ROCLA Winter 2022 Newsletter

ROCLA News & Updates

Join or Renew Your Membership and Help ROCLA Thrive!

Dear friends,

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.

Chuck Kaufman, ¡Presente!

“Celebrating a Life that Sowed Rebellion and Reaped Solidarity,” December 29, 2021.

Chuck Kaufman 1952-2021

It is with great sadness that the Alliance for Global Justice announces that Chuck Kaufman, our National Co-Coordinator and one of the founders of AfGJ, has died. He passed peacefully of natural causes on Tuesday, December 28, 2021 in his Tucson, Arizona home after a brief illness.

Chuck was a true leader, a visionary, a master strategist and above all, a loving and kind comrade and friend. Through his wise stewardship Alliance for Global Justice grew to become a major force in building the capacity of grassroots organizers throughout the Americas to confront imperialism, neoliberalism and oppression in all forms and to strive to curb U.S. violations of human rights, both within and outside its borders.

Continue to full article at AfGJ 

Rice & Beans Celebration in 2022!

White Dove with rainbow wings

We think it’s time to celebrate our members and our accomplishments, and have already decided to honor Dan Kovalik with the International White Dove Award. Dan is a human rights lawyer, internationally-known author of many articles, several books on US policy in Latin America, and producer of a documentary on Nicaragua.

Since COVID-19 continues to present so many uncertainties, as of the present we have more questions than answers about plans for the Rice & Beans Dinner and are researching possibilities. By Zoom or in-person? Inside or outside? Spring or summer? Stay tuned as we address these details and others. We welcome your thoughts about how to celebrate the 2022 Rice & Beans dinner and fundraiser. Share your ideas at:

Urgent Actions

Support “New York for All” legislation!

group of demonstrators with signs - No Family Separation

For years, federal immigration enforcement agents, including Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Border Patrol, have targeted undocumented immigrants and separated families. ICE continues to lean on local law enforcement and local government agencies to search for, arrest, and deport people, and to separate New York families. When local agencies collaborate with ICE, it leads not only to unconstitutional racial profiling, but also to the misuse of our local tax dollars and resources for ICE’s federal immigration enforcement agenda. All New Yorkers, regardless of immigration status, want to lead open lives, participate in their communities, provide for family, and access health care without intimidation.

The New York for All Act offers protections that help make this possible, by prohibiting all local law enforcement and state agencies from cooperating with ICE or participating in its enforcement efforts.

Join the Campaign to Free Alex Saab, a Venezuelan Diplomat Imprisoned by the US!

Join the Campaign to Free Alex Saab

Alex Saab is a Venezuelan diplomat illegally seized and imprisoned by the US government for what it considers a “violation” of the US economic warfare on Venezuela. He was in fact assisting Venezuela in legally working around the US blockade by finding the means to import food, medicine, and materials for the Venezuelan oil industry

Saab is currently being held in Florida where he faces trial. The US government is seeking to coerce Alex Saab into disclosing the methods Venezuela uses to circumvent the US-Canadian-European sanctions with the goal of further tightening the economic blockade and suffering on the Venezuelan people. These sanctions are illegal according to the United Nations. 

His seizure by the US violates long-standing international law for one country to arrest and imprison a diplomat of another country. Alex Saab’s next trial date will be in Atlanta the week of April 4th.


This is the ROCLA Newsletter’s first Perspectives story–about Dr. Tom Potts’ dental work in Mexico. We plan to continue to publish such personal narratives in this section. These stories can be from anyone working for justice in Latin America; Latinx people fighting for change in the US, such as for immigrant rights; or those working in solidarity with Latin American organizations and individuals in the US and Latin America. The article can be in English or Spanish. Please let our Newsletter Editor know if you or someone you know would like to submit an article:

Tom with patient - Chiapas Dental clinic

Thirty-Five Years with a Chiapas Dental Clinic

By Terrence P. Bisson, Latin American Solidarity Committee

The Rochester Committee on Latin America’s sister group, the Latin American  Solidarity Committee (LASC) in Buffalo, NY, became a task force of the  Western New York Peace Center in the mid -1980’s in response to US support of repressive regimes in Central America. In May 2022, LASC will hold an event to celebrate one of its long-term projects, a dental clinic in Chiapas, Mexico, initiated 35 years ago by Dr. Tom Potts, a founding member of LASC.

In 1982, the Mexican government established a dental clinic in Chenalhó, Chiapas, but the clinic was never fully staffed and by 1987 it had ceased functioning. At this point Christine Eber, an anthropologist from Buffalo who was working in Chiapas, invited Dr. Potts to meet with government representatives to initiate dental services under federal sponsorship. He met with Dr. Pascual Jimenez, a dentist employed by the Mexican government, and arranged to work in the clinic in Chenalhó. Tom has returned to Chiapas in month-long visits two to three times a year to serve as a dentist every year since 1987, and this has helped LASC members maintain strong connections with other projects in Chiapas.

News from Latin America

In this section, ROCLA’s newsletter editor has chosen timely and important articles highlighting political, economic and justice stories about various Latin American countries. We select a wide range of current news for you to learn more about the important events in Latin America and the Caribbean, but we undoubtedly miss some too. We welcome our readers’ suggestions for articles and research we may have missed. Please send your suggestions with links to the content if it is online, to

Your Title Goes Here

Brazil 🇧🇷

James Risen, “Turned Tables: In Presidential Polls, Brazil’s Lula Leads Judge who Locked Him Up,” The Intercept, January 2, 2022.

Sergio Moro

Then Brazilian Justice Minister Sergio Moro speaks during an interview in Brasília on March 31, 2020. Photo: Andre Coelho/Getty Images

Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Jair Bolsonaro, and Sergio Moro, three major candidates in Brazil’s 2022 election, have a turbulent and intertwined past.

Continue to full article at The Intercept

Jean Wyllys and Julie Wark, “Brazil, Amazon, World: Sociopathy v. Democracy,” Counterpunch, December 31, 2021.

Enchente de Rio

Photograph Source: HVL – CC BY 4.0

The person of Jair Messias Bolsonaro, who neatly fits the definition of a sociopath, tells us a lot about the sociopathic political system that has thrown him up, and which he embodies.

Continue to full article at Counterpunch 

Chile 🇨🇱

Mitchell McLuskey, “Chile’s Congress Votes to Legalize Same-Sex Marriage,” CNN, December 7, 2021.

Chilean girl waving rainbow flag

Chile has been discussing gay marriage since 2017.

Chile’s Congress voted on Tuesday to approve a bill legalizing same-sex marriage, clearing the way for it to become law.

The Chamber of Deputies, the lower house of Congress, passed the bill with 82 votes in favor, 20 against, and 2 abstentions. The bill had already been approved by Chile’s Senate.

Continue to full article at CNN 

Climate Change 🌱

World Meteorological Organization, “New report shows impacts of climate change and extreme weather in Latin America and Caribbean,” August 17, 2021.

Climate change and extreme weather are threatening human health and safety, food, water and energy security and the environment in Latin America and the Caribbean. The impacts span the entire region, including Andean peaks, mighty river basins and low-lying islands, according to a new report from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). It flags concerns about fires and the loss of forests which are a vital carbon sink.

Continue to full article at World Meteorological Organization 

Colombia 🇨🇴

Louise Eldridge,“Colombian farmers take on David vs. Goliath fight against ‘exploitative’ gold mining,” EuroNews, updated December 8, 2022.

The beautiful Cajamarca region in Colombia that local communities are fighting to protect.

The beautiful Cajamarca region in Colombia that local communities are fighting to protect. – Copyright CAFOD

Almost five years ago, small-scale farmers in Colombia won a remarkable victory in the fight to protect their land and territories. They voted en masse against international mining company AngloGold Ashanti’s plans to mine gold in the mountainous Andes district of Cajamarca.

Continue to full article at EuroNews 

Alice Speri,U.S. Court Issues Landmark Ruling on Paramilitary Violence in Colombia,” The Intercept, November 24, 2021.


Paramilitary fighters hold their rifles during a ceremony to lay down their arms in Otu, northwest Colombia, Monday, Dec.12, 2005. More than 2,000 fighters from the Central Bolivar Bloc of the paramilitary United Self-Defense Forces, or AUC, under the command of Carlos Jimenez alias “Macaco” gathered in this remote hamlet to lay down their arms and two helicopter gunships as part of an ongoing disarmament process.(AP Photo/Fernando Vergara)

Continue to full article at The Intercept 

Cuba 🇨🇺

Antonio Saadipour, “Reflecting on Cuba Policy: All Talk, No Action,” The LAWG Advocate, Fall 2021, page 3.

The Advocate

Download the Advocate (pdf) 

Ed Augustin, “Sixty Years after U.S. Embargo, its Imprint Affects Cubans’ Daily Lives,” NBC News, February 4, 2022.

Leonardo Milanes, aka DJ Milano, 33, an electronic music producer, in his home studio.Roberto León / NBC News

Leonardo Milanes, aka DJ Milano, 33, an electronic music producer, in his home studio.Roberto León / NBC News

Nestled in his bedroom studio under vinyl records and a cluster of microphones, DJ Milano makes electronic music that combines traditional Cuban sounds with modern beats. It is a tortuous process.

“We can’t use certain applications because they are blocked,” said DJ Milano, 33, who hasn’t been able to update Rekordbox, the platform he needs to mix samples, as he can’t get a protected virtual network for his Mac computer. “I have no way of buying it — I have the money in my bank, but you can’t use Cuban bank cards to buy online.”

Continue to full article at NBC News 

Shirin Ali, “Cuba has Vaccinated More than 90% of its Population, Surpassing the US, Other Wealthier Nations,” The Hill, December 21, 2021.

Cuban child being vaccinated

Cuba has managed to vaccinate more of its citizens than most of the world’s larger, richer nations even as the new omicron variant dominates caseloads across the world.

According to an analysis by Reuters, Cuba has vaccinated more than 90 percent of its population with at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, while 83 percent of the island’s population has been fully vaccinated. That puts Cuba second in place globally in vaccination rates among countries with at least 1 million people.

Continue to full article at The Hill 

El Salvador 🇸🇻

Documentary Film: “Massacre in El Salvador,” PBS Frontline, November 9, 2021. (27 Minutes)

Salvadorian Soldiers with guns

Massacre in El Salvador examines the horrors of what happened when U.S.-trained and -equipped Salvadoran soldiers killed some 1,000 civilians in the village of El Mozote and surrounding areas, many of them children. FRONTLINE, Retro Report and ProPublica’s investigation follows the ongoing fight for justice for the horrific 1981 attack, and how today the case against high-ranking military officials is faltering under Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele

View Video at PBS 

“El Salvador frees 3 women who were sentenced to 30 years under anti-abortion laws,” NPR, December 25, 2021

Protesters in San Salvador, on Dec. 13, 2017, demand El Salvador's government free women prisoners serving 30-year sentences for having an abortion. Salvador Melendez/AP

Protesters in San Salvador, on Dec. 13, 2017, demand El Salvador’s government free women prisoners serving 30-year sentences for having an abortion. Salvador Melendez/AP

President Nayib Bukele’s government has freed three Salvadoran women who were sentenced to 30 years in prison under the nation’s strict anti-abortion laws after suffering obstetric emergencies, according to abortion rights groups.

Morena Herrera of the Citizen’s Group for the Depenalization of Abortion said late Friday that the group was told one woman would be set free at presidential order, but when they went to the prison to greet her, three were released.

Continue to full article at NPR 

Honduras 🇭🇳

Jared Olson, “Honduras Elects a Socialist, But Will She Be Allowed to Govern?” The Nation, December 6, 2021.

Xiomara Castro

Libre party presidential candidate Xiomara Castro acknowledges her supporters after general elections, in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, on November 28, 2021. (Photo by Seth Sidney Berry / SOPA Images / Sipa USA)


You could hear the shouting inside the Buenos Aires voting center from almost a block away. It was nearing 6 PM on November 28, and arguments began spilling out from the school-turned-polling-place onto the street. In this poor neighborhood in Tegucigalpa, the vote facilitators, who belonged to the ruling right-wing National Party, were preventing voters from casting their ballots. Just minutes remained before the cutoff for the presidential elections. Many had been waiting in line since the morning.

Continue to full article at The Nation 

Mexico 🇲🇽

Nicole Narea, “Migrants in Mexico are on their own against omicron” Vox, January 30, 2022.

An ambulance in San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico

An ambulance in San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico, on January 27, 2022. Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Much like in the US, omicron has led a spike in caseloads and hospitalizations across Mexico. For thousands of migrants stranded in the country due to US border policy, that has meant exposure to the highly contagious variant. Worse, many of these migrants face the prospect of Covid-19 infection without widespread access to vaccines or health care.

Migrants are legally entitled to public health care in Mexico, but nonprofits serving migrants say hospitals are overwhelmed by Mexican Covid-19 patients, and as a result, migrants are the first to be turned away.

Continue to full article at Vox

“Fourth Journalist killed in Mexico in Less Than a Month,” Al Jazeera, February 1, 2022.

wall with journalist photos who have been killed in Mexico

A woman posts photos of murdered journalists during a national protest in Mexico City [File: Eduardo Verdugo/The Associated Press]

A news outlet in Mexico’s Michoacan state says one of its employees, Roberto Toledo, has become the fourth media worker killed in the country in less than a month.

The weeks-long spate of killings has already sparked protests, with press freedom groups urging the government to do more to protect journalists.

Continue to full article at Al Jazeera 

Nicaragua 🇳🇮

Nan McCurdy, “A Year of Big Advances in Nicaragua,” NicaNotes, Feb. 3, 2022.

Health personnel carry out house to house vaccination

Health personnel carry out house to house vaccination

In 2021 Nicaragua made great leaps in improving lives and recuperating essential rights!

Continue to full article at AfGJ NicaNotes

US Policy on Latin America

David Adler and Guillaume Long, “The Organization of American States is Not Credible,” The Guardian, November 15, 2021.

Protesters with Signs that read No fue fraude - fue golpe

‘The findings were clear – and damning: while the OAS found no evidence of fraud in the election of President Evo Morales, it lied to the public and manipulated its own findings to help depose him.’ Photograph: Jorge Bernal/AFP/Getty Images

On 20 October, the US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, traveled to Ecuador to set out a vision for democracy in the Americas. Over the past five years, the hemisphere has suffered an assault on its democratic institutions, as political leaders from Donald Trump to Jair Bolsonaro have adopted a new authoritarian playbook: lies, violence, repression, and more lies. Two-thirds of US citizens now believe that democracy is under threat, while a majority of Brazilians fear a military dictatorship will return to the country. “We find ourselves in a moment of democratic reckoning,” announced Blinken.

Continue to full article at The Guardian

Peter Kornbluh, “Cuba: Sixty Years of a Brutal, Vindictive and Pointless Embargo,” The Nation, February 7/14, 2022.

In mid-December, some 114 members of Congress sent a forceful letter to President Joe Biden calling for “immediate humanitarian actions” to lift the economic sanctions “that prevent food, medicine, and other humanitarian assistance from reaching the Cuban people.” With Cuba struggling to emerge from a dire, Covid-generated economic crisis, the congressional representatives are pushing the White House to end the restrictions imposed by the Trump administration on remittances and travel and restore the Obama-era policy of engagement with the island nation. “Engagement,” the members concluded, “is more likely to enable the political, economic, and social openings that Cubans may desire, and to ease the hardships that Cubans face today.”

Continue to full article at The Nation

Latin American Working Group, “Press Release: LAWG Encourages the U.S. Government to Support Incoming President Xiomara Castro’s Anti-Corruption Efforts, Vice President Harris to Attend Inauguration,” LAWG, January 25, 2022.

The election of Xiomara Castro offers a rare, valuable opportunity to strengthen the rule of law and address the root causes of migration from Honduras. Vice President Harris’s scheduled attendance at the inauguration shows that the Biden Administration recognizes and welcomes this opportunity. The incoming President has made promising commitments to establish a UN-led anti-corruption mechanism, revoke laws that have protected corrupt officials and members of Congress while making it easier to restrict and punish activists and journalists seeking to expose and end corruption and human rights abuses, and to focus attention on jobs and access to health care and education for all Hondurans. The Latin America Working Group (LAWG) urges the U.S. government to encourage the incoming president to fulfill her promises and to support her efforts to serve and improve the lives of Honduran citizens. 

Continue to full article at LAWG

Immigration / Migration Issues

Jeff Abbot, “The Other Americans: Boosting Central American Economies Won’t Deter Migration”, The Progressive, January 10, 2022.

Workers in a field

In response to the massive exodus of migrants from Central America, the Biden Administration has proposed increasing investments in companies to strengthen the economies of Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. But experts say this will not be enough to stem the tide of migration. 

Continue to full article at The Progressive

Ryan Devereaux, “Migrants Detained in Texas Border Operation are Fighting Back–and It’s Not Going Well for Governor Greg Abbott,” The Intercept, January 26, 2022.

A Texas Department of Public Safety trooper taking part in Operation Lone Star patrols the Rio Grande at the U.S.-Mexico border in McAllen, Texas, on March 23, 2021. Photo: John Moore/Getty Images

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s crusade on the southern border is under fire. Earlier this month, a state judge ruled in favor of an undocumented Ecuadorian man who alleged that his treatment in the governor’s militarized Operation Lone Star campaign was the product of a constitutional train wreck that is upending the relationship between the federal government and the state. With backing from the county district attorney in Austin, the decision opened the door to similar challenges, which began coming in less than 24 hours later and now threaten the continued existence of the controversial policing experiment at the heart of Abbott’s bid for reelection.

Continue to full article at The Intercept

James Goodman, “Shortchanging Asylum Seekers Must Stop,” The Progressive, December 17, 2021.

Asylum seekers march to protest border closure on November 8 in Nogales, Mexico.

Asylum seekers march to protest border closure on November 8 in Nogales, Mexico.

When Rosario went to the police station in southern Mexico to file a report about a criminal gang continuing to threaten her family, she says an officer advised: “Your best bet is to leave.”

And that’s what her family did, in late August. The twenty-four-year old Rosario, her husband, two children, two brothers, and her parents fled their hometown. They have joined thousands of others waiting in the Mexican town of Nogales, bordering Arizona, for a chance to seek refuge in the United States.

Continue to full article at The Progressive

Nicole Narea, “Biden’s Immigration Policies Have Left Haitian’s Stranded In Mexico,” Vox, January 20, 2022.

Haitian migrants seeking asylum queue to register with the National Commission for Refugees in Tijuana, Mexico

Haitian migrants seeking asylum queue to register with the National Commission for Refugees in Tijuana, Mexico, in October 2021. Guillermo Arias/AFP via Getty Images

Thousands of Haitians are indefinitely trapped in Mexico. They face pervasive racism, and many are unable to work, have no access to medical care, and are targets for criminals. Most have arrived in the last year, hoping that the Biden presidency would open up an opportunity for them to finally seek protection in the US.

Continue to full article at Vox

James Risen, “As immigration Plummeted, Conservatives Falsely Accused Biden of Fueling a Crisis,” The Intercept, January 22, 2022.

Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, speaks during a news conference with members of the House Freedom Caucus about immigration on the U.S.

Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, speaks during a news conference with members of the House Freedom Caucus about immigration on the U.S.-Mexico border outside the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on March 17, 2021. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Thousands of Haitians are indefinitely trapped in Mexico. They face pervasive racism, and many are unable to work, have no access to medical care, and are targets for criminals. Most have arrived in the last year, hoping that the Biden presidency would open up an opportunity for them to finally seek protection in the US.

Continue to full article at The Intercept 


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