Just Americas: A Blog by LAWG

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

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.

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Nelson Arambú, of Honduras: “We Do Not Want to Come Back Here Next Year to Report More Murders of the LGBT Community”

Honduran LGBT activist Nelson Arambú re
cently did a speaking tour with the Honduras Solidarity Network around the United States to brief people about the human rights violations in Honduras and specifically about the plight of the LGBT community. LAWG was pleased to arrange his Washington visit with advocate Sergio Moncada. Although this is Nelson’s first time doing a U.S. speaking tour, it is not the first time that a leader of the Honduran LGBT community visits the United States to ask Congress and the U.S. public to help the LGBT community. Last year Pepe Palacios, another leader of the Honduran LGBT community, came and spoke to audiences in the United States; the year before that, Erick Vidal Martinez came and gave a similar tour. As the situation in Honduras goes from bad to worse –including for the LGBT community--Nelson is here to plead the U.S. government and the international community not to neglect Honduras—and not to make the situation worse. This is what he had to say.

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For Migrants, #immigrationcrisis Starts Long Before U.S. Border

The media is saturated with news of the current #immigrationcrisis or #bordercrisis, but where does that crisis really start?

A month ago, President Obama declared the influx Central Americans seeking refuge at the U.S. border to be an “urgent humanitarian situation.”  However, for the tens of thousands of migrants fleeing spiraling gang and domestic violence and poverty in their home countries, the crisis begins far before they arrive in the U.S.—starting in their home communities and multiplying on their journey through Mexico.

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Human Rights in Transit: Migrant Defenders Speak on Work in Mexico

Unprecedented numbers of young migrants arriving at the U.S. southern border have caught the attention of U.S. media and authorities. In just the last nine months, 52,000 unaccompanied minors, as well as 39,000 women with children, mostly from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico, have been apprehended at the border, and that number is predicted to keep growing. This “crisis” has sparked an important conversation about what is going on in their home countries that would spur so many people to risk the dangerous journey north.

The Latin America Working Group was honored to host a delegation of two migrant rights defenders from Mexico to call attention to the plight of migrants in their home countries as well as along the migrant route through Mexico. Particularly in the Northern Triangle countries (El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras), high levels of gang and domestic violence, poverty, and lack of economic opportunity are driving more youth and women with young children to migrate. In their journey through Mexico these migrants are often only met with more abuse, violence, and corruption.

Sister Leticia Gutiérrez is the Director for the Scalibrinian Mission for Migrants and Refugees (Scalabrinianas: Misión para Migrantes y Refugiados, SMR) in Mexico, which works extensively with migrants who have been the victims of abuse in Mexico. Juan José Villagomez works at the migrant shelter in Saltillo, Mexico (Casa del Migrante de Saltillo). During their visit to Washington, DC, they met with policymakers and NGOs to share testimonies of the abuse and extortion faced by migrants in Mexico, and their experience with the recent surge of children and women.

In the following interviews, Sister Leticia and Juan Jose describe some of the reasons people are migrating from Central America, and the perils they face in Mexico.

Interview with Sister Leticia Gutiérrez:
(turn on CC for English captions)

Spanish and English transcripts are available here.

Interview with Juan José Villagomez:
(turn on CC for English captions)

Spanish and English transcripts are available here.


Women’s Voices and the Colombian Peace Process: We Must Sweep away the Culture of War

Three Colombian women
— Olga Amparo Sánchez (Casa de la Mujer), Magda Alberto (Mujeres por la Paz), and Danny Ramírez (Conferencia Nacional de Organizaciones Afro-colombianas)—recently talked about the inclusion of women in the peace talks in Havana. At an event sponsored by the United States Institute of Peace (USIP), the Latin America Working Group Education Fund, and the Colombia Human Rights Committee, the panelists also discussed the contributions women can make to help with the country’s healing process.

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