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Building Trust and Supporting Human Rights in Apartheid South Africa

In 1988, a formidable coalition of Democrats and moderate Republicans passed the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act (CAA) over President Reagan’s veto. Months later, USAID sent Timothy Bork to South Africa to implement this highly controversial legislation. During Bork’s tour, Nelson Mandela and other leaders remained imprisoned as violent confrontations erupted in townships across South Africa. At […]

Getting the U.S. President to Write to the President of Guatemala About Human Rights (Hint – It’s Who You Know)

With the end of the Cold War, the U.S. began to put greater emphasis on enforcing its policy of protecting human rights worldwide, based on the core belief that people have a set of inviolable rights simply on grounds of being human. Some foreign counterparts were skeptical that the U.S. would give priority to human […]

The Chile Burn Victims Case: Containment vs. Human Rights under Pinochet

During a 1986 protest in Santiago, Chile against the human rights abuses of Augusto Pinochet’s regime, teenagers setting up barricades were arrested by a military patrol. What happened next to Rodrigo Rojas DeNegri (seen right) and Carmen Quintana is a matter of dispute, but in the end, Rojas was dead and Quintana severely burned. An […]

Drogas y Derechos Humanos: Changing U.S. Policy towards Guatemala

In June 1954 the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, concerned about the threat of communism in Guatemala, assisted in the overthrow of the government led by President Jacobo Arbenz Guzmán. A five-member junta assumed power. Following communications with Guatemala’s Foreign Ministry and consultations with countries in Central America, the U.S. determined that the new Guatemalan government […]

Breaking Chains: The Continual Fight Against Human Trafficking

In October 2000, 135 years after the Thirteenth Amendment officially abolished slavery within the United States, Congress declared that “as the 21st century begins, the degrading institution of slavery continues throughout the world.” These opening words to the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act embodied the United States’ growing awareness of modern slavery and […]

Barranquilla Nights—Braving a Difficult Time in Colombia

Annie Pforzheimer entered the U.S. Foreign Service when she was twenty-four years old and was immediately whisked away to Barranquilla, Colombia, which at the time (1989) was a two-person post that was known for bearing witness to tremendous amounts of violence. Pforzheimer lived and worked at a time where there was extensive political turmoil as […]

Pinochet’s Trip to London: How the Arrest of the Chilean Dictator Inspired Unprecedented Global Transparency

In October 1998, the British government arrested former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet at the London Bridge hospital, where he was recovering from minor back surgery. The British government planned to extradite Pinochet to Spain, where the Spanish government would then prosecute him for crimes against humanity committed during his reign from 1973 to 1990. Although […]

The Times They Are a-Changin’—Labor’s Role in the Foreign Service

The United States underwent great political change following the end of World War II, not only fully abandoning its isolationist tendencies, but also contending for and succeeding in establishing international preeminence against the Soviet Union at the end of the Cold War. During the same time period, the U.S. additionally witnessed political change in its […]