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Deep social and economic inequalities, ongoing violence by criminal networks and security forces, as well as constant repression and criminalization of human rights defenders continue to plague the Americas, Amnesty International told regional leaders today ahead of a regional summit in Panama.

The range of human rights issues were laid out in an open letter sent to heads of state and government across the Americas as they meet this week in Panama City for the VII Summit of the Americas. Cuba’s attendance marks an historic first.

“As leaders meet in luxurious settings in Panama City, across the region ordinary citizens are suffering. From indigenous people trying to protect their lands from multinational corporations, to protesters killed and maimed in Venezuela and Brazil, to those waking up to another day without their disappeared children in Mexico – human rights in the Americas are being trampled underfoot,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director, Amnesty International.

The central theme of the Summit of the Americas is: “Prosperity with Equity: The Challenge of Cooperation in the Americas”.

“Today these world leaders have a chance to address the deep social and economic disparities in the region and commit to taking concrete steps to promote development policies that are rooted in human rights for all. Let this be the day governments across the Americas work together to create a better life for all,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas.

In 2014 alone Amnesty International recorded security forces breaching international law in their use of force in Brazil, Canada, Chile, Ecuador, Guatemala, Haiti, Mexico, Peru, the USA and Venezuela.

The open letter also highlights rise in vulnerable migrants in Central America, particularly minors; the challenge faced by Indigenous People’s campaigning to protect ancestral land; public security and the repression of marginalized communities and protesters in the Americas; and the plight of women and girls jailed under abortion bans in various countries including Chile, El Salvador and the USA.

Recently, Amnesty International launched its 2014/2015 Annual Report with a regional overview and a country by country human rights context analysis.