El Salvador's human rights ombudswoman, Dr. Beatrice Alamanni de Carrillo, is the subject of a lengthy profile in the Los Angeles Times titled A Diva Defends the Law. Here's an excerpt:
With her abundant Cleopatra-esque eyeliner and exquisitely tailored suits, she might not be the first person who comes to mind when envisioning a steely defender of the rule of law in a country where the law often doesn't seem to matter.
Alamanni is El Salvador's ombudswoman for human rights, a position created by the 1992 peace treaty that ended this nation's civil war. She runs a government ministry staffed largely by young, and underpaid, female lawyers. They are official government watchdogs, intended as a buffer to the arbitrary exercise of state power that helped lead to the war.
"There are people who think that since I am a bourgeois lady, from a high social circle, I must be crazy to be mixed up with human rights," said the 62-year-old, who has been the target of death threats. "They think it's a kind of betrayal."
Every day, crime victims, mothers of prison inmates and others cast adrift by El Salvador's teetering justice system and dysfunctional bureaucracies wander into the ombudswoman's office to relate tales of woe.
They tell about bodies of suspected criminals turning up in the city dump, their thumbs tied together by some self-appointed vigilante, just like El Salvador's right-wing death squads used to do. They talk of witnesses to killings who are themselves threatened by criminal gangs that operate with seeming impunity.
What Alamanni and her attorneys offer, in return, is mainly the power to embarrass the government by publicizing their findings. Alamanni wields this power freely, and the Salvadoran television cameras love her for it: La doctora Beatrice is a regular on the nightly news.
Also appearing this week is a lengthy interview with Alamanni (in Spanish) in El Faro. I also described some of her work on this blog in a series of posts in May 2005: