(From the director of the Guatemala Human Rights Commission/USA, Sept. 5, 2018)

Dear Friends,

Guatemala is at risk of a coup, and it looks like once again with the support of the U.S. government.

The threat of an auto-coup has been in the air since President Jimmy Morales convoked a press conference on August 31 to announce he would not renew the mandate of the United Nations sponsored International Commission Against Impunity (CICIG).  He stood amidst dozens of fatigue clad military officers and CICIG’s offices were surrounded with military jeeps.

 

The next day U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted, “Our relationship with Guatemala is important. We greatly appreciate Guatemala’s efforts in counter-narcotics and security,” widely perceived as a show of support for Morales.

 

On September 3, the National Immigration Directorate announced that CICIG’s commissioner, Ivan Velasquez, would not be allowed to reenter Guatemala, in defiance of a May Constitutional Court ruling that the Migration Directorate could not bar Velasquez’s entry. On September 4, the Secretary General of the United Nations announced that the UN would continue to recognize Ivan Velasquez as the Commissioner of CICIG, conducting his functions from outside of Guatemala.  A few hours ago, a group of representatives in the Guatemalan Congress that have been promoting the creation of a new constitution released a communication asserting that the Constitutional Court has repeatedly exceeded its constitutional mandate.  As the Executive and the Judiciary defy the Constitutional Court, a technical coup or auto coup may be in progress.

 

The United States Department of State must clearly communicate that the US firmly stands with the Guatemalan Constitutional Court against any attempt to undermine its independence. The Constitutional Court may well be called on to decide the fate of CICIG and its commissioner Ivan Velasquez.  CICIG has been the most successful effort to end impunity and clean up the justice system in the region.

 

Please, call – (202) 224-3121- or write your Representative and Senators to ask that they demand that the State Department affirm its commitment to the rule of law in Guatemala, particularly to safeguarding the ongoing independence of the Constitutional Court.  You can also contact their district office to find out which staff people would follow issues in Guatemala and develop ongoing correspondence with them.

 

Evoking memories of military coups, Jimmy Morales announced he intends to end CICIG’s mandate
amidst dozens of fatigue clad military officers in what looked like the threat of an auto coup.

 

On August 10, CICIG and the Public Ministry presented an impeachment request against Jimmy Morales for not reporting over $1 million cash that was given to voting table monitors from Morales party on the day of the national election.  On August 23, the Guatemala Supreme Court found that the impeachment of Morales could proceed, and on August 28 the congressional commission overseeing the impeachment was formed by lottery.

The top concern now is securing the safety and ongoing independence of the Guatemalan Constitutional Court.   Many questions have been raised about the legality both of President Morales’ communication to the United Nations while he is under impeachment and of the bar on Ivan Velasquez’s entry to Guatemala.  Both of these questions will eventually be decided by the Constitutional Court.

There is currently tremendous pressure on the Constitutional Court. President Morales’ administration is essentially threatening an auto-coup, through images and military deployments.  This has been in the air since Friday when military surrounded not only the CICIG installations but also offices of leading human rights organizations, and President Morales gave his press conference amidst approximately 50 fatigue clad military officers, conjuring up memories of the press conferences in the 1970s and 1980s that announced new military juntas had grab control of government. It is a message received loud and clear even without stating anything directly.

 

On Monday the Guatemalan Constitutional Court ruled that the operations of the San Rafael gold mine will remain suspended until a consultation of the indigenous communities affected by the operation had been completed.  This was a highly charged decision that challenged the interests of the economically powerful sector aligned with President Morales.   In May the State Department urged the Constitutional Court to re-open of the San Rafael mine, prioritizing the economic interests of one US mining company over rule of law and the economic well-being of an entire region. That confrontation is still fresh in the public conscience in Guatemala.


The State Department must make it clear that the United States firmly stands with this Constitutional Court against any attempt to undermine its independence, particularly now as the Constitutional Court may well be called on to decide the fate of CICIG and its commissioner Ivan Velasquez.

 

Please, call – (202) 224-3121- or write your Representative and Senators to ask that they demand that the State Department affirm its commitment to the rule of law in Guatemala, particularly to safeguarding the ongoing independence of the Constitutional Court.  You can also contact their district office to find out which staff people would follow issues in Guatemala and develop ongoing correspondence with them.

You can also contact their district office to find out which staffpeople would follow issues in Guatemala to develop ongoing correspondence.

Many Thanks,

Annie Bird

 

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For over two years, the Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America (CRLN) has been one of the organizations that coordinates a pastoral care program for unaccompanied children arriving at our borders in search of safety and refuge. Many of the children that we meet are undoubtedly among the most vulnerable children on the planet, escaping unimaginable violence and poverty. Just as we have committed to stand by them and to fight for the protection of their basic rights, today we express our full support and solidarity with the community leaders at Dyett who have been on hunger strike for more than two weeks now to save Dyett High School, Bronzeville’s last publicly-operated, open-enrollment, school from closing.

In Latin America, violence takes many shapes; sometimes violence manifests itself through violent crimes and actions that are carried out with near impunity, often by government officials themselves. Sometimes it can take on subtler forms: deprivation of economic opportunity, quality education, healthcare coverage, and of other factors which are so essential to the ability of individuals to lead dignified human lives. We interpret the closing of public schools, primarily in Black and Brown communities throughout Chicago, in the same way that we understand schemes of privatization and dispossession in Latin America: as an act of violence against communities of color.

As immigrants, the sons and daughters of immigrants, volunteers with the unaccompanied children, and people of faith committed to immigrant justice and justice in Latin America, we are humbled by the valiant actions of the Dyett 12 whose fast is reminiscent of the causes of justice described in the Bible.


“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?”

Isaiah 58:6

We applaud the Dyett 12 and stand by their decision to resist injustice, to take–as so many immigrants have been forced to do–their children’s future into their own hands, even if and when this means risking perilous journeys, enduring hunger, and risking one’s health. We are confident that they will prove victorious in their quest and also call on Mayor Rahm Emanuel and others to put into action the proposal for a Global Leadership and Green Technology High School that the Coalition to Revitalize Dyett High School helped develop, reminding the Mayor that “

if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.”

Isaiah 58:10

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In December of 2016, Wellington Ave. UCC welcomed through sponsorship two asylum seeking families in their request for asylum in the United States.  One of the families includes Maria, her sister Anna, and Maria’s daughter Elena. They are requesting protection from the U.S. government because they have been targeted by a powerful, criminal organization in Guatemala after they stood up to the organization by reporting their activities to the police.
Although Maria, Anna, and Elena all requested asylum together at the Mexico-U.S. border in December,

immigration officers cruelly separated the family

.  Maria and Elena were allowed to come into the United States and now reside in Chicago with the support of Wellington Ave. UCC and their pro bono attorneys.  However, Anna – who is only 20 years old –has been held in immigration custody in the Eloy Detention Center and has not seen her sister or niece since December. This separation has caused Maria and Anna much stress and anxiety and also makes it more difficult for them to obtain asylum in the United States because their cases will proceed separately.
An immigration judge is expected to allow Anna to be released on bond soon, but the bond amount is likely to be too high for Anna and Maria to pay.

The bond could be between $10,000-$20,000 and must be paid in full.

If she is able to pay her bond, Anna will be able to reunite with Maria and Elena here in Chicago and they will be able to seek asylum together as a family.

NOTE: If bond is not set, or once it is paid, your donation will be used to support the families’ expenses

, which are over $1200 per month for living costs including food, transportation, medical, dental, education, and support of Anna in detention.

If you prefer to make a tax-exempt donation

, you can send a check to Wellington Ave UCC with “IJTF Bond Fund” in the memo line. Send to: Wellington Ave UCC, 615 W Wellington, Chicago IL 60657
* Note: Names have been changed for safety reasons.
—————————-
En diciembre 2016, la iglesia Wellington Ave. United Church of Christ dio la bienvenida a dos familias buscando asilo en los EEUU. La familia incluye Maria, su hermana Anna, y su hija Elena. Las dos familias están pidiendo protección del gobierno de los EEUU porque fueron intimidados por parte de una organización criminal y poderosa de Guatemala después de resistir la organización y reportar sus actividades a la policía.
Maria, Anna y Elena pidieron asilo juntas en la frontera México-EEUU en diciembre. Desafortunadamente, los oficiales de inmigración las separaron en un actocruel. Inmigración le dio permiso a Maria y Elena de llegar a los EEUU. Ellas ya viven en Chicago, apoyadas por Wellington Ave. UCC y abogados pro bono. Sin embargo, Anna – que tiene solo 20 años – sigue detenida en Eloy Detention Center. Ella no ha podido ver a su hermana ni a su sobrina desde diciembre. Esto ha puesto a Maria y a Elena muy estresadas y ansiosas y se les ha hecho mucho más difícil lograr asilo en los EEUU, porque sus casos no pueden ser procesados juntos.
Anticipamos que muy pronto un juez de inmigración liberare a Anna con una fianza. Pero anticipamos que la fianza será demasiada cara para Anna y Maria. La fianza podría ser dentro de $10,000-$20,000 y se tiene que pagar en su total. Alpagar, Anna podra reunirse con Maria y Elena aquí en Chicago y podrán pedir asilo juntas como una familia.
NOTA: Si no se pone una fianza o una vez que se pague la fianza, los fondos restantes seran utilizados para los gastos diarios de la familia que son más de $1200 cada mes por comida, transporte, atencion medica y dental, educacion y para apoyar a Anna adentro del centro de detencion.

Si prefieren hacer una donacion exento de impuestos

, se pueden mandar un cheque a Wellington Ave UCC con “IJTF Bond Fund” en la linea “memo”. Manden a: Wellington Ave UCC, 615 W Wellington, Chicago IL 60657
*Para seguridad, hemos cambiado los nombres.
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Carlos Rosero and Javier Marrugo of the Afro-Colombian Peace Council speak in Chicago about the importance of inclusion of African descendants in peace talks and Peace Accord implementation.

(

Versión en Español aquí

)

Last week, Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos met with President Obama to discuss a bilateral shift from 15 years of Plan Colombia to what the two heads of state are calling “


Peace Colombia


.” For the past decade and a half, Plan Colombia channeled billions of U.S. dollars to shore up Colombia’s military and police resources, more deeply militarizing the Colombian state’s strategy to fight a nominal war on drugs which displaced violence to the countryside and disproportionately affected

campesinos

, Afro-Colombians and Indigenous peoples.

Santos and Obama also discussed the grueling, decades long conflict in Colombia between the government, right-wing paramilitary groups, and leftist rebels which is likely to end in the coming months due to intense negotiations over the past several years through peace talks in Havana, Cuba. The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (also known as FARC) reached an agreement


with the Colombian government


on a peace accord that could end the longest running civil war in the hemisphere. The talks have included the topics of the political participation of the FARC, drug-trafficking, the fundamental issue of the distribution and ownership of land in Colombia, the rights of victims, and the conditions for insurgents to turn in their weapons.

While the peace negotiations have been a crucial part of social movements’ strategy to mitigate the brutal violence (in fact, social movements, many of whom reject electoral politics, actually supported President Santos’ re-election with the goal that he would finalized the negotiations within his second term), Colombian organizers are not under the illusion that the accords nor the new “Peace Colombia” will bring fundamental peace to country, much less to the communities disproportionately affected by the violence (women,

campesinos

, African descendents and Indigenous peoples). We’ve heard over and over again that the peace accords will provide a pathway to peace, but that implementation, inclusion and accountability will be required if peace can ever become a fundamental reality.

Two pathways forward are crucial in this historic moment in Colombia:


First, regarding the implementation of the Peace Accords,

CRLN’s partner organizations in Colombia are pressing the international community to support their demands for (1) the inclusion of African descendant and Indigenous voices in the implementation process of the Peace Accords and (2) accompaniment for rebel groups like the FARC during their reentry into society so as not to reproduce the historic violence wielded against demobilized rebels as happened with the


Unión Patriotica in the 1980s and 1990s


when over 3,500 were assassinated. Stay tuned to CRLN’s website and facebook to stay up-to-date on our work to continue accompanying and supporting marginalized communities in Colombia during a transformational moment in their country’s history. And


sign the petition urging members of the peace negotiations to include Afro-descendant and Indigenous voices in the implementation period of the Peace Process


.


Second, regarding the new version of Plan Colombia now being called “Peace Colombia,”

it is crucial that the U.S. stop using its billions of dollars in aid to continue militarizing a country that is working to implement peace. CRLN partner organization the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), has provided


five sound recommendations


for shifting the policies of Plan Colombia away from militarization and towards the interests of those most directly affected by violence. Meanwhile, the national office of School of the Americas Watch (SOA Watch) is planning an investigatory delegation to the Panamanian border of Colombia where the U.S. is supporting the construction of yet another military base in an isolated and predominantly Indigenous and Afro-Colombian territory. The Illinois chapter of SOA Watch is


hosting a bowl-a-thon


to help fundraise in support of this delegation’s investigation of the ongoing militarization schemes during the ‘new’ era of “Peace Colombia.”


Click here to join a team and support this international organizing right from here in Chicago!

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By Ivanna Salgado, CRLN Summer Intern

3 August 2017

On Tuesday, August 1st, a group of leaders from many immigrant rights organizations and faith communities in the Chicagoland area met at the Thompson Center to deliver postcards to Governor Bruce Rauner in support of the Illinois

TRUST Act

. All together 3,600 postcards were delivered. Our partners at Lake Street Church of Evanston, Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation, St. Nicholas Roman Catholic Church, and Old St. Patrick’s Church collected 800 postcards!

We demand that Illinois is a safe and a truly welcoming state that provides robust protections to immigrant communities.

Unfortunately, we were not allowed to talk to Governor Rauner nor allowed to go into his office to discuss the TRUST Act. The postcards were delivered to his staff. However, our hopes is that he will inform Governor Rauner that we will not give up this battle. As constituents of Illinois we deserved to be heard and we deserve an answer.

Thank you to


ICIRR


and


PASO


for leading this action!

As of August 3, 2017, Governor Rauner has agreed to sign the TRUST Act into a law. We are excited to announce that Illinois is on its way to to having the strongest statewide deportation protections in the country!


As ICIRR stated

, “Under the TRUST Act, local police cannot comply with immigration detainers and warrants not issued by a judge. Local police also cannot stop, search, or arrest anyone based on that person’s immigration or citizenship status.”

However, this is just the beginning of the fight to make Illinois a sanctuary for ALL of our siblings, brothers, and sisters.

Seguiremos luchando!

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