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..
View or download the Prayer Bookletto 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.
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.
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.
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) 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 email@example.com when you send your message and call, especially if you get a response.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org when you send your message and call, especially if you get a response.
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.”Isaiah 43:1-3
The end of another year approaches, and what a year it has been. Many public voices have expressed the view that 2020 will go down as one of the most difficult years in recent human history, certainly in the memory of the majority of us alive today. We have indeed been through the waters and the fire this past year.
In my opening comments at our 30th Anniversary Celebration in 2019, I expressed my view that at the heart of our work and mission was bringing hope amidst a world of suffering and death, oppression and denial of human rights, maintaining light in the darkness. Perhaps for most of us, that light was never as necessary as it was this past year, as we struggled to maintain that hope in the face of a global pandemic and the rise of right-wing authoritarianism globally and right here at home.
Those challenges even affected our Annual Gathering this year, as we had to meet through the medium of our computer screens rather than face to face. But the fact that we refused to let these obstacles prevent us from gathering and celebrating our important work and the significant accomplishments of the last year demonstrates that the light and hope remains bright, unextinguished, even in these most difficult of times.
We refused to let the pandemic or right-wing authoritarian governments here and abroad stop us from pushing forward with our mission, as you can read in the enclosed insert that lists CRLN’s major activities in 2020. Both our sanctuary efforts and our solidarity with communities in Latin America, especially Cuba, grew and expanded this past year. Our legislative activity was likewise robust, with several significant developments. And we took several public actions, including helping to shut down the infamous plans to open an “ICE Citizens’ Academy” in Chicago. See details in:
So much of what we have been through this past year and the things we have accomplished were captured in the words of our guest speaker at this year’s Annual Gathering, Sister María Magdalena Silva Rentería. The founder and Director of CAFEMIN, a shelter for immigrants located in Mexico City, she joined our event from Mexico. We turned the challenge of COVID, which limited our face-to-face interactions, into the advantage of a virtual gathering, making it easier to have our friends from abroad join us. Sr. María Magdalena shared with us her stories of providing shelter and support for immigrants, as well as her analysis of the issues underlying the crisis of migration and action suggestions for how we can respond in this critical moment. Her experiences were very relevant to our sanctuary efforts, our work with migrants’ rights and our solidarity work with communities in Central America and beyond. If you missed our Annual Gathering, you can watch it on YouTube in English at https://bit.ly/2020CRLNEnglish or in Spanish at https://bit.ly/CRLN2020Spanish
The year ended, as we all know, on a hopeful note. The most authoritarian, anti-immigrant and anti-refugee president in our lifetime was defeated. But regardless of the outcome of the presidential or Senate races, the election revealed something we cannot ignore. We must face the fact that there is a deep moral crisis we must address in our nation, when many of our fellow citizens are OK with racism, misogyny, xenophobia, calls to violence, attacks on democracy and flirtations with authoritarianism. I do not mean this to be a condemnation. I must continue to hope that most human beings have the capacity for love and compassion and, when presented with the impact of their choices on their fellow human beings, will act humanely. But whether out of fear, greed, selfishness, or ignorance born out of the misinformation promoted by powerful interests that profit from the ignorance of the many, far too many of our neighbors have embraced a system of beliefs that is contrary to our values and the values of our faith traditions.
This moral crisis in our nation makes our work more important than ever. It is left to us to build links of solidarity at home and abroad. It is up to us to promote the values of peace and justice. It is up to us to continue to lift up the voices of the oppressed and those struggling for liberation. This is our mission, our moral and material revolution, compassion in action, the only way to overcome the waters and fire that surround us. Thank you for being a part of this work. I am filled with great anticipation for working with all of you to build a new world in the coming year.
This work cannot be sustained without your help. CRLN receives no corporate and/or government funding. We rely completely on our organizational, congregational and individual friends and members, along with some small grants from a few foundations. We call on you to demonstrate your support by making a holiday contribution, an end of the year commitment to struggle for justice, peace, and human rights. With your support and solidarity, we will continue to walk through the fire and remain unburnt, as we enter what I believe will be a time of new beginnings and renewed hope.
P.S. Please make your checks payable to CRLN. You may also make an online donation at www.crln.org/donate. Your contributions are tax-deductible. In addition, please consider remembering CRLN in your will. Our legal title is: Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America.
CRLN is collecting signatures on a petition to President-elect Biden to revoke the policies that have made it almost impossible for people seeking asylum to receive protection and find safety in the United States. To read the letter and sign on, click here.