There are serious challenges to human rights around the world, began Kenneth Roth, Former Executive Director, Human Rights Watch, introducing the panelists as three champions of civil and human rights. For Venezuela, said Leopoldo Lopez, Venezuelan Freedom Activist, Wilson Center, there should be no normal relations with a dictator like Maduro. Normalizing him will have the consequence of encouraging more repression. Masih Alinejad, Journalist, Author, Women’s Rights Activist, Founder of United for Navid, explained that dictators are more united than democracies right now, and what allows them to survive is normalization. She described the current protests in Iran and decried leaders who speak about human rights but then acquiesce to mandatory hijab when they visit. Panama is in a better position, noted Hon. Ana Irene Delgado, Senator, National Assembly of Panama, though democracy continues to regress throughout Latin America. Facing elections in a few years, the country needs to continue to strengthen its civil institutions.
Roth asked the panelists how to convince people that democracy is worth fighting for. Lopez noted that the battle between autocracy and democracy is an existential one for the U.S. Every inch lost to dictatorship is one inch closer to autocracy here. Alinejad explained that human rights should be a bipartisan fight. Delgado expressed her hope that Panama would remain a beacon for the region, providing a road map back from autocracy toward a brighter day. Roth concluded by reminding the audience that the fight for democracy matters and is winnable, and that human rights should remain central to the fight.
“When it comes to human rights, it should be a bipartisan issue.”
Masih Alinejad, Journalist, Author, Women’s Rights Activist, and Founder of United for Navid
“It is important to keep the rule of law in Panama to ensure the civil liberties and human rights of Panamanians are preserved.”
Hon. Ana Irene Delgado, Senator, National Assembly of Panama
“We should not make dictatorship part of the ecosystem that we get used to.”
Leopoldo Lopez, Venezuelan Freedom Activist, Wilson Center
“[The fight for democracy is] winnable, the people are on our side, and the means of that fight matters.”
Kenneth Roth, Former Executive Director, Human Rights Watch