At CRLN, our time is often spent working to abolish US policies that aid Latin American governments in ways that result in violent acts against those who desire social change, either because of rampant poverty, violence, or exclusion. We struggle against US immigration policies that bring fear, family separation and needless imprisonment. Changing these things is a tall order, and outright successes are few.
The end of the year is a good time to look back and reflect on what has given us energy and has provided meaning for us in our work. This week, see the reflections of all 6 staff members. We hope you'll read and reflect with us and consider giving your year-end donations.
As part of the Honduras election observation delegation, I was teamed with Tom Gyori and sent to the polling place at a school named Sotero Barahona in the community of La Altilla, partway up a mountain on one side of the capital city of Tegucigalpa. Wearing our tan vests with "International Observer" written in bold letters on the back, we were dropped off at 6 am by our driver, a member of the National Center of Rural Workers, who told us that the voting district of La Altilla included both the wealthy and the poor. Voting was due to start at 7 am.
The school had 6 classrooms, each of which contained 1 or 2 voting tables, for a total of 10. Each voting table represented a precinct of roughly 380 potential voters. Each table was supposed to have one member of each of the political parties-8 in all. As Tom and I walked around looking into each room, everything seemed well organized and set to open at 7, with the exception of 1 table, which didn't open for voting until about 8 am.
Voters seemed excited to be participating in this election and proud of what they saw as the new and transparent election process developed by the Supreme Electoral Tribunal. Sitting in for periods of time in each of the rooms all day long, Tom and I did not see any irregularities. The voting process seemed on the surface to be fair and transparent, with ballots that included photos of the candidates that made it easy for even the illiterate to vote. The elections were also being held on a Sunday and not on a workday. Even the ballot boxes were transparent so that people could see at the beginning that no ballots had been stuffed into the box before voting. "Better than in the US," I thought.
However, our first clue that something was amiss came when we started asking people at the tables if all of the political parties had their table delegates present. With the exception of one table, all the tables were missing delegates from 3 or 4 parties. The newer, smaller parties did not have enough people to be able to send delegates to each of the 16,000 precincts in Honduras, we were told. I was puzzled, since all of the tables seemed to have a full 8 representatives sitting at them. Only after hearing the LIBRE Party press conference the next day did I put 2 and 2 together: the National Party had bought the delegate credentials of the smaller parties, and the tables were stacked with National Party delegates.
We urge Philippine President Benigno Aquino, President Barack Obama, and Secretary Rand Beers to designate the Philippines for temporary protected status (TPS) under Section 244B of the Immigration and Nationality Act. CLICK HERE to sign petition.
Petition Background: Since Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda 1.9 million of Filipinos have become homeless and 600,000 displaced. At the same time, many Filipinos who live and work in the U.S. are a key source of aid for their families in the Philippines and are at risk of deportation.
It would only burden an already strained infrastructure for the Philippines to reabsorb thousands of its nationals currently abroad during this national emergency. TPS would stop deportations and provide working authorization that will empower Filipinos here in the US to more effectively aid their own home country. DHS and USCIS acted quickly in a very similar circumstances to designate Haiti and El Salvador for TPS after massive earthquakes. That response can and should be repeated for the Philippines.
The State Department must stop legitimizing elections which have been called into question by dozens of international human rights groups as well as hundreds of 3rd party election observers. The Honduran people deserve transparency!
The elections are over, but the atmosphere in Honduras is tense. The media called the election in favor Juan Orlando Hernandez from the ruling Nationalist Party by a 6 point margin within a mere three hours of the polls closing in Honduras. That margin has since grown to 8 points and has been legitimized by the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE), Honduras' electoral institution whose officials were appointed by Micheletti's coup government in 2009. Juan Orlando, as he is known here, was one of the organizers of the military coup that overthrew the democratically elected Mel Zelaya in 2009.
However, Xiomara Castro, the LIBRE Party presidential candidate who represents the coup resistance movement, vigorously contests these numbers. Citing exit polls, she claimed victory as well on election night. The LIBRE part asserts that the election is being stolen based upon the rising documentation of massive fraud in the vote reporting process. LIBRE supporters have taken to the streets in protest.
Significant and varied irregularities took place at voting centers, such as deceased citizens being listed to vote and voters being listed as deceased; outright buying of votes. But massive, outright fraud occurred when numbers reported from the voter centers were hugely different from the numbers appearing for the same voter centers in the National Electoral Tribunal (TSE), which reports official results from all voting centers across the country. LIBRE party and Anti-Corruption Party have been documenting these inconsistencies since the polls closed and have found tens of thousands of irregular votes in favor of the National party as well as tens of thousands of votes nullified for the LIBRE party.
See photos from CRLN Program Director Gary Cozette (below) of Election Day and the resistance that ensued.
CRLN launched its 25th Anniversary Campaign, "Honoring the Past--Meeting the Future," at the 2013 Annual Luncheon. This fundraising effort will build our operational reserve and assist in important staff development, including securing a new executive director.
Our goal is $225,000! The very good news is that the "silent leadership phase" has generated gifts and pledges totaling $198,750 as of today!!!
All members and friends of CRLN are encouraged to take part by making a 3 year pledge to give whatever you can to this campaign, over and above your annual membership and contributions. Your pledge can be spread over 2014, 2015, and 2016.
You may contact Sharon Hunter-Smith at the CRLN office (773-293-2964; firstname.lastname@example.org) to notify CRLN of your pledge.
Our goal is challenging, but our efforts are needed to best support our sisters and brothers throughout the Americas in their struggles for human rights and human dignity.
We can do it! Sí, se puede!
229 Politically Related Murders in Honduras
Under President "Pepe" Lobo
(Download Full Report Below)
Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America (CRLN)
20 November 2013
Politically Related Murders in Honduras Under President "Pepe" Lobo is a chronology of politically motivated or politically related murders in post-coup Honduras during the period from the 27 January 2010 installation of President Porfirio "Pepe" Lobo until 20 November 2013 on the eve of new, inclusive Honduran elections. It chronicles the murders of 229 Honduran civilians primarily by state security forces or death squads linked to state security forces or Honduran oligarchs behind the 2009 coup. These murders capture the scope and nature of organized repression in Honduras targeting non-violent social movements in resistance to the 28 June 2009 coup: trade unionists, campesinos in farming cooperatives, land rights and environmental activists, indigenous peoples, afro-Hondurans, LGBT Hondurans, students, teachers, lawyers, journalists, and women in resistance organizations. Additionally, this chronology includes the murders published by Rights Action of political activists and candidates from the varied, competing political parties, both anti-coup and pro-coup, in the 20 months leading up to the 24 November 2013 elections. While the report concludes with a limited number of forced disappearances, it covers only 2010-2011 and is quite limited due to lack of reporting. Nor have follow-up updates been received.
For-Profit Detention Center in NW Indiana: We Must Fight Back
The GEO Group recently purchased land in Hobart, Indiana, and is likely intending to build the Chicagoland immigrant detention center long sought by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). A new organization, Mass Incarceration and GEO Halt Team -- MIGHT -- was formed by Northwest Indiana residents opposed to the presence of the GEO Group, or any for-profit prison, in the region. They need your help! Sign this petition and your name will be added to the contact list for opportunities to engage, and forward the link to your contacts in NW Indiana.
For the first time since the June 28, 2009 military coup in Honduras, fully inclusive elections will be held in Honduras on November 24, 2013. In March 2012, the National Popular Resistance Front, which is composed of dozens of leading social movements, created the LIBRE party to run for all elected offices - including Presidential, Congressional, and municipal offices - in the November 24, 2013 elections.
Over the last 6 months, LIBRE presidential candidate Xiomara Castro has been leading in the polls. During this same period, numerous LIBRE candidates and activists have been threatened and killed. The U.S. State Department has "not spoken forcefully" to denounce widespread human rights violations in Honduras, especially violence targeting the LIBRE party. Resistance and human rights leaders are concerned that the current post-coup government may act to further to prevent a LIBRE win.
LIBRE has requested the presence of international observers from the Honduras Solidarity Network (HSN), made up of 35 grassroots organization across the USA to which both CRLN and La Voz de los de Abajo, CRLN Chicago partner on Honduras, belong. La Voz, which is a leading organizer of the 180 formally recognized HSN observers, asked CRLN to recruit a group of at least 10 observers. The following is the team of CRLN election observers that will be present in Honduras for 5 days for the November 24 elections:
National Call-In Day to Congress - Friday, November 15
US Representative Juan Vargas (D-CA) is circulating a "Dear Colleague" letter to Secretary of State John Kerry regarding El Salvador's February 2nd presidential election. The letter calls for the US government to remain neutral, respect the election results, & work toward a positive relationship with whichever party is elected to the presidency.
US Congressional allies of the right-wing ARENA party are already attempting to smear the leftist FMLN candidate. A recent letter from Reps. Matt Salmon (R-AZ) and Albio Sires (D-NJ) - the chair and ranking member of the Western Hemisphere subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee - appears to be setting the stage to delegitimize the results in the event of an FMLN victory.
With campaign season in full swing in El Salvador, it's urgent that Members of Congress and the State Department make it clear that February's election is the decision of the Salvadoran people, not of politicians in Washington. Friday, November 15th, 30 representatives of the Salvadoran-American Coalition for Democracy in El Salvador will hit the halls of Congress to demand that their elected officials sign onto the letter to Secretary Kerry. Let's join them as part of a national call-in effort to demand that the US respect the democratic will of the Salvadoran people!
Call your US Representative to insist that s/he add his or her name to Rep. Vargas' statement in defense of democracy in El Salvador.
Call the Congressional switchboard to be connected to your Representative's office: (202) 224-3121. See call script and more background information below.
ACTION ALERT! CRLN and our partner La Voz de Los de Abajo are sending just shy of 30 people to observe the Honduran elections on November 24th. The current political climate of Honduras has led to the deaths of 18 candidates from the opposition party as well as dozens of journalists, lawyers and human rights defenders, of which only a handful of cases have been solved.
As impunity reigns in Honduras and citizens lose faith in their governmental istitutions, Democratic Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia is circulating a letter to Secretary of State Kerry, demanding that the U.S. - which has tremendous influence in Honduras - press the Government of Honduras to ensure the right of all its citizens to peacefully assemble, campaign and vote.
Click here to tell your Senator that you want him or her to sign Senator Kaine's letter! Support the Honduran people's right to a democratic process! Support the international monitoring efforts! Click here to make your voice heard!
You can also call Senator Durbin's office at 202-224-2152 and ask that Senator Durbin sign on Tim Kaine's letter on the Honduran elections. Be sure to tell them that your friends at CRLN and La Voz de Los de Abajo are going to Honduras and that you're looking to your elected officials to support the work you'll be doing down there to monitor the November 24th elections.