Since 2009, thousands of Honduran human rights defenders, Indigenous land and water defenders, journalists, union members, campesinos, people who identify as LGBTQ, and people protesting government policies and government corruption have been killed, attacked, criminalized, harassed, and “disappeared” by members of the Honduran military or police forces, or by death squads operating within these forces. The U.S. continues to send funding to both the Honduran military and police forces anyway.
Finally, 12 years after the military coup d’etat in Honduras, there are companion bills in both the House and the Senate that would suspend U.S. military aid and police aid to Honduras, including for training, equipment, weapons and munitions for crowd control (teargas, water cannons, etc.), and place personal sanctions on Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez and other high level officials in his administration or in the Honduran Congress for their corruption and anti-democratic actions. Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-IL-09) introduced the House version, and Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) introduced the Senate bill.
This gives us a pathway to pass binding legislation. We need your help to convince enough Representatives and Senators to co-sponsor these bills! With enough co-sponsors, the bills can pass out of committee and go to the floor of the House and Senate for a vote. You can find a list of co-sponsors and the text of the bills at the links in the previous paragraph.
Call the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and ask to be connected to your Senator (repeat for your second Senator and for your Representative). When you are connected to their office, ask to speak to the foreign policy aide. Be sure to get their name and email address so you can follow up with 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 of yours. I am calling (or writing) to ask (Senator or Representative _____) to co-sponsor The Honduras Human Rights and Anti-Corruption Act of 2021. The bill number is (S. 388 – Senate; H.R. 2716 – House). 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 or Representative _______) seen this bill? Can I count on them 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 your boss will support it. For more information or to co-sponsor the bill, please contact (Caroline Kuritzkes and Matt Squeri in Senator Merkley’s office; or Kate Durkin in Representative Schakowsky’s office).”
Please contact Sharon at email@example.com when you send your message and call, especially if you get a response.
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..
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 Honduras 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.