In This Review

Thirty Years of Advocacy for Human Rights, Democracy, and Social Justice
Thirty Years of Advocacy for Human Rights, Democracy, and Social Justice
By Coletta A. Youngers
Washington Office on Latin America, 2006, 176 pp

Rarely does an official institutional history so brilliantly illuminate larger matters. With full access to the Washington Office on Latin America's internal documents and extensive original interviews, Youngers, a longtime WOLA staffer, has graciously given us one of the very best accounts of contemporary U.S.-Latin American relations, as well as a marvelous case study of the central role of international advocacy networks in the making of U.S. foreign policy. She pulls back the curtain on the remarkably effective struggles of a small band of savvy activists to inject human rights into congressional legislation in the 1970s, to advance peaceful solutions in Central America in the 1980s, and to engage with allies in high places to safeguard and deepen Latin America's democratic institutions in the 1990s and beyond. Successes are attributed to sophisticated strategic planning, transnational partnerships, and mission commitment, and disappointments and internal disagreements (for example, whether WOLA had the expertise to tackle international economic issues) are frankly and thoughtfully assessed. If anything, the study understates the progress Latin America has made since the founding of WOLA in the aftermath of the 1973 military coup in Chile.