ROCLA Fall 2020 Newsletter
In this Issue
Urgent! Renew your ROCLA Membership!
COVID-19 has affected all aspects of our daily lives, our activities and what motivates us as human beings. But ROCLA’s all-volunteer, committed, Steering Committee members have worked hard to move forward. We host speakers and monthly programs to provide you with accurate, on the ground, current information about Latin America. With the assistance of Zoom, we have “traveled” to Brazil, Cuba, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Venezuela, and the Mexican border. Our new convener, Tom Ward, reaches out to potential speakers and facilitates a very lively discussion following each monthly program.
ROCLA also has a stellar newsletter! It comes out quarterly featuring articles one would not see in any single publication. This year we have moved to an online-only newsletter, which gives us greater flexibility to include longer and more varied articles. Our editor is knowledgeable and does in-depth research to bring you ROCLA’s newsletter, and our designer creates a user-friendly and visually lively newsletter. As our webmaster and technology expert, she has also helped ROCLA to fully meet our programmatic needs during this pandemic.
Through the use of Zoom, we are now partnering with the Latin America Solidarity Committee of Buffalo to expand and share our monthly presentations. This partnership helps inform a greater number of people interested in Latin America and the Caribbean, and has made our Zoom discussions even livelier.
This past spring, we were unable to host our annual Rice & Beans Dinner because of COVID. As our major fundraiser, the dinner has been vital to ROCLA’s financial life, so we have suffered a considerable loss in 2020. Paid membership is down, and while we continue to pay honoraria and technical support, we want to continue and increase our historic support for solidarity, immigrant and civil society groups fighting for justice in the US and Latin America.
So we are reaching out to you, our members and friends, to ask you to generously contribute so that ROCLA remains viable and can continue our work during this difficult time. We extend a grateful THANK YOU to all those who have supported us through the years.
Stay well and be safe, Compañeros!
The ROCLA Steering Committee
Renew Your ROCLA Membership
We hope that you will consider giving generously to ROCLA so we can ensure a future that allows us to inform and support the efforts of those in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Donate below or send your tax-deductible check made out to MJ/ROCLA to: Kathy Goforth, 45 Lynbrook Drive, Rochester, NY 14609.
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Upcoming ROCLA Program
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Send an Email to Colombian Authorities in Support of the Minga and National Strike! Demand That Their Rights Be Respected to Demonstrate Free of Repression by the Public Forces!
Alliance for Global Justice, October 21, 2020
The people of Colombia are coming together yet again to demand an end to the right-wing political violence and repression that is ravaging the country. Under the leadership of the indigenous Minga, at least 7,000 original peoples and their allies have gathered in the capital city of Bogotá from across the nation to make the following four demands:
- An end to the massacres, ethnocide, genocide, femicide, and political violence, and the dismantling of paramilitary organizations;
- Land reform and an end to the politics of resource extraction;
- Guarantees of freedom to protest and participate safely in the political process;
- Demilitarization of Colombian society and fulfillment of the peace accords.
Solidarity with Colombia’s Indigenous Minga and National Strike!
Send an email to Colombian authorities in support of the Minga and national strike! Demand that their rights be respected to demonstrate free of repression by the public forces!
News from Latin America
James Attwood, Valentina Fuentes, Jonathan Gilbert and Michael D. McDonald, “No Meat, No Milk, No Bread: Hunger Crisis Rocks Latin America,” Bloomberg, September 28, 2020.
He couldn’t feed his family. Matilde Alonso knew it was true but couldn’t believe it. The pandemic had just hit Guatemala in full force and Alonso, a 34-year-old construction worker, was suddenly jobless.
He sat up all alone till late that night, his mind racing, and fought back tears. He had six mouths to feed, no income and no hope of receiving anything beyond the most meager of crisis-support checks — some $130 — from the cash-strapped government.
“Luis Arce promises to ‘rebuild’ Bolivia after huge election win,” Al Jazeera, October 23, 2020.
The result, which was a vindication to Evo Morales’s MAS party, also gave majorities in both houses of Congress.
“Leftist leader Luis Arce promised to “rebuild” Bolivia in the wake of a tumultuous year scarred by political turmoil and the coronavirus pandemic, after securing a landslide victory in the Andean nation’s presidential election.
The Supreme Electoral Tribunal announced on Friday, Arce won 55 percent of the votes against six rivals on the ballot, easily avoiding the need for a run-off, and providing vindication for the Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) party of former President Evo Morales who was ousted last year and now lives in exile.”
“Fires in Brazil’s Amazon worst in 10 years, data shows,” Al Jazeera, October 1, 2020.
The Brazilian Amazon is experiencing its worst rash of fires in nearly 10 years, data from space research agency INPE shows.
Last month, INPE satellites recorded 32,017 hotspots in the world’s largest rainforest, a 61 percent increase compared with the same month in 2019.
Dave Sherwood, Natalia A. Ramos Miranda “Chile sets out to rewrite its Constitution after landslide referendum,” Reuters, October 26, 2020.
Chileans began the long process of writing a new constitution on Monday following a landslide vote in favor of the project by citizens who want the unabashedly capitalist country’s principles to enshrine greater equality in healthcare, pensions and education.
“Why Do They Want to kill Us? Lack of Safe Space to Defend Human Rights in Colombia,” Amnesty International Report, 2020, “3.1 Proceso de Comunidades Negras and the Collective Risk of Violence,” pp. 15-20.
“The signing of the Peace Agreement between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – People’s Army (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia – Ejército del Pueblo, FARC-EP) guerrilla group on 24 November 2016 has not had the hoped for impact on human rights because of the failure of the Colombian state to ful l the terms of the Agreement.
On the contrary, the aws in the implementation of the Agreement, combined with the structural discrimination that many rural, Indigenous and Afro-descendant communities face in Colombia, are endangering the lives of human rights defenders, particularly those defending territories in the country that are richest in natural resources. The sharp increase in the number of human rights defenders killed since 2017 is evidence of this.”
Isabel MacDonald, “Ten Years Ago, We Pledged To Help Haiti Rebuild. Then What Happened?” In These Times, January 12, 2020.
“The earthquake that struck Haiti on Jan. 12, 2010, unleashed one of the worst humanitarian crises in decades. In hard-hit places like Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital and most densely populated city, schools and medical centers collapsed. More than 300,000 homes were damaged or destroyed. The disaster is estimated to have killed at least 220,000 Haitians and displaced 2.3 million — about a quarter of the population.
The crisis also unleashed an unprecedented humanitarian response. Charity groups, private individuals and governments around the world offered support. At a United Nations conference in New York on March 31, 2010, 58 donors pledged more than $8.3 billion to help Haiti “build back better,” reducing the nation’s vulnerability to future disasters.
The United States made the biggest pledge of any nation, promising $1.15 billion. Then‑U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton emphasized Haiti’s urgent needs: safe homes, food security and basic services that were not broadly accessible even before the earthquake — including healthcare, potable water and a national system of sanitation.
A decade later, for many, conditions are still worse than before.”
Honduras Solidarity Network, “Stop the Campaign of Terror Against Honduras’ Garifuna people,” August 24, 2020.
On July 18th, Snider Centeno, Suami Mejia, Milton Martinez and Gerardo Rochez all young Afro-Indigenous Garifuna land defenders and another person were forcibly disappeared from the town of Triunfo de la Cruz in Honduras. For more than a month the defenders’ community and organization, OFRANEH (Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras), have denounced and protested the disappearances, the continued attacks on the Garifuna communities and the government’s biased and incomplete investigation. International voices have also been raised in defense of the Indigenous land defenders, including protests by Garifuna organizations in the US.and other countries. The Inter-American Human Rights Court reiterated its previous ruling in favor of the Garifuna communities and insisted that the Honduran regime comply with the ruling, and the United Nations has called on the Honduran government to take urgent actions to find the men.
Lisa Haugaard, “Closing Space for Honduran Citizens, along with the Pandemic, Poverty, Corruption, and Violence, Fuel Migration from Honduras,” Latin American Working Group, October 6, 2020.
The impact of the pandemic, pervasive poverty and inequality compounded by the effects of climate change, and violence from organized crime, gangs, and state agents, as well as violence against women and LGBTQ+ Hondurans, continue to drive migration from Honduras, despite the near-total closure of access to asylum in the United States and worsening conditions for migrants in Guatemala and Mexico.
A less discussed but crucial factor is the closure of space for Honduran citizens to organize and express their views to create a better life for themselves, their families, and their communities, and to build a responsive democracy. Hondurans face a government that not only fails to meet their basic needs, but profits from corruption, led by President Juan Orlando Hernández, whom U.S. prosecutors, during their successful prosecution of his brother Tony Hernández for drug trafficking, claimed accepted money from drug cartels for his campaigns. Yet efforts to organize for change are met by repression against protesters and threats, attacks, and legal harassment of human rights activists and journalists. Hondurans looking towards their 2021 national elections for prospects of change see that their Congress failed so far to pass electoral reforms to fix serious fraud allegations that plagued the 2017 presidential elections.
As one Honduran humanitarian organization summed up the reasons people were giving for joining the latest caravan that left Honduras in late September-early October 2020 (many of whom were turned back to Honduras by Guatemalan authorities): “There is nothing for us in this country, I lost my family members because of COVID-19, there is no work, and the tyrant is overwhelming us.”
Ociel Alí López, “From ‘Magical Realism’ to Parliamentary Elections,” Venezuela Analysis, September 21, 2020.
Elliott Abrams, White House Special Envoy for Venezuela, recently referred to [far right politician] Maria Corina Machado’s foreign intervention appeals as “unwise” and “magical realism.” In so doing he made the US military intervention scenario less likely, at least for now, and he unwillingly left the electoral route as the only politically viable option. Meanwhile, Abrams himself has been pushing to escalate the blockade which has now generated a critical fuel shortage situation, with all its implications in terms of food supply and healthcare.
President Maduro’s August 31 presidential pardon to opposition figures changed the perspectives concerning elections, not just for Venezuelan people, but also for the media as well as governments and other organizations around the world. This could represent a boost for the December 6 National Assembly elections.
“Letter from President Nicolás Maduro to the peoples of the world.”
The threats against Venezuelan sovereignty and its right to self-determination, led by the US and its allies such as Canada, are more than ever a reality as we approach the December 6, 2020 Venezuelan elections. We are reprinting this letter by President Nicolas Maduro, addressed to all of us, because it provides an understanding of the point of view of Venezela that is rarely provided in the US media.
Immigration and Latinx Diaspora News
Astrid Galvan, “Border Aid Group Raided Again; Experts Say It’s a Pattern,” Associated Press, October 6, 2020.
The Border Patrol raided a humanitarian group’s aid camp on Monday, following a pattern of criminalization that has grown under the Trump administration.
Agents apprehended 12 immigrants and detained seven volunteers at a No More Deaths camp near the U.S.-Mexico border in Arizona in what was the second raid since the summer. The volunteers were eventually released without charges. The raid follows the two trials the federal government has brought against Scott Warren, a volunteer with No More Deaths who was eventually acquitted of harboring immigrants.
Beth Fertig, “Court Settlement on Long Island Will Create a Majority Latino Voting District“, The Gothamist, October 15, 2020.
The Town of Islip in Suffolk County reached a settlement on Wednesday with Latino residents who claimed their voting rights were diluted by a local election system that perpetually favored white voters.
The town of 330,000 people is about 30 percent Latino, but no Latino has ever been elected to Town Board. The plaintiffs blamed an at-large voting system in which the four board members are elected by everyone in the town. They claimed this disenfranchised Latinos, who live primarily in the western hamlets of Brentwood and Central Islip and could never muster enough votes to elect their preferred candidates.
The consent decree was signed by both parties two weeks into a federal trial, brought under Section Two of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which was conducted by virtual technology due to the pandemic. Judge Gary R. Brown said the parties discussed a settlement with him on day five of the trial.
James Goodman, “Sheer Cruelty, Racism, and Disregard,” The Progressive, October 12, 2020
An interactive digital satellite map, showing where the remains of migrants were found in Arizona’s desert terrain, is a grim reminder of the deadly toll of Trump’s anti-immigrant policies.
Click on any red dot and words such as “unknown” and “skeletal” and “decomposed” pop up on this map, produced by Humane Borders, an Arizona-based nonprofit that tracks desert deaths.
ROCLA MISSION STATEMEMT
Founded in 1973, the Rochester Committee on Latin America (ROCLA) seeks to build bridges between the Rochester, New York community and the people of Latin America. Through its speakers, films, newsletters, and urgent actions, ROCLA educates residents about the culture, economics and politics of the countries of Central and South America, Mexico and the Caribbean, and the ways U.S. policies impact the lives of their people. ROCLA also supports directly affected groups and solidarity organizations that are fighting for justice and human rights in the global south and the United States. ROCLA encourages its members and the Rochester community to advocate for U.S. policies that support human rights and reverse the often-oppressive history of U.S. involvement in Latin America. ROCLA stands with Latin American diaspora communities and ally organizations in the United States in advocating for farmworker rights, a fair and humane immigration system, and racial justice.
Steering Committee: Marilyn Anderson, Kathy Goforth, Grania Marcus, Arnie Matlin, Esperanza Roncero, Richard Rosen, Vic Vinkey, Tom Ward. Emeritus: Gail and Peter Mott, Bob and Marilyn Kaiser
Newsletter Creator: Maryann Reissig; Editor: Grania Marcus