There are many reasons to recognize the good fortune of living in the U.S. Many immigrants or first-generation citizens may wonder what life would have been like had they stayed in the home countries of Latin America.
The privileges of living here are never far from my own mind, especially lately when I sit down to write articles; it is not a given that I could exercise this practice safely in other parts of the world. I cherish my right of protected free speech and welcome dissent and discussion, as it can lead to exchanges of ideas. For me, there is pleasure in writing, but this is not the case for many people who have been tortured or killed for their own words. In Latin America, writing can be a death sentence.
Journalists in Latin America are being targeted for reporting on two dangerous topics: political corruption and narco-trafficking. The campaigns of intimidation, carried out by offended politicians and vicious drug cartels have made reporting in our ancestral countries one of the most dangerous professions in the world. The threat extends not only to professionals but also to everyday people who have stepped in to fill the void of information created by the killings.
There is rarely justice for these victims. Corruption and fear often prevent investigations and prosecutions. The result is a widespread culture of apprehension and ignorance as populations are deprived of information about their often violent societies. It is impossible to underestimate the psychological toll as people live daily with the knowledge that the power of an unethical politician or the violence of a drug cartel is more potent than those forces meant to protect them. Imagine raising a family in a country where the press has been so soundly battered that the drug cartels were asked outright what is acceptable for printing.
Free press is a cornerstone of any true democracy. The attacks on the Latin American press, the self- as well as state-enforced censorship of the media, are nagging worries on the fabric of many cultures whose democracies are fragile at best and under constant threat by multiple factors, such as poverty, lack of education, corruption and violence. Add to that roster a press gagged by public killings and intimidation, and the result is a perfect stew of destabilizing forces that threaten the well-being of Latin American countries, and thereby, the security of U.S. borders.
No one can be at peace when the neighbor’s house is on fire.
The flames of this conflict have garnered international attention. As long as violence and power can co-opt the right to truth, the risk is the return of dictators, either in political office or in drug cartels that hold the reins of the everyday functioning of society. Unethical politicians and Obama’s recent refusal to consider an alternative to the failed drug war ensure that many people, journalists included, will still find themselves dying to report the news.
Time to rethink our strategy.