September 17, 2021

An investigation into the conservative lobby in Latin America

4 min read

Homepage of the Wiki Antiderechos (Anti-rights Wiki) website. Image used with permission.
In recent years, social movements in Latin America have been strengthened by collaborative networks between countries, which created political and social changes to achieve or expand fundamental human rights. On the other hand, unfortunately, the conservative groups that oppose many of these changes have also grown and become more visible.
For example, in August 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic in Brazil, the case of a 10-year-old girl who was 22 weeks pregnant was made public. The sex offender was her uncle, who had repeatedly raped her since she was six years old. The child decided to terminate the pregnancy, but the Espiritu Santo State Hospital refused to perform the procedure. The girl then had to leave her home and travel more than 1,800 km to the State of Pernambuco, where she had the intervention done according to the current Brazilian law that allows abortion in this type of case.
The process was not easy: The anti-rights groups (misnamed pro-life) did everything possible to prevent the abortion. They invoked God, called the doctors “murderers” and tried to block access to the hospital. The pressure by the Minister of Human Rights, Family and Women and Evangelical pastor Damares Alves added to these actions.
Like all other such cases registered in the region, this case represents a public health issue and also a violation of human rights. However, the anti-rights supporters, with a cross in one hand and the Bible in the other, attack public policies that favor women’s rights and also sexual diversity (LGBTIQ+).
In recent years, these groups have mobilized more effectively. This advocacy and its impact on public opinion raise some questions: Who is behind these “pro-life” groups? How are the Catholic and Evangelical congregations organized against sexual and reproductive rights, and gender identities? What are their connections to politics? What advocacy tactics and strategies do they carry out?
These were some of the questions we raised in order to highlight these actors who seek to influence the State in order to eliminate gender-related public policies. In fact, this brainstorming led us to question the term “pro-life.” This was key to how we understood these people and organizations that oppose laws they judge as “unnatural,” for example, voluntary termination of pregnancy, contraception and equal marriage.
But, these laws or regulations relate to human rights. So, these groups are more about anti-rights than pro-life.
Thus, three digital media platforms from Ecuador (Ojo al Dato, Wambra Radio and La Barra Espaciadora) and one from Guatemala (Nómada) decided to create a map of connections to provide some answers to these questions. For seven months, from the end of 2019 to May or June 2020, our team of 10 journalists collected, verified, and cross-checked the data, despite the limitations imposed by the pandemic. To achieve our purpose, we identified all possible anti-rights actors (people or organizations); selected them according to their influence, and built a database.
During this third phase, we collaborated with the Open Knowledge Foundation to categorize and clarify the collected journalistic information. In addition, they designed the website that had as reference similar previous projects, such as Who’s Who (Silla Vacía), Who’s Who in business and politics (Poderopedia) or the power map of Latin America (QuiénEsQuién.Wiki).
This Who’s Who database of anti-rights groups involved collecting information from different sources, such as politicians, academics, and activists (even from the anti-rights movement itself), extensive searches on the internet and social networks, petitions to access public information, and attending public spaces where these actors were present, so we could learn about their social impact.
The project compiled an abundance of data, which also included economic information from private companies linked to anti-rights sectors. However, because of the health emergency that imposed restrictions on movement, it was not possible to delve deeply enough to identify a possible “money route.”
On October 18, as in the case of all research with a journalistic methodology, this rigorous (not speculative) information was published. The following video is a presentation of the platform:

This platform with profiles of the anti-rights actors serves as a source of consultation for a diverse audience interested in learning more about these actors and their relationships, using a Wiki format. The website displays spheres and lines which reveal the direct and the indirect connections of an actor. The latter is understood to be a “revolving door” that could open new connections with other actors who have the same political aspiration: to fight against what they disparagingly call “gender ideology.”
Through these profiles, the user will learn, for example, about the connection of the Capitol Ministries in Ecuador, which, according to press investigations, is a religious organization promoted by senior officials of US President Donald Trump; or about the Catholic-evangelical duo who will be candidates for the Presidency of the Republic in the next general elections in Ecuador in February 2021.
This journalistic work leaves open other questions for investigation: Is it possible to provide an update on the more than 60 identified actors? Is there a timeline that reflects the periodic actions carried out by these groups? Is it possible to add other countries? Can the pending “money route” be specified?
This journalistic material is just the beginning of further investigations. It is important to remember that anti-rights groups are actors who have an impact on public life because of their religious slogans and premises that are clearly regressive in terms of human rights. Therefore, they should be subject to public scrutiny.
In the name of God, Family and Freedom, these groups promote a political, economic and social model contrary to the more inclusive, equitable and democratic societies. This is the topic of a recent publication by the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation (its Office for the Andean Region).