Activist wins human rights award

Victor-Hugo Munoz (left). Photo: Peter Boyle

Latin America Social Forum (Sydney) co-founder and respected Latin American community activist Victor-Hugo Munoz was awarded a Diploma of Honour on December 4 by the Guatemala Network for Peace and Development.

The award acknowledged Munoz’s tireless, decades-long work in defence of human rights in Guatemala.

The diploma was awarded as part of the fourth annual Guisella Paz y Paz and Jorge Rosal Award, created by the Guatemala Network for Peace and Development to give recognition to extraordinary efforts of individuals and organisations in the defence of the fundamental rights of Guatemalans.

This year’s award was given to Alfonso Bauer Paiz, a participant in Guatemala’s October 20, 1944 Democratic Revolution.

After the military overthrow of the Jacobo Arbenz government in 1954, Paiz was part of the resistance to successive counter-revolutionary regimes. He later took part in efforts to unite the left in Guatemala after the signing of the 1996 Peace Accords.

In telling the Latin America Social Forum their decision to grant the Diploma of Honour, the awards committee highlighted Munoz’s role “as a stalwart in the defence of the human rights of Guatemalans, through his permanent activity over the past 30 years as a promoter of solidarity with the struggles of our people ... and for his constant and firm support to the struggles of other peoples.”

Munoz was a student leader in the mid-1970s, going on to become legal advisor to workers and peasants, and the editor of a local newspaper.

Munoz and his wife and LASF activist Beatrice Munoz, were forced into exile in Mexico in 1980.

He continued his work there, helping Guatemalan and Salvadoran refugees escaping the horrors of the contra wars unleashed against dissidents back home.

After he moved to Australia in 1984, Munoz became active in the Committee in Solidarity with El Salvador. He founded the Sydney Committee for Human Rights in Guatemala, the first such organisation in the Oceania region.

Together with others in the committee, Munoz has worked to raise awareness about human rights in Guatemala, including hosting two Australian tours of the Guatemalan Nobel Peace Prize winner Rigoberta Menchu, along with other renowned Guatemalan activists.

With activists from several other Latin America solidarity groups, Munoz helped found the LASF in early 2009, which today takes up a great part of his time. He is also a member of the Socialist Alliance.

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