By Chuck Kaufman, AFGJ National Co-Coordinator
The Alliance for Global Justice’s June-July delegations to Colombia, Nicaragua and Honduras demonstrated once again how important it is for people of the United States to witness for themselves the on-the-ground realities in countries that are the focus of US foreign policy attention. They also showed the critical role that we play when we accompany our Latin American friends in their struggle to build a dignified life for themselves and their families.
This issue of the Global Justice Monitor includes separate articles on the three delegations. Each delegation was very different and had a different mission. The Colombia delegation, co-sponsored with the National Lawyers Guild, investigated the political prisoner situation and the conditions of prisons, some of them designed by the US Bureau of Prisons. The Nicaragua delegation, composed of academics and activists, investigated US interference in presidential and legislative elections scheduled for November of this year. It focused on US money funneled to anti-Sandinista political, civil society and media groups through US Agency for International Development and core groups of the National Endowment for Democracy. The mission of the Honduras
delegation was to provide accompaniment for the Resistance and peasant cooperatives on the second anniversary of the coup against democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya.
While the delegations were very different, what they held in common was the conclusion that the US government’s interactions in all three countries are inimical to peace, justice, self-determination and sovereignty. The Alliance for Global Justice (AFGJ) believes that there is no substitute for the knowledge and life-changing experiences that US residents gain by visiting countries where the US is involved and witnessing for themselves the courageous struggles of the people and the negative effects of our own government’s policies.
The world would have little idea of the horrendous prison conditions in Colombia without the work and the delegations led by AFGJ. AFGJ National Co-oordinator James Jordan unearthed the role of the US Bureau of Prisons in the design of new Colombian prisons and exposed the statistical increase in political imprisonments to fill the new prisons. Colombia would not now be considering closing the first US-designed prison, La Tramacua, were it not for the work of AfGJ. La Tramacua is a hell hole where inmates have access to water only 10 minutes a day, are fed feces-infested food, and where conditions are so bad that nine prisoners have sewn their lips shut, preferring to die rather than continue living in such conditions.
Nicaragua, the focus in the 1980s of the full weight of the Reagan Administration’s illegal efforts to destroy the Sandinista Revolution, remains a target of US “democracy promotion.” That money in reality is used to undermine democracy in favor of US government and corporate interests. The Nicaragua Network/Alliance for Global Justice exposed the millions of US-taxpayer dollars used to undermine democracy in the 2006 presidential election. Again this year our delegation followed the money and was appalled and angered by comments and admissions by the anti-Sandinista recipients and US embassy staff.
The accompaniment delegation to Honduras found a violent country where there has been no improvement in human rights and the struggle against impunity since ousted President Zelaya was allowed to return in exchange for Honduras’ reentry into the OAS. Our delegation was teargassed on the anniversary of the coup at the Palmerola US Air Force Base and had a tense and dangerous face-off with heavily armed police in the rural community of Rigores. Our delegation’s presence prevented the violent eviction of farm families whose homes, crops and animals the police had burned five days earlier. Our experience highlighted the urgent need for an increased international human rights presence in the areas of the country where peasant farmers are being driven from their land so the oligarchy can plant African Palm to serve US motorist’s thirst for biofuel.
Since the 1980s when our only project was the Nicaragua Network, the Alliance for Global Justice has been committed to people-to-people exchanges as the most important way to build peace and friendship. We expose the policies of our government which stand in the way of the people of Latin America’s quest for dignified lives based on economic and social justice and the rule of law. We will continue to accompany our Latin American partners, in solidarity, on the road to peace with justice.