Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Help busloads of farm workers get to Sacramento for Farm Worker Overtime Bill vote

Help busloads of farm workers get to Sacramento for big vote

Right now hundreds of farm workers are in Sacramento lobbying for AB 2757, the farm worker overtime bill. They are rounding up votes for this legislation by visiting the offices of lawmakers and reminding them their food comes from hard working men and women who deserve no less than other workers.
Hundreds of workers want to board buses to come back on the day of the vote to lobby some more. Farm workers want to get the chance to speak with lawmakers. They want legislators to understand how farm workers not having overtime affects their lives and the lives of their children. They want to share stories like that of Leticia Munoz and Gonzalo Santiago.
Leticia shares, “I’m a farm worker in the California San Joaquin Valley. I’m the one who picks the harvest so the agriculture products such as fruits and vegetables arrive at the consumer's table. Field work is very hard, this is the reason many don’t want to do it. We work under high temperatures above 100°F and even when there’s ice and it’s cold we have to enter to work and the fields are contaminated with the different pesticides that are applied. … I am thankful with the United Farm Workers because they are fighting so that farm workers are paid overtime after 8 hours worked. It is time that we get justice."

Gonzalo has been laboring in in the fields of California’s Salinas Valley for 14 years. He tells us, “In California, equality doesn’t exist between farm workers and workers in other industries. The field work is very hard work. The body has to endure low temperatures and the heat of the sun to harvest the crops … I leave my house at 4:30 a.m. while my children are still sleeping and I don’t return until 7 p.m. If it were possible to pass a state law that would have overtime pay after 8 hours and that way farm workers would have more time with their family and pick up their children from school, who are the future of this country.”

Farm workers were left out of overtime laws in the 1930’s to preserve a legacy of racism. It is time to reverse this injustice. History will be made with this vote and you can take part.

We need to canvass the Assembly halls with busloads of farm workers. On average, it will cost $40 per worker to bus them up for the day and provide them a simple lunch. Can you make a donation today to make sure workers can have a seat on the bus and change history?


Monday, May 23, 2016

Jasmine from Amnesty International: My visit with Leonard Peltier

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"If I don’t get clemency, I’m going to die here"

In my meeting with Leonard, I couldn't help but think "How can a person survive four decades of injustice?"

Tell President Obama: it's time to grant Leonard Peltier clemency.

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Amnesty International USA

Friday, May 6, 2016

4 arrested for murder of Berta Cáceres in Honduras

On Monday morning, the Honduran authorities arrested 4 men in relation to the murder of internationally renowned activist Berta Cáceres -- 2 are retired or active members of the Honduran Armed Forces and 2 have ties to DESA, the company building the Agua Zarca hydroelectric project that Berta was campaigning against. With even the Honduran government investigators now admitting the assassins have ties to the Honduran Armed Forces, it is time once and for all for the United States to end financing and training of the Honduran security forces.  Berta's family and COPINH continue to call for the Inter-American Human Rights Commission to investigate the case.  It is hard to believe that the Honduran government has the political will to investigate the higher-ups who may have helped plan or known about Berta's murder; as Berta's daughter Laura Zuniga Cáceres told The Guardian, “The Honduran state is too closely linked to the murder of my mother to carry out an independent investigation.”
Early on, there were clear signs that the Honduran authorities were manipulating the investigation and interrogating COPINH members. Even with an international outcry demanding investigation into the years of threats and persecution Berta suffered for her defense of the Gualcarque River, it took 11 days for the investigators to go to DESA's installations. Even then, the investigation was declared secret and the lawyers for the family excluded. Berta's daughters and COPINH members took the demand for justice internationally, speaking out in the US and Europe, calling for an end to US and European security aid to Honduras given Berta's assassination and the ongoing persecution of social movements.  Last week, the European Investment Bank canceled a $40 million loan to Honduras, citing Berta's murder as the reason.  Shortly thereafter, the Honduran government apprehend 4 men with ties to the military and DESA, admitting for the first time that Berta was assassinated for her activism.
Those arrested include Sergio Rodriguez, Environmental and Social Manager for DESA, who Berta denounced was threatening COPINH during a protest against the Agua Zarca project on February 20, as well as Geovanny Douglas Bustillo, retired Honduran leuitenent, who previously served as head of security for the Agua Zarca project. The other two arrested include Mariano Díaz Chávez, reported to be an active Major in the Honduran military, and Edilson Atilio Duarte Meza, reported as a retired captain in the Honduran Military.  It seems doubtful they would have acted solely on their own
Berta took on extremely powerful interests in Honduras and the persecution of her while she was alive was done with the knowledge of very powerful people, with the Public Ministry prosecuting Berta in 2013 and the Secretary of Security, trained at the School of the Americas (SOA) in Psychological Operations, failing to ensure her protection.  Now we are asked to trust the same Public Ministry with the investigation into her death.  Without transparency in the investigation and the Honduran government's refusal to accept the offer of the IAHCR independent commission, one must ask if higher ups in the Honduran Armed Forces and government have been investigated in relation to Berta's murder? Has David Castillo, head of DESA with a background in military intelligence for the Honduran Armed Forces, been investigated? Have the directors of DESA, including those who belong to the powerful Atala family, one of the families many believe was behind the 2009 military coup in Honduras, been investigated? Has Julian Pacheco, Secretary of Security, been investigated? Did the US Embassy or US military officials know of the plans to murder Berta?
Those may be very dangerous questions to ask. Honduran opposition journalist Felix Molina, well-known throughout the country for his resistance radio show that was one of the clearest voices against the military coup in Honduras for years, posted very similar questions on Monday after the arrests. Hours later there was an attempt to attack him but he got away, only to be shot four times in the legs Monday night. Luckily the bullets missed arteries and veins, and Felix is still alive, though in the hospital. Felix is renowned for his journalism and radio programs critical of the powers at be.
Whether or not all the intellectual authors of Berta's murder are ever brought to justice, one thing is clear: the United States must stop financing and training the Honduran Armed Forces and other security forces. The US-trained and supported TIGRES, with the stated goal of addressing drug trafficking, have spent significant time stationed at DESA's installations, guarding the Agua Zarca Project. Were any of the Honduran military (current or former) involved in Berta's murder trained by the US? Has the United States ensured it does not fund the First Battalion of Engineers, which was stationed at DESA's installations and murdered Indigenous leader Tomas Garcia in 2013? When will US funding, training, and equipping of the Honduran security forces end? How many more people have to die?
The United States is not the only one with responsibility for what is occurring in Honduras; earlier this month I accompanied Berta's daughter Bertha Zuniga Cáceres, COPINH leader Asencion Martinez, and Rosalina Dominguez and Francisco Sanchez of the Rio Blanco Indigenous Council to call on the Dutch Development Bank FMO and the Finn Fund, both majority owned by the Dutch and Finnish governments respectively, to definitively cancel their financing of the Agua Zarca Project. FMO had seemingly ignored Berta's first attempt to inform them of the violence and human rights violations surrounding the Agua Zarca Project before they finalized the loan. Now, these banks share responsibility for the violence in the zone.
Francisco and other COPINH members in Rio Blanco have also been threatened for their opposition to the Agua Zarca Project.  As Rosalina stated, "we do not want any more deaths."  Yet, despite Monday's arrests, the project continues forward and the banks have yet to definitively withdraw.  The US keeps financing and training the Honduran security forces, all too many of whom are deployed in the zone.  Even worse, the US increased the number of Honduran military trained at the SOA-WHINSEC this past year and is giving an extra $750 million to Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador, for the ill-named "Alliance for Prosperity," known also as the Plan Colombia for Central America.  This money only serves to further embolen the repressive Honduran regime.
How many more people have to die before the financing of repression is halted?
End US Military Training and Aid to Honduras
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