Dale Sorenson - 2010 Encuentro Local Updates Print

2010 Encuentro Local Updates

MARIN COUNTY, CALIFORNIA, USA

By DALE SORENSON
Marin Task Force of the Americas Director


Brief report by country on our anti-militarization work during last 15 years

Mexico: In the mid-nineties myself, and other members of the Task Force started to travel frequently to Chiapas. Our travels involved bringing humanitarian aid and providing accompaniment to the indigenous communities of the EZLN. During those years the Zapatista communities were surrounded by the Mexican military (many trained at the SOA) and through various acts of repression, including rape and destruction of communities they tried to intimidate the communities into giving up their quest for justice and enough land to feed their families. A divide and conquer strategy was use to pit one indigenous group against the other. All culminated when in 1997, 45 mostly women and children were massacred in a church, known as the Acteal Massacre. The intellectual authors were never found. Delegations and humanitarian aid caravan to the region provided some safety for the members of the communities. They would say that when we were there they didn't fear the military.

Cuba: My involvement in Cuba began in the early 90s challenging the US blockade of the island nation. We traveled many time to Cuba going in defiance of the blockade and risking arrest and large fines. Most of these ventures were with Pastors for Peace. A yearly caravan defies the blockade and brings forbidden aid to Cuba every July and has done so for 20 years.

The US military has occupied the southern tip of the island at Guantanamo for many years.

Mostly these efforts have been ignored by the US government so as to avoid publicity.

Haiti: Working in coalition with the Haiti Action Committee we have worked to educate North Americans about the role of the US in Haiti which includes a Marine occupation lasting almost 20 years (1915-1934). The US has supported dictatorships there with horrible consequences for the people. When Democracy came and the election of President Aristide (he disbanded the repressive Haitian Army) the US not having an army they could work with began a destabilization campaign and involvement in 2 coups (2001 and 2004). The US continues to control Haiti via the UN Mission which occupies Haiti today.

Venezuela: Our Venezuela work has centered on delegations led by Lisa since 2004 and various articles. We had Eva Golinger speak at our annual dinner a couple of years ago. There is so much misinformation about President Hugo Chavez Venezuela in the main stream press that even many human rights activists seem to believe much of the lies and distortions. If the lies win out over the truth it could justify military action on the part of the US or perhaps Colombia. Therefore our work has centered on trying to counteract that phenomenon by bringing folks to see for themselves and having public educational meetings and meetings with congressional representatives

Colombia: Most of the work on Colombia has been trying to get Plan Colombia defunded. Writing articles, having public forums exposing all the negative effect of US policies including the murders of union activists and displacement of Afro-Colombians from their land has been a big part of our work .Also, lobbying against the free trade agreement.  Now that the US has leases to use 7 bases in Colombia and is still trying to push the free trade agreement I anticipate lots of lobbying regarding these issues in the coming months. Here in California we have tried in vain to get Senator Barbara Boxer to take over where Sen. Paul Wellstone left off, he was trying to reach a more sane policy regarding Colombia when he died. (You'll remember he was killed in a plane crash about 5 years ago)

Honduras: When the coup in Honduras occurred last year we were outraged that the US would support an illegal act perpetrated by the Honduran military, the wealthy elites, the big business sector and the hierarchies of the churches.  The coup is a good example of how these forces work together to undermine social justice in a poor country and how the military is used to keep real democracy from flourishing. Since June 28, 2009 the Task Force has been active in local and national coalitions to try and get the truth out about the US role, the fact that there were military personal trained at WHINSEC and that the US State Department essentially supported the coup.

I personally have been to Honduras twice in recent months and organized a delegation there this past March. I anticipate more delegation and educational events regarding Honduras and continued solidarity with the resistance movement there.

We write letters and Fax them to US government officials and we make phone calls and send emails on all of the above. Our focus has been on education via public events, a newsletter and delegations. We also have street demonstrations like vigils in from of the Honduran and Mexican consulates in San Francisco. It is hard to know how effective actions are but when large numbers of people participate in demonstrations it can get noticed by the press which is always a goal. If the State Department has to turn off its Fax machine, as happened last year regarding Honduras, then you know you've had an effect!

I think that building a relationship with your State and Congressional legislators perhaps can be the most effective thing you can do to change US policy. One problem for the Task Force has been that our Rep. Lynn Woolsey is very progressive on most issues and we have built a close relationship over the years with her foreign policy aides. She will usually vote the way we ask her to and will sign on to letters but it has been difficult to get her to take leadership on issues concerning human rights in Latin America (she generally does not author legislation on foreign policy issues). For a period of time she was very outspoken on ending the war on Iraq but has not done so regarding Latin America.

The Senators Boxer and Feinstein are harder to reach and we need to do more in that regard. I'm not sure what the impact has been on militarization in Latin America. Obviously if we'd been successful there would be a base agreement with Colombia and we'd have closed the SOA by now.

The Task Force was one of the first solidarity groups to work on closing the SOA and we have a long, long history with SOA Watch and Fr. Roy. It is discouraging that the school remains open to this day.

I often feel discouraged by what we have not been able to accomplish but yet feel that we must continue our efforts and remain in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in South America who feel the brunt of US military and economic policies. I look forward to hearing from them regarding what we should do to further a more just US foreign policy with Latin America.