Ending the Trade Embargo Against Cuba

The 50-year-old, unilateral, U.S. Trade Embargo against Cuba - known in Cuba as the Blockade - has long been denounced by the United Nations, the World Council of Churches, the Vatican, the Catholic Bishops of Cuba, and the Cuban Council of Churches. CRLN has joined in their call to end the embargo for over 2 decades. 

The presidents of ALL Latin American and Caribbean countries are on record as opposing the U.S. trade embargo.  They have also made clear that they will not participate in the next Summit of the Americas - a bi-annual initiative of the U.S. - if Cuba is again banned from participation as insisted by the U.S. in the past. 

Now, two New York Times editorial highlight why the embargo should end, and how Cuba has won world recognition for its major contribution to global health care, most recently highlighted in its response to the Ebola crisis. Check them out!

Obama Should End the Embargo on Cuba
New York Times:  Editorial Board - October 11, 2014

Cuba's Impressive Role on Ebola
New York Times: Editorial Board - October 19, 2014 


Pedal for Peace raises $16,376 for solidarity projects!

53 bikers, some accompanied by children, turned out on September 28 to ride in the 2014 Pedal for Peace Bike-a-thon.  The day was sunny and warm, with beautiful vistas of the city and Lake Michigan along the Chicago Lakefront Bikepath.  Collectively, the group raised a total of $16, 376 to be divided among 5 Chicago area organizations and CRLN to support health, education and community organizing projects in Latin America and Chicago:

*Pedal for Peace contributes funds used for scholarships for 5 college students in rural Cinquera, El Salvador, through Chicago-Cinquera Sister Cities.

*The event raises money that contributes to scholarships for 83 middle school and 16 high school students in Saq Ja', Guatemala, through the Chicago-Guatemala Partnership.

*Through La Voz de los de Abajo, Pedal for Peace proceeds are directed to a free hosptial for Garifuna people in Honduras and to a small farmers' organization to organize for land rights.

*Rural health promoters in African-descended and Indigenous communities in Colombia are trained with Pedal for Peace funds through Concern America.

*Pedal for Peace's newest participating group, the Immigant Youth Justice League, will help fund Organized Communities Against Deportations as they provide services to immigrant families whose members are facing deportation.

The remaining funds will support CRLN's work to stand in solidarity with those oppressed by poverty, violence and exclusion in this hemisphere, working together for the respect of human dignity and empowerment of all peoples.  A portion will support scholarships for students in Chacula, Guatemala, a community of returned refugees accompanied by CRLN Board member Martha Pierce, who leads a delegation there each year on the anniversary of their return. 

Chicago Fair Trade GlobalFest: Latin America

11/14/2014 - 5:30pm
11/14/2014 - 9:30pm
Chicago Fair Trade's annual benefit, GlobalFest: Latin America, will be held on Friday, November 14 at 5:30 pm at the National Mexican Museum of Art. Come celebrate as CFT shares fair trade stories from their CFT businesses who work in Guatemala, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Bolivia, El Salvador, Argentina, and México. There will be heavy appetizers, fair trade wine and cocktails, local craft beer, and a fabulous silent auction!

Unaccompanied Migrant Children in Chicago: How You Can Help

Chicago Religious Leadership Network has taken a leading role in developing an interfaith pastoral care ministry with the unaccompanied migrant children in Chicago.  With your help, we can provide protection and a measure of peace in their young lives.  Here's what you can do:

Protect the Laws that Protect Children

1. Call your Congressional Representatives and ask for their support to maintain protections under the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA).  This crucial law, signed by President Bush, provides protections for the most vulnerable among us. 

2.  Write a Letter to the Editor or Op-Ed piece in your local newspaper.  We can help.

Pray for the Children.  Connect Your Worship Experience to Ours

1. Invite your congregation to use our colorful "floating prayer candles" during worship. For a template and instructions, see the attachment below.

2. Sing "This Land Is Your Land" in your worship, and plan to join the combined choir at our Oct. 12 event (below).

SOA Vigil Update

You may have already heard about the most recent efforts by the Columbus Police Department to limit this year’s Vigil. CRLN joined the efforts of the School of the Americas Watch (SOAW) and other organizations to write to Police Chief Ricky Boren with a clear message: we will not stand for this repression of our constitutional right to free speech! The Columbus Police Department received a large number of letters from organizations and longtime participants, and have agreed to proceed in negotiations with SOAW so that the Vigil will still go on. It is one of the largest convergences of peaceful protest in the US. This is not the first time the Columbus Police Department has tried to stop participants from exercising their rights guaranteed by the Constitution, but SOAW, with the help of its legal team, has always prevailed. CRLN encourages our members to attend the Vigil this November 21-23!

National Day of Action to Protect Children & Families

National Day of Action to Protect our Children, Protect our Families! 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

10 AM 

For Location and RSVP information, please contact Lissette Castillo (lcastillo@crln.org or 773-293-3680). 


Photo: bet.comPhoto: bet.comLooking around us, it's undeniable that this country is undergoing a moral test.


As you know, under the Obama administration nearly two million people have been deported and thousands upon thousands of families torn apart.


Before leaving for August recess, on its end the House approved a bill which cuts back due process and essential protections for children and refugees as legally established under the Trafficking Victims Protections Reauthorization Act (TVPRA). As if this were not enough, the House also voted to end the hard-fought for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program which provides protection to undocumented youth or "DREAMers" from deportation.

USAID in Cuba: The Latest U.S. Program to Create Political Dissent

LAWG blog post by Taylor Clark, LAWG Intern on August 09, 2014

The Associated Press published a report earlier this week uncovering a U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) program, now known as the “Travelers Project,” that recruited youths from Peru, Venezuela, and Costa Rica from 2009 through 2012 to run and participate in civic programs in Cuba while secretly stirring up anti-government activism. The most notable of the projects organized by the USAID contractors was an HIV/AIDS prevention clinic that was dually used to scout possible anti-Castro youth organizers. According to USAID documents, the HIV program was described as a “perfect excuse” to recruit political activists. Under the “Travelers Project,” the USAID directed agents to act as tourists, socialize on college campuses, and hold various gatherings in order to profile and organize potential dissident youth leaders.

USAID contractor Creative Associates International was used to organize and execute the project. This group also served as an integral part of the controversial ZunZuneo or “Cuban Twitter” program, which sent political propaganda to cell phone users in Cuba under the guise of providing access to a social media system. In the Travelers Project, “travelers” from various Latin American nations were given brief training on how to avoid Cuban authorities and were taught how to use certain coded messages to communicate with each other. Some of these agents were compensated as little as $5.41 per hour. Creative Associates instructed the youths on how to behave if they were caught and questioned by Cuban authorities, directing them to immediately call their embassy and never mention the Creative Associates group.

SAVE THE DATE! 2014 Pedal for Peace Bike-a-thon, Sunday, September 28!

We believe that peace is more than the absence of war.  It is the presence of food, housing, clothing, healthcare, education, employment, and access to meaningful participation in community decision-making processes.

This is the 27th year that Pedal for Peace will raise funds for people-to-people projects supporting health, education, and community organizing in Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras! Funds also support advocacy efforts for social justice and peacein Latin America and for undocumented immigrants in the US.

Check out the attached Project Descriptions to learn more about the projects that Pedal for Peace will fund this year! 

Date and time: Sunday, September 28, 1:00 - 5:00

1:00 Registration: north site - Lincoln Park - Grove 13 (see attached map)

          south site - In front of Dog Water Fountain (Lakefront Bike Path & 55th St. underpass)

3:30 Fiesta and Program, Lincoln Park - Grove 13 (see attached map)

Location:  Lincoln Park - Grove 13 (Lakefront Bike Path just south of Barry Ave. underpass--see attached map). Because our usual site is under construction, please note that this is a NEW LOCATION for Pedal for Peace!

This year, we have set up an online fundraising account with rally.org that is very user-friendly.  If you plan to bike in Pedal for Peace, click here, and click on "Learn More."  Under "Fan Fundraisers," click on "Become a Fundraiser."  Rally.org will give you email tools for contacting people with the message that you will ride to support Pedal for Peace and requesting their donations. Ask those who donate to Pedal for Peace through you to click on your photo (or, if you don't post a photo, your name that will appear if they place the cursor on the placeholder image for a photo) and then click on the "Contribute" button.  That way, you ( and we) can keep track of how many donations you have collected. For more detailed instructions on how to us rally.org, check out the attached document, "Rally Tutorial."

If you cannot ride with us this year, you may make a donation here in support of Pedal for Peace.

If you prefer to collect donations on your own to be turned in the day of the event, you may use the attached pledge form. People's donations will go farther if you choose this method, because rally.org (5%) + 30 cents) and credit card fees (2.9%) will take a percentage out of the donation for themselves as fees.

Please contact Sharon at CRLN at shunter-smith@crln.org or 773-293-2964 with any questions.  



Georgia Authorities Try to Shut Down November SOA Vigil

CRLN and dozens of other organizations have expressed our outrage at attempts by the Colombus Police Department to deny thousands of people their constitutionally protected right to peacefully gather and demonstrate outside the gates of Fort Benning's WHINSEC, formerly know as the School of the Americas or SOA. CRLN has been part of the protest organized by School of the Americas Watch (SOA Watch) for over two decades and the protests have been happening for 25 years. The police department has denied a permit for the SOA Watch stage and has limited protests to the sidewalks five feet back from the street with only 200 people allowed to attend. Below are more details in the press release by SOA Watch. Take action by clicking here to join over 6,000 others calling on the Columbus police department to reverse its decision and to uphold the constitutional rights to free speech and freedom of assembly. 

Despite the attempts to repress our movement, the vigil is going forward for November! CRLN and thousands from across the country and world will gather at Fort Benning this November despite the authorities' attempts to thwart our demonstrations and remembrance of those killed in Latin America by militaries and para-militaries trained at the SOA.

If you would like more information or would like to participate, CLICK HERE or contact Celeste Larkin at clarkin@crln.org or Sharon Hunter-Smith at shunter-smith@crln.org. Or call us at 773-293-2964.



Push President Obama to Take Action Now!

Sr. Gwen speaking at the Prayer VigilSr. Gwen speaking at the Prayer Vigil

In late June, President Obama announced that if Congress wouldn't take steps to address the current immigration crisis and alleviate the suffering of thousands of families and individuals he would.

Activists around the nation tuned in to his press conference, following his exact words very closely and attentively. Just minutes after speaking on Congress' inability or unwillingness to pass comprehensive immigration reform Obama declared, "If Congress cannot do their job, we can do ours." 

In the last two weeks and in the next couple of weeks leading up until the end of the summer, you can expect regional and national mobilizations and actions to make sure Obama does just that: deliver on his promises.

As we struggle to balance our busy lives and varying commitments and responsibilities, why now more than ever is it crucial to remain engaged in these efforts?

Why did Sr. Gwen Farry, Bishop Eliezer Pascua, and Rev. Dan Dale take time to pray and speak at an immigration prayer vigil, just outside of Obama's House? Why did sisters from the 8th Day Center for Justice spend their Friday night on a bus with 150 other Chicagoans en route to DC, spend an entire Saturday marching in the DC heat-from the National Mall to the Freedom Plaza and unto the White House---, and then immediately board another bus for the a 14 hour drive back to Chicago? Why did more than 100 religious and immigration activists take on the decision to participate in a civil disobedience outside the White House knowing they would wind up getting arrested?

B. Loewe, a longtime spokesperson for the National Day Laborers Organizing Network (NDLON) who was present at the DC march, commented, "The conversation has moved from, can [Obama] act, to will he and what should he do?"  

The voices of those who have most at stake, undocumented individuals and their families, have been clear in their demands. This is Obama's opportunity to be bold and brave; he has the power to and should take on the broadest and most generous executive action possible.

Obama knows that the "job" has to get done and that sooner or later he's going to have to do something. What that something looks like, quality and quantitatively-wise, nevertheless, will be completely contingent upon the pressure which the administration feels itself to be under; i.e. it will be contingent upon the energy and efforts of folks like you and me. 

If we want quality results, immigrant activist and community organizations are going to have to do a couple of things: 1) be united in our messaging and asks, 2) show that we're invested and attentive to all and any developments, 3) continue applying pressure and 4) REPEAT.

Call the White House at 202-456-1111 and tell your friends and family to also do so. Let President Obama know that you've been keeping tabs on the developments here inChicago and in DC, attending marches and rallies, making calls to your representatives and Congressional leaders in support of individuals undergoing deportation proceedings and, among other things, supporting clean and humanitarian policies for unaccompanied minors. Let him know that you're keeping him to his promise, and ask him to take on bold administrative relief now!