases leaving scars that has seared the souls of thousands upon thousands of souls.

    Your voice and heart can stop this. Please tell the United Nations, Human Rights organizations all who yearn for respect and dignity of human beings to say Yes to peace and NO! to Laura Chinchilla and the

    “corrupt and indecent dictator Oscar Arias.”
    — ex President of Costa Rica, Luis Alberto Monge

    More Information


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