Week 12: On “Speaking Truth to Power”

It’s tempting to draw a generalization from this chapter about recent Latin American societies: the states are authoritarian, corrupted, irresponsible, and incapable of fulfilling their duties; the criminals are unscrupulous, ruthless, and powerful; the masses, consequently, suffer from great human rights violations and are struggling persistently. Indignation and sympathy are easily aroused. However, one has to keep a clear mind to identify the intricacy and difficulties in the struggles to understand why the delinquency we saw decades ago would persist till today. I think one subtitle in the book summarizes the struggles in Latin America (if not the world) very well — “Wars Without End”.

While the development in communication technology and media made it possible for the victims to make themselves heard by international audience and attract foreign forces to their aid, the method has limited power and several drawbacks. International attention do not always transform into timely and effective help. Foreign leaders have more concerns than just the pleas of the human rights groups and their attitudes can be wobbling. Reagan is an example provided in the book. The means of the mass media can also be unreliable when the government and the criminals try to intervene with the circulation of information. Censorship on media and endangerment to journalists can both impede the free flow of truth.

Another huge difficulty is the corruptive power of the crimes especially drug trafficking on the state. The sheer lucrativeness of the trade degrades many officers into accomplices of the criminals. The danger of fighting against narcos intimidate the police. The extrajudicial violence involved in the state’s actions arouses fear in the people. The evil has an assimilating power to the state, and this is probably the most despairing for the people.

It’s hard to predict what will be the solution to the human rights violations in Latin America, but one thing is for sure: there will be great sacrifice. The state needs to face the ugly truth, resist the profits from the crimes, and work hard to reclaim the “dignity as a nation”. The people needs to continue to voice their loss and demand their rights even in the face of repression and retaliation. It’s a tough battle and may be never won, but human civilization has recognized what are essential rights for human beings and support will always be there for Latin America.

Which do you think is more worth counting on: domestic efforts (state reform, people fight), or international support (political intervention, NGO support)?


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  1. I think that both domestic efforts and international support can be effective, but they also have their problems. Like you said, the problem with mass media is that the truth can be changed, and information is no always correct. Domestic efforts such as protesting can be quite effective, but like someone said last class, the people making efforts is only effective in the government liens to them, which does not always happen.

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