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CRLN, along with the Honduras Solidarity Network, is pushing initiates for the liberation of political prisoners Edwin Espinal and Raul Alvarez! The extents to which these two have been repressed are examples of the perpetual efforts by the US and other entities to undermine Honduras’ sovereignty.

Edwin is a close friend of Berta Cáceres, slain leader and the subject of the Berta Cáceres Human Rights in Honduras Act.

  • Ask your representatives to speak out on the bill:

https://actionnetwork.org/letters/urge-your-rep-to-speak-out-on-10th-anniversary/

  • Follow the link for a timeline of the violations of Due Process on the Judicial Case Against Political Prisoners Edwin Espinal & Raul Alvarez:

http://freeedwinespinallibertad.blogspot.com/

  • Watch the brief video detailing events of Edwin Espinal’s case:

https://vimeo.com/307472141

  • You will find alerts on the risk to the lives of Edwin and Raul by clicking Like and Follow on the Free Edwin Espinal Libertad Facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/freeEDWINESPINALlibertad/

 

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Click the links to contact your representative and ask them to sign Berta Cáceres Human Rights in Honduras Act:

https://actionnetwork.org/letters/urge-your-rep-to-speak-out-on-10th-anniversary/

https://www.solidaritycollective.org/bertacaceresact

The Solidarity Collective includes that the bill states:

“The Honduran police are widely established to be deeply corrupt and to commit human rights abuses, including torture, rape, illegal detention, and murder, with impunity” and that the military has committed violations of human rights. Therefore, the bill asks that the United States suspend all “…security assistance to Honduran military and police until such time as human rights violations by Honduran state security forces cease and their perpetrators are brought to justice.”

Read about 10 Years Since the Coup in Honduras:
https://actionnetwork.org/letters/urge-your-rep-to-speak-out-on-10th-anniversary/

Follow what our friends at the Honduras Solidarity Network share on Facebook: @HondurasSolidarityNetwork and Twitter: @HondurasSol

You can find updates on Berta’s case at: https://berta.copinh.org/

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On June 28th, 2019, 10 years will have passed since the 2009 coup. For 10 years, Hondurans have maintained a powerful resistance against neoliberalism, militarism and corruption, and continue to demand a real democracy, sovereignty and a “refounding” of the country. The resistance against the US and Canada-backed regime in Honduras continues to inspire others. Today, teachers and health care workers have ignited the latest upsurge as they refused to accept the @JuanOrlandoH regime’s dismantling of public education and health care. The struggle is far from over, stand up in solidarity with Hondurans!

Click on our Action Alerts page to find out how you can help by asking your reps to speak out on the Berta Cáceres Human Rights in Honduras Act

Be sure to follow our friends @HondurasSolidarityNetwork on Facebook and see their release on the topic at:

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1b6ZqKkMzsj9xYu5MZ0UrfKKp9AwK7ELTvLwcf8wOcpE/edit

The following article offers context on the coup:

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/06/honduras-protest-crackdown-190621221439388.html

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Guatemala held elections last Sunday that were marred by the interference of the powers controlling the country in the electoral process. The primary anti-corruption candidate, who had been leading in the polls, fled to El Salvador after receiving a death threat earlier in the campaign season, as did the Special Prosecutor for Electoral Crimes. The Supreme Electoral Tribunal threw various obstacles in front of one of the indigenous parties, MLP, to limit its ability to campaign and to limit the number of votes for its candidates. One of its candidates and two of its campaign committee members were murdered. Neither of the two Presidential candidates who won the most votes and will have a run-off election in September have promised to support the International Commission Against Impunity (CICIG), and so it will cease operations in September 2019.

Nevertheless, indigenous and progressive parties did better than usual in this election, and the population in general is outraged at official corruption. Below is a more detailed report on the election results by our friends at the Guatemala Human Rights Commission/USA.

 

Guatemala’s June 16th General Elections:

Parties implicated in corruption will face off for the presidency, dominate congress

Strongest showing yet by opposition parties

 

GHRC

June 18, 2019

As expected, Sunday’s general elections in Guatemala resulted in a run-off for the presidency between former First Lady Sandra Torres (National  Unity of Hope – UNE – party) and four-time presidential candidate Alejandro Giamattei (Vamos Party).  The Supreme Electoral Court (TSE) reports that Torres took the lead with close to 26% of the vote and Giamattei followed with just under 14%. The run-off will take place August 11. Elected candidates will take office January 14.

The TSE reports that UNE won 53 out of 160 available congressional seats, up from 28 in the last elections.  UNE’s congressional showing alone makes it the dominant political force. Vamos took 16 seats.  During the outgoing Congress, UNE often voted with the“Pact of Corrupts,” an informal coalition that promoted laws favoring corruption and impunity, of which Vamos was considered an ally.

Maya Mam community organizer Thelma Cabrera (Movement for Peoples’ Liberation – MLP – party) came in with 10.5% of the vote, making her the highest polling indigenous presidential candidate ever in Guatemala, a majority indigenous country.  She came in a close fourth place behind Edmund Mulet.  Cabrera’s newly created MLP party issued a statement late in the day on Monday, rejecting the TSE’s official reports.  The MLP reports that local TSE officials refused to provide copies of the official acts registering polling station results as required by law, in some districts the MLP’s symbol was omitted from the ballot, the TSE did not provide MLP with its legally mandated publicity budget, and the TSE blocked MLP locals from opening bank accounts.  Concern regarding electoral irregularities has been heightened since the Special Prosecutor for Electoral Crimes, Oscar Schaad, resigned his post and fled Guatemala five days before the elections in response to death threats.   Leopaldo Guerra, the Director of the TSE’ Citizens Registry, which oversees the registration of candidates, also took a leave just days before the elections citing health reasons, while the Special Prosecutor Against Impunity (FECI), Juan Francisco Sandoval, is also reported to be on vacation.

Rural political observers note that during the campaign president Jimmy Morales’ principal anti-poverty initiative, a bag of foodstuffs known as “bolsa solidaria”, was handed out in many areas by UNE political operators.  This suggests an alliance between the outgoing FCN party and UNE.  Over seventeen years and one presidency, the UNE party, created to sponsor Torres’ former husbandÁlvaro Arzú [CRLN note: her former husband was Álvaro Colom] unsuccessful 2003 presidential bid, has built a voting base in rural areas where political clientelism dominates communities plagued by extreme levels of poverty.  Analysts also questioned Giammattei’s presidential showing, noting the Vamos party had no structure in the countryside and in the city polled similarly to Cabrera and Mulet.

On February 27 the International Commission Against Impunity (CICIG) and its counterpart in the Public Prosecutors office, FECI, asked the Supreme Court of Justice to remove Sandra Torres’ political immunity, which derives from her status as a candidate, to face indictment for crimes related to illicit campaign financing during her last presidential bid in 2015.  This impeachment request is currently pending before the Constitutional Court. Torres could still face charges. Guatemalan press revealed that the charges against Torres were held up in the Attorney Generals’ Office until after she had gained immunity by registering as a candidate.

In 2009 Alejandro Giamattei faced charges brought by CICIG, he was accused of participation in death squad activities while he served as National Penitentiary Director in 2005 and 2006. After first seeking asylum in the Honduran embassy during the de facto government of Roberto Micheletti, Giamattei was acquitted in 2011 by Judge Carol Patricia Flores.  Flores is renowned for judicial acrobatics which favor impunity for corruption and crimes against humanity.  In April 2015, CICIG and FECI requested the removal of Flores’ immunity so that she could be investigated for money laundering and illicit enrichment.  Instead she was sanctioned and it was removed from presiding over a high-risk courtroom.

Sandra Torres has also been touched by prison murder scandals.  Her niece was arrested as an accomplice of Marvin “El Taquero” Montiel Marin in the prison murder of Montiel Marin’s rival, Byron Lima, for control of criminal networks in prison.  Montiel Marin is imprisoned convicted of running a drug assassin network responsible for burning a bus, killing all 26 people inside.

In keeping with past elections, TSE reported that approximately 5 million of 8 million registered voters participated and 13% voted null or left their ballots blank.  In the 2015 electoral law time nullified ballots can have legal implications; if over 50% of ballots are annulled the electoral law would mandate repeated elections.

This election was deeply impacted by court decisions.  Torres’ early challenger Zury Rios was removed from the ballot after the Constitutional Court supported the Elections Tribunal’s finding that, as the daughter of military coup author Efrian Rios Montt, Zury Rios is constitutionally barred from the presidency.  Corruption charges generally believed to be politically motivated removed another early front runner from the race, Semilla candidate and former Attorney General Thelma Aldana.  Aldana remains unable to enter Guatemala without arrest.  Mario Estrada, a lower polling candidate but who represented a significant party, UCN, was arrested in Miami on drug trafficking charges on April 17.  Despite the scandal, UCN won twelve seats in Congress.

Left-leaning opposition parties made the strongest showing since the 1950 elections spurred a CIA backed coup that led to decades of extreme violence directed against any opposition to the business-military alliance that ruled the country.  Parties identified with social demands and anti-corruption platforms took 15 seats in Congress; Semilla (7), Winaq (4), MLP (1) and URNG (3).  In the previous congress, they held thirteen seats; URNG- Winaq (3), Convergencia (3), and Encuentro por Guatemala (7).  Nineth Montenegro, human rights activist and congresswoman since 1996, was not re-elected.  Her party, Encuentro por Guatemala, did not win any seats and according to reforms in the electoral law, will cease to exist. Winaq candidate Aldo Davila on Sunday became the first openly gay man elected to congress. Sandra Moran was the first openly gay woman when she won a congressional seat in the 2015 elections on the Convergencia ticket.  She did not seek re-election. Convergencia did not win any seats in congress and will face a similar fate as Encuentro por Guatemala.

TSE results divide the remaining congressional seats between fifteen small, right wing parties.  Like UNE, they generally appear to have ties to corruption and drug trafficking networks, but are more strongly allied with the military, which seeks protection from prosecution for crimes against humanity.  Giamattei’s VAMOS party won 16 seats, while current president Jimmy Morales’ FCN party took only 7 seats.  Zury Rios’ VALOR party won 9 seats. The Humanista party, whose presidential candidate Edmund Mulet took third place with just over 11% of the vote, won 4 seats in Congress. Mulet was accused of collaborating in a child trafficking ring in the early 1980s. Mulet’s newly formed party’s founders came from the government of former President Alfonso Portillo, who served a prison sentence in New York for financial crimes. Portillo’s attempted bid for Congress was barred by electoral laws, his party, BIEN, won 8 seats.

The most significant incident reported at the polls on election day was the arrest of former General Luis Enrique Mendoza Garcia, the father-in-law of Estuardo Galdamez, presidential candidate for the governing FCN party who garnered just 4% of the vote.  General Mendoza Garcia, arrested Salama, Baja Verapaz, is charged with participating in acts of genocide against Maya Ixil communities between 1982-83.  Galdamez, a congressman representing El Quiche, also served as a military officer in the Ixil area during the genocide.  Maya community leaders and authorities from El Quiche reported with concern that during his campaign Galdamez sought to revive networks of military and former civil patrollers by promising payments to war veterans and demanding impunity for crimes against humanity committed by the military against a largely civilian population in the 1970 and 1980s.  Galdamez and seven fellow congressmen are accused of working with then Vice President Roxana Baldetti to pay fellow congressional representatives for votes on law proposals.

At least two candidates were murdered during campaigns, a mayorial candidate with the FUERZA party and a municipal corporation candidate with MLP.  The MLP also reported the murder of two campaign committee members in the Peten department.  The MLP killings are the latest in a series of murders that target successful Maya-led political projects. Thelma Cabrera represented the newly formed MLP party, the political arm of CODECA, a grassroots indigenous campesino community development organization.  A second successful community development organization, CCDA, brought important support to the Convergencia party. CCDA’s former National Coordinator, Leocadio Juracan, was a high profile congressman who from congress visibly promoted indigenous and campesino rights.

Last year, as planning for campaigns began, CODECA reported that six local leaders were murdered; the CCDA reported three. In 2019, CODECA reported the murder of a community organizer. All of these killings remain in impunity.  Cabrera’s relative success has caused reactions from the business sector. Juan Carlos Telef, president of Guatemala’s largest business association, CACIF,expressed concern that someone with Thelma Cabrera’s political perspectives could gain 10% of the vote.

Given Cabrera’s successful campaign, the increased show in congress, and the violence against MLP, CODECA and CCDA, it is concerning that attacks against parties with strong indigenous and campesino ties could increase in coming years.


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Enough is Enough — Stop all US and Canadian support for dictatorship in Honduras. Support the Honduran people in resistance. Call and/or email your Congress Representative, Senator or Parliamentarian today (May 31). Tell them you want them to take a position against the human rights violations in Hondurans and against US funding and support for Honduran security forces that are being used against the people. 

Click for Info on Senators  Click for House of Representatives

 

The Honduran people are in the streets by the thousands again facing US financed, armed and trained Honduran Police and Military. A two day national action and strike for May 30-31 was originally called as a  protest in defense of public education and public health in the face of new attacks on public services by the regime of Juan Orlando Hernandez (JOH). Today’s protests covered the entire country and not only defended public services but once again called massively for the end of the illegitimate government of JOH — a government that has been imposed and sustained by US and Canadian support. There are marches, highway take-overs in the rural areas, occupations of public schools by parents and students, mobilizations of teacher and health care worker unions, campesinos, indigenous communities, taxi drivers and university students. The protests are becoming a non-violent uprising of the people against the dictatorship but are being met with violence, tear gas and live ammunition from the regime. One teacher was assassinated in his home the night before these national actions began, another teacher and a student were wounded today by police.

 

Since the most recent electoral crisis of November 2017 in which JOH was imposed on the people through fraud and violence, security forces have killed more than 20 people and many more, including at least 15 ? journalists have been assassinated by death squad style killings. Since the 2009 coup, also heavily backed by the US and Canada, hundreds of Hondurans have been killed by security forces and paramilitary type groups. Many hundreds more have been killed by narcotics cartel linked violence while the ruling party politicians, including JOH himself and his brother have been either charged or are under investigation for being part of the narcotics cartels. Link to article

 

Enough is Enough — Stop all US and Canadian support for dictatorship in Honduras. Support the Honduran people in resistance. Call your congress representative, Senator or Parliamentarian today (May 31). 

Click for Info on Senators  Click for House of Representatives

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30 people gathered on the evening of May 16 to hear from Rabbi Brant Rosen and Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb about their participation in the March 2019 People of Faith Root Causes Pilgrimage to Honduras sponsored by SHARE-El Salvador, the Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious and the Sisters of Mercy. This interfaith group of 72 people formed a “reverse caravan,” on a mission to find out why so many Hondurans are leaving their country behind and journeying en masse to settle in other countries.

Rabbi Gottlieb emphasized the U.S. role in creating the root conditions causing people to migrate. She pointed to more than a century of U.S. corporate economic exploitation of the country. U.S. companies have bought up Honduran agricultural land and used Hondurans as cheap labor to plant and harvest crops for export. While once bananas were the primary commodity, today it is palm oil, grown on plantations which destroy the biodiversity of the land.

Today, both Honduran large landowners and transnational corporations are stealing land and water from indigenous people in order to expand large agricultural enterprises and to build mines and hydroelectric dams. Their actions are enforced by Honduran military and police forces, who use violence against people protesting the theft of their land and water. These are further causes of migration, as people who have been targeted by such violence or who have lost land or access to water sometimes leave if they no longer feel safe or no longer can support themselves.

Rabbi Gottlieb picked up a tear gas canister made in Pennsylvania, which was lying on the ground at the Lenca indigenous communities she visited. She scooped up some water in a bottle from the river sacred to the Lenca people, a river threatened by plans to build a dam, which the people had been protesting. Later, in front of Heidi Fulton, Chargé d’Affaires of the U.S. Embassy in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, Rabbi Gottlieb performed a cleansing ceremony in which she poured the water over the tear gas canister and demanded that the U.S. stop sending such weapons to Honduras to terrorize people.

Rabbi Rosen pointed to the U.S.-supported 2009 coup in Honduras, which supplanted a democratically elected President, Manuel Zelaya, as a root cause of mass migration. Zelaya had supported progressive social reforms, but the coup consolidated the power of the right-wing National Party, whose candidates have “won” every Presidential election since, although each time amid allegations of fraud. The OAS, during the last election in 2017, declared that there were so many irregularities in the vote counting process that no one could be sure who won the election.

Under the National Party, protest has been criminalized by laws with overly expansive definitions of “terrorism,” free speech has been threatened through selectively enforced defamation laws, social goods like education and health services have been privatized, land reform measures have been reversed, and social security and pension funds have been looted. These political realities are another root cause of migration, because many people no longer feel that they can change the conditions that oppress them through peaceful means without getting injured or killed by the government.

Nevertheless, both rabbis emphasized that many people continue to stay in Honduras and non-violently resist the current Honduran administration. Members of social movements in Honduras actively resist oppressive government policies and demand that the illegal administration of President Juan Orlando Hernandez step down, despite his ongoing attempts to silence their voices through ordering security forces to attack their demonstrations with tear gas and live bullets.

For reports from this delegation, see https://www.presbyterianmission.org/story/delegation-examines-firsthand-the-root-causes-of-migration-in-honduras and https://www.paxchristi.net/news/honduras-pax-christi-co-president-marie-dennis-returns-root-causes-delegation-honduras/7250

For photos from the delegation, see https://www.google.com/search?rlz=1C1GCEA_enUS842US843&q=2019+SHARE+delegation+to+Honduras&tbm=isch&source=univ&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjh_f700K3iAhUPiqwKHeRJC1gQsAR6BAgJEAE&biw=1680&bih=858

Three groups within the national Honduras Solidarity Network—Alliance for Global Justice, La Voz de los de Abajo, and Code Pink– also sponsored an emergency delegation to Honduras March 25 – April 2. Their complete report can be found at https://drive.google.com/open?id=1alBO_-Z6sIrbUUuT89FX3K5CMKVMLvL1.

 

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In 2019, CRLN supports the following Latin America- and immigration-related bills, all of which are still in Committee. Has your member of the U.S. Congress from Illinois introduced or co-sponsored any of them? If not, call your Senators or Representative and ask them to co-sponsor. You can be connected to their office by calling the Capitol Switchboard at 1-202-224-3121.

Check out the chart below for your member of Congress’ name and current record:

U.S. SENATORS FROM ILLINOIS ON CENTRAL AMERICA AND IMMIGRATION

Senator – political party

S.428

 Freedom to Export to Cuba Act of 2019

 

S.716

Guatemala Rule of Law Accountability Act

S.874

DREAM Act of 2019

no bill number yet

 SECURE Act

S.80

John S. McCain III Human Rights Commission

Sen. Richard Durbin – D

 

Co-sponsor Introduced Co-sponsor
Tammy Duckworth – D

 

S.428 – Freedom to Export to Cuba Act of 2019: To lift the trade embargo against Cuba.

S.716 – Guatemala Rule of Law Accountability Act: To impose sanctions under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act to combat corruption, money laundering, and impunity in Guatemala, and for other purposes. The bill was proposed in response to President Jimmy Morales’ expulsion of the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala and to the charges of corruption against him and other government officials.

S.874 – DREAM Act of 2019With some conditions, this bill would give lawful permanent residency to any immigrant who entered the U.S. before turning 18, who has had continuous physical presence in the U.S. for 4 years, is law-abiding, and is enrolled in high school or higher education or already has been granted DACA status.

SECURE Act of 2019: Would provide a pathway for people from countries granted Temporary Protected Status (in Latin America, that would be people from El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua), who have been ordered by the current administration to leave the U.S. by specific dates, to apply for lawful permanent residency.

S.80: To create the John S. McCain III Human Rights Commission in the Senate, a counterpart to the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission in the House, to serve as a bipartisan forum for discussion and promotion of human rights and awareness of human rights violations.

 

U.S. REPRESENTATIVES FROM ILLINOIS ON LATIN AMERICA AND IMMIGRATION

Representative

 Party

H.R. 1945

 Berta Cáceres Human Rights in Honduras Act

 

H.R. 1630

Guatemala Rule of Law Accountability Act

H.R. 6

 American Dream and Promise Act

H.R. 1898

 Cuba Agricultural Exports Act

 

 
Rep. Bobby Rush (IL-01)

 

D

Co-sponsor

Co-sponsor

Co-sponsor

reviewing

 
Rep. Robin Kelly (IL-02)

D

Co-sponsor

 
Rep. Daniel Lipinski (IL-03)

D

Co-sponsor

Co-sponsor

Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia (IL-04- new member of Congress)

 

D

 Co-sponsor  

Co-sponsor

 
Rep. Mike Quigley (IL-05)

D

Co-sponsor

Co-sponsor

Rep. Sean Casten (IL-06 – new member of Congress)

 

D

Co-sponsor

 

 
Rep. Danny Davis (IL-7)

 

   D

Co-sponsor

 

Co-sponsor

   
Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (IL-08)  

     

   D

reviewing

reviewing Co-sponsor

reviewing

 
Rep. Jan Schakowsky (IL-09)

 

   D

Co-sponsor

Co-sponsor Co-sponsor

 
Rep. Bradley Schneider (IL-10)

 

   D  

Co-sponsor

Rep. Bill Foster (IL-11)

 

   D

Co-sponsor

Co-sponsor

Rep. Mike Bost (IL-12)

 

   R
Rep. Rodney Davis (IL-13)

 

 

   R
Rep. Lauren Underwood (IL-14- new member of  Congress)

 

   D  

Co-sponsor

Rep. John Shimkus (IL-15)    R
Rep. Adam Kinzinger (IL-16)

 

   R
Rep. Cheri Bustos (IL-17)

 

   D  

Co-sponsor

Co-sponsor

Rep. Darin LaHood (IL-18)

   R

 

H.R. 1945 – Berta Cáceres Human Rights in Honduras Act: prohibits funds from being made available to Honduras for the police or military (including for equipment and training) and directs the Department of the Treasury to instruct U.S. representatives at multilateral development banks to vote against any loans for the police or military of Honduras until the Department of State certifies that the government of Honduras has ended impunity, protects human rights defenders, and taken the military out of domestic policing.

 H.R. 1630 – Guatemala Rule of Law Accountability Act. Companion bill to S.716 to impose sanctions under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act to combat corruption, money laundering, and impunity in Guatemala, and for other purposes. The bill was proposed in response to President Jimmy Morales’ expulsion of the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala and to the charges of corruption against him and other government officials.

H.R. 6 – American Dream and Promise Act: Companion bill to S.874 and SECURE Act of 2019 to provide a pathway to lawful permanent residency for those currently covered by DACA or other immigrants who were brought here as children who meet the DACA requirements AND those for who had Temporary Protected Status as of a certain date.

H.R. 1898 – Cuba Agricultural Exports Act:  would modify the prohibition on United States assistance and financing for agricultural exports to Cuba.

 

 

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The Berta Caceres Human Rights in Honduras Act, which would cut off military and police aid to Honduras until impunity for their human rights violations ceases, is due to be reintroduced in a couple of weeks. Rep. Hank Johnson has contacted the 70 Representatives who co-sponsored the bill with him during the last session of Congress to ask them to sign on again to show strength of support when the bill is reintroduced. Those from Illinois who signed on in the 2017-2018 session of Congress are Reps. Rush, Lipinski, Quigley, Danny Davis, Schakowsky, and Foster.

The bill never got out of the Foreign Affairs Committee during the last two sessions of Congress with the Republican majority in the House of Representatives. There is a chance that with a Democratic majority and new progressives in office, it will advance to the floor of the House for a vote. In Illinois, we must contact new Representatives Jesus “Chuy” Garcia (IL-4) and Sean Casten (IL-6) for their support on this bill.

CRLN staff and board members will be in DC April 4-8 and will take letters to all Illinois members of Congress at that time. The letters will include a request to support this bill if it has been reintroduced by then, or to cut off military and police aid by other means if the bill has not been reintroduced yet. Email shunter-smith@crln.org with name and address if you give us permission to add your name to your members of Congress’ letters.

Berta Caceres was an inspired feminist, indigenous rights and environmental activist and leader who was murdered on March 2, 2016. While her case went to court and some of those involved in her assassination were convicted, the intellectual authors of her death have yet to be held accountable, according to her family and an international panel of experts who investigated the case. Berta’s family’s and her organization COPINH’s persistence, along with International solidarity efforts with the family and COPINH, was key to getting her case tried in court at all.

Honduras now has an illegal President, Juan Orlando Hernandez, who “won” an election for a second term that was prohibited by the Honduran constitution, and who shut down the vote counting computers repeatedly to tamper with the election results. He is one of the golpistas, one who was behind the 2009 coup, and he is already planning his re-election campaign for 2021. He has consolidated power through appointments of friends in all branches of government and is a dictator in everything but name. There is a direct connection between his misuse of power and the tens of thousands of people leaving Honduras in a mass exodus on the “caravans.” His brother, a former Honduran Congressman, was recently arrested in Miami and charged with being a major mover of cocaine into the U.S., and his personally appointed national police chief has a history of accepting bribes from drug cartels. He has sought the arrest and conviction of journalists and opposition political figures who try to bring such crimes to light. The corruption of his administration is another reason we should not be sending aid to Honduras.

Articles:

Unavision:  “Judge denies bail  to brother of Honduran president arrested on drug charges”

AP:  “Honduran lawmaker faces defamation trial after naming names”

See previous posts on Honduras on the CRLN website for background on the 2017 Honduran presidential election and the international investigation into Berta’s murder, 

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University of California at Santa Cruz Professor of History Emerita, Dana Frank, was in Chicago on February 27 and was interviewed by WBEZ’s Jerome McDonnell on the program “Worldview.” Here is the link:

https://www.wbez.org/shows/worldview-podcast/historian-dana-frank-on-honduran-politics-us-intervention-food-mondays-can-romanstyle-pizza-make-it-in-chicago/662032dc-bc70-4e42-b647-a7709d8f429a

Professor Frank has just published another book, The Long Honduran Night: Resistance, Terror and the U.S. in the Aftermath of the Coup.  CRLN has 3 copies for sale. Please contact Sharon at shunter-smith@crln.org or call the CRLN office at 773-293-2964 if you would like to buy a copy.

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By Sidney Hollander, Secretary, CRLN Board of Directors

Guatemala is in the grip of a constitutional crisis that threatens to reinstate a regime of dictatorship and death squads supported by the U.S. government.

This is the message that was delivered to me and my fellow members of a CRLN delegation to Guatemala by a variety of human rights activists in January of this year.  Appalled by the looming threat to the modest progress toward righting the historic wrongs that continue to cast a shadow over public life in Guatemala, these activists deplored the recent U.S. retreat from its previous 12 years of support for the effort to bring justice to Guatemala and pleaded with us to help rekindle that support in the U.S. congress.

Because of the urgency and importance of this moment, explained below, CRLN is forming a Guatemala Working Group. Call the CRLN office at 773-293-2964 or email shunter-smith@crln.org if you are interested in joining a CRLN Working Group on Guatemala.

The United States, with a few notable exceptions, has been playing a relentlessly destructive role in Guatemala since at least 1954 when the CIA-engineered a coup that overthrew a democratically elected reformist regime because it was encroaching on U.S. business interests there.  In the ensuing maelstrom of repression and rebellion the U.S. allied itself with the Spanish-descended economic elite and its military, supplying arms and training in support of a barbarous genocidal counterinsurgency that destroyed 440 Mayan villages and killed over 200,000 people, nearly all of them civilians.

The heavy hand of the U.S. did not stop there.  When survivors of these massacres and related repressions sought refuge in the United States, the Reagan administration barred them, thereby inadvertently giving rise to the Sanctuary Movement of churches and synagogues that sheltered these “illegal” refugees in defiance of the U.S. government.

CRLN is a direct outgrowth of that sanctuary work in the 1980s.  Over the years it has continued to stand with Guatemalans in their postwar pursuit of justice and to call out the U.S. government when it impedes that work.

That is the background of the crisis that CRLN found during its January delegation.  The current constitutional crisis has its roots in the crimes of the counterinsurgency.  The long-delayed effort to bring the perpetrators to justice got a big boost about 12 years ago in a fleeting, breakthrough moment when the Guatemalan government, desperate for some measure of international and domestic legitimacy, agreed to cosponsor a United Nations Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG, in the Spanish acronym).  Its mandate was to assist the Guatemalan Attorney General in the development of prosecutions relating to crimes from the past as well as from the present.  The U.S. supplied a portion of the necessary funding.

The CICIG has become a victim of its own success.  In its support of dozens of successful prosecutions of perpetrators of the genocide and of sitting politicians, including a sitting president and vice president, the CICIG has come to be seen as a threat to the allied business and military elites that have long dominated Guatemalan politics and government.  It was the 1970s and 1980s threat to this same elite that caused it to launch the brutal counterinsurgency, so it is no surprise that it has launched a counterattack on the CICIG.

The current crisis was precipitated by the present president of Guatemala who, along with his son and brother, has come under investigation and fears that they will be indicted for corruption.  He and his allies for some time have been attacking the CICIG as an agent of foreign powers that are compromising Guatemalan sovereignty.  They have even used high priced lobbyists to win the support of conservative politicians in the U.S.  These attacks came to a head late last year when the president declared that he was ending the mandate of the CICIG.

The resulting political crisis rapidly became a constitutional crisis when the Constitutional Court ruled that the president lacked the authority to terminate the CICIG unilaterally, the president defied the Court and withdrew police protection from the CICIG workers.  He then sought to indict and remove the Court majority on charges that they had acted against the law by ruling against him.   That is where things stand as of this moment in mid-February.

It is painful to report that the United States has jettisoned its 12-year support for the CICIG.  The State Department and the embassy have issued statements in defense of Guatemalan sovereignty and blandly said they favor the rule of law.  They have remained pointedly silent on the CICG, in contrast with the robust support they have voiced in the past.

Guatemalan human rights activists see the CICIG crisis as part of a larger drift toward dictatorship characterized by the reappearance of death squads, the criminalization of protest and opposition generally, and the subordination of independent branches of government to the control of the president acting on behalf of the old elite.  Emblematic of this drift is proposed legislation that would void the convictions that the CICIG has helped to obtain and forbid further prosecutions of crimes committed during the counterinsurgency, thus reinstating the impunity on which elite rule has rested.  In addition, a companion bill would subject nongovernmental organizations to onerous registration and reporting requirements and would outlaw many of their activities.  If this bill is enacted many of the groups with which CRLN works would find it difficult or impossible to operate, and individual activists would find themselves in even greater jeopardy than they are at present.

The awful developments in Guatemala create a particular moment for CRLN.  As members of CRLN we are not powerless to resist Guatemala’s slide toward dictatorship.  We must remain in contact with our partners there.  We must contact U.S. officials and other leaders.  We must spread the word so that our friends and associates in the U.S. can do the same.

Because of the urgency and importance of this moment, CRLN is forming a Guatemala working group.  All members are invited to join.  I definitely will be participating.  I hope many of us will.  We have a lot of work to do.

Call the CRLN office at 773-293-2964 or email shunter-smith@crln.org if you are interested in joining a CRLN Working Group on Guatemala.

 

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