The vast area of Central and South America, despite being rich in resources, with immense biodiversity and hundreds of communities with different origins and identities, is characterized by widespread poverty and a structural lack of economic opportunities. In this context, organized crime finds fertile ground to prosper and consolidate, especially damaging the most vulnerable social groups. Although in fact “only” 8% of the world population lives in Latin America, about 30% of the murders worldwide are committed on this continent. Various countries also suffer severe and systematic violations of human rights, such as extrajudicial executions and forced disappearances (desapariciones forzadas). This violence is the result of what some scholars call the "co-opted reconfiguration of the state;" that is, the replacement of the rule of law with real mafia systems, based on solid political and economic alliances, high levels of impunity and rampant recourse to corruption. Hence, to counter crime that is no longer just organized but globalized, favored by opaque mechanisms and the gray areas of the "free market civil society must increasingly become part of the solution, assuming its share of co-responsibility also at an international level.
The ALAS Assemblies: spaces for meeting and construction. The Alas assemblies are periodic meetings among the many organizations involved in the network. The First Assembly in 2015 was held in Mexico City and formally gave birth to the Network and the development of the “Common Declaration of Intent.” This established the principles and strategic action areas at the foundation of the network's actions. The two subsequent assemblies, in Colombia (2017) and Guatemala (2019), enabled the growth of a complex but effective coordination. The choice of these locations was no accident, but was based on various needs, such as being present with an international community in a specific territory and historical moment. At the last assembly in Guatemala in 2019, it was necessary to give voice and support to a civil society particularly tried by the high rates of violence, the spread of repressive measures and a corrupt system imposed by a hegemonic group at the country’s political and economic helm. This was known as the "pacto de los corruptos"(pact of the corrupt). These occasions became a meeting space after long periods of remote work. On one hand, they arose from the need face-to-face exchange, shared, and built on intense working days that characterize these assemblies. On the other hand, they were decisive for planning medium and long-term activities and projects at national level (through the activities of the "country networks") and transnational level. The days were marked by meetings, work groups, and training with experts, but also artistic workshops, moments of leisure and times of meditation and reflection. Each assembly had its own slogan that became its leitmotif, a point of departure and arrival. They included "tejiendo rutas" (weaving routes) at the first assembly, ... at the second, "proyectando imaginarios" (planning the imaginary) at the third. [one is missing]
Thanks to the ALAS meetings it is possible to see how the network grows, in an always horizontal exchange and in the search for consensus among the different visions and approaches, to evaluate its potential and criticalities and define the new goals on the horizon.
The Proyectos en Vuelo (Projects in Flight) experience executed 20 projects, articulated at local, national and transnational level, and involving 30 Alas partner organizations. The activities concerned different areas: social prevention of violence; informal education; gender equity; human rights and crimes against humanity; social anti-mafia; fight against corruption; investigative journalism, and memory. One of these projects focused on creation and strengthening of a Mexican network in the wake of Libera, Red Retońo (Seed network), active in areas marked by high levels of violence and the presence of organized crime. The goal was to provide legal and psychosocial support to the families of the victims of desaparición forzada (forced disappearance), to open spaces for dialogue and training processes and create tools for the search for justice. These experiences also guided the definition of proposals for new regulations, such as the general law on missing persons, approved by the Chamber of Deputies on 12 October 2017 and the inclusion in the State Constitutional Charter of Mexico City of an article on social use of assets confiscated from organized crime.
Furthermore, as part of the "Menores y Justicia (Youth and Justice)” juvenile justice project conducted in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras by the Italian-Latin American International Organization (IILA), Libera coordinated a technical assistance activity aimed at promoting good reintegration practices. It focused on the change of mentality in adolescents involved in criminal dynamics, strengthening the role of civil society and accompanying the presentation of regulatory reforms in juvenile justice. In addition, within the juvenile justice project "Menores y justicia," held in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras by the International Italian-South American Organization (IILA), Libera has coordinated a technical assistance aimed at promoting good practices of reintegration, focused on the change of mentality in adolescents involved in criminal dynamics, reinforcement of the role of civil society and on accompaniment in the presentation of regulatory reforms in juvenile justice.
Every year Libera also organizes an experience of exchange and knowledge called “Giramondi. Travels of Memory and Commitment ”and an international training proposal “Atrevete! Mundo” (Dare! World). For an idea of what awaits you, click here to read the diaries of the VII Edition in Peru and here to learn more about the VIII Edition in Ecuador! regulations on juvenile justice.