'Deep concern' over violence in Latin America

Churches in Latin America are being urged to double their peace work in the face of extra-judicial killings, human trafficking and other forms of violence.

The World Council of Churches Executive Committee said the increase in threats to human security across the region was "alarming".

The Executive Committee statement also identified drug trafficking, femicide, and the exclusion of women, youth, indigenous peoples and migrants as issues of special concern for the region's churches.

"Despite various positive developments that have taken place in the area of peace-building and security, organised crime and violence are corroding governance and imperilling democratic legitimacy and the rule of law."

It added: "The dignity of millions of people in Latin America is affected by the current realities in the region."

The Executive Committee demanded that transnational corporations operate on indigenous lands "in consultation" with the people and urged Latin American nations to protect human rights defenders.

"The tasks of human rights defenders in monitoring, denouncing and proposing public policies must be free from pressures and threats. The criminalisation of social protest is unacceptable," the statement said.

The Executive Committee went on to condemn the United States' economic sanctions on Cuba, saying they "constitute a threat to peace and a manifestation of a policy of interference in peoples' right to self-determination".

"The WCC, the churches in the region and the wider ecumenical movement have a long tradition of involvement in addressing human rights and peace in Latin American countries, especially in the past decades," it said.

"However, the current situation of increasing levels of violence and human insecurity calls for renewed efforts on behalf of the ecumenical movement in order to address adequately Latin America's mounting problems related to peace, security and human rights."