• the end of all sanctions • the restoration of remittances • the resumption of flights from the U.S., not only to Havana but to all the regional centers of Cuba • the reopening of the U.S. Embassy in Havana • a restart to the program of family reunification
Chicagoans will rally on July 25 at 1 pm at Michigan Ave. and Ida B. Wells Drive in solidarity with these demands.
Let’s support building bridges of love between Cuba and the United States.
Join the call to end the U.S. sanctions now!
Events in DC: You can find out more about welcome events in DC at https://www.codepink.org/cuba07252021. Car and Bike Caravan in Milwaukee: The car and bike caravan will take place on Sunday, July 25, with a send off rally at 1pm at the parking lot of the Mitchell Park Domes, 524 South Layton Blvd., Milwaukee 53215. In addition to Cuban-Americans, speakers will include Tony Baez who co-sponsored the unanimously adopted Milwaukee School Board resolution calling for normal relations, and a representative from Voces de la Frontera, the state’s leading immigrant rights organization.
Evangelical Theological Seminary (SET) Communiqué on the Current Situation in Cuba
July 12, 2021
Dear sisters and brothers from SET partner Churches and Institutions,
We greet you in the name of our common Lord Jesus Christ and at the same time we thank you for your prayers and your expressions of concern related to the current situation in our country.
We are living an acute economic crisis and a crisis of values since the “special period” (decade of the 1990s) when the Soviet Union and socialist bloc collapsed; we have not yet recovered from those times. The crisis has become worse due to several factors.
On one hand, the aggressive policy of the governments of the United States against Cuba, particularly during the Donald Trump administration, which imposed 242 measures, most of them during the Covid-19 pandemic, against our people to try to smother us. On the past session of the General Assembly of the United Nations on June 23, 184 nations voted in favor of the Republic of Cuba against the blockade, with two votes against and three abstentions.
On the other hand, the Covid-19 pandemic that has brought negative consequences: the sad death of loved ones, which produces a great emotional impact on the people. Furthermore, the State loses millions of dollars above all due to the fall of tourism; despite that, it invests millions of dollars to try to heal and save the people. A significant example of that is the development of scientific research and the production of five vaccine candidates against Covid-19 (Soberana 01, 02, Plus; Abdala and Mambisa). Recently, Cuba authorized its Abdala vaccine in the midst of the worst outbreak of the pandemic. The project showed over 92 percent electivity in the application of three doses in the last stage of clinical trials, thus becoming the first Latin American vaccine. However, we are suffering a collapse of health institutions, particularly here in the province of Matanzas, the present epicenter of the pandemic, with dire scarcity of medicines.
Finally, the crisis has intensified because of the economic measures taken by the State at the beginning of this year. Even though salaries have increased and the government has reiterated the promise that no one will be defenseless, the truth is that the population has to pay five times more for food and electricity, water, gas, telephone and other services.
In the last few days, particularly the past Sunday, July 11, there have been disturbances, protests and vandalism, mainly caused by many of the accumulated dissatisfactions along these years that have worsened in the last few months. Moreover, these dissatisfactions have been fueled and promoted from outside the country – in a very opportunistic way – as well as from within through the social media. Even though disturbances like those from last Sunday have stopped in the country, there is an uneasy calm.
As churches, we are interceding for our people, giving comfort, care, producing and sharing sense, offering messages of faith – strength and hope, as well as dialogue, reconciliation and peace with justice. In addition, we are offering solidarity and witness, making diaconal work or service – through the Living Waters project, helping and serving food for the vulnerable, and through laundry for the elderly people.
In the case of SET, last month the only Pediatric Hospital of the province of Matanzas exceeded its maximum capacity. The Ministry of Public Health of the province requested the help of the Seminary, to serve as an annex center of the Children’s Hospital to accommodate children who were considered suspicious of having contracted Covid-19 with their companions. We immediately agreed, following the long traditions of our institution of service to the civil society.
On June 20, we held a joint meeting, and both institutions worked intensely from that moment on to create the necessary conditions in the visitors’ building, ensuring the protection of the members of our community and the properties. We were able to fit out 120 capacities; some for those children positive to the disease and one accompanying parent; some for those who were suspicious of having it plus one accompanying parent. Besides, adults who are positive or suspicious of being positive to Covid-19 are also assisted here. We also host teams of 10 people, doctors and nurses for hospital aid. All capacities have been occupied since June 21, discharging those who recovered from the disease and transferring those who needed it to the Intensive Care Unit.
At present, 10 SET workers are working in the different areas. The kitchen team prepares food for 140 people every day including breakfast, lunch, dinner and two snacks. Even when the Ministry of Public Health is supplying with all the logistics, including foodstuff, SET offers the infrastructures, covering its expenses.
As to our teaching objectives, the Matanzas campus is closed at present and our Higher Ecumenical Institute of Sciences of Religions (ISECRE) continues working in virtual mode in the midst of “vacations”. We are getting ready to begin the new course 2021-2022 on August 30 and we are learning to conduct the process of teaching-learning in virtual mode and distance courses. To do this we have received help from partner institutions abroad that have graciously shared their vast experiences with us. We understand the great challenges we have ahead of us, i.e., the formation of renewed pastorate and leadership in the churches and other religious institutions serving in Cuba for the new times, for this Kairos of our nation, in a post-Covid period that will not be the same; and the proactive participation in the new society we are trying to build.
We greatly appreciate your consistent solidarity accompaniment through your prayers and through public advocacy to lift the blockade which damages directly our bilateral mission relationships. The blockade hinders the possibility to send financial resources to our Seminary, including other countries because of its extraterritorial nature. We request an international campaign to oppose a military intervention against our country incited by politicians in that country, especially those of Cuban origin. We will be grateful for any donations of medicines and food, for which we will send indications in the next few days.
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.
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.
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.
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..
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
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
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.
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.
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org