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THE AMERICAS: Regional Overview

Four of the XpA’s top five Decliners of 2018 are in the Americas. Though their contexts are diverse, it is clear that countries across this region are seeing a significant downturn in their environment for expression.

Sixty-seven percent of the population of the Americas live in countries who saw decline in their freedom of expression scores during one of our key timeframes over the last decade.

Table 19: Thematic scores for the Americas, 2018

Theme Score
Civic Space 0.59
Digital 0.66
Media 0.62
Protection 0.60
Transparency 0.56
Freedom of Expression 0.59

Figure 13: 

Note: Figure 13 lists average thematic scores for the Americas.

Table 20: Top and bottom five scores for the Americas, 2018

Country Score
Uruguay 0.88
Costa Rica 0.88
Canada 0.87
Chile 0.85
United States of America 0.82
Average 0.59
Colombia 0.46
Haiti 0.36
Venezuela 0.09
Nicaragua 0.05
Cuba 0.04

The environment for dissent and expression has deteriorated significantly in certain places in the region, with a collapsing rule of law, skyrocketing corruption, and governments adopting increasingly violent tactics and shedding the pretence of democratic government.

New opportunities for exploitation of land and resources have only served to exacerbate this downturn, unleashing violence against those who stand in the way of profit. Human rights defenders (HRDs) are demonised and attacked across the region, but are most vulnerable when protecting environmental concerns and land rights – particularly those of indigenous groups – in rural areas.

Citizens across the region mobilised against threats and violations of human rights, but demonstrations were often met with state security forces using excessive force, and citizens also faced stigmatisation and increasing criminalisation.

Central America experienced a migration crisis amid spiralling violence and almost total impunity. Institutional crises in Nicaragua, Venezuela, Guatemala, Chile, Argentina, and Brazil sparked protests, often led by student movements.

There were elections in Mexico, Brazil, Venezuela, Paraguay, Chile, Colombia, El Salvador, Cuba, and Costa Rica. Elections are scheduled in 2019 in El Salvador, Guatemala, Bolivia, Uruguay.

2018 brought new leadership to Mexico (Leftist Andrés Manuel López Obrador and Brazil (hard-right Jairo Bolsonaro). The run-up to both elections was bloody; 140 politicians were assassinated in Mexico, and 130 instances of violence against journalists were recorded in Brazil.[1]


[1] Pablo Sanches Olmos, ‘Campaña sangienta en Mexico’, El Mundo, 1 July 2018, available at; see also IFEX, More than 130 Journalists Targeted in a Political-Electoral Context, 18 October 2018, available at