The PEN Summit of the Americas unfolded in three countries over two weeks. It began with a mission to Tegucigalpa to celebrate the founding of the PEN Honduras Centre, and to denounce the impunity surrounding crimes against journalists in that country. This was followed by a gathering in Nicaragua of the Central American PEN Centres to agree on priorities for a coordinated Central American strategy. The result was the Managua Declaration. Finally, a much larger group of delegates gathered for the third PEN International mission to Mexico in three years. PEN delegates came together in Mexico City on February 21, 2015. PEN Argentina, Brazil, Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Haiti, Mexico, Guadalajara, and San Miguel de Allende, were joined by the Canadian and Quebec delegations and the PEN America and PEN USA (West) delegations. The PEN Centres of Japan, Germany and Wales Cymru were there in solidarity. The delegates discussed the realities of the situation in each of their countries. The challenges to freedom of expression faced by each of these societies shaped the development of a strategy for PEN in the Americas.

The delegates were first presented with the Managua Declaration which they adopted as the basis for further discussion. From this base, the Mexico City Delegation developed proposals for action which represent the beginnings of a new strategy for PEN International in the Americas.

The cycle of corruption, violence and impunity

In Latin America and in the Caribbean, there exists an infernal cycle of corruption, violence and impunity which feeds the growth of crimes against writers. There is a direct link between the deterioration of democratic liberties and the increasing levels of corruption provoked by organized crime. Media outlets which criticize official state policy and corruption are often faced by a wide variety of repressive responses, ranging from attacks on their professionalism and on their personal lives, including their families, to such extreme actions as kidnappings, forced disappearances, and murders. These attacks have led to a widespread atmosphere of self-censorship within the profession.

The use of anti-terrorist discourse to limit freedom of expression

For more than a decade, PEN has denounced the use of anti-terrorist rhetoric as a ploy to silence critical and dissident voices. The delegates affirmed that throughout the Americas this form of fear mongering has created growing pressure to limit freedom of expression.

Abolish criminal defamation

Throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, criminal defamation remains a dangerous relic of 19th Century colonial law. It is commonly used to undermine freedom of expression. PEN calls on all governments to ensure that legal actions for defamation are brought under civil law rather than criminal law. Abolition of criminal defamation is one of the central characteristics of any stable, modern democracy.

The need for solidarity among all writers

The corruption, violence and repression of free expression being experienced today has tended to create divisions among writers. The delegates agreed that there was a lack of solidarity among writers when faced by these abuses in countries such as Mexico, Honduras, Nicaragua and Argentina. PEN brings together all professionals of the word. We offer the opportunity to all writers, whether they be novelists or journalists, philosophers or bloggers, to develop a coordinated approach when faced by attacks on freedom of expression. In this way, it becomes possible to develop strong networks of solidarity among all writers.

Against secrecy, for access to information

In many countries, governments are intolerant of critical voices and do not accept independent journalism. Transparency is a core principle of any democratic society. Governments must be accountable for their actions and for their finance methods. Media outlets must be able to investigate any topic including cases of corruption. Access to public information is a citizens’ right.


The limitations on freedom of expression in education have had consequences in the public debate within educational institutions. The shrinking of the public space for open debate in many countries brought about by the growing limitations on freedom of expression has serious consequences in the world of education. PEN centres in the Americas are looking at how they might engage actively within university communities and in the educational field in general in order to encourage the creation of pluralist discussions and debates so that students become more involved in the public discourse.

In defence of Indigenous literature and languages

Free trade agreements which may encourage an atmosphere of indifference towards the value of distinct cultures, when added to long established state policies which undermine or openly forbid indigenous languages, have provoked a cultural crisis in many indigenous communities. The Mexican and Canadian PEN Centres talked of their desire to support indigenous literatures. All of the PEN centres gathered in Mexico City reiterated once again the importance of defending the linguistic rights of all cultures. The PEN movement is open to all the languages of the American continent.

Mass surveillance of communications

The mass surveillance of the internet and telephone calls by the governments of the United States and Canada poses a grave and direct threat to the rights to privacy and free expression. Mass surveillance is provoking alarming levels of self-censorship by writers around the world, in both democratic and non-democratic countries. PEN will continue to argue against the indiscriminate and unjustified surveillance programs of the US and Canada, and will be particularly vigilant when it comes to the expansion of these surveillance methods into Latin America and the Caribbean.

Cooperation throughout the Americas

The PEN Centres gathered together for this Summit of the Americas believe strongly in the importance of developing a shared strategy from Argentina to Canada. The twinning of centres will be an important practical tool in ensuring that this cooperation develops. For example, PEN Haiti and PEN America are already twinned. PEN Honduras and PEN Canada are currently building a twinning relationship.

This Declaration represents a first step in the development of a PEN strategy for the Americas.