Colombia -- CAFTA -- September Actions -- Prison Updates Print
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August 4, 2005

1. Colombia: Congress and the State Department turn a blind eye
2. CAFTA approved by ?pork and a hill of beans?
3. Say no to torture and war: September 24-26
4. Prisoner of conscience updates
5. Urgent Action for Fr. Jean-Juste of Haiti
6. Remembering Will Prior
7. DC Office Comings and Goings

* NOTE: The SOA Watch DC office sends out updates about twice a month through this low-traffic listserv. To read more about the list, visit If you wish to unsubscribe from the list, send a blank email to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . *


The struggle to change U.S. foreign policy towards Colombia has been at the forefront of grassroots activism around the U.S. during the past few months as Congress and the State Department have been shaping the future of military assistance to Colombia.

In June, the House considered an amendment to the Foreign Ops Appropriations Bill that would have cut $100 million dollars in funding for the Andean Counterdrug Initiative in Colombia, money that will be used to further build up the repressive Colombia military forces ? effectively adding fuel to the fire. Despite the amendment failing by a vote of 234-189, the hotly debated amendment attracted the support of many Republicans and new members of Congress signaling a shift in support for the Administration's failed policy in Colombia ? thanks to your persistent phone calls, emails and letters.

After six months of delayed certification ? mostly due to the incredible public pressure that activists like you have leveraged ? this week the State Department certified that Colombia meets the human rights conditions to receive 12.5% of military aid being withheld from 2004, as well as 12.5% of this year's aid. This certification comes just days before President Uribe's visit TODAY with President Bush at the Crawford Ranch in Texas. This is a disturbing sign of unequivocal support for the Colombian government by the Bush administration, but it?s also an excellent opportunity to speak out against Plan Colombia and the decision to certify. Take action and send the State Department a letter protesting its certification decision!

Sample letter:

State Department contact information: U.S. Department of State, 2201 C Street NW, Washington, DC 20520 -- fax 202-647-2283


At 12:03 am on July 28th, and despite an incredible struggle by grassroots groups throughout Central American and the U.S., the House of Representatives approved the Central America-Dominican Republic-United States Free Trade Agreement, CAFTA. CAFTA, which would expand NAFTA to Central America and the Dominican Republic, would devastate farmers, privatize essential public services, and accelerate the race to the bottom on wages in the US and all over Central America.

At the end of the allotted 15 minutes of voting time the count was 180 to 175 against CAFTA, so the Republican leadership kept the vote open over an hour, in order to bully legislators into approving the bill. In the final tally, which was 217 to 215, a full 15 Democrats voted in favor of big business by supporting CAFTA, while 25 Republicans defied the Bush Administration and voted against it.

It seems that some Representatives have not reviewed the record of the massive failure of NAFTA, the agreement that cost a million US jobs and increased poverty in Mexico. NAFTA also caused the loss of 38,000 US family farms, while pushing 1.5 million Mexican farmers off their land. CAFTA was approved, and that will be the bottom line for communities in Central America and the US who will face years of decreasing living standards, falling wages, eroding environmental protection, and losing family farms because of CAFTA - not to mention the 275,000 HIV positive Central Americans who will be cut off from life-saving generic medicines because of the extremist patent monopolies embodied in the treaty.

Read more about the vote:


SOA Watch is organizing as part of a coalition of interfaith and human rights advocates for the ?Call for Justice Weekend? in Washington, DC. The weekend?s events will include a mass demonstration by leading U.S. peace and justice organizations, educational workshops and panel discussions on the SOA Torture Manuals, the applicability of the Geneva Conventions and a screening of the updated 2005 version of the documentary ?SOA: Hidden in Plain Sight.?

On Sunday, September 25th, torture survivors from Latin America will speak out at a Citizens' Trial of Donald Rumsfeld, Alberto Gonzales and George Tenet for violations of international and U.S. laws prohibiting torture. The trial will be based on actual laws and evidence and will use real lawyers, as well as real testimonies given by Iraqi and Afghan survivors.

JOIN US! For more information ? and to sign the interfaith PETITION against torture ? visit:


Two SOA Watch activists, Sr. Lil Mattingly and Alice Gerard, remain in prison for their opposition to the SOA/ WHINSEC. Of the fourteen human rights advocates tried and convicted earlier this year, Sr. Lil and Alice were given the longest sentences: six months in federal prison. The two are scheduled for release from Danbury Prison around September 12. You can support these peacemakers by writing to them:

Alice Gerard #92095-020
FCI Danbury
33-1/2 Pembroke Station, Route 37
Danbury, CT 06811

Sr. Lelia J. Mattingly #92460-020
FCI Danbury
33-1/2 Pembroke Station, Route 37
Danbury, CT 06811

Read more about other ways you can support prisoners:

Read more about the ?SOA 14:?

5. TAKE FIVE MINUTES TO SAVE A LIFE: Campaign to Deliver Letters to US Ambassador in Haiti to Free Fr. Gerard Jean-Juste

We are asking people and groups to send a letter this week (and to ask your friends to send a letter too) asking that the United States Embassy do everything in its power to persuade the unelected Haitian government release Fr. Gerard Jean-Juste from prison in Haiti. Bill Quigley, a law professor in the US, a long-time SOA Watch activist and a volunteer lawyer for Fr. Jean-Juste with the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, will hand-deliver all letters to the US Embassy in Port au Prince. Please take 5 minutes to do this, and ask others to do it as well - it could save his life. Bill needs to receive the letters by August 13.

For a sample letter and background information, please visit

Additional information about the assault on Fr. Jean-Juste in church in Haiti and his arrest and his status as a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International can be found at


Long-time SOA Watch and Latin America solidarity activist Will Prior died on July 18 in Albuquerque, New Mexico from complications of Parkinson?s disease. In April of 1996, Will Prior was prosecuted as part of the "SOA 13" for his participation in civil disobedience actions at Fort Benning, Georgia calling for the closure of the SOA. He was ordered to serve two months in federal prison.

Friends wrote of him, ?Through the quiet force of his example and will, he enriched the lives of generations in Asia, Europe, Central, and South America and throughout the United States. His clear moral view led him on a constant search for peace and justice for all of God?s children.? Will Pryor, presente!

Click here to read Will?s obituary:


Those of us in the DC were sad but hopeful as we said farewell to 10-month Brethren Volunteer SARAH MERTZ last week. Sarah is moving to Guatemala to work with the Guatemala Accompaniment Project, a program that places volunteers side-by-side with people in rural communities and with organizations in an effort to deter human rights violations. The presence of these volunteers, known as accompaniers, provides a measure of security and creates space for Guatemalan communities and groups to organize to defend their rights. Sarah was a great addition to our office this year, and we already miss her funny emails and great laugh.

Our summer intern, DANIELLE ALVARADO, will enjoy her last day in our office tomorrow before returning to her studies at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington. She has been a great asset to our office over the past six weeks. Danielle will continue her work with student organizing, and we look forward to continuing to work with her throughout the coming years.

We?re happy to welcome back long-time SOA Watch staffer HENDRIK VOSS to our office! Hendrik and his partner, Gail Taylor, spent seven months living in Guatemala and working with Puente de Paz, a mental health and human rights group that works with survivors of political and domestic violence. Puente de Paz works to empower women in indigenous communities as they reweave the social fabric torn apart during Guatemala?s 36-year internal armed conflict.

The two then moved to Hendrik?s native Germany, where they lived for seven months and were involved in the Caravan for the Rights of Refugees and Migrants, a network of individuals, groups and organizations of refugees, migrants and Germans based on anti-imperialism and antiracism.

Hendrik worked in SOA Watch?s DC office before leaving for Guatemala last year, and we?re thrilled to have him back with us.