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CRLN participated in a meeting called by COPINH, the organization founded by the slain Indigenous environmental activist and feminist Berta Caceres. They are calling for urgent international support, as evidence linking powerful members of Honduran society to Berta’s murder has emerged in the trial of David Castillo, one of the people accused of planning the assassination. The family has always contended that there were other intellectual authors of the murder. In retaliation, there has been a media campaign linking Berta Caceres and COPINH with criminal activities and putting pressure on the court to return a “not guilty” verdict against Castillo and to keep the others from ever having a case brought to court.

Please read the urgent action alert from the Honduras Solidarity Network and send the letter, which is the written text after the graphic, by scrolling to the bottom and entering your information. Spanish text follows the English text. You can find the action alert by clicking here.

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On July 18, 2020, 4 Garifuna men from Triunfo de la Cruz and a guest of the community were forcibly disappeared by men wearing Honduran Investigative Police Directorate vests. Their families have sought justice from the state but are unsatisfied with the lack of progress in the investigation and the contempt shown for their rights by the investigators.

Yesterday, the Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras (OFRANEH) sponsored a webinar calling for a new action from the international community: demand that the Honduran state incorporate the Committee for the Search and Investigation of the Disappeared of Triunfo de la Cruz (SUNLA) and any external experts it calls into the investigative process. SUNLA was formed at the request of the affected families and approved by the Assembly of the Garifuna people. Click here to read the letter to Honduran officials and sign on.

Aua Balde, member of the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, explained that international law gives families of those forcibly disappeared the right to information from the state from its investigation of the crime. The Honduran state has failed to share information with the Garifuna families. International law also gives families the right to appoint other investigators if they are not satisfied with the state’s investigation and obligates the state to work with and assist these alternative investigators.

OFRANEH believes the men were disappeared because of their successful appeal to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) to rule on the state seizure of their land and forcible displacement of the Garifuna owners of that land in order to grant concessions to resort companies to build seaside hotels. The Court found in favor of the Garifuna in a ruling that directed the state to issue reparations and refrain from further forcible displacements and land seizures.

CRLN issued an action alert last July to its email list and signed onto a letter along with 221 other organizations demanding information of the whereabouts of the disappeared men, that the Honduran state comply with requests from the IACHR regarding information about the state investigation into their disappearance, compliance with the previous IACHR rulings about reparations, and protection for the family members and Garifuna communities at risk.

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CRLN is alarmed by the brutal attacks since April 28 by the PNC (Colombian National Police) and ESMAD (Mobile Anti-Disturbance Squad) against protesters in multiple Colombian cities. These most recent national protests follow previous ones in November 2019 and September 2020, this time set off by the proposal by President Duque for a tax increase that would have placed a particular burden on those already suffering from loss of income from the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, people were continuing to demand government implementation of the Peace Accords and an end to systematic assassinations of social leaders.

Between April 28 and May 3, the public security forces have killed 21 people, wounded 208, committed 42 aggressions and abuses against human rights defenders and journalists, engaged in 10 cases of sexual assaults against women, and arbitrarily detained 503, according to the Defend the Life Campaign (Campana para defender la vida). Last night in Cali, there were reports of police opening fire against protesters again and more lives lost and injured.

The United States, which provides funding to Colombian security forces, must speak out against the actions of the Colombian National Police and ESMAD, the Anti-Riot Squad, that used such egregiously excessive force against people. Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) has tweeted: “Peaceful protest & freedom of expression must be respected everywhere. U.S. aid to the PNC needs strong human rights protections and conditions. We should apply Leahy Law. No U.S. aid to Colombian ESMAD riot units that engage in gross human rights violations.” Email or call your members of Congress and ask them to call for an end to U.S. aid to any Colombian security forces that have engaged in these actions and send a strong message to Colombia that they must hold their security forces accountable for the harm they have caused..

For more information, see links below:

https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2021/05/colombia-amnistia-denuncia-respuesta-militarizada-represion-policial/

https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2021/05/colombia-amnistia-denuncia-respuesta-militarizada-represion-policial/

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CRLN is a member of the Honduras Solidarity Network, a network of 30 North American groups formed after the 2009 coup d’etat in Honduras in solidarity with a broad array of social movements and citizens opposed to the subsequent regime and seeking greater social justice and democracy.

We ask you to support the international campaign against the criminalization of 8 Honduran citizens, now in jail for peacefully protesting the concession illegally given to a mining company to extract iron ore from the Carlos Escaleras National Park–the primary source of water for many of the surrounding communities. Please click on the link below

Freedom for the Guapinol Water Protectors!

On February 9, 2021 the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions stated that the arbitrary detention of the Guapinol Water Protectors is related to their work in defense of the environment.

Click here to Join the International Campaign to Demand Freedom for the Eight Guapinol Political Prisoners!

After clicking on the link above, you will find more information in English and Spanish. Scroll to the bottom to fill in your name and email address in order to send letters to Honduran and U.S. officials to call for the release of the Guapinol 8.

 
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(Leer en español)

Colombia’s government is moving closer to reinstating a program, suspended in 2015, that would spray herbicides from aircraft over territories where coca is cultivated. Twenty-five U.S. and Colombian organizations have joined on this letter to President Joe Biden urging him to avoid supporting a renewed “fumigation” program, succinctly laying out the reasons why this would be an unfortunate policy mistake. The letter was shared with the White House on March 26.

March 26, 2021

President Joseph R. Biden, Jr.
The White House
Washington, DC

Dear President Biden,

We write out of strong concern about the imminent restart of a program that your administration is inheriting from its predecessor: an effort to eradicate coca in Colombia by spraying herbicides from aircraft. We encourage you not to provide funding for this program, which not only failed to achieve past objectives, but sends a message of cruelty and callousness with which the United States should no longer be associated.  It will undermine the peace accords that are a powerful legacy of the Obama-Biden administration.

Aerial fumigation can bring short-term reductions in the number of acres planted with coca. But past experience shows not only that these gains reverse quickly, but that the strategy undermines other U.S. and Colombian security objectives. Recurring to fumigation is like going back in time, ignoring much that we have learned about what does and does not work.

Many of our organizations have published studies documenting the harm that fumigation has done in the past. The December 2020 report of the U.S. government’s bipartisan Western Hemisphere Drug Policy Commission found that forced eradication brought “enormous costs and dismal results.” Just since the end of February, we have seen strong critiques of forced eradication and fumigation from the International Crisis Group; the Ideas for Peace Foundation, a Colombian business sector think tank; a list of over 200 scholars, and seven UN human rights rapporteurs.

Between 1994 and 2015, a U.S.-backed program supported a fleet of aircraft, and teams of contract pilots and maintenance personnel, that sprayed the herbicide glyphosate over 4.42 million acres of Colombian territory—a land area 3 1/2 times the size of Delaware. In 2015 the Colombian government suspended the spray program, citing public health concerns based on a World Health Organization study finding glyphosate to be “probably carcinogenic to humans.”

For a few years afterward, the Colombian government failed to replace the strategy with anything—neither eradication nor assistance to affected areas. During the late 2010s, Colombia’s coca crop increased to record levels. Nearly all of the increase happened in the exact municipalities and communities where fumigation had been heaviest. After 20 years of constant eradication, farmers continue to face the same on-the-ground reality.

Most Colombian producers of the coca bush are not organized crime-tied criminals or supporters of illegal armed groups. They are families with small plots of land. Estimates of the number of families who make a living off of coca vary from “more than 119,500” to 215,000. If one assumes four people per family, then more than 2 percent of Colombia’s 50 million people depend on coca. Households earn about $1,000 per person per year from the crop, making them by far the lowest-paid link in the cocaine supply chain.

They live in “agricultural frontier” zones where evidence of Colombia’s government is scarce. Paved or maintained roads are nonexistent. The national electric grid is far off. There is no such thing as potable water or land titles. In some areas, even currency is hard to obtain, and stores offer the option of paying for groceries with coca paste. 

These people need to be governed and protected by their state. An aircraft flying anonymously overhead, spraying chemicals on populated areas, is the exact opposite of that. But the program has other important disadvantages:

  • Because it targets poor households in ungoverned areas, chemical fumigation sends a message of cruelty, and associates that message with the United States. Your administration is steadily working to undo the Trump administration’s cruel migratory measures, which imposed suffering on a weak, impoverished population at the U.S.-Mexico border. We ask that you also avoid returning to “deterrence though cruelty” in rural Colombia.
  • Like any eradication without assistance, fumigation further weakens governance and threatens to worsen security in Colombia’s ungoverned territories, where illegal economies and armed groups thrive. Forced eradication, especially when uncoordinated with efforts to physically bring government services into territory, sends families from poverty to extreme poverty, with no official help in sight. This hurts the government’s legitimacy in frontier areas where it badly needs to be built up.
  • After perhaps a short-term drop in cultivation, fumigation is not effective at reducing the coca crop. Past experience shows a high probability of replanting and other means of minimizing lost harvests, in contexts of absent government and few alternative crops.
  • Fumigation goes against what Colombia’s 2016 peace accord promised. That document’s first and fourth chapters offered a blueprint for reducing illicit crops: first by engaging families in substitution programs, and then by carrying out a 15-year “comprehensive rural reform” effort to bring state presence to rural areas. Fumigation was meant to be a last resort, for circumstances when families were refusing opportunities to substitute crops and when manual eradication was viewed as too dangerous. Rushing to fumigate is a slap in the face to brave farmer association leaders who took the risky step of defying traffickers and leading their communities into the fourth chapter’s crop substitution programs.
  • Similarly, fumigation risks large-scale social discord in rural Colombia. In 1996, after the program first got started, much of rural Colombia ground to a halt for weeks or months as mostly peaceful coca-grower protests broke out around the country. Today, farmers are even better organized than they were 25 years ago.
  • Fumigation, meanwhile, may carry risks for human health and the environment. The 2015 WHO document is one of many studies that give us reasonable doubts about the health impacts of spraying high concentrations of glyphosate over populated areas from aircraft. Bayer, the company that purchased glyphosate producer Monsanto, has agreed to settlements with U.S. plaintiffs potentially totaling over $11 billion—another reason for reasonable doubt. While the environmental impacts are less clear, glyphosate’s own labeling warns against spraying near standing water sources, and we are concerned about its use in proximity to rainforest ecosystems. The largest environmental impact, though, is likely to be the way many past farmers have responded after losing crops to fumigation, while remaining in a vacuum of government presence: they move somewhere else and cut down more rainforest to grow coca again.
  • Like all forced eradication unaccompanied by assistance, fumigation is dangerous for the eradicators themselves. In 2013, not long before the program’s suspension, FARC guerrillas shot down two spray planes within the space of two weeks. While planes and their escort helicopters will be more armored than before, the vulnerability remains. Eradication is far safer when it is agreed with communities by a government that is physically present in its own territory.

In March 2020, Donald Trump met with Colombian President Iván Duque and told him, “You’re going to have to spray.” The country’s highest court has required Duque’s government to meet a series of health, environment, consultation, and other requirements. Colombia’s Defense Minister is now predicting that the spraying could restart in April.

This time, U.S. Ambassador Philip Goldberg has stated, the U.S. role in the program won’t be as extensive. Still, during the Trump administration, the State Department supported maintenance of the spray plane fleet, upgrades to bases, and training of eradication personnel, among other services. State Department reports sent to Congress in late February and early March hailed fumigation’s imminent restart as a sign of progress.

Nonetheless, we reiterate our hope that the Biden administration will turn away from supporting Colombia’s spray program while there is still time. The United States should not support aerial fumigation in Colombia again. Nor does it have to. We know what to do. 

Farmers with land titles hardly ever grow coca. Farmers who live near paved roads hardly ever grow coca. Criminal groups are badly weakened by proximity of a functioning government that is able to resolve disputes and punish lawbreaking.

This is a longer-term project, but Colombia’s 2016 peace accord offered a good blueprint for setting it in motion: a fast-moving, consultative crop substitution program, tied to a slower-moving but comprehensive rural reform program. Though those programs exist and parts of the Duque government are carrying them out diligently, they are underfunded and well behind where they should be as accord implementation enters its fifth year.

It’s not too late to help Colombia jumpstart the model offered by Colombia’s peace accord, which the Obama-Biden administration so effectively supported. We urge you to take that path instead of that of renewed fumigation, which we know to be a dead end.

Sincerely,

  • Amazon Watch
  • Center for International Environmental Law
  • Centro Estudios sobre Seguridad y Drogas, Universidad de los Andes (Colombia)
  • Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America
  • Colombia Human Rights Committee
  • Consultoría para los Derechos Humanos y el Desplazamiento (Colombia)
  • Corporación Viso Mutop (Colombia)
  • Drug Policy Alliance
  • Elementa DD.HH. (Colombia/Mexico)
  • Fellowship of Reconciliation: Peace Presence
  • Healing Bridges
  • ILEX Acción Juridica (Colombia)
  • Institute for Policy Studies, Drug Policy Project
  • Institute on Race, Equality, and Human Rights
  • Latin America Working Group
  • Mennonite Central Committee U.S. Washington Office
  • Missionary Oblates
  • Oxfam America
  • Oxfam Colombia
  • Presbyterian Church (USA), Office of Public Witness
  • Presbyterian Peace Fellowship
  • Proceso de Comunidades Negras (Colombia)
  • United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries
  • Washington Office on Latin America
  • Witness for Peace Solidarity Collective
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Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA) has reintroduced the Berta Caceres Human Rights in Honduras Act (H.R. 1574) into the 2021-2022 session of the House of Representatives. This is the fourth session of Congress in which it has been assigned to a committee. We need your voice to make sure it passes out of committee this time so that the House has the chance to vote on it. A sample script for an email and phone call to your Representative, asking them to co-sponsor H.R.1574, follows the description of the bill below.

The bill calls for the suspension of all U.S. aid to Honduran security forces and for the U.S. to vote no on all loans from multinational development banks to Honduras, until the following conditions are met:

– Pursued all legal avenues to bring to trial and obtain a verdict of all those who ordered and carried out (1) the murder of Berta Cáceres, (2) the killings of over 100 small-farmer activists in the Aguán Valley, (3) the killings of 22 people and forced disappearance of 1 person by state security forces in the context of the 2017 postelectoral crisis, (4) the May 3, 2016 armed attack on Félix Molina, and the November 26, 2018 shooting of Geovany Sierra,  (5) the July 18, 2020, forced disappearances of 4 Garifuna community leaders from Triunfo de la Cruz who were taken from their homes by heavily armed men wearing bulletproof vests and police uniforms; and (6) the December 26, 2020, killing of indigenous Lenca leader Felix Vasques in La Paz, and the December 28, 2020, killing of indigenous Tolupan leader Adan Mejia in Yoro;

-Investigated and successfully prosecuted members of military and police forces who are credibly found to have violated human rights, and ensured that the military and police cooperated in such cases, and that such violations have ceased;

-Withdrawn the military from domestic policing, in accordance with the Honduran Constitution, and ensured that all domestic police functions are separated from the command and control of the Armed Forces of Honduras and are instead directly responsible to civilian authority;

-Established the effective protection of the rights of trade unionists, journalists, human rights defenders, the Indigenous, the Afro-Indigenous, small-farmers, and LGBTI activists, critics of the government, and other civil society activists to operate without interference; and

-Taken effective steps to fully establish the rule of law and to guarantee a judicial system that is capable of investigating, prosecuting, and bringing to justice members of the police and military who have committed human rights abuses.

Instructions for your call and email: Call the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and ask to be connected to your Representative. When you are connected to their office, ask to speak to the foreign policy staffer. Be sure to get the name and email address of the foreign policy staffer so you can follow up with your message in writing. If the foreign policy aide is not available, ask to leave a message on their voice mail. After you leave the message, send an email to the aide with your message.

Sample script: “My name is _____. I am a constituent from
Rep. ___________’s district. I am calling (or writing) to ask Representative _____ to co-sponsor the Berta Caceres Human Rights in Hondurasa Act, H.R. 1574. The bill calls for the suspension of security aid to Honduras until human rights violations by Honduran security forces cease and the perpetrators have been brought to justice. Have you seen the bill? Would you bring it to the attention of Representative _______ ? Can I count on Representative _____________to join as a cosponsor?  Please call me this week at (your phone number) to let me know if you have seen the bill, and if Representative _____ will support it. For more information or to co-sponsor the bill, please contact Chelsea Grey (chelsea.grey@mail.house.gov) in Rep. Johnson’s (GA) office.”

Note: Please do not contact Chelsea Grey yourself. Ask your Representative’s staff person to do this.

Please contact Sharon at shunter-smith@crln.org when you send your message and call, especially if you get a response.     

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Our network has been seeking a pathway in the Senate to press for human rights and anti-corruption measures in Honduras ever since the 2009 coup in Honduras. Last week, it finally materialized, as Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon introduced the Honduras Human Rights and Anti-Corruption Act of 2021 (S. 388). Senators Bernie Sanders (VT), Patrick Leahy (VT), Ed Markey (MA), Elizabeth Warren (MA), Dick Durbin (IL), Sheldon Whitehouse (RI) and Chris Van Hollen (MD) joined as initial cosponsors. See full press release here (which includes a link to the full text of the bill). See article in the Guardian here.

The legislation includes the following provisions:

  • Sanctions for President Hernández, and for top officials who have committed gross violations of human rights and/or acts of corruption.
  • $2 million for the Honduras office of the United Nations High Office on Human Rights.
  • A new MACCIH anti-corruption commission, to be negotiated by the United Nations, and strengthening of UFERCO, the special prosecutor’s office.
  • Prohibition of US munitions sales to the Honduran police and military.
  • A call for justice, including successful prosecution of all material and intellectual authors of numerous emblematic human rights cases, including the murder of Berta Cáceres.
  • Suspension of (1) US funds for Honduran security forces and (2) US support for funds from multilateral development banks to Honduran security forces until a series criteria have been met, laid out in the bill.

Now we need you to send an email and call your two Senators to either thank them for co-sponsoring this bill or to urge them to do so.

Call the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and ask to be connected to your Senator (repeat for your second Senator). When you are connected to your Senator’s office, ask to speak to the foreign policy aide. Be sure to get the name and email address of the foreign policy staffer so you can follow up. If the aide has not seen the bill, send a copy of the bill in an email. If the foreign policy aide is not available, ask to leave a message on their voice mail. After you leave the message, send an email to the aide with your message.

Sample script: “My name is _____. I am a constituent from (your town/city) in (your state). I am calling (or writing) to ask Senator _____ to co-sponsor The Honduras Human Rights and Anti-Corruption Act of 2021. The bill number is S. 388. The bill calls for the suspension of ‘United States support for the Government of Honduras until endemic corruption, impunity, and human rights violations cease, and their perpetrators are brought to justice.’ Has Senator _______ seen this bill? Can I count on him/her to join as a cosponsor?  Please call me this week at (_____) to let me know if you have seen the bill, and if Senator _____ will support it.  For more information or to co-sponsor the bill, please contact Caroline Kuritzkes and Matt Squeri in Senator Merkley’s office.”

Please contact Sharon at shunter-smith@crln.org when you send your message and call, especially if you get a response.     

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The Honorable Joseph R. Biden, Jr., President-Elect Office of the President Elect 1401 Constitution Ave., NW Washington, DC 20230

January 15, 2021

Dear President-Elect Biden,

Congratulations on your electoral victory.  As you prepare to take office, we wish to share our thoughts and suggestions on an area of foreign policy that you have identified as being a top priority:  U.S. policy towards Central America.

We are a broad coalition of groups that work on Central America.  Many of us have close partners in the region that defend human rights and the environment, often at great risk to their lives.  We care deeply about the people and future of Central America, and the impact of U.S. policy there.

We’ve been heartened to hear that you are committed to working to improve the quality of life of the peoples of Central America and that your administration plans to turn the page on the bullying and demonization of Central Americans that has taken place under President Trump. We support and will hold you to your commitment to reverse the Trump administration’s draconian immigration policies and respect the human rights of migrants.

It is with great interest that we examined the summary of your “Plan to Build Security and Prosperity in Partnership with the People of Central America.”  While we and our partners share the goal of improving security and economic conditions in the region, we are concerned that the Plan doubles down on policies that have contributed to poverty, inequality and violence in Central America.

For far too long, the United States has treated Central America as its “backyard,” exerting an inappropriate level of interference in the political and economic affairs of the region. Approaching U.S. relations in the region as a partnership, as you promise to do, is a welcome change. But achieving a real partnership will require a fundamentally different approach to U.S. foreign policy that we hope you will consider.

Prior to the Trump administration, the U.S. government used aid toward Central America as both a carrot and a stick, increasing funding for U.S. programming in the region on the condition that governments there meet human rights standards, promote democratic governance and fight corruption. Unfortunately, this approach has failed to accomplish its stated goals. One has only to look to Honduras, where a repressive, corrupt regime linked to drug-trafficking networks remains deeply entrenched and thousands are now on the brink of starvation.

To promote meaningful progress in Central America, the United States must turn away from this approach and instead respect the self-determination of the peoples of Central America and invest in strengthening multilateral institutions that focus on addressing human needs rather than playing politics. Doing so would also demonstrate a significant turn away from the unilateralism that the Trump Administration espoused, inflicting incalculable damage.

In a spirit of constructive criticism, we would like to underscore what we consider to be problematic aspects of past and current U.S. policy towards the governments and peoples of Central America. Drawing from our own observations and experiences, as well as those of our Central American partners, we also wish to offer our recommendations as to how we believe U.S. policy toward the region can be improved.

Protect the Human Rights of Migrants

The Trump administration’s treatment of Central American migrants can only be described as barbaric. Migrants have been criminalized and detained in inhumane conditions and many, including children, have died in the custody of Customs and Border Control and ICE.  Under Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy, thousands of young children were separated from their parents.  Through a combination of incentives and threats, the Trump administration has also promoted an assault on migrants’ human rights by Central American and Mexican security forces.

Though the nature of Trump’s attacks on migrants are without precedent in our country’s recent history, some troubling aspects of his policies pre-date his administration. For instance, family separation took place on a large scale under President Obama, with tens of thousands of undocumented migrant parents forcibly separated from their U.S. citizen children and deported. U.S. support for the repression of Central American migration also increased under the previous Democratic administration, through the U.S. government’s support for Plan Frontera Sur, which involved the deployment of Mexican security forces to forcibly prevent Central Americans from traveling to the U.S. border as well as Congress conditioning U.S. assistance on the action of Central American governments to block the movement of their own citizens.

These policies lead to the inhumane and deadly treatment of migrants from across the globe, including with particular impacts to the thousands of African and Black migrants that face anti-Blackness and racism as they transit through the region on their journey to seek refuge and asylum the U.S.

We call on your administration to:

  • End all forms of separation of migrant parents from their children, an act that is illegal under the UN Convention for the Rights of the Child.
  • End the practice of deporting asylum seekers to Mexico, their countries of origin, or countries to which they have no connection at all. Immediately rescind the “Remain in Mexico Program” and the “Third Safe Country” agreements with Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.
  • Terminate policies that support the militarization of borders and U.S. cooperation with and training of security forces involved in violating the human rights of migrants.
  • Terminate all for-profit immigrant detention services and make the detention of immigrants a measure of last resort.
  • Restore TPS for U.S. residents from Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador and other non-Central American countries and extend TPS protections to U.S. residents from Guatemala. This measure is more critical than ever in light of the immense devastation caused by hurricanes Eta and Iota.
  • Support the appropriate use of the Center for Disease Control’s public health powers, allowing the agency to repeal the March 2020 order that prevents migrants at the southern border from seeking protection in the U.S. (CDC officials have acknowledged the order was driven by pressure from the White House, not legitimate health concerns).

Re-think US Security Policy

For many decades, the U.S. has provided support to Central American military and police forces through training, technical assistance and logistical support.  During the period of armed conflict in the region – in the 1980s and early 1990s – U.S.-backed wars and military and paramilitary forces committed widespread human rights atrocities that left hundreds of thousands dead and fueled a first wave of Central American migration to the U.S.  Since then, the U.S. has continued to provide assistance to regional security forces, citing the need to combat drug-trafficking and to “enhance citizen security” as reasons for doing so.  While U.S. agencies claim to prioritize the promotion of human rights, police and military forces – many of which are infiltrated by organized crime groups – continue to engage in countless abuses, including targeted attacks on activists, violent repression of protests and the forced displacement of communities.

Over the last ten years, hundreds of millions of dollars of U.S. security assistance have been channeled to the region through the Central America Regional Security Initiative (CARSI).  There is little transparency around the end-use of these funds and no conclusive public assessments of the impact of CARSI programs..  In addition, the State Department has systematically certified Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador as having complied with human rights conditions attached to U.S. assistance through an opaque process, despite rampant egregious abuses perpetrated by the security forces of these countries.

We urge you to:

  • Perform a full review of U.S. security assistance to the region with input from human rights defenders, land rights defenders, and indigenous leaders from recipient countries.
  • Suspend all security assistance to Honduras and vote no on multilateral security-related loan programs with the government there in light of widespread corruption and human rights abuses promoted by Honduran state actors. Consider a similar suspension of security assistance to Guatemala and El Salvador in light of ongoing abuses by security forces in those countries.
  • Revoke the State Department’s certification of Honduran, Guatemalan and Salvadoran compliance with human rights conditions attached to U.S. assistance.
  • End U.S. training of Honduran, Guatemalan, and Salvadoran militaries, police, and other security forces as well as U.S. financing of such training by the Colombian military and/or police through the U.S.-Colombia Action Plan or other programs.
  • End U.S. weapons sales to security forces and private brokers without clear end use controls, to prevent U.S. arms from reaching state and private entities with documented histories of serious human rights violations or collusion in other criminal activities.
  • Increase transparency around end use of CARSI funding and mandate reporting requirements assessing progress or lack thereof in meeting CARSI benchmarks and goals.
  • Increase transparency around Leahy Law vetting of security forces that receive U.S. assistance and training, with clear identification of the units for whom assistance is withheld.

End support for extractive and exploitative development models

Despite the region’s enormous human and economic potential, Central America has among the highest levels of poverty in the region, due in large part to extremely unequal wealth distribution. In most Central American countries, the dominant economic actors are national and international corporations focused on natural resource extraction and worker exploitation.  They frequently carry out projects that damage the environment and displace or negatively affect indigenous and small farmer communities, while receiving funding support from multilateral development banks (MDBs) as well as from illicit sources, including drug trafficking organizations.  While these projects are generally promoted as ‘economic development,’ in reality they often only benefit local elites while negatively impacting communities, further contributing to inequality and concentration of wealth in the hands of elites and thus further fueling migration.  Furthermore, communities and workers that attempt to resist these projects are often subjected to violent attacks, with the complicity or involvement of state actors.

The U.S. government plays a role in perpetuating this predatorial development model by greenlighting multilateral development bank (MDB) funding that ends up in the hands of corporations that fail to meet basic environmental and labor standards and disregard the rights of local communities.  Further, the U.S. has supported investment treaties and has promoted private-public partnerships that elevate the interests of corporations above people and the public good.  Finally, the U.S. has generally failed to act when governments don’t enforce their own countries labor laws, as required under the Dominican Republic – Central America Free Trade Agreement (DR-CAFTA), signed by the U.S.

We call on your administration to:

  • End aid, subsidies and incentives to, and oppose MDB funding for corporations that cause environmental damage, violate labor laws, disregard community land rights (including ancestral Indigenous land rights), and/or increase private sector participation in the delivery of essential public services such as water, electricity, and health care.
  • Refrain from promoting pro-corporate economic policy agendas in the region, including private-public partnership initiatives and the privatization of public services and natural resources that decrease access to basic needs for the most vulnerable sectors.
  • Support multilateral initiatives that increase transparency regarding anonymous companies to identify and clamp down on the channeling of funds from criminal organizations to business enterprises.
  • Pursue strict enforcement of DR-CAFTA labor protections by member countries and conduct a review of trade agreements to examine and address their impact on indigenous rights.
  • Support a major issuance of IMF Special Drawing Rights to help Central American countries address the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic and the devastation caused by recent tropical storms.
  • Commit to directing higher levels of economic and humanitarian assistance through multilateral institutions that have a proven track-record in the region, such as agencies within the United Nations. This would allow the United States to support development in the region while limiting assistance to governments that have demonstrated systematic corruption and impunity.

Adopt a non-ideological approach

Observers have noted that U.S. policy in Latin America, including in Central America, remains influenced by Cold War ideological paradigms that have resulted in inconsistent and counterproductive policies. For instance, while the U.S. has quickly condemned election fraud in countries where it does not agree with the re-election of a president, it blatantly ignored credible allegations of election fraud in Honduras in 2017, quickly recognizing the re-election of Juan Orlando Hernández despite widespread allegations of fraud. The continued backing and protection of corrupt right-wing actors with questionable democratic credentials has contributed to human rights abuses and inequality in the region. The U.S. should put an end to this ideologically biased approach.

Going forward, your administration should:

  • Adopt and uphold consistent, non-ideological standards for democracy and good governance as a basis for policy decisions.
  • Limit U.S. government influence over domestic policy decisions in Central America; the role of an ambassador is not to govern.
  • Refrain from imposing economic sanctions, which negatively impact whole populations and, in particular, low-income communities of color.
  • Appoint ambassadors who have experience working with civil society organizations and who are not tied to military or financial interests.
  • Approach hemispheric bodies, such as the Organization of American States and the Inter-American Development Bank, as an equal partner with other countries in the region, rather than as a dominant power.
  • With regard to elections: refrain from adopting unilateral positions determined by political preferences.

The widespread devastation caused by hurricanes Eta and Iota has made abundantly clear how precarious life is for so many people in Central America and how urgent it is for the U.S. government to re-work its regional policies and respect the will of the peoples of Central America moving forward. Central America deserves the opportunity to thrive in its own right; not just in order in order to deter Central Americans from migrating.

Under your leadership, the United States has the opportunity to write a new chapter in our hemispheric relations but doing so requires taking a hard look at U.S. policies that have contributed to the current reality in which millions face a daily struggle for survival. The answer is not to continue doing more of the same but to envision a new direction that respects the political and economic self-determination and dignity of our Central American neighbors.

We would welcome the opportunity to work with your Administration to implement our recommendations and to provide insight and feedback from civil society organizations in the region to ensure that the U.S. government’s methods are helping to further the goals of shared prosperity and a dignified life for all.

Sincerely,

ActionAid USA

Alliance for Global Justice

American Friends Service Committee

Americas Program

Cameroon American Council

Center for Economic and Policy Research

Center for Gender & Refugee Studies

Central American Resource Center, Los Angeles (CARECEN-LA)

Central American Isthmus Graduate Association (CAIGA), UCLA

Chicago Religious Leadership Network

CodePINK

Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES)

Denver Justice and Peace Committee – DJPC

Fellowship of Reconciliation – FOR

Franciscan Network on Migration

Friendship Office of the Americas

Global Exchange

Global Health Partners

Global Ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) & United Church of Christ

Guatemala Solidarity Project

Haitian Bridge Alliance

Hispanic Federation

Honduras Solidarity Network

Inter Religious Task Force on Central America and Colombia

International Migrants Alliance – USA

Just Associates (JASS)

Just Foreign Policy

Justice for Muslims Collective

Leadership Conference of Women Religious

National Day Labor Organizing Network (NDLON)

National Immigrant Justice Center

National Network for Immigrant & Refugee Rights

National TPS Alliance

Network in Solidarity with Guatemala (NISGUA)

Partnership for Earth Spirituality

Pax Christi USA

Presbyterian Church USA

Project South

Quixote Center

Sanctuary DMV (Washington, DC, MD, VA)

SHARE Foundation

School Sisters of Notre Dame Cooperative Investment Fund

School of the Americas Watch

Sisters of Mercy of the Americas – Justice Team

Sister Parish, Inc.

St. Louis Inter-Faith Committee on Latin America

United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries

Unitarian Universalist Service Committee

Win Without War

Witness for Peace Solidarity Collective

Witness at the Border

Religious Organizations

Carmelite Sisters, VEDRUNA

Chicago chapter, Benedictines for Peace

Community Council, Servants of Mary, US/Jamaica Community

Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd, U.S. Provinces

Congregation of Sisters of St. Agnes

Congregational Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Office – (Incarnate Word Sisters)

Disciples Refugee & Immigration Ministries

Dominican Sisters of Racine, WI – Leadership Team

Dominicans Sisters of Sinsinawa Office of Peace and Justice

Holy Spirit Missionary Sisters, USA-JPIC

IHM Sisters Justice, Peace and Sustainability Office

Illinois Women Religious Against Human Trafficking (IWRAHT)

Immaculate Heart Community Immigration Commission

Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Loretto Latin America/Caribbean Committee

Mercy Ecology

National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd

Office of Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation (Oldenburg)

Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary, Western American Area

Sisters, Home Visitors of Mary

Sisters of Mercy

Sisters of the Most Precious Blood-Committee on Immigration

Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Scranton, PA

Sisters of the Humility of Mary

St. Paul’s Monastery, St. Paul, MN

Strangers No Longer, St. Michael Catholic Community, Michigan

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Nurse whistleblower Dawn Wooten has made a courageous complaint, along with Project South and Georgia Detention Watch, to the watchdog that oversees the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) against what amounts to medical neglect and inappropriate medical practices in the Irwin County Detention Center. For her efforts, she has been demoted.

Click here for more information from the BBC.

Click here for the complaint filed by Project South with the DHS Office of Inspector General.

Email your members of Congress and request that they contact the DHS Office of Inspector General to demand a full investigation of the Irwin County Detention Center. Further request that they call for the Center to be shut down and detainees be released because of the risks to their health in the Center.

You can type the name of your Representative and Senators into your web browser, find their website in the list that comes up, go to the website, and type your request there. Usually, there is a “Contact” section on the website.

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