At the award ceremony in New York in November, Caballero told the more than 1000 guests, “As a journalist, I have seen the many faces of desperation in my country. Colombia is confronting a huge humanitarian crisis. Many of my colleagues have died in the line of duty. Almost 50 in the past ten years. I’m honored to receive CPJ’s International Press Freedom Award, but as a journalist I feel that my role in Colombia is to give voice to the voiceless.”
Caballero has also been selected by the Kennedy School’s “Women and Public Policy Program” as a member of the Women Waging Peace (WWP) project. One of the goals is to create a world-wide network of women leaders working toward peace in countries confronting conflicts, such as Colombia. Through this program Caballero has already had the opportunity to talk at the White House, the U.S. Congress and the U.S. State Department about some of her country’s many problems.
Caballero, editor of investigation on leave from Bogotá’s Semana Magazine to write a book on the armed conflict and her country’s struggle toward peace, maintains that the press has an important role to play in the search for peace in Colombia. She was instrumental in organizing the 1997 Harvard conference “Law and Democracy in Colombia” with the support of DRCLAS. The other journalists honored with Caballero by CPJ were Jesús Joel Díaz-Hernández (Cuba), Baton Haxhiu (Kosovo), and Jugno Moshin and Jajam Sethi (Pakistan).
Edelberto Torres-Rivas, the Spring 2000 DRCLAS Central American Visiting Scholar, has been honored as a Grand Official in the Order of Five Volcanoes by the Guatemalan Foreign Ministry.
Torres-Rivas, author and co-author of 25 books, is currently writing “Central America: A Balance of the Transitions.” The study will make a comparative analysis of the transitions and the reconstitution of the political systems in Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Guatemala. Among his many publications, Torres-Rivas published Del Conflicto al Diálogo: el WSP en Guatemala in 1999. He received a Law degree from the Universidad de San Carlos in Guatemala, an M.A. in Social Sciences from Facultad Lationoamericana in Santiago, Chile, and a Ph.D. from Essex University in England in Sociology.
In the awards ceremony in Guatemala City, presenter Byron Barrera Ortíz declared, “Having lived for many years in Costa Rica, dedicating his entire life to research and returning to Guatemala during this period of democratic transition, Edelberto’s clarity as a sociologist and the transparency and purity of his democratic thought are outstanding.”
“One of the challenges of Guatemalan society is to demystify open political participation, making it plural, transparent, and above all, tolerant,” Barrera, a former journalist who suffered an assassination attempt under the military regime, continued. “Edelberto has made an enormous contribution to the culture and political development not only of Guatemala, but of all Central America.”
Jennifer Schirmer, Lecturer in Social Studies/Anthropology and associate of the Program on Non-Violent Sanctions and Cultural Survival at the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, won the Netherlands-based PIOOM Award for her book, “The Guatemalan Military Project: A Violence Called Democracy” (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1998; Spanish edition, FLACSO-Guatemala, 1999).
PIOOM, whose acronym in Dutch stands for Interdisciplinary Research Program on Root Causes of Human Rights Violations, chose the book as “the most praise- and prize-worthy.” PIOOM Report says of the Schirmer book: “The study brings out clearly what so many suspected but could not prove: that the Guatemalan military engaged in a quasi-genocidal project. Schirmer provides the proverbial ‘smoking gun’: that it was done, how it was done, and who did it. It was as if the leaders of Nazi Germany would explain how they came to the ‘Final Solution’, how and why it was planned and who was responsible….”
“Dr. Schirmer,” explained PIOOM about the choice of her book “has allowed us to look into the Guatemalan military’s mind by listening for us to many of the worst human rights offenders and rendering us their deeds in their own words. We understand them better than ever. Not often have the powerful been so frank as with her. For this she deserves the PIOOM Award.”
Schirmer’s book was reviewed by New York Times reporter Larry Rohter in the Winter 1999 issue of DRCLAS NEWS. PIOOM awarded her the prize at a gala ceremony in Amsterdam in December.
Maria Cristina Caballero, a Research Fellow at the Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy at the Kennedy School of Government and a former Nieman Fellow, received the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists’ World Press Freedom Award.
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