Jose Miguel Vivanco: Activist, Hero, Role Model

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Jose Miguel Vivanco: Activist, Hero, Role Model
All human beings are entitled to certain innate rights, guaranteed by their very existence. All men, women, and children, despite race, creed, color, gender are entitled to basic human rights such as the right to life, the right to liberty, the right to free-will. Human rights are comprised of the collective inalienable defining traits of humanity. Humanity, however, is a collective of unique individuals and it is these individuals that must fight to ensure that these rights are shared and enjoyed by all. For how can people say that the current human race is evolved and civilized if it cannot give back to those who are fighting to merely exist? Therefore, the people of the world, the collective of unique individuals, must act to ensure human rights are extended to all the citizens of the world. The people of the world, fortunate to possess these rights, have a moral imperative, nay a moral obligation to help those who do not. Throughout time, there has been a plethora of individuals that have risen to the call and helped those struggling for basic rights. But one that has dedicated his life to helping those foreign to basic human rights and made a tremendous impact on the area of Latin America is Jose Miguel Vivanco. Jose Miguel Vivanco, through his spirited life history, which shaped him and influenced him to become involved in the struggle for human rights, has done work in and made contributions that have significantly affected the nations of Chile, Columbia, Mexico and Venezuela in a positive way in terms of human rights.

Not much information is known about Vivanco’s early childhood, other than the fact that he was born in Chile and attended the University of Chile . Vivanco studied law at the University of Chile and then the University of Salamanca. Between 1986 and 1989, he served as the attorney for the executive secretariat of the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights of the Organization of American States (OAS). In 1990, he received his Masters from Harvard University and founded the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL), a regional NGO (Non Government Organization) which represents cases of human rights violation before international organizations and was its executive director until August 1994. Since September of 1994, he has been the executive director of the Americas division of the Human Rights Watch. (Freyre, Pedro A., Jorge I. Dominguez, and Marifeli Perez-Stable. "Biographies Of Latin American Human Rights Activists." Cuban National Reconciliation: Task Force on Memory, Truth, and Justice.)

Vivanco began his human rights career immediately after his graduation from law school in Chile in 1983, working for the Catholic Church’s Academy of Christian Humanism to document cases of forced disappearance committed under Augusto Pinochet, dictator of Chile at that time and developing a legal theory to permit prosecution of these crimes as crimes against humanity. Then at Human Rights Watch in Washington, he led efforts to expose the abuses committed by Pinochet. After Pinochet’s arrest in London in 1994, José Miguel played a leading role in Human Rights Watch’s efforts to push for prosecution and conviction (Roth, Kenneth. "José Miguel Vivanco's Background." Venezuelanalysis.com | Venezuela News, Views, and Analysis.). Observing the atrocities and brutality of the dictatorial regime of Pinochet in Chile was inspiration enough for Vivanco to want to make a difference.

The first nation that Vivanco has made a significant impact in terms of lessening human rights violations is the nation of Chile. Vivanco was a driving force for the removal of Augusto Pinochet from power. “Augusto Pinochet was a career army officer and military dictator of Chile from 1973 to 1990. His years in power were marked by inflation, poverty and the ruthless repression of opposition leaders. Pinochet was also involved in Operation Condor, a co-operative effort on the part...
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