Latin America Program Coordinator Job Announcement

The Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America (CRLN) seeks a Latin America Program Coordinator. CRLN has a staff of four that coordinate an interfaith education, action, and advocacy network. For over 30 years, CRLN has worked to open spaces for the voices of those in the Americas affected by U.S. policies and has worked in solidarity with movements for social justice and human rights. Through educational events, delegations, speaker tours, and regular issue updates, CRLN educates and mobilizes to empower people to advocate for positive changes in U.S. policy in the Americas with elected city, state and federal officials.

View and download the job description here:

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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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Nine months ago, Cuban families in the U.S. initiated a world-wide call for car and bike caravans to say: “End the U.S. sanctions that separate and hurt Cuban families.”  On Sunday April 25 Chicago will join other U.S. cities and many more around the world to support them!

The Caravan will meet at 2 pm on Sunday, April 25

Assemble at Humboldt Park Boat House
1301 N. Humboldt Blvd; Sacramento Ave between North & Division

  View and download route map here

Statements of solidarity at kick off.  Bring signs to decorate your vehicle.

For more information:  630-915-0654  

Another way to support their call is to join their petition. If you haven’t signed yet, add your signature to the petition for President Biden to lift the sanctions weighing on the Cuban family. They have already passed 20k signatures and are going for more. Sign on www.puentesdeamor.com
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EAD 2021 is an opportunity to advocate for climate justice and support the global movement centered and led by people and communities most vulnerable to climate impacts due to historic racial and colonial inequalities. #EAD2021 hopes to passionately advocate and reimagine a world that lives out the values of justice, equity, and beloved community. 

EAD will include opportunities for worship, advocacy training and workshops on Latin America (see list of workshops below)Visit the EAD website to learn more about the event.

Early bird registration ends April 7. You can register at https://attendify.co/ecumenical-advocacy-days-pbfNWPyRegistration fees range from $15.00 – $50.00.   Please contact Marilyn McKenna at mmckenna@crln.orgif registration fees are a barrier to your participation.

Register for EAD before April 7, 2021 if you are interested in participating in the EAD organized lobby day. This gives the EAD staff time to schedule the meetings. If you register after April 7, you are not guaranteed to have a meeting set up for you.

Please contact Marilyn McKenna at mmckenna@crln.org for more information.


Latin America Workshops at Ecumenical Advocacy Days

Monday 4/19
10am CT — MCC, OXFAM, Bread for the World, CWS

Climate Change as a Driver of Forced Migration from Central America
Climate change is increasingly a driver of forced migration and displacement in Central America. As climate change worsens droughts, hurricanes, and crop diseases in the region, individuals are forced by hunger or lack of economic opportunities to leave their homes. Come hear from organizations supporting communities impacted by or facing risks from climate change in Central America. Learn how climate change intersects with other root causes of migration, what works in helping small farmers and communities adapt to a changing climate, and how you can support U.S. policies to address climate change in the region.
Speakers: Susana Lopez from Pastoral de la Tierra San Marcos, Dulce Gamboa, Barbara Ford Peace Center in El Quiché, or Guatemala cluster coordinator

1:30pm CT – Amazon Watch
What is President Biden’s Agenda in the Amazon Rainforest?
As part of his sweeping climate executive order, President Biden mandated the creation of a U.S. government plan to support protection of the Amazon rainforest and other ecosystems that are important for regulating the global climate. How is the plan shaping up? What proposals have Amazonian Indigenous peoples and other grassroots social movements presented to stop destruction of their rainforest territories? What is the U.S. government’s role in regulating the operations of asset managers and banks that finance destruction and human rights violations in the Amazon? How can Congress be helpful?
Speakers: Patricia Gualinga from Ecuador, Moira Birss from Amazon Watch, Peter Hughes from REPAM.

1:30pm CT — MCC [This is from the Eco-Justice track but we are hoping to cross-list it!]
The impact of border walls on endangered species and sacred lands
Since 2017, billions of dollars have been spent to construct new walls on the U.S.-Mexico border. Construction has caused irreparable harm to public lands from Texas to Arizona, extracting millions of gallons of precious groundwater in the desert, encroaching on indigenous lands, severing migration routes and otherwise imperiling protected and endangered species. Dozens of laws that protect the environment, public health, and sacred lands were waived to speed construction. Find out how you can urge the Biden administration and your members of Congress to respond.
Moderator: Tammy Alexander, Director of National Advocacy and Program, Mennonite Central Committee U.S. Panelists: Jennifer Johnson, Border Policy Advisor, Southern Border Communities Coalition, Tricia Cortez, Executive Director, Rio Grande International Study Center, Scott Nicol, Assistant Professor at South Texas College (McAllen) and co-author of two ACLU reports on the history and impacts of walls along the U.S.-Mexico border

Tuesday 4/20
1:30pm CT — LAWG/ELCA
Time for Progress: Advocacy for Just U.S. Foreign & Migration Policies towards Latin America
With a relentless focus on stopping migration, U.S. policy in the last few years has ignored many human rights challenges in the Western Hemisphere, including corruption, weak rule of law, and threats faced by environmental activists, indigenous peoples, women, and the LGBTQ+ community. Now we have the opportunity to restore asylum, protect migrants, and address the root causes of migration for those fleeing Central America and Mexico. There will also be time to ask questions about what we can do to fully reopen diplomatic relations with and travel to Cuba, protect peace in Colombia, and ask our government to prioritize protecting human rights and environmental defenders throughout the Americas. Come discuss with advocates how together we can build a more just immigration and foreign policy towards Latin America in this pivotal year.
Speakers: Lisa Haugaard & Daniella Burgi-Palomino (LAWG), Joaquin Mejia (Jesuit Center ERIC, Honduras), Melissa Vertiz Hernandez, Secretaria Tecnica, Grupo de Trabajo de Politicas Migratorias

 

 

 

 

 

 

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CRLN is seeking congregations to participate in the Days of Prayer and Action for Colombia in April and May of 2021. We will distribute educational resources on Colombia’s Peace Process, the need to implement it fully, and the ever-growing number of victims.  We can work with you to help plan virtual worship and action opportunities for your congregation in April and May. For more information contact Marilyn McKenna at mmckenna@crln.org

 

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5

April
TPS Webinar

Register at http://tiny.cc/crlnwebinar2

Join us to learn more about advocacy campaigns to gain permanent residency for current TPS holders and to expand TPS to include people from more countries.
After you register you will receive an email from Alianza Americas with zoom information.
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Good Friday Walk for Justice: Rise Up and Roll Away the Stone! This event stems from the Christian tradition of the Stations of the Cross, where Jesus walked to his execution.  Who is being crucified today and what “stones” block their pathway to new life? At each station, we will name a particular form of injustice and call for transformation. April 2 marks this event’s 41st year, and, like last year, we will participate in the event online. Register for this event here!

This Good Friday, our collective community remembers that we belong to each other. We believe we have the power to rise up together and lean into the strength of our foundational bonds of justice for all.

We have the power to roll away stones of white supremacy, greed, and state violenc e. As we roll the stones away, we commit to co-create systems in which resources are shared, allowing our imaginations to generate radically new ways of living and thriving in a more just society.

We believe that the stone of injustice will be rolled away in our rejection of the status quo. As Easter people we recommit ourselves to choose actions of trans- formation. Together we pledge our efforts to bring about greater justice for all peoples and Earth itself.

Join us as together we reflect, pray, proclaim and celebrate the many ways that together we are Rolling the Stones Away.

To learn more about the walk go to walkforjusticechicago.com.

To support this year’s Walk, make checks payable to CRLN (memo GFWalk) and mail to CRLN, 5655 S. University Ave, Chicago 60637 or online: http://bit.ly/3rHuesZ

 

If you can’t join us for the zoom worship service you can watch a video and download the prayer booklet at https://crln.org/gfwj/
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Rise Up and Roll Away the Stone

View or download the Prayer Booklet to use while you watch the Good Friday Walk for Justice

This Good Friday, our collective community remembers that we belong to each other. We believe we have the power to rise up together and lean into the strength of our foundational bonds of justice for all.

We have the power to roll away stones of white supremacy, greed, and state violenc e. As we roll the stones away, we commit to co-create systems in which resources are shared, allowing our imaginations to generate radically new ways of living and thriving in a more just society.

We believe that the stone of injustice will be rolled away in our rejection of the status quo. As Easter people we recommit ourselves to choose actions of trans- formation. Together we pledge our efforts to bring about greater justice for all peoples and Earth itself.

Join us as together we reflect, pray, proclaim and celebrate the many ways that together we are Rolling the Stones Away.

To learn more about the walk go to walkforjusticechicago.com.

To support this year’s Walk, make checks payable to CRLN (memo GFWalk) and mail to CRLN, 5655 S. University Ave, Chicago 60637 or online: http://bit.ly/3rHuesZ

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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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