ROCLA Fall 2021 Newsletter
ROCLA News & Updates
Join or Renew Your Membership and Help ROCLA Thrive!
COVID-19 has posed great challenges to the Rochester Committee on Latin America (ROCLA) since 2020, but it has also spurred us to grow, change and create!
Throughout 2020-2021, ROCLA’s committed all-volunteer Steering Committee, led by our new Convener, worked hard to provide informative and wide-ranging programs to our growing audiences. Using Zoom has provided the opportunity to present our audiences with on-the-ground current programs about Bolivia, Brazil, Chiapas, Nicaragua, Cuba, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Haiti, and Chile. Zoom has also allowed us to include many more Latin Americans in our speaker lineup. We have also been able to invite the Latin America Solidarity Committee (LASC) of Buffalo to co-sponsor presentations with ROCLA, and include LASC’s members and friends in our program audiences, leading to greater participation, livelier discussions, and growth in our outreach to other organizations.
Unfortunately, COVID’s impact on ROCLA’s financial health has not been as positive. In 2020 and 2021, we were unable to hold our major annual Spring fundraiser, the Rice & Beans Dinner, reducing our budget considerably. And we have all missed enjoying your company, our keynote speakers and a great dinner! Our costs for monthly speakers’ honoraria and technical support remain the same, and we would like to rebuild and increase our historic support for solidarity, immigrant and Latin American civil society groups fighting for justice in the US and Latin America. However, we can’t do this without your help!
Please consider giving generously to ROCLA!
Suggested donations: Student: $30; Member: $50; Patron: $75.
We are proud that we now provide ROCLA’s members and friends with an expanded quarterly newsletter that covers many more Latin American countries and timely issues such as climate change, migration and cultural change. Its new online user-friendly format gives our editor much greater flexibility to include varied in-depth articles with more photos and illustrations. Our newsletter designer/webmaster has also brought ROCLA firmly into the 21st century by greatly increasing our presence on social media and upgrading and expanding our website. Both of those efforts have significantly increased ROCLA’s online following, our program participation and responses to urgent action alerts…
Our members are our most important resource for financial support and we need you more than ever! We ask that you generously contribute now so that ROCLA can continue its work in the future. We look forward in 2022 to celebrating with you all at a special Rice & Beans Dinner, presenting new programs, increasing our support for democracy efforts in Latin America and the Caribbean, and providing regular action opportunities to fight for justice! We extend a grateful THANK YOU to all those who have supported us throughout ROCLA’s nearly 50-year existence.
–The ROCLA Steering Committee
Become a ROCLA Member
Please 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.
become a ROCLA monthly sustainer
Becoming a ROCLA Monthly Sustainer provides reliable support for our monthly programs and events. As a Sustainer, your donation will renew and your credit or debit card will automatically be billed.
Sign the petition: Demand that the Biden Administration HALT all deportations to Haiti
Join us in demanding that the Biden Administration HALT all deportations, end Title 42 immediately, and extend Temporary Protected Status for Haiti.
Unbordering Migration in the Americas: Causes, Experiences, Identities
September 7, 2021
The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has awarded the University of Rochester one of its prestigious grants for a Sawyer Seminar on the Comparative Study of Cultures, to support the project “Unbordering Migration in the Americas: Causes, Experiences, Identities.”
The interdisciplinary seminar series will explore neglected but vital aspects of human migration in the Western hemisphere, considering the political, social, and economic circumstances of migration to and within the Americas over time.
Invitation to Metro Justice Virtual Annual Dinner October 23, 7:00 PM
You are cordially invited to Metro Justice’s 2021 Annual Dinner! For decades, the Annual Dinner has been one of our biggest and most beloved event of the year: a celebration of the work done so far, a time to inspire for the work yet to come, and an opportunity to bring together the local progressive community. It’s also a critical fundraiser that keeps us independent and truly grassroots. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, we’ve opted again to host the Annual Dinner as a virtual event!
Rochester Screening of New Documentary Film – Voices from the Barrens: Native People, Blueberries and Sovereignty
Thursday, November 18 in Theatre 1 at 7:00 PM
Saturday, November 20 at 3:00 PM
ROCLA member Nancy Ghertner’s new documentary film, “Voices from the Barrens: Native People, Blueberries and Sovereignty,” documents the wild blueberry harvest of the Wabanaki People from the USA and Canada and will be shown locally at the Little Theater in Rochester as part of the Little’s One Take Documentary series in November. Nancy’s previous film, “After I Pick the Fruit,” depicted the lives of immigrant women farmworkers and was screened by ROCLA in 2011. “Voices from the Barrens” focuses on the Passamaquoddy tribe’s challenge to balance blueberry hand raking traditions with the economic realities of the world market, which favor mechanical harvesting. The documentary was released in 2020 and has been part of nine film festivals, and several PBS broadcasts during its premiere year. The screening at The Little will be its premiere in NY State.
News from Latin America
Rachel Pannett, “Thousands of Brazilians take to streets, calling for Bolsonaro to be impeached,” The Washington Post, October 3, 2021.
Tens of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of Brazil’s biggest cities Saturday, calling for the country’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, to be impeached.
“Exposed by the Pandora Papers,” El Faro English, October 7, 2021.
The investigation, which Central American media outlets El Faro, ContraCorriente and Plaza Pública participated in along with The New York Times, The Guardian, and others, revealed that at least one current presidential candidate, five former presidents, one former first lady, and a handful of other politicians and businessmen in Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Panama have moved their money into offshore opaque accounts.
Adriaan Alsema, “NGO’s blast Duque for weakening Colombia’s democracy and rule of law,” Colombia Reports, September 23, 2021.
President Ivan Duque‘s third year in office was the “worst” for Colombia’s democracy and rule of law, according to more than 500 human rights organizations.
Caleb Brennan, “The United States’ Role in Colombia’s Forever War,” The Progressive Magazine, October 4, 2021.
Following the Bay of Pigs disaster, President John F. Kennedy was racked with anxiety. Caught between the realities of the Cold War and an aggressive anti-communist State Department hellbent on suppressing the so-called “Red Menace” growing in Latin America, Kennedy felt compelled to act.
So his administration pivoted: Rather than preparing U.S.-friendly regimes throughout the Western Hemisphere to repel a (non-existent) Soviet invasion, Kennedy’s administration would assist its allies in keeping in check a much closer foe—the burgeoning leftwing movements that were then cropping up across Latin America.
Samantha Schmidt and Rachel Pannett, “She was ready to die. Now an 11th-hour decision by health officials has halted her euthanasia bid,” The Washington Post, October 10, 2021.
Martha Sepúlveda was scheduled to become the first person in Colombia — a majority-Catholic country — without a terminal prognosis to die by legally authorized euthanasia on Sunday. But a surprise 11th-hour decision by health officials has halted her bid.
El Salvador 🇸🇻
Raymond Bonner and Nelson Rauda, “Survivors and Families of Victims of a 1981 El Salvador Massacre See Justice Slip Away Again,” ProPublica, September 13, 2021.
The judge investigating the 1981 El Mozote massacre has been fired by El Salvador’s government as the right-wing populist president, Nayib Bukele, consolidates power. For victims, survivors and their families, that means justice could never come.
Jeff Abbott, “The Other Americans: Guatemala’s Indigenous Communities Are Still Fighting for Their Rights,” The Progressive Magazine, September 15, 2021.
September 15 marks 200 years since the Central American countries of Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica gained independence from Spain. In that time, Guatemala has become the largest economy in Central America. The diverse and beautiful country draws hundreds of thousands of tourists each year. Yet, for the Indigenous populations of Guatemala, independence has not meant an end to racism, exploitation, and abandonment.
Jacqueline Charles and Michael Wilner, “U.S. special envoy to Haiti resigns over repatriation of Haitians from U.S.-Mexico border,” Miami Herald, September 24, 2021.
Harshly criticizing what he called the United States’ “inhumane” treatment of Haitian migrants and its policy toward Haiti, Daniel Foote, the U.S. diplomat whose reputation for working in some of the world’s most challenging environments led the Biden administration to name him special envoy to Haiti, has resigned.
In a strongly worded resignation letter dated Wednesday, the veteran diplomat criticized the U.S. decision to repatriate thousands of Haitians from the U.S.-Mexico border over the past few days.
Aída Chávez, “Biden’s Immigration Policy Picks Up Where Trump Left Off,” The Nation, September 30, 2021
The administration is carrying out mass expulsions cribbed straight from the Stephen Miller playbook.
PBI Honduras, “Remilitarization of Honduras: A Short History Since 2009,” September 2021.
In late 2019, the Government of Honduras announced that the Armed Forces would be assigned over one billion Honduran Lempiras (nearly 42 million US Dollars) for the management of the Agricultural Development Programme of Honduras (PCM 52-2019), placing the programme outside of the mandate of the country’s agricultural institutions. The response from peasant organisations was swift: “The Government is paying off the military”, declared the National Centre for Field Workers (Central Nacional de Trabajadores del Campo – CNTC). The Centre’s Regional Office in La Paz explains that the same institutions that have harassed, attacked, tear gassed, and displaced them now wish to reach out to them as allies. “We are not going to accept that. We have accumulated a lot of distrust for them over the years”. For this reason, they add, they do not wish for “their genetically modified seeds to contaminate our lands”.
“Game-Changing Electoral Alliance in Honduras,” El Faro English, October 18, 2021
A last-minute alliance has shifted the pre-election scene to open the possibility of the first-ever victory of a left-wing party. In the middle of an increasingly violent campaign season, President Juan Orlando Hernández’s latest move was to reignite a decades-long territorial dispute with El Salvador.
Stephan Sefton, “Sergio Ramirez on Nicaragua – treason all over again…,” Tortilla con Sal, September 21, 2021
As Nicaragua’s presidential and legislative elections next November 7th draw nearer, so the attacks demonizing the country’s Sandinista FSLN government led by President Daniel Ortega become progressively more intense. Lately, Western propaganda outlets have focused on the recent arrests of various figures from Nicaragua’s political opposition, claiming that they are abitrary detentions aimed at preventing any challenge to Daniel Ortega’s presidential candidacy. A recent Guardian interview with highly regarded novelist, Sergio Ramirez, a long standing, fierce critic of President Ortega and Vice President Rosario Murillo, his former comrades, offers a litany of the falsehoods and distortions currently being deployed to discredit their government.
Becca Mohally Renk,“Nicaragua is the Exception: Letter to a Cynic,” Center for Development in Central America, October 7, 2021.
“That’s unbelievable,” my father-in-law wrote me from Ireland after watching me give a statistic-heavy webinar on the advances for the poor in Nicaragua since 2007.
“I know, right?” I replied.
“No, I mean it’s actually unbelievable,” he wrote back. “For cynical and tired privileged people like ourselves, our faith in humanity has been undermined and we’ve lost all hope of goodness. The story of a government really looking after ordinary people is too good to be true.”
José Carlos Llerena Robles, Vijay Prashad, “There’s a Dirty Tricks Campaign Underway in Peru to deny the Left’s Presidential Victory,” MRonline, July 9, 2021.
By the evening of June 6, 2021, Peru’s National Jury of Elections should have declared Pedro Castillo the winner of the presidential election. But it did not. A month later, matters remain in stasis as Peru does not yet have an official winner of the election.
Immigration / Migration Issues
James Goodman, “The Great Immigration Invasion Hoax,” The Progressive Magazine, August 17, 2021.
Osman and his five-year-old son recently waited at the bus station in the Texas border city of Brownsville to continue a journey that he describes as a matter of life and death.
“People think that we only came here because we wanted to,” says Osman, in a telephone interview with The Progressive. “They have not experienced what we have gone through.”
Erica Bryant, “ICE’s Deadly Practice of Abandoning Detainees with Disabilities and Mental Illnesses on the Street,” The Vera Institute, September 2021.
When the video screen connected Attorney Homero Lopez Jr. to the Pine Prairie detention center in Louisiana, his client Luis* was not there.
Luis had a history of serious mental illness and had been found incompetent to represent himself in immigration court. Lopez, the legal director of Immigration Services and Legal Advocacy (ISLA) in New Orleans, was assigned to help him navigate his deportation proceedings.
Last month, the Biden administration announced that it had cleared a makeshift tent camp where thousands of Haitians had congregated under a bridge linking Mexico and Del Rio, Texas. They had arrived there desperate to gain admission to the United States, many fleeing persecution in Haiti and seeking the protection of our asylum law. The administration’s unsteady response to this crisis has revealed, once again, the broken nature of this country’s asylum system. It also is a grim reminder of the longstanding U.S. tolerance of government corruption and the denial of basic human rights in Haiti.
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, Richard Rosen, Vic Vinkey, Tom Ward, Wesley Costa de Moraes. Emeritus: Gail Mott, Bob Kaiser
Newsletter Creator: Maryann Reissig; Editor: Grania Marcus