Today we write with some good news. Earlier this week, the Biden administration announced changes to U.S. policy towards Cuba – lifting several Trump-era restrictions.

We welcome this long-awaited decision to restore some areas of engagement with Cuba: restarting the Cuban Family Reunification Parole Program, allowing the reunification of many Cuban families; allowing flights to Cuban cities other than Havana, increasing flights to the island; reinstating the people-to-people group travel, opening more ways to travel to Cuba; expanding support for entrepreneurs; and lifting the cap on family remittances.

These changes begin to fulfill Biden’s campaign promise of improving diplomatic relations with Cuba. But they do not go nearly far enough.

As Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla, Cuba’s Minister of Foreign Affairs stated via Twitter,

“This decision in no way modifies the blockade, Cuba’s fraudulent inclusion in the list of countries sponsors of terrorism or most of Trump’s maximum pressure coercive measures that still affect the Cuban people….But it is a limited step in the right direction.”

The Cuban people are suffering one of the most severe food and medicine shortages, since the collapse of the Soviet Union. This is a consequence of the ongoing U.S. blockade, continued impacts of sanctions on freedom to travel, and downturn in tourism from the coronavirus pandemic.

The time to stand with Cuba is now. Sign our letter to Biden urging him to End the Blockade.

We are calling on the Biden administration to fully normalize relations with Cuba, end the blockade, take Cuba off the Sponsors of Terrorism List, and remove the over 200 cruel sanctions left by the Trump administration.

Support Cuba through travel. Join an upcoming Reality Tour! Travel to the island not only supports the local economy but also builds important people-to-people connections, building solidarity and understanding between our two nations.

Our next trip (Cuba Arts, Culture and Architecture) is coming up Nov. 2022, followed by our most popular trip: Cuba New Year’s. These will be unforgettable trips filled with in-depth discussions, vibrant culture, music, and natural beauty. Click here to learn more about our upcoming delegations to the island, or e-mail us at realitytours@globalexchange.org.

Thousands of people have traveled with us under the People-to-People license, and now with the reinstatement of this category of travel, we can offer more educational, cultural and professional programs to strengthen solidarity and exchange. Join us on one of our open trips or contact us to build a program for your private group of 4 or more.

Now is the time for U.S. citizens to ensure that the next many years of Cuba/U.S. relations will benefit the people of both countries and be free from the Cold War ideology which clouded our mutual self interests.

Cuba and the Cuban people have suffered too long. It is time to end the embargo and fully normalize relations with our neighbor!

P.S. Global Exchange and our partners at the People’s Summit for Democracy are outraged by the decision of the United States government to deny visas to a 23 person delegation from Cuban civil society. We call on the U.S. government and its Embassy in Havana, to reverse the decision to deny their visas. Sign our petition calling on the U.S. to reverse their decision.

 

This Mother’s day for many mothers in Mexico is not a day of celebration. Today they will continue searching for their loved ones who have disappeared in the midst of the violence that affects the country. They have walked the miles, traveled through morgues, deserts, wastelands, entire cities trying to find a trace of their sons and daughters. Global Exchange has been walking by their side and today we express our solidarity with them.

Mexico experienced one of its bloodiest chapters in the so-called “War on Drug Trafficking” during the six-year term of Felipe Calderon, as part of the security cooperation agreement between Mexico and the United States known as the “Merida Initiative.” The U.S. government financed armament to the Mexican army, without thinking that this would unleash one of the worst humanitarian crises in the country’s history. This bloodbath left more than 120,000 dead and more than 26,500 people missing, including the disappearance of the 43 students from the Raúl Isidro Burgos de Ayotzinapa teacher’s college  in Guerrero.

This violence left behind mothers who may never be able to hug their children again; daughters and sons who will never see their mothers or fathers again.

Today, mothers from across Mexico will march to the Angel of Independence in Mexico City. In unison they will demand the return of their daughters and sons. The question still remains: where are they?

To support these mothers and families, we must demand the U.S. government stop the sale of arms to Mexico. Bad policies on paper are paid for with lives. We  must put human rights (not weapons deals) at the center of binational cooperation between the U.S. and Mexico.

The United States has the opportunity to support the struggle and search of mothers  who today will march together down Mexico City’s main avenues, carrying the photos of their disappeared sons and daughters on their backs.

In Solidarity,

The explosion at the Hotel Saratoga in Havana Cuba is a tragedy of immense proportions.

The members of Global Exchange and RESPECT Cuba extend our heartfelt condolences to the families of those who were killed and injured and to the people of Cuba.

Family is precious and Cuba has always placed the highest priority on family and community. We have learned the meaning of authentic solidarity from your examples in Cuba and throughout the world. We are mourning with you as you walk through the tragedy of May 6th and provide comfort for your citizens.

We ask all people of goodwill throughout the world to redouble their efforts to build a world where respect of sovereignty and humanity are at the top of the list.

Please know that you are in our prayers and meditations.

“The true revolutionary is motivated by great feelings of love.”-Che

#FuerzaCuba
Global Exchange
RESPECT Cuba

MEDIA ADVISORY

March 23, 2022

Meta disables Facebook Users Union Instagram Account

For more information contact :

Brittany Williams, Facebook Users Union Campaign Lead Email: brittany@facebookusers.org Tel: (305) 992-8168 or

Tracy Rosenberg, Executive Director, Media Alliance Email: tracy@media-alliance.org Tel: (510) 684-6853

MENLO PARK  —  Meta, the Facebook platform’s parent company, has officially disabled the Instagram account of the Facebook Users Union (@fbusersunion).

The Facebook Users Union is an advocacy organization committed to developing the collective voice of the platform’s nearly 3 billion users. Last Thursday, Facebook disabled FUU’s account and then  labeled it as “a mistake” and on March 22nd, Facebook fully deleted FUU’s account.

This ban comes just as Meta, Facebook’s parent company, prepares for their annual shareholder meeting that will address leadership changes with the board exit of Trump donor Peter Thiel,  and the incoming leadership of Nick Clegg, former Deputy Prime Minister of the U.K.  Facebook faces a slew of reputational risks and public concern over Facebook censorship, profit from harm to marginalized communities and democratic government and accusations of  election meddling. Facebook has recently admitted to being used to instigate violence against Rohingya muslims. Facebook has also faced allegations of mass censoring climate activists while making money from fossil-fuel adshosting Ukrainian Neo-Nazis, and abusing the labor rights of Kenyan content moderators seeking to unionize and raise their wages.

Media Alliance Executive Director Tracy Rosenberg (MA is one of the FBUU anchor groups) commented:

This is typical Meta. Instead of focusing on protecting the vulnerable being harmed by their platform, they are focused on protecting themselves from criticism from their own users.

FUU demands the immediate reinstatement of our Instagram account and encourages advocates, allies, and community members to raise awareness of Facebook censorship and participate in a week of action during the upcoming Facebook shareholder meetings.

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Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is a violation of International law. We condemn it.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is a deadly escalation of a long-simmering conflict. Russia is not solely responsible for the tensions, but they are the ones who have initiated a large-scale military action. Russian forces should immediately withdraw to the positions established in the  Minsk II agreement of 12 February 2015.

But even as we condemn Russia’s initiation of the largest ground war in Europe since WWII we should remember that the United States and its allies have done much to fan the flames.

In 1998 when the Clinton Administration was expanding NATO, George Kennan, former U.S. ambassador to the Soviet Union and the architect of the Cold War “containment” policies told a journalist that growing NATO in the wake of the collapse of the USSR, “shows so little understanding of Russian history and Soviet history. Of course there is going to be a bad reaction from Russia, and then [the NATO expanders] will say that we always told you that is how the Russians are — but this is just wrong.”

Our mistreatment of Russia is not an excuse for this invasion, but as we search for peace and a negotiated way out of this deadly mess, it is important that we acknowledge that NATO expansion and the threat of Ukraine similarly joining the alliance is also wrong. But just as we have condemned many egregious U.S. violations of international law (Iraq invasion, murderous drone strikes, etc) we must similarly condemn Russia’s flagrant violation.

Urgent Action: U.S. Embassy Must Attend Guapinol Trial for Concluding Remarks on February 4, 2022

The eight water defenders from Guapinol, sector San Pedro and broader Tocoa region, have spent over 2 years in prison. They are accused of trumped up charges for defending the Guapinol and San Pedro rivers from a mining operation led by Honduran mining company Inversiones Los Pinares with investment ties to the largest U.S. steel companies, Nucor Corporation.

It is without a doubt that the water defenders are in prison because they are seen as messing up both an investment for one of JOH’s cronies, Lenir Perez, who owns Inversiones Los Pinares, but also because the water defenders are blocking an important investment opportunity for a U.S. company seeking raw materials for their operations.

Summary

The trial against the water defenders started in December, was suspended, and then began again a few weeks ago in mid-January. Honduras Now has been posting daily trial summaries hereThis week on Friday, February 4th at 9 am, the concluding remarks will be delivered in the courthouse in Tocoa, Colon (about a 6 to 8 hour drive from Tegucigalpa). The concluding remarks lay out a summary of the case from the perspectives of the prosecutors, the ‘private accusers’ representing mining company Inversiones Los Pinares, and each of the defense attorneys. The water defenders are present as well. The presence of Embassies officials and international human rights observers is important to tell the judges and the corrupt judicial system that people are watching.

The Ask

We have been asked to request that the U.S. Embassy in Tegucigalpa attend the concluding remarks on Feb 4th starting at 9 am. So far, the U.S. Embassy has not attended the trial citing Covid concerns. But this is not a fair reason. The courtroom in Tocoa is strict about Covid measures, respects social distancing and restricts the number of people allowed in the courtroom.

The Action

We are asking organizations and individuals to do two things: 

1) Write their Congress representatives and ask them to call or email the State Department and/or the U.S. Embassy in Tegucigalpa and ask them to attend the trial this Friday. 

Tell your representatives that a U.S. company has an investment relationship with the Honduran mining company that is an actor in the trial. Tell them that Congressional representatives should be concerned about human rights related to private sector investment, especially since the U.S.’s strategy to resolve the migration crisis is to promote private sector investment in Honduras.
Another strategic event happening this week on Thursday, February 3rd that may help this action, is that there is a Foreign Affairs House Congressional hearing about the Biden Administration’s policy in the Western Hemisphere. The State Department will be on the hot seat. Congress representatives on the Foreign Affairs Committee could ask about the Guapinol case and/or ask the state department to attend the hearing in Honduras the following day. Mention this to your or a Congressional representative. Ask them to ask a question about Guapinol.

2) As an organization or individual, write to Ariel Jahner, the human rights representative at the U.S. Embassy (jahnerar@state.gov) and insist that she or a representative of the Embassy attend the hearing.

Tell the Embassy that:

  • Strict covid measures are being implemented in the courthouse. Only 10 observers are able to enter and the guard checks body temperatures upon entrance. Masks are mandatory.
  • If the U.S. Embassy seeks to increase private sector investment in Honduras to curtail migration to the United States, they must insist on respect for human rights. The presence of the U.S. Embassy may help demonstrate this.
  • Several Congressional representatives have tweeted and shown concern about the Guapinol case. These include Senator LeahyJan SchakowskySenator Merkley, and others. The State departments’ Under Secretary for Civil Security, Democracy and Human Rights Urza Zeya also tweeted about the Guapinol case.
Photo by: Guapinol Despierta
2021 Honduras International Observation Mission Report-Back
Global Exchange in Collaboration with the Center for Democracy Studies (CESPAD)

Since the 2009 U.S.-back coup d’etat, Honduras has become known as one of the most violent countries in the world. Human rights defenders, lawyers, environmentalists, journalists, and land defenders are particularly at risk, as are political candidates that decide to participate in electoral activities. 

In 2017 in the lead up to the general elections in November, 17 election candidates were murdered. This violence was telling of what would come later. Following election day in November 2017, credible allegations of electoral fraud sparked widespread protests around the country. In response, the Honduran government led by President Juan Orlando Hernandez, who had run on an illegal second term, cracked down on the population. Military curfews were imposed and U.S.-funded state security forces fired live rounds at protesters, who remained in the streets for months demanding that their vote be respected. In total, over 30 people were killed, dozens injured, and hundreds were detained. 

As a U.S.-based organization, we were alarmed that the United States played a fundamental role in certifying the fraudulent election results and whitewashing the human rights violations committed by state security forces in the same context. No investigation of electoral crimes was conducted and the U.S. State Department certified Honduras on their human rights performance in December 2017, even while security forces were murdering protesters in the streets. 

Given the electoral situation and critical role of the United States in 2017, Global Exchange teamed up with a Honduran civil society organization, the Center for Democracy Studies (CESPAD) to organize an International Electoral Observation Mission (MIOE) to Honduras from November 24 to December 1, 2021. The international mission complemented CESPAD’s national observation teams of over 250 youth from around Honduras. 

The Role of the International Observer Mission

Prior to their arrival to Honduras, CESPAD held virtual training sessions for all international mission participants. Participants were given extensive training on the national context and the observation “instruments” or forms that were to be filled out on November 27, 28 and 29th – the day before, the day of, and the day after election day. In addition, Global Exchange collaborated with CESPAD in the pre-arrival period to organize online participant meet-and-greet sessions, webinars, a press conference, and several news articles in various U.S. media outlets. 

Participants arrived in the capital city, Tegucigalpa on November 23 and 24th. In the days before teams were sent to different locations around the country to begin their election observation duties, mission participants met in Tegucigalpa with the Mexican and US Embassy, the U.N. High Commissioner’s Office on Human Rights, the European Union Election Observation Mission, and representatives from two political parties. In addition, participants met with civil society organizations, including the Guapinol water defenders’ legal team, the Civic Council for Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), and the Committee of the Relatives of the Detained-Disappeared in Honduras (COFADEH). 

In addition to attending several meetings, international observers were given final instructions and training by CESPAD and then dispatched to six departments – Colón, Choluteca, Intibuca, Lempira, Copan, and Yoro. Many were designated to small communities and cities that had been identified by CESPAD as high-risk sites for conflict, electoral violence, and fraud. 

Importance of the Mission

The mission was essential in helping expand CESPAD’s effectiveness and national impact. From November 27 to 29, observers filled out electoral observation forms and sent this data to the CESPAD team based in Tegucigalpa who then centralized and analyzed it for their own electoral reporting. In addition, when violations of human rights, the electoral law or freedom of expression were noted by observers, CESPAD used this information to publish and disseminate urgent election alerts. These alerts were useful in alerting the national and international community of concerning electoral circumstances, and were also shared with relevant Honduran electoral authorities for further investigation. 

In addition to acting as CESPAD “eyes and ears” around the country, several mission participants assisted with CESPAD’s communication and media strategy. Several journalists, particularly those from Mexico, helped CESPAD in publishing the alerts and photos of the electoral process on their social media and websites. 

Another important aspect of the mission was the role that international participants played in providing physical accompaniment to all Hondurans that went to vote on Election day. In many circumstances, the physical presence of an international observer can help deter many sorts of attacks, make processes more transparent, or simply send a clear message to local, regional and national electoral authorities and political parties, that the world’s eyes are watching the ins and outs of the voting process.  

The Mission’s Success

The mission was highly successful. One of Global Exchange’s communication goals was to center the voices of Hondurans, particularly CESPAD’s Director Gustavo Irías, in the international press.  The attention far exceeded our expectations. Global Exchange and CESPAD’s mission was mentioned in international-based media outlets including Newsweek, NPR, TruthOut, TeleSUR, Univisión, Reuters as well as several Spanish-speaking outlets like La Opinion. 

Global Exchange played a critical role in providing the international guidance and support for CESPAD that acted as the central operating organization in Honduras. This mission was the first of it’s kind for CESPAD and teaming up with Global Exchange helped to transfer our organization’s knowledge of international delegations to a Honduran organization. We expect this knowledge to be of particular value for CESPAD’s future international collaborations and projects. 

While our observers were on the ground on Election day, CESPAD published seven election alerts based on data collected by our teams. This data will serve as a guiding base for observation teams in future Honduran electoral processes. 

It is hard to attribute the overwhelming voting turn-out, the successful election of LIBRE party candidate, Xiomara Castro, the first woman President elected in Honduras, and the weakening of the U.S.-backed narco-dictatorship, to the presence of our mission in the country. However, over several years, Global Exchange, like many other US-based solidarity organizations have remained steadfast in their support for the Honduran social movement, human rights groups and civil society organizations who have fought to bring an end to the U.S.-backed dictatorship. We believe that our role has been critical – prior and during the electoral process – in both holding the US government accountable for its actions in Honduras, but also accompanying the Honduran people as they seek to transform their country and future. 

What’s Next: Post Mission Follow-Up

There is no doubt that the newly elected Honduran government will face significant challenges moving forward. Honduras is one of the poorest nations in the Western Hemisphere and continues to suffer from 12 years of a corrupt, narco-regime that caused thousands of Hondurans to flee to the U.S.-Mexico border. Despite the weakening of the regime through it’s electoral loss, many remnants of the government still remain. 

Global Exchange and international mission participants will remain engaged in Honduras through delegations, news monitoring, participation in urgent actions, and international solidarity coalitions. Global Exchange is committed to continue our work monitoring the role of the U.S. in Honduras. This will include setting up strategic meetings for the new Honduran government with U.S. solidarity organizations. We will also continue our engagement with U.S. Congressional representatives about Honduras and remain vigilant about human rights concerns and U.S. aid to the Honduran police and military. We believe our role is to create space for Hondurans to build the country of their choosing and we will continue our support for Honduran civil society organizations as they seek to rebuild their communities once Xiomara Castro takes power on January 27, 2022.