A recognition to the defense of human rights

The Augustinian Recollect Bishop José Luis Azcona has been recognized with the Jaime Brunet International Award for the Promotion of Human Rights of the Public University of Navarra 2021, with the support of the Augustinian Recollect International Solidarity Network ARCORES.

The Augustinian Recollect Bishop José Luis Azcona Hermoso, Bishop Emeritus of Marajó (Brazil), has received the Jaime Brunet International Award for the Promotion of Human Rights of the Public University of Navarra (UPNA) 2021. As stated in the decision, the jury has awarded “his tireless struggle for the promotion and defense of human rights in Brazil” and, in particular, “his firm attitude against sexual exploitation and trafficking of minors and women in this country since 1985, in the diocese of Marajó, where he was bishop for almost three decades, from 1987 to 2016”. As the ruling remarks, due to his defense of human rights, the awardee has been threatened with death by local mafias.

The name of the winner was announced on Thursday, December 9, the eve of International Human Rights Day, at a ceremony attended by Joaquín Mencos Doussinague, president of the jury and vice president of the Brunet Foundation, and Alejandro Torres Gutiérrez, secretary of the jury and professor of Constitutional Law at the Public University of Navarra. The prize is endowed with 36,000 euros, which the winner will donate to various programs for the support and protection of victims of trafficking carried out by the Agape da Cruz Foundation, the Justice and Peace Commission and the Dom José Luis Azcona Human Rights Institute.

The jury also emphasizes in its decision that the figure of the award winner “is recognized and admired in the eastern Amazon (State of Pará), both by the local communities and by the judicial authorities of the State”. And it adds: “the bishop’s struggle has also been directed against the destruction of the environment and the overexploitation of natural resources and fishing in the region”.

José Luis Azcona (Pamplona, 1940) has developed his career in favor of human rights in Brazil, with the exception of a short period of time in Germany (1966-1970), where he worked as chaplain to Spanish immigrants. As stated in the text of his candidacy, presented by the Augustinian Recollect International Solidarity Network ARCORES, his articles in the local press, through which he defended these workers, caused controversy and made some employers ask his superiors not to allow him to express his opinion on these issues.

From 1985 to the present, Monsignor José Luis Azcona has been working in Brazil, where he has become “a reference in the struggle for human rights, especially in a region with the lowest human development indexes in the country”, the text states. According to the words of the award winner, “human trafficking is closely related to three other illicit activities: arms trafficking, drug trafficking and sexual exploitation of minors”. And all this, as he has denounced on numerous occasions, with the connivance of political and business power. In 2009, after years of this type of denunciations, he promoted the Commission of Inquiry in the Parliament of the State of Pará on violence and sexual abuse against children and adolescents in that State and, especially, in Marajó. In it, she reported the involvement of politicians and businessmen in the recruitment of minors, who were sometimes approached in schools and on the streets, in broad daylight.