The Fund for Global Human Rights is devastated by the deaths of two staff members, Ana Paula Hernández and Sally O’Neill. The two were killed in an automobile accident in Guatemala on Sunday, April 7. The Fund’s longtime driver, Daniel Tuc, and Ana Velásquez, a representative of the Mayan Peoples’ Congress of Guatemala (CPO), also died in the accident.
Ana Paula was an unparalleled champion of the dignity and value of all people and a treasured colleague and friend. An indefatigable ally of activists across Latin America and around the world, Ana Paula brought great spirit, creativity, and passion to her work for human rights. She was also radiantly warm and loving, qualities that pulled countless people close to her. The Fund is heartbroken by the loss of such a remarkable woman.
Ana Paula had served as the Fund’s program officer for Latin America since January 2011. In that capacity, she provided strategic support and funding to scores of human rights organizations in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. She also promoted a broader initiative across Mesoamerica to defend land and resource rights and to increase corporate accountability, particularly in the extractive industries.
As a leading human rights advocate in Mexico, Ana Paula supported drug policy reform aimed at a more balanced approach, emphasizing prevention, treatment, and human rights rather than enforcement and criminalization. She was the former deputy director of the Tlachinollan Human Rights Center in the state of Guerrero, located in a mostly indigenous region and one of the poorest in Mexico. Ana Paula had also worked as a consultant to the Angelica Foundation, the Open Society Foundations, the Ford Foundation, and the Mexico Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Sally O’Neill was the Fund’s consultant based in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. After working for decades in development on behalf of the Irish charity Trócaire, Sally ‘retired’ only to keep pursuing her passion for human rights by joining efforts with the Fund when it expanded into Honduras and El Salvador. All of us at the Fund quickly realized how lucky we were to have Sally bring her experience, insight, and energy to our work. She inspired us all with her dedication and sense of fun. The Fund mourns Sally deeply.
During her nearly 40 years with Trócaire, Sally focused on a series of significant humanitarian crises in the region caused by the brutal civil wars in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Nicaragua. Sally brought delegations of Irish politicians and bishops to Central America so they could witness the atrocities and publicize them within the European Union. Sally also investigated the massacre in the village of El Mozote, El Salvador, in 1982. Her report of the brutal killing of civilians made international news. Sally received an honorary doctorate from Ulster University in 2017 and the Hugh O’Flaherty Humanitarian Award in 2011.
Sally and Ana Paula were kindred spirits, two extraordinary and life-affirming souls who brought insight, joy, and an inexhaustible spirit to everything they did.
Regan Ralph, the president of the Fund, said: “Ana Paula and Sally were much-loved and heroic colleagues. They were both remarkable women and beacons of wisdom and laughter at the Fund. Their contributions to human rights are inestimable. We are all in a state of shock and grief at this devastating loss of our colleagues and beloved friends.”
The Fund extends its deep condolences to the families and friends of Ana Paula and Sally and to those of Daniel Tuc and Ana Velasquez.