Mass Violence and Atrocities | Discussion Paper

VII. Regional Responses to the Crises in Latin America and the Caribbean: Shrinking Civic Spaces and Challenges to Resilience

April 2021


On December 8-9, 2020, the Stanley Center and La Coordinadora Regional de Investigaciones Económicas y Sociales (CRIES) convened the Seventh Workshop of Regional Responses to the Crises in Latin America and the Caribbean. Participants discussed how government responses in the region to the COVID-19 pandemic have curtailed civic spaces and undermined societal resilience.

The takeaways from this discussion reflect the workshop and include a collective review of the crisis and recommendations for civil society organizations, representatives of multilateral organizations, and policymakers in national governments. In addition, specialists from the region wrote a series of thematic papers analyzing regional and national contexts. The discussion papers and key takeaways are available in English, Spanish, and Portuguese below.

Discussion Takeaways

Reduction of Civic Spaces in Latin America and the Caribbean: The COVID-19 Pandemic as a Risk Accelerator
Translations: Spanish | Portuguese (
Andrei Serbin Pont and Constanza Boettger
Serbin Pont and Boettger summarize regional challenges for civil society organizations during the pandemic and introduce the series of discussion papers, emphasizing the impact of both structural and human factors on shrinking civic spaces.

Discussion Papers

The Closure of Civic Space in Ecuador and the Need to Build a Favorable Environment for the Development of a Democratic Society
Translations: Spanish | Portuguese (
Alicia Arias Salgado
Despite over a decade of government policies that have weakened Ecuador’s civil society sector, Arias Salgado offers recommendations for new social and political agreements that rebuild strong and innovative civic spaces.

Marked Setback in the Already Weak Democratic Institutions of El Salvador: Strongmen and Autocracy
Translations: Spanish | Portuguese (
Celia Medrano
With more than a year of tightening restrictions on democratic institutions, Medrano describes multiple courses of collective action that can help restore civic spaces in El Salvador.

Closure of Civic Spaces in Nicaragua
Translations: Spanish | Portuguese (
Marlin Sierra
For three years, the political crisis in Nicaragua has resulted in mass and systemic human rights violations. Reviving civic spaces in the country would require the restoration of basic democratic rights and norms.

The Risk Involved When Claiming Rights in Venezuela
Translation: Spanish | Portuguese (
Elienai González Hernández
As the pandemic sees a resurgence of repression in the lives of Venezuelans, González Hernández recommends a series of political reforms to reinstate democratic rights and reintegrate the population into policymaking.

Closure of Civic Spaces in Colombia
Translations: Spanish | Portuguese (
Martha Lucía Márquez Restrepo
Restrepo reviews the history of shrinking civic spaces in Colombia since 1991 and recommends supporting universities as spaces for “unlikely dialogues” to bridge partisan divisions.

Federative Republic of Brazil
Translations: Spanish | Portuguese (
Gilberto M. A. Rodrigues
Although civic spaces in Brazil often exist in decentralized spheres, the structural violence of the federal government has eroded local civic participation and international cooperation, necessitating vigilant action by international organizations to help bolster civil society.

Reduction of Civic Spaces in Latin America: Brief on the Republic of Peru
Translations: Spanish | Portuguese (
Luisa Feline Freier De Ferrari and Soledad Rosario Castillo Jara
Peru’s civic space has been obstructed by police repression and exclusion of the population from the political process. The authors recommend measures that allow citizens and marginalized social groups to be heard and included in public policy processes.