For everything, there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven… Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
CRLN is undergoing a time of transition. All of the CRLN staff and I know all of you are sad that we will no longer have Sharon Hunter-Smith as one of our core staff. I am sure for many of you Sharon practically is CRLN. She has been a central part of the organization for over 16 years. It is difficult for us to imagine CRLN without Sharon playing such a significant role in our day-to-day work. Yet at the same time, we feel much joy at being present for the next stage of Sharon’s life, a much-deserved break from the duties she has so faithfully carried out each day for more than a decade and a half. I am purposely avoiding words of farewell here as they are so inappropriate in this case, as we know Sharon will remain a part of the extended CRLN family. On behalf of the CRLN staff and membership, I offer a collective message of deep gratitude for so many years of service to the mission of CRLN. They have born great fruit.
Just like most transitions the closing of one chapter is also the opening of a new one. As we mark Sharon’s departure we welcome aboard our new Latin America Program Coordinator, Jhonathan Gómez. I know many of you already know Jhonathan, but for those who do not, I wanted to offer a few words on his background. Jhonathan F. Gómez is a human rights defender, documentary photographer, artist, educator and father from Guatemala City. Jhonathan has worked with community and human rights organizations in Guatemala and the United States for nearly 15 years. Both his professional and personal work combine arts, multimedia and technology for the defense of human rights with a focus on immigrant and indigenous rights. Jhonathan, his partner, and their two children returned to Chicago in May of 2021 after living in Guatemala for 10 years. In Chicago, Jhonathan has worked as an arts youth educator and as a day laborer organizer with Union Latina de Chicago (Latino Union of Chicago). In Guatemala, he worked as the Coordinator of the Communications and Technology area for the Human Rights Observatory Unidad de Protección a Defensoras y Defensores de Derechos Humanos de Guatemala (Human Rights Defenders Protection Unit of Guatemala, UDEFEGUA). Jhonathan is not new to CRLN, in 2007 he participated in the formation of the Chicago New Sanctuary Coalition (CNSC) and has continued to support CRLN ever since. He is delighted to join the team and be part of CRLN’s legacy work of solidarity with Latinomérica. We are very excited to welcome Jhonathan to our staff and look forward to the great work we will do together to further both his personal and our organizational mission of defending the human rights of all “Americans”, including those within our national borders and those across the hemisphere.
CRLN is looking for a part-time Administrative Assistant to join our staff of four that coordinate an interfaith education, action, and advocacy network. Please share this announcement with your networks and communities.
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 an equal opportunity employer, dedicated to a policy of nondiscrimination in employment on any basis including race, creed, color, age, sex, religion, sexual orientation, ability or national origin. Women and people of color are encouraged to apply.
We share with you the open letter in Spanish by the 20 member organizations of the Alianza Americas network, that CRLN signed together addressed to the President of México Andrés Manuel López Obrador, where he is urged to implement humane migration policies.
Compartimos la carta abierta dirigida al presidente de México Andrés Manuel López Obrador, la cual fue realizada por las 20 organizaciones de la red Alianza Americas a la cual CRLN miembra, donde se le pedide que implemente políticas migratorias humanas.
#EyesOnHonduras CRLN is a member of the Honduras Solidarity Network and are committed to the work for justice with the people of Honduras. We are concerned on the increased violence happening now prior to the elections and commit to keep our eyes on the elections. Below is the statement by the solidarity network.
CRLN es miembrx de la Red de Solidaridad de Honduras y estamos comprometidxs con el trabajo por la justicia con el pueblo de hondureño. Estamos preocupadxs por la violencia que esta sucediendo ahora antes de las elecciones y nos comprometemos a mantener la mirada en las elecciones. Adjunto el comunicado de la red de solidaridad.
Our partners at Guatemala Human Rights Commission, GHRC, are asking individuals and human rights organizations to support a Dear Colleague letter initiated by Representative Raul Grijalva as another step Congress can take to support human rights defenders and the rule of law in Guatemala. We are asking that you call or email your representative in the House. GHRC has an action page where you can e-mail your representative and get the phone number to their office. Click here to see who your representative is.
The letter highlights the following:
• The current Guatemalan amnesty law that would prevent justice for crimes against humanity carried out during the internal armed conflict,
• The impacts of Decree 4-2020, which allows the executive branch of the State discretionary powers to dissolve NGOs if their activities might “alter the public order,” and to prosecute their directors,
• The threats that democratic institutions, such as The Human Rights Ombudsman’s Office, are undergoing,
• Cases of persecution against human rights defenders, such as the Bernardo Caal Xol case; and
• The corruption case of Juan Francisco Sandoval, former head of the Special Prosecutor’s Office Against Impunity (FECI) and leading anti-corruption prosecutor.
Please help us work for the defense of human rights defenders, judges, and others who are under increasing attacks.
CRLN and some of Rep. Quigley’s constituents from Third Unitarian Church will send the following letter to him. If you are a constituent in Illinois’ 5th Congressional District, please click here to authorize us to sign your name, too.
September 21, 2021
Rep. Mike Quigley, Congressman, IL-5
Dear Rep. Quigley,
We are meeting today with your Legislative Assistant, Marshele Bryant. The purpose of our meeting is twofold:
1) To request that you co-sponsor two House resolutions on Honduras: the Berta Caceres Human Rights in Honduras Act (H.R. 1574) and the Honduras Human Rights and Anti-Corruption Act (H.R. 2716)
2) To request that you support a pathway to permanent protections for DACA recipients, TPS holders, farmworkers, and other essential workers.
H.R. 1574 would prohibit U.S. assistance to the police and military of Honduras and direct U.S. Representatives of multilateral development banks to vote against providing loans to the Honduran police or military. We thank you for co-sponsoring this legislation in the previous three sessions of Congress and ask that you do so again.
H.R. 2716 would also suspend U.S. assistance to the Honduran police and military until corruption, impunity, and human rights violations are no longer systemic and the perpetrators of these crimes are being brought to justice. In addition, it will impose sanctions on the Honduran president for corruption and human rights abuses and suspend U.S. security assistance and export licenses for covered defense articles and munitions items to the Honduran police and military, among other provisions.
Our organization is in touch with many human rights groups in Honduras, and what they tell us is alarming. Honduras has become a narco-state, as high level Honduran officials use the police and military to protect drug traffickers and their routes in exchange for bribe money. Some Honduran government and security officials are themselves trafficking drugs. Officials also use the police and military to stay in power, directing them to violently put down peaceful protests over election fraud, government corruption, and theft from public funds. Military and police have carried out targeted assassinations against human rights defenders and those who stand up against corruption—there is evidence of death squads within their ranks.
All of this is more than a case of a few bad apples: democracy, the rule of law, public safety, and life itself are being undermined, as evidenced by the large numbers of people leaving Honduras as migrants. The U.S. is currently pretending that by funding the military and police, we are increasing security. We are not. Please do your part to shut down this funding until corruption and impunity for human rights violations cease.
We also wanted to reach out and ask you for your consistent support of immigrants and for your continued support of legislation to provide a pathway to permanent protections for DACA recipients, TPS holders, farmworkers, and other essential workers.
We know that a pathway to permanent protections is vital to the long term success of our economy, communities and families and an important component to building back better. The public strongly supports a pathway to permanent protections and believes that Congressional action is long overdue. We are confident that enacting these reforms via reconciliation is the best way to finally get it done this year.
On behalf of the millions of immigrant workers and families, many who have been locked out of the ability to earn a pathway to permanent protections, including DACA recipients and TPS holders who have been essential to our communities’ response and recovery from COVID-19, we urge you to seize this historic opportunity.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.