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!

Tell Congress: Don't Roll Back Protections for Unaccompanied Children at the Border

 

Your Congressional Representatives need to hear from you during the August Recess

 

Ask that Congress REJECT Rollbacks to the

Trafficking Victims Protection Act

Proposals to "deport children more quickly" would return unaccompanied children to exploitation, trafficking and unsafe situations

 

As the U.S. government responds to the humanitarian crisis faced by unaccompanied children and families fleeing violence in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, both President Obama and some Members of Congress are proposing changes to the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) of 2008. The TVPRA passed both chambers of Congress by unanimous consent and was signed into law by President Bush to address our international obligations of not returning vulnerable migrants to danger and to reduce the likelihood that the U.S. would deport children back into the hands of traffickers and others who would exploit them.  

 

Unaccompanied Minors at the Border: Immigration 'Games' & the Roots of the Root Causes

Photo credit: LaPrensa-SanDiego.orgPhoto credit: LaPrensa-SanDiego.orgI remember the first time that I heard someone describe immigration reform as a "political soccer game." I was amused then. Now I'm just horrified by how fitting that metaphor has proven to be. 

 

Perhaps now more than ever, immigration appears as the subject of popular attention and discourse. Widely and across partisan lines, a consensus exists that the mass surge in unaccompanied minors, mostly from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, traveling across Mexico and into the United States poses a "humanitarian crisis" of an unprecedented nature and magnitude. Although it's true that sheer numbers and statistics-a 90 percent spike in the number of unaccompanied children apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border with the current estimate of unaccompanied minors in detention standing in the 50,000 range and predicted to reach 90,000 by the end of the year-make the current situation outstanding, there are many things that are not new about this crisis.

 

Too much of the current discussion is treating the issue at hand as either one of unprecedented and unimaginable, therefore also unforeseeable and unmanageable, proportions or as a sorts of "administration-made" crisis produced by a combination of parental irresponsibility, the spread of rumors and misinformation regarding U.S. immigration law, and, finally, a supposed encouragement prompted by "lax" enforcement policies and "generous" asylum and immigration systems.

Resistance: 5 years! Y la Resistencia: Adelante!

This past Saturday, June 28th, CRLN joined La Voz de Los de Abajo, Radios Populares, & other Chicago-area Honduras solidarity organizers to commemorate the 5th anniversary of the U.S.-backed military coup in Honduras. We made stops at different symbolic sites in downtown Chicago and spoke about the struggles in Honduras and the powers of imperialism that put violent regimes in place throughout our hemisphere.

 

Stop #1: Community Garden at Congress & Michigan

Commemorating: The campesino struggle & violent repression of land rights activists

Land moguls and multinational corporations have been dispossessing campesinos and working communities of their land in Honduras for decades (and centuries, for that matter). Yet since the coup in June of 2009, the violence against campesinos and land rights activists in contested territories has dramatically escalated, leaving 150 campesinos dead and more struggling against the terror and threats of violence.

 

We put a plant in the ground to recognize the need for land rights, food sovereignty and an end to the violent repression of campesino communities by Honduran security forces and paramilitaries working for private capital.

LGBT Honduran Leader to Speak in Chicago on July 2nd

LGBT Hondurans Say: Enough!

Honduran LGBT Leader Nelson Arambú brings an Update from the Struggle for LGBT Rights in Honduras

 

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

7:00 - 9:00 PM

Where:    Berger Park Cultural Center (overlooking Lake Michigan)

              6205 N. Sheridan, Chicago

             (3 blocks east of the "Granville" Red Line el stop)

Info:            773-209-1187 / LGBTliberation@aol.com / www/gayliberation.net

Sponsors:            Association of Latinos/as Motivating Action (ALMA), Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America (CRLN), Gay Liberation Network, Orgullo en Acción, and La Voz de los de Abajo.

 

What's at Stake:  On June 28, 2009, the democratically elected President of Honduras, Mel Zelaya, was illegally overthrown in a by the Honduran military in the middle of the night. 

Honduras Solidarity Organizers push 100+ Members of Congress to Stand for Human Rights in Honduras

National Organizing Effort Results in Powerful Statement against Political Violence & Impunity in Honduras

Photo courtesy of HondruasSolidarity.orgPhoto courtesy of HondruasSolidarity.orgAt the end of last November, 13 CRLN members - including 3 staff and 3 board members - traveled to Honduras to serve as election observers.  Despite widespread evidence of institutional fraud, Juan Orlando Hernandez - popularly known as JOH or Juan Robando - became president on Honduras in January.  JOH was among the original coup plotters that overthrew the democratically elected president of Honduras in 2009.  On a more hopeful note, the newly-formed party of the coup resistance movement, LIBRE, won the second-largest number of seats in the Honduran Congress. 

 

In May, Honduras Solidarity Network - HSN (to which CRLN belongs) worked with U.S. Rep Jan Schakowsky (to whom CRLN presented a 20th Anniversary human rights award at its 2010 annual membership luncheon with Honduran Jesuit priest Fr. "Melo" Moreno) to initiate a Congressional sign on-letter to Secretary of State Kerry to raise renewed human rights concerns about Honduras. The letter (enclosed) highlighted the murders of indigenous leaders, a land rights activists, and members of the LGBTQ community. It also condemned the physical attack on LIBRE party members within the halls of Congress and their supporters by the new Honduran Military Police, which was created by JOH.

CRLN remembers John Fish, Sanctuary Movement organizer

On June 10, 2014, long-time CRLN member John Fish died after a full life dedicated to ministry, teaching, mentoring and community organizing. We remember him as someone who organized his own congregation to declare sanctuary and house Guatemalan and Salvadoran fleeing death squads in the 1980's to challenge the US policy of turning them away at the border instead of offering them asylum. He then organized a Southside Chicago network of sanctuary congregations, was one of the founders of the Chicago Metropolitan Sanctuary Alliance and then of the Midwest regional network of congregations offering sanctuary.

John was someone who thought systemically and globally and acted locally.  He combined in-depth analysis of social injustices with an ability to inspire others to get involved in dreaming up positive solutions and working to make them real. The students he mentored often cite him as the reason they made major changes in their lives-deciding to live in the city, or working to change US policy on Latin America.

The following is the obituary written by John's family: