On March 11, 2009, LAWG delivered the following petition, signed by approximately 4,500 people, calling for a new U.S. approach to Latin America and the Caribbean. As you can see, President Obama was a little busy greeting passerbys and well-wishers at Union Station in Washington, DC, so we only had a few minutes to make our pitch. But not to worry, copies were faxed and mailed to the White House, too, so he'll have plenty of time to kick back and read the whole thing. Thanks to all of you who signed the petition and helped spread the word!
March 11, 2009
Dear Mr. President:
In the early days of your presidency, you've taken concrete actions to promote human rights, return America to the rule of law, and restore our image abroad. We hope this continues and we thank you for moving quickly to take the initial steps necessary to close the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
We write to ask you to join us in supporting a new approach to U.S. relations with Latin America, one that unites us with our neighbors and reflects our values of generosity, peace, justice, and human rights.
We call on you to:
- Invest in people, not military might. For too long, we’ve let ourselves be known to our neighbors mainly by the guns we send and the soldiers we train. The United States must instead support public health, education, relief for victims of war and natural disasters, and micro-credit programs that will help lift people out of grinding poverty and reduce inequality. Our trade policies must be fair and improve the lives of poor and middle-class workers on both sides of our hemisphere.
- Put human rights front and center. To restore its image and promise in the region—and to once again live up to our values—the United States must first close Guantanamo and enact safeguards to prevent torture. We must also stand by the many courageous individuals calling for change in their own societies when they face threats or attacks.
- Take action to end the travel ban on Cuba that senselessly divides our families and countries. And call on Congress to finish the job—for ALL Americans. Doing so restores the fundamental right of American citizens to travel and would demonstrate to all of Latin America that a new day has dawned in our relationship with the hemisphere—and it’s the right thing to do. Open exchange with our neighbors is good diplomacy.
- Actively work for peace in Colombia. In a war that threatens to go on indefinitely, the immense suffering of the civilian population demands that the United States takes risks to achieve peace. If the United States is to actively support peace, it must stop endlessly bankrolling war and help bring an end to the hemisphere’s worst humanitarian crisis.
- Get serious—and smart—about drug policy. Our current drug policy isn’t only expensive and ineffective, it’s also inhumane. Instead of continuing a failed approach that brings soldiers into Latin America's streets and fields, we must invest in alternative development projects in the Andes and drug treatment and prevention here at home.
- Support a sensible and humane approach to border enforcement. It’s time to move beyond the relentless focus on enforcement that’s harmed communities on both sides of the border and forced migrants into more dangerous crossing points without achieving security. Involve border communities in border solutions and achieve comprehensive immigration reform.
- Keep the door to the Oval Office open. We encourage you to honor your campaign pledge to bring a new tone, in addition to new policies, to Washington by actively seeking the perspectives of our Latin American neighbors. To restore our image and integrity abroad, we must listen first.
We look forward to working with you to build a just policy towards Latin America and the Caribbean that renews our historic commitment to defending human rights and unites us with our neighbors.
*This letter was signed by approximately 4,500 people.