Last week, the fourth gathering of the Oslo Freedom Forum took place, organized by the Human Rights Foundation in the Norwegian capital. Under the slogan “From darkness to light,” the forum brought together world figures that aim to tackle humanitarian crises and exchange ideas to mitigate their effects. Rebecca MacKinnon, co-founder of Global Voices Online, was one of the main speakers during a session entitled “Voices in the dark.”
Among the topics that generated major interest throughout the forum was the current crisis in Syria and the political repression that some activists live with under Vladimir Putin's new government in Russia, as well as a review of the first year of the “Arab Spring.” Nevertheless, the event covered a series of topics that involved other world regions, among which was Latin America.
Humberto Prado, from Venezuela, was the first Latin American to speak before the forum about the reality of prisons in his country. Using horrific images of prisoners shooting into the air, which contrast one of a group of convicts playing in a symphony orchestra, Prado unveiled a terrifying statistic: 5,066 convicts have died since 1999, while 14,460 have been injured. He also asked the European Union to pay attention to Venezuelan penitentiaries.
Nicolás Perez, Director of Ecuadorian daily El Universo, exposed the iron fist of Rafael Correa's government, which left the newspaper with a million-dollar fine for publishing a letter to the editor where Correa's actions were criticized for allegedly ordering the army to open fire against a hospital during a police brawl, which led to a massive international condemnation against the lack of freedom of expression in the country.
Meanwhile, Mauricio Rodas, also from Ecuador and the founder of the Ethos Foundation, announced an innovative index that measures the poverty level in Latin America and has generated criticisms of Correa's government as well.
Lastly, Ethan Nadelmann, founder of the Drug Policy Alliance, highlighted the problem of drug consumption prohibition, which points to indiscriminate imprisonment of minorities in the United States — primarily the Hispanic population.
In Oslo, we had the opportunity to sit down with Venezuelan native Marcel Granier, General Director of Radio Caracas Television, whose signal was removed from open transmission in his country in 2007. Granier, who also participated in the second meeting of said forum on assault against the Venezuelan press, highlighted the importance of bringing up human rights issues in Latin America at European events due to the “connection that exists between Latin Americans and European countries like Spain and Portugal.”
With regards to the forum, Granier affirmed that “every day there is a greater sense of consciousness” about the current situation in Venezuela, which “increases [incidentally] the level of consciousness on a global level,” and brought attention to the fact that respecting human rights in his country will be fundamental to guaranteeing the well-being of all Venezuelans, in addition to securing diaspora's return to their land.
On Twitter, some Oslo Freedom Forum participants, like Oslo Scholars Program (@OsloScholars), emphasized certain excerpts of the Latin American speeches:
There is no dignity in prison: what exists is social cleansing” – Humberto Prado. Such a powerful speech on prison conditions in Venezuela.
Likewise, Runrunes (@RunRunesWeb) [es] pointed out that Humberto Prado's speech was quite powerful:
#Runrunes ALTO:De alto impacto ponencia de Humberto Prado (Observatorio Vzlano de Prisiones) en el Oslo Freedom Forum- http://ow.ly/aOfcW
Venezuela journalist Nelson Bocaranda (@Desconvocara) [es] highlighted an important declaration from Mauricio Rodas during the event:
Mauricio Rodas,miembro de la Fundacion Ethos que hizo radiografía de pobreza latinoamericana anuncio en Oslo q buscara Presidencia Ecuador
The following are images from the Latin American presentations at the Oslo Freedom Forum, courtesy of MarieBW and the author of this post.
Who are these people demonizing Ecuadorian and Venezuela’s governments? These are not even close to unbiased presentations and its shameful that these are the only voices being heard on this subject. Prisons in my home country of the US are far far far far worse. Nightmarish in fact with a far higher per capita incarceration. The Bolivaran revolution of Chavez has achieved amazing progressive results….as has Correa. There is no IRON FIST in Ecuador….what nonsense. Again….who are these people? I suspect people from rich families who left these countries once their privileges were taken away. The history of these countries is complex, but this sort of idiocy is very unfortunate.