CRLN Report back from EAD 2016

(Español aquí) From April 15th through April 20, CRLN was present in DC, engaging in protests against state violence, conferences on racial justice and transnational organizing, and legislative visits to Illinois Congresspeople. CRLN joined efforts with Ecumenical Advocacy Days, the SOA Watch Spring Days of Action, and the Days of Action Against the U.S. Blockade of Cuba. We were joined by organizers and activists from across the country and several of our CRLN leaders. Many of you, our CRLN members, were with us in spirit having signed onto our letters to Congress reinforcing our demands around Colombia, Honduras and Cuba. Since returning, we’ve continued supporting Afro-descendant and Indigenous movements in Colombia as well as Berta’s family and COPINH. After an exciting trip to DC full of important actions and political dialogue, we wanted to share with CRLN members what we’ve learned and where our policy asks are at this point.

 

We encourage you to call your Rep and Senators using this script to continue urging that they support our asks below regarding Honduras, Colombia and Cuba. Also, stay tuned to CRLN’s upcoming events and facebook page for more local actions to support Berta’s family, COPINH, and the movements for peace and justice in Honduras, Colombia and Cuba.

 

  1. Honduras: We spoke with each Illinois office we visited about the murder of Berta Cáceres and the implications of her assassination for human rights in Honduras more generally. While we asked each office to pressure the State Department about having the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) lead the investigation into her murder, we also discussed how her murder was a severe escalation against all human rights defenders in Honduras since the 2009 military-backed coup and a sign that it’s past time to suspend U.S. military and police aid to Honduras. Among the four men arrested on Monday for Berta’s death were two security agents for DESA, the hydroelectric company that COPINH is still fighting, one army major and a retired captain. These arrests indicate the importance of no longer funding a military implicated in political assassinations and pulling all international financing out of DESA’s hydroelectric project.

CRLN also joined our partners at SOA Watch to protest the ongoing U.S. military and police support to Honduras, remembering Berta’s legacy and calling for the U.S. Congress to respond appropriately by cutting off aid to the Honduran regime. We visited each Congressional office to ask for (in addition to the IACHR-led investigation) an immediate hold on US security aid to Honduras and for 100% of security aid in 2017 to be conditioned for human rights (meaning that if Honduran security forces commit human rights violations, the US State Department can withhold security aid).

 

  1. Colombia: CRLN’s focus on Colombia in DC this year centered around Black and Indigenous participation in the Peace Negotiations and the need to dismantle paramilitary actors in a country trying to end five decades of civil war. We spoke with several Afro-Colombian leaders who gave a panel presentation during the Ecumenical Advocacy Days conference. They focused on the need for Afro and Indigenous Voices at the negotiating table and presented a thorough and united agenda for an Ethnic Commission that would represent those disproportionately affected by Colombia’s decades of violent warfare yet who, up until now, have been excluded from being able to shape the contents of the Peace Accords. These organizers have united dozens of grassroots organizations that represent thousands of Afro and Indigenous Colombians who agree that they need to be at the table if the peace plan is to be applicable on the ground in their communities who’ve been hardest hit.

CRLN also discussed with each Congressional office the fact that the FARC and ELN rebels are not the only armed actors outside the Colombian military and police. Paramilitaries (which the Colombian state calls ‘neo-paramilitaries’, insisting that the paramilitaries were ‘demobilized’ in the mid 2000s) are still active in Colombia and in the past four months alone have placed dozens of threats and committed attacks and assassinations against human rights defenders, as well as Afro and Indigenous leaders. If the Colombian state does not take seriously paramilitary demobilization, the groups increasingly responsible for human rights violations will still be active in Colombia’s “post-war” moment.

 

  1. Cuba:  We urged legislators to co-sponsor legislation to help the people of the Cuba and the U.S by ending the embargo against Cuba: On the House side the bills are:

H.R. 3687 - The Cuba Agricultural Exports Act which would end rules that limit agricultural sales to Cuba, H.R. 3055 - The Cuba DATA Act which would end limits on telecommunications trade and investment, H.R. 3238 - The Cuba Trade Act which, would end limits on trade in general and H.R. 664 - The Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act which would end any remaining restriction on U.S. citizen travel.  On the Senate side the legislation is S.299 - The Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act of 2015 which would end any remaining restrictions on U.S. citizen travel and S.491 – Freedom to Export to Cuba Act of 2015 which is a bill to lift the trade embargo of Cuba.

We explained that while embassies have reopened and some trade and travel restrictions have been changed, the embargo remains in place and the Cuban people still experience shortages of crucial medicines among other necessary resources for healthy life and social development. CRLN has been firm in communicating to Congressional offices that our countries should address political differences through diplomatic channels, not punitive measures.

 

Stay tuned to CRLN’s website and facebook page for further updates about this work, upcoming events and actions you can take to support! Questions? Don’t hesitate to get in touch with CRLN’s Public Policy Coordinator, Celeste Larkin at clarkin@crln.org!