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Harkin among recipients of 2013 Human Rights Awards

Published: Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013 12:18 p.m. CDT • Updated: Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013 12:22 p.m. CDT

WASHINGTON, D.C.—The Washington Office on Latin America has announced Sen. Tom Harkin is among the recipients of its prestigious WOLA Human Rights Awards.

This year’s awards, which will be presented on Oct. 24, honor courageous individuals who embody WOLA’s vision for the future, where human rights and justice form the foundation of public policies in Latin America.

Harkin, (D-IA) whose 40 years of congressional leadership on human and labor rights issues have left an enduring legacy, spearheaded efforts to oppose the military dictatorships that swept South America in the 1970s and 1980s. After visiting Chile to investigate human rights abuses in death camps throughout the country, Harkin proposed an amendment to the 1975 Foreign Assistance Act that prohibited all non-humanitarian U.S. aid to countries with gross violations of human rights, and ensured that human rights would be taken into consideration in the provision of any form of U.S. economic assistance. More recently, Senator Harkin has been a champion of labor rights worldwide.

Other recipients of the award include:

• Ambassador Milton Romani Gerner, Uruguay’s Permanent Representative to the Organization of American States, whose commitment to promoting human rights in Uruguay during the years of military dictatorship and the restoration of democracy, and whose pioneering work to promote a human rights-oriented drug policy in Uruguay and internationally reflects Uruguay’s own commitment to social justice and human rights.

• Marcela Turati, reporter for Mexican Magazine Proceso and co-founder of Periodistas de a Pie, a journalism network created to protect reporters under threat in Mexico and ensure that the press is not silenced. Ms. Turati’s courageous coverage as a journalist has shown the human toll of Mexico’s drug war. She has fearlessly worked on the frontlines — often at great risk — to expose human rights abuses and stories of human tragedy behind the 70,000 deaths and 26,000 disappeared in Mexico in the past six years. 

For nearly 40 years, WOLA has been a leading voice in Washington on human rights issues facing Latin America, providing channels through which people living in the region can voice human rights concerns directly to policymakers.

“The WOLA Human Rights Award is our chance to honor people who have inspired us by their deep commitment to human rights and social justice in Latin America. This year’s recipients have changed the course of Latin America from the 1970s to today,” WOLA’s Executive Director Joy Olson said. “We recognize Senator Harkin for his role in making human rights a part of U.S. foreign policy in Latin America. We celebrate Ambassador Romani for his dedicated work in Uruguay and the international community to pioneer new approaches to drug policy. We honor Ms. Turati for her fearless reporting on the drug war in Mexico as well as her work to protect journalists who risk their lives to expose some of the region’s most violent criminal organizations.”

This year, the honorary and host committees for the WOLA Human Rights Awards include Former Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, actor and director Diego Luna, Sen. Christopher Dodd, Rep. Jim McGovern and Former Rep. David Bonior.

Past award honorees include Mexican actor Gael García Bernal, former Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, Tlachinollan Human Rights Center of Mexico and the Salvadoran online newspaper El Faro.

The awards ceremony will be at 7 p.m. Oct. 24 at the French Embassy.

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