ROCLA Winter 2021 Newsletter
In this Issue
ROCLA News & Updates
Remembering Marilyn Kaiser
ROCLA Steering Committee Member Emerita
By Grania Marcus
Marilyn Kaiser was a key member of ROCLA’s Steering Committee for over 20 years. (Her husband, Reverend Bob Kaiser, served as Convener of ROCLA at the same time.) Both were dedicated social justice advocates who undertook many mission trips to Mexico and Central America.
When I joined the ROCLA Steering Committee in 2012 and started editing the Newsletter, it was sent out to members by postal mail. Marilyn was the comandante of the team that carried out the complicated process of stapling, folding, affixing labels, and preparing the trays of newsletters in zip code order to bring to the post office, giving precise directions to any newcomers. It was obvious that her expertise in this process and dedication to the task was crucial. Despite relying on Marilyn’s precise instructions to try to help out, I never succeeded in coming close to her mastery.
For years, the entire steering committee and their spouses had the pleasure of gathering for Marilyn’s potluck summer planning picnics at their house, amidst the beautiful gardens Marilyn had designed and grown. Marilyn made various dishes to share over the years, but none as memorable as her special cream puffs that many of us, including long-time ROCLA Steering Committee member Peter Mott, absolutely loved!
Marilyn’s planning and project skills were not just important to ROCLA and her family, but the wider community as well. She was involved in many acts of service including tutoring the incarcerated, sending sewing machines to migrant farmworkers, and refugee resettlement.
A memorial service for Marilyn is planned for the spring.
Marilyn, rest in peace. We all miss you!
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Protect NY Heroes • Pass the NY Hero Act!
The second wave of Covid-19 is here. New York State leaders must pass the NY HERO Act (S1034/A2681) urgently to ensure that essential workers including immigrant farmworkers are protected and have the tools to fight this virus.
The NY HERO Act would direct the New York State Department of Labor to establish requirements for testing, face masks, PPE, social distancing, hand hygiene, disinfection, and engineering controls for all working New York workers. This bill includes New York’s thousands of immigrant farmworkers, who have been deemed essential workers, but have had to cobble together masks and other workplace safety gear on their own, absent protections provided by the state or federal government or many employers. The NY HERO Act would also empower workers to protect their own safety and workplaces through cooperation with employers. The law allows workers to form health and safety committees with representatives from their employers to discuss health and safety plans and ensure that standards are being met. Workers who choose to form committees would be protected from retaliation.
Please sign the petition to support passing the bill.
Or write a letter to support the bill
For more information: https://protectnyheroes.org
ROCLA has decided to begin a new section of the ROCLA Newsletter entitled “Perspectives.” As we were putting together this edition of the newsletter, we received articles by authors that reflected on their subjects from specifically Latinx perspectives. We found these voices particularly interesting and decided to feature them. We’re asking that our readers and friends contribute articles, letters, editorials or commentary from a Latinx perspective that we will feature in this section.
On the day of the attack on the U.S. Capitol, observers described the events as something of the “Third World” or “banana republics.” CNN host Jake Tapper said: “I feel like I’m talking to a correspondent reporting from Bogotá.” Two days later, President-elect Joe Biden said: “This reminded me more of states I’ve visited in the over hundred countries I’ve gone to in third [world] tinhorn dictatorships.”
News from Latin America
Adriaan Alsema, “Colombia’s police responsible for 289 murders between 2017 and 2019: report,” Columbia Reports, January 13, 2021.
Colombia’s police are responsible for 289 homicides committed for which only two policemen were convicted since 2017, according to a local human rights group.
The Police Violence Observatory of NGO Temblores obtained the information from the Medical Examiner’s Office, which determines people’s cause of death, newspaper El Espectador reported on Tuesday.
Colombia and Ecuador
Ana Cristina Basantes, “Colombian and Ecuadorian Indigenous communities live in fear as drug traffickers invade,” Mongabay, January 8, 2021.
The Siona are a binational people, their territory straddling two countries: Sucumbíos province in northeastern Ecuador and in the Putumayo department in southeastern Colombia. But the forest they depend on and even their very lives are under increasing threat due the growing of coca crops to produce cocaine and the armed groups that are trafficking it.
“The quarantine has only worsened the problems they already had before the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Andrés, a member of the Siona Indigneous group who prefers not reveal his real name for fear of reprisal. He added that, “the pandemic has put the whole world into quarantine, but in fact it has not quarantined some of the extractive activities in the territories.”
Peter Kornbluh, “Can Biden Finish what Obama Started with Cuba?” The Nation, December 21, 2020.
Today, America chooses to cut loose the shackles of the past so as to reach for a better future—for the Cuban people, for the American people, for our entire hemisphere and for the world,” President Barack Obama announced on December 17, 2014, inaugurating a new era of “positive engagement” in US-Cuba relations.
Medea Benjamin and Leonardo Flores, “The Trump Administration’s Parting Outrage Against Cuba,” Common Dreams, January 16, 2021.
On January 11, in his final days before leaving office, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo added one parting blow to the series of bludgeons his administration has inflicted on Cuba for four years: putting the island on the list of “state sponsors of terror” that includes only Iran, North Korea and Syria. The designation drew swift condemnation from policymakers and humanitarian groups as a decision widely characterized as “politically motivated.” It comes six years after the Obama administration had removed Cuba from the same list as part of his policy of rapprochement.
María Luz Nóchez, “Women Bear the Invisible Wounds of Economic Violence,” El Faro English, January 27, 2021.
He denied Sonia the right to a salary and even attempted to take the business they’d built together away from her. He threatened to drop Janeth as a social security beneficiary if she did not meet his macho demands. He kept Julia from escaping because he provided support for her children. Until the passage of the Special Comprehensive Law on a Violence-Free Life for Women (LEIV) in 2012, economic violence lurked completely under the radar in El Salvador. To this day, though, prosecutors leveraging the LEIV have only obtained convictions in a small fraction of cases.
“Guatemala protesters set Congress on fire during budget protests,” The Guardian, November 22, 2020.
Hundreds of protesters broke into Guatemala’s congress and burned part of the building amid growing demonstrations against President Alejandro Giammattei and the legislature for approving a budget that cut educational and health spending.
The incident on Saturday came as about 10,000 people were protesting in front of the National Palace in Guatemala City against corruption and the budget, which protesters say was negotiated and passed by legislators in secret while the Central American country was distracted by the fallout of back-to-back hurricanes and the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Parker Asmann, Héctor Silva Ávalos and Seth Robbins, “Allegations Against Honduras President Add to Narco-State Case,” InSight Crime, January 11, 2021.
With new accusations that Honduras President Juan Orlando Hernández directly brokered deals to protect traffickers in exchange for drug money, the president himself has emerged as a lynchpin in Honduras’ descent into a narco-state.
US prosecutors said in a January 8 court filing that accused drug trafficker Geovanny Daniel Fuentes Ramírez met with Hernández and gave him tens of thousands of dollars in exchange for protection from law enforcement — along with military support for his trafficking activities.
J. Weston Phippen, “The Kidnapped American Trump Forgot,” Politico, December 18, 2020.
NUEVO LAREDO, Mexico—The day they kidnapped Jorge Antonio Dominguez, he had spent the afternoon laying tile at the house on Belisario Dominguez Street. It was 9 p.m. on April 4, 2018, when his father, Daniel Hernandez, arrived for the final inspection. As Hernandez paced the floor of the peach-colored stucco home, pointing to flaws in his son’s work, he realized he’d forgotten to take his diabetes pill. So with the plumbing still a wreck, 18-year-old Jorge and another worker left in the family’s silver Dodge Caravan. It should have been only a short drive to the nearest convenience store for water.
Louise Richards, Nicaragua Solidarity Campaign Action Group, “Briefing,” January 2021.
2021 is a crucial year for Nicaragua, with national elections due in November. There are strong indications that President Ortega and the FSLN (Sandinista National Liberation Front) might again be re-elected with a substantial share of the vote. But what does the US have in store for Nicaragua? Will they try once again to sabotage the elections and subvert the will of the Nicaraguan people? And can Nicaragua once again resist and defend its sovereignty and its right to self-determination against US and other foreign interference?
“Peru’s new president sworn in, calls for calm after protests,” Al Jazeera, November 17, 2020.
Peruvian lawmaker Francisco Sagasti was sworn in as interim president on Tuesday, voted for by Congress in an effort to return stability to a country that has seen deadly protests and the departure of two presidents over the last week.
Sagasti, a legislator from the centrist Purple Party, is expected to serve out his term until July next year, with a new presidential election scheduled for April 11.
Chris Fagan, “Who killed this Indigenous family in the Peruvian Amazon? And why?” National Geographic, November 20, 2020.
THE BRUTAL KILLING of an Indigenous family from the Mastanahua tribe in the Peruvian Amazon has local tribes on edge and authorities searching for answers.
The bodies of Shuri, his wife Elena, and mother-in-law, Maria, were found two weeks ago riddled with arrows near the charred remains of their maloca, or palm-thatched shelter, near the Curanja River in Peru’s Alto Purús region. Shuri’s second wife, Janet, has not been found and is presumed dead.
Ricardo Vaz, “Venezuela: Biden to Endorse Guaidó After Trump Issues Parting Sanctions,” Venezuela Analysis, January 21, 2021.
The incoming Joe Biden administration will maintain support for Venezuelan self-proclaimed “Interim President” Juan Guaido.
According to reports, the new Secretary of State Antony Blinken told members of the US Senate that recently inaugurated President Biden will continue to recognize the opposition leader as the country’s legitimate leader.
Migrant and Immigration Issues
David Alire Garcia and Adriana Barrera “Mexico to invoke labor rule to ensure U.S. vaccines for illegal migrants,” Reuters, January 13, 2021.
Mexico will invoke labor provisions in the new North American trade pact in a bid to ensure that illegal migrants in the United States receive coronavirus vaccines, the country’s top diplomat said on Wednesday.
Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard told reporters at a regular government news conference that the labor provisions of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) include health protections for migrants regardless of their immigration status.
“Factbox: What’s in Biden’s immigration bill proposal?” Reuters, January 20, 2021.
If passed, it would be the largest legislative overhaul of the U.S. immigration system in decades.
Nicole Narea, “A Texas judge just blocked Biden’s 100-day pause on deportations,” Vox, January 26, 2021.
A federal judge in Texas on Tuesday temporarily blocked President Joe Biden’s attempt to pause deportations for 100 days, marking the new administration’s first major defeat on immigration policy.
US District Judge Drew Tipton, a Trump appointee, issued a temporary restraining order preventing the administration from stopping deportations for a period of 14 days. Though the moratorium on deportations could still go into effect once Tipton issues a final ruling, he said the administration likely did not sufficiently explain the reasoning behind the policy change and may have violated federal immigration law requiring that a noncitizen be removed from the US within 90 days of being ordered deported by an immigration judge.
Samuel Gilbert, “2020 was deadliest year for migrants crossing unlawfully into U.S. via Arizona,” The Guardian, January 30, 2021.
When the remains of two undocumented migrants were found in the desert of south-western Arizona last July, one body lay next to an arrow drawn in the sand, pointing north, with the word “HELP” written beneath.
The men had perished while attempting to cross into the US from Mexico, according to border patrol. Out of a group of three, one survived and told the federal agents their human smuggler had left the other two behind in the remote wilderness area.
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