Tuesday, 17 December 2013

LASC, Dec. 2013: Background

Bill Jungels spoke about the economic crisis for Mayan campesinos in Highland Chiapas, Mexico’s southernmost, poorest and most indigenous State. The corn crop on which they depend for a large part of their diet failed and they are forced to buy their corn. Coffee sold at a very low price (about 70 cents a pound for those lucky enough to have a small plot) eliminating a main source of cash. And sales of women’s weavings have been off due to recession in places like the U.S. where they hope to get a just price for their work.

In this context there has been a heating up of paramilitary activity, with people being violently forced off uncultivated land they occupied in the wake of the 1994 Zapatista uprising. From Puebla, township of Chenalho, 98 persons have been forced to flee to Acteal (in the same township) site of the 1997 massacre of 45 unarmed members of the Catholic organization, the Abejas (Bees).  Most of those who fled are Catholics who were trying to rebuild a church. Some fear that things could escalate to new mass killings by paramilitaries. In Chiapas religious and political affiliating often go together and those driving the people out are from protestant sects allied with the PRI, the most powerful and corrupt party in Mexico. Padre Manuel, the Catholic pastor of Chenalho was held by the paramilitaries for four hours, beaten and threatened with having gasoline poured on him and being set on fire. The 98 people who fled to Acteal are living in sub-human conditions crowded into a very small dwelling and sharing a single kitchen (where food is cooked over an open wood fire).

To  purchase weavings from 3 cooperatives: http://www.weaving-for-justice.org

For information and actions on human rights violations in Chiapas, including the Puebla incidents: http://www.frayba.org.mex   (English and Spanish available, with some documents only in Spanish. For the Puebla conflict look on the Spanish site under “Acciones Urgentes”) 

Dec. 2013 LASC Coffeehouse

The December 2013 LASC Coffeehouse was held 7-9 pm Monday, Dec. 16, 
at El Buen Amigo, 114 Elmwood Ave.   Lots of people came to hear REPORTS FROM CHIAPAS
presented by Tom Potts and Bill Jungels, just returned from projects in Chiapas, Mexico.
Many brought food to share, and we had a celebration in the setting of the most beautiful store.
Santiago and Anne and Mike at the store graciously and enthusiastically made room for us all.

The event was co-sponsored by the Latin American Cultural Association (LACA at Buen Amigo)
and by the Latin America Solidarity Committee (LASC, a taskforce of the WNY Peace Center).

Tom Potts told us of his free dental project there, and how it runs; the cross-section of people he treats,  the politics of the township, the work the committee there, the valuable assistance of a local translator from indigenous languages to spanish, the way the word gets out to the outlying communities, and the possibilities and problems of funding a scholarship for a local person to study to eventually carry-on the project year-round.  Suggestions included a kickstart campaign or medical school in Cuba.

Tom also mentioned the huge privatization of the mexican energy enterprise, which involves constitutional changes and massive opportunities for corruption.

Bill Jungels told of terrible agricultural problems in the area this year: of falling  revenue from coffee growing, and failed corn crops.   He also told of the work of the weaving cooperatives and tensions in some nearby communities that reminded him of the paramilitary lead up to the Acteal massacres.

Questions were asked: protests planned for the 20 anniversary of NAFTA, celebrations of 20 years of autonomous Zapatista communities, differences between politics in Mexico and Colombia, versus other progressive politics in Latin America.

We hope to post some links here:

El Buen Amigo (the Good Friend) opened on Elmwood in 1989 as part of the Latin American Cultural Association, a non profit organization formed in 1977 to spread the culture of Latin America and raise awareness of present-day social and economic struggles of the region. The store deals directly with craftspeople, cooperatives and small family businesses, and returns profits to the artists and their communities. Everyone welcome to our party.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

November 2013 LASC

The Latin America Solidarity Committee November Coffeehouse was titled:

              Immigration Reform & Justice for Farmworkers

The date was 7-9 pm       Monday       November 18
It was held at  Wick Student Center,  Alumni Lounge, Daemen College,      4380 Main Street
Speakers were Lory Ghertner, Chava Redonnet, Peter Mares.

Dr. John 'Lory' Ghertner, cofounder of Greater Rochester Coalition for Immigration Justice, and                    
     Migrant Support Services of Wayne County, advocating for his Latino farmworker neighbors.

Chava Redonnet, pastor of Iglesia de Sam Remero, ministering to needs of farmworkers in Albion

Peter Mares, Wayne County outreach worker for Catholic Charities and Rural and Migrant Ministry.

The speakers gave us the first-hand picture of the effects of unjust, upside-down laws that create a system that destroys lives.  Jim Bittner,  a Niagara County farmer, also came and spoke eloquently about the fears and hopes of farmworkers.

Many Daemen students attended, and there was very active discussion, especially about immigration issues and how to make contact with organizations aiding farmworkers locally.

We hope to have more information posted here soon.

Photo: www.afteripickthefruit.com/    

October 2013 LASC

THE October LASC Coffeehouse was a showing of the Guatemala Film: GOLD FEVER,
part of a national effort by Rights Action  (http://www.rightsaction.org/) to draw attention to communities abused by terrible mining activities in Latin America.

500 years after the conquistadors, caught in the cross-hairs of another global frenzy for gold, resisting the arrival of Goldcorp Inc to a remote Guatemalan village. The film  addresses larger political and environmental realities around international relations and business, shaped by the interests of a tiny elite - at the expense of communities and the environment.  Gold Fever received the 2013 Rigoberta Menchú Grand Prix at the Montréal First Peoples Festival.

Film web site with trailer: www.goldfevermovie.com

the showing was 7-9 pm Mon. October 21, 2013 
at HALLWALLS 341 Delaware Ave Buffalo.

Lively discussion afterwards was led by Emma Feldman, from her work with MICLA, a McGill Research Group Investigating Canadian Mining in Latin America.    http://micla.ca/

September 2013 LASC

The Latin America Solidarity Committee 
was about local projects around solar power and micro-loans.

The date was  7-9 pm Monday, September 23;  the place was
Network of Religious Communities 1272 Delaware Avenue.
     The  speakers:
Paige Mecca directs Solar Liberty Foundation (WNY), with Haitian solar    projects in Port-au-Prince and Ile-a-Vache.   www.solarliberty.org

Katherine Mang works with Mothers Clubs of Haiti, a successful micro-lending program offering hope to rural Haitian families. She reported on recent work-visits.   www.mclubsh.org

It was a very lively and inspiring presentation, with lots of questions and discussion, and lots of ideas generated.

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Letter: Call from Obama might have prevented gas attack

Call from Obama might have prevented gas attack
Letter to Buffalo News, published on September 7, 2013

As the world justly condemns the horrific gas attacks in Damascus, Syria, killing over 1,400 people, the debate in Washington and elsewhere over what to do about it is just beginning, and some sort of military action is at the top of the list. There are two items that need to be part of the upcoming congressional discussion.

First, although the Obama administration initially welcomed a U.N. investigation in an Aug. 21 press briefing, it puzzlingly turned 180 degrees around on Aug. 30 when Secretary of State John Kerry said the United States should not wait for the conclusion of the U.N. investigation before deciding on a course of action. What’s the hurry?

Secondly, on Aug. 30 the White House released an assessment on Syria’s use of chemical weapons. It says three days prior to the gas attack, the United States collected much information pointing to an impending chemical weapons attack. The report did not say President Obama called President Bashar Assad during that three-day period prior to the gas attack telling him: “Don’t do it.” Such an effort by Obama may have prevented the attack, if indeed it was carried out by the Syrian government on orders from Assad. Why didn’t Obama make that phone call?

Charley Bowman, WNY Peace Center,  Buffalo

Letter: More violence is not the solution in Syria

More violence is not the solution in Syria. ce:   By Victoria Ross
Published by Buffalo News on September 4, 2013

“Those who have not been killed by chemical weapons will be killed by American weapons.”
– Local Syrian-American woman

Violence begets violence. Nonviolence is basic to virtually all religions (although man has also somehow inserted violence into every religion, too). Yet we treat violence as our ace in the hole. We must believe, and act, in nonviolence and love.

We grieve for the people of Syria. We know Bashar Assad’s regime is brutal – torturing and murdering – and violence is escalating all around. We must stop it.

We grieve, but don’t know who actually gassed people. There are conflicting reports. Although our government claims Assad gassed his people, we also know that “truth is the first casualty of war.” Our government has often lied to go to war – e.g., Vietnam and the Gulf of Tonkin and the mythical weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

Whoever gassed people in Syria, it was a terrible crime, and the terror continues. Adding to it will clearly result in more innocents dying. Targeted assassination is a specialty of drones, yet many civilians die in drone strikes. In Pakistan, for example, estimates of civilians killed range from 10 percent, per the New America Foundation, to near 98 percent, per Columbia Law School’s Human Rights Institute. The broad-ranging terror is indisputable.

We can and must take decisive action. Let us strengthen international law, organizations and community. We need to work through U.N. peacekeeping. We need to work with the international community to halt fighting (and arming), and to promote communication and negotiation.

We must recognize the U.N. International Criminal Court, the proper venue for war crimes and crimes against humanity. The court originated in 2002, and has been ratified by 122 countries. We originally signed but then reneged. Might our own war crimes – war of aggression on Iraq, extra-judicial assassination via drones – have something to do with our reluctance?

The international community is like any other community – a culture is created and perpetuated by the actions of its members. As the No. 1 arms merchant and military spender, determined that our world dominance be unchallenged, our belligerence has only encouraged others to behave badly. Let us instead promote the rule of law internationally, including the Kellogg-Briand Pact, which outlawed war, signed by the United States in 1928.

Let us take the side of compassion, and work hard to create a culture of peace at home and abroad. Even a fraction of the time and energy spent on violence could make all the difference.

Victoria Ross is a peaceful conflict resolution consultant for the Interfaith Peace Network and the WNY Peace Center.

One of the statements read at tonight's peace vigil in Buffalo.

LCWR Statement on US Action in Syria.           Fri., Sep 6, 2013
[Silver Spring, MD]  We, the members of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, are compelled to work toward a world where reverence for all living beings finds expression in an approach to life free from violence. We stand in solidarity with the victims of violence everywhere, with a majority of the American people, and with the leaders of our Catholic Church as we heed the Gospel call to peace, reconciliation, and universal love.

Like so many, we are horrified at the violence we witness in our world and appalled by the continued carnage in Syria. We wholeheartedly condemn the use of chemical weapons along with the indiscriminate killing of civilians, and other violations of international humanitarian law.  In the face of so much pain and suffering; confronted by so much evil and immorality; we know that we must act.

However, we reject the false choice currently being offered by our political leaders in Washington, DC.  We need not choose between military action and doing nothing.  Like Pope Francis we know that, “Never has the use of violence brought peace in its wake. War begets war, violence begets violence.” Only aggressive diplomacy and deliberate dialogue can end the violence and bring about peace in Syria.

We urge the US Congress and the President, working with the international community at the United Nations to provide the leadership necessary to:

De-escalate the violence by stopping the flow of arms to all sides and seeking a ceasefire.
Provide humanitarian assistance to the millions of Syrians forced to flee their homes by the continuing violence.
Pursue a just political settlement with all of the stakeholders including members of civil society.
Bring to justice those responsible for these egregious violations of international law and crimes against humanity.
We will act to stop the killing and end the violence. We join with Pope Francis in appealing for an end to violence everywhere and calling on all people of good will to observe a day of prayer and fasting for peace on September 7. Let us pray for the grace to respond to violence, conflict, and war, with the power of dialogue, reconciliation, and love.

Sister Annmarie Sanders, IHM
Associate Director for Communications
Leadership Conference of Women Religious

The Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) is an association of the leaders of congregations of Catholic women religious in the United States. The conference has more than 1400 members, who represent more than 80 percent of the approximately 51,600 women religious in the United States.

Monday, 29 July 2013

Charlie's Farewell Post as Director


This will be my last Weekly Update as Interim Exec. Director of the WNY
Peace Center. As some of you know, I am stepping down to lighten the load
on my reduced energy levels and tomorrow I will be undergoing extensive
medical tests  (the allergy theory now occupies the top of the infinite
list having displaced bacterial, viral infections, and more serious stuff 
– so the tests continue and the fee-for-service rate structure continues
to  help  out the doc(s), so at least one of us will feel better at the
conclusion of the tests).

Having zero experience at organizational leadership when Jim Anderson and
Lynda Schneekloth hired me March 2011, I was unsure I would last more than
a few months. I could not have predicted the learning path upon which I
was about to embark. 

Starting in October of 2011,Occupy Buffalo was absolutely terrific! I now know how to order porta potties, and many churches, secular organizations and individuals stepped up to fund that critical infrastructure on Niagara Square. The only person
to get pooped out about the 99%’s  three-month occupation of Niagara Square was Buffalo’s Mayor Byron Brown.

The occupation of Niagara Square represented a perfect reminder  of  the
extreme wealth disparity in this country, and the imperialistic symbolism
expressed by the monument to President McKinley and his foreign

The Peace Center’s credit union account grew 4 fold in 2011 because we did
not pay anyone during that time and because about 400 members continued
expressing hope through their checkbooks and volunteer time – perfectly
happy with a highly inexperienced Executive Director.

We had no task forces in March 2011. During the summer  of 2011, we
mounted an unsuccessful effort to get the Cost of War Clock mounted on
Buffalo City Hall. Mayor Brown never responded to our infinite number of
requests for a meeting with him. Eric Gallion formed the Global Economic
Task Force and Bruce Beyer formed a task force to support military
resistors residing in Canada. Russell Brown formed the Resist Militarism!
Task Force which now focuses on drones and military recruitment.   

During the summer of 2012, Occupy Buffalo and PC members paraded the Peace
Center’s drone in front of Buffalo’s City Hall, much to the dismay of city
hall officials who said they would call the police --- the police were
already double-parked in front of City Hall and they didn’t seem to care
about the drone, so we continued parading the drone in an effort to get
the Common Council to vote on a drone ban ordinance: it remains tabled. 

In the spring of 2013, that task force began anti-drone vigils at Niagara
Falls Air Reserve Station. They also participate in Gandhian anti-drone
efforts at Hancock Field near Syracuse NY. This year, Russell Brown,
Valerie Niederhoffer  and Bonny Mahoney were arrested at the April event:
total bail was $5,000. The Peace Center picked up $4,500 and the Peace and
Education Fund of Riverside Salem UCC/DC picked up $500. Two years ago,
Vicki Ross was arrested at Hancock Field at the same event. Those efforts
will continue.  

LASC came back to the WNY Peace Center, and they began
hosting their monthly talks at Daemen College, in an effort to educate
young people. They will continue that great effort during the fall of 2013.  

In the fall of 2011, Rita Yelda and Frank Gage taught me the evils
of hydrofracking. They then  formed the Anti-Hydrofracking TF, and Rita
organized the effort to force the City of Niagara Falls to ban the
transport of hydrofracking waste water into Niagara Falls NY for
“treatment”  (i.e., send the toxic solids to a landfill and send the toxic
radioactive liquid over Niagara Falls). That victory continues to pay huge
dividends for the environment, because it increased the costs to gas
companies to deal with their waste water and continues to do its part in
delaying hydrofracking in NY State.  

John Washington formed the  Economic Empowerment TF that works to inform homeowners in debt how to deal with banks. Jean Dickson recently formed the Middle East TF and its first meeting was a classic: about 40 people showed up and a spirited discussion on Palestine and Israel ensued –- an excellent catharsis for lots of angst on all sides and the catharsis lasted for several months.

 We now have 7 busy task forces and pay 3 people non-living wages --  all
supported by your continued generosity.

Prompted by Buffalo News articles in the spring of 2012 about drones
coming to the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station, we created an alternative
vision for that unneeded military base: a gigantic solar array. The United
State’s industrial policy is totally war-related  and we need to extricate
ourselves from the military thinking box, as the world is nearing a point
of no return in terms of global warming: 20-30 years from now the Arctic
sea ice will disappear if we continue burning fossil fuels as we do. 

The melting sea ice will raise sea levels inundating low lands, and  the
warming oceans will power more terrible storms. A recent report indicates
the bacteria that hold the soil structure together are also at risk. 

All this anthropogenic warming will create climate shifts and subsequent
migrations in human populations: if it continues, global warming will
create the perfect conditions for global war  -- and lots more countries
will have nuclear arms and drones by then. WWII will be considered a
temporary skirmish by comparison, if it’s remembered in the history books
at all.

So we need to immediately lower atmospheric and human emotional
temperatures with renewable energy and renewable spirit respectively.

Perhaps the WNY Peace Center should have a new vision statement: Peace
Through Justice, Renewable Energy and Spirit.

Our two Peaceful Conflict Resolution specialists – Vicki Ross and Carlanda
Wilson – continue to do their wonderful work on reducing human emotional
temperatures. And Peggy Matteliano – our office manager – will keep the
Peace Center’s office functioning properly.

I will continue working on the solar array project, and recently testified
at SUNY Fredonia about switching the Dunkirk Coal Plant to natural gas:
Bad idea. Renewable energy is a better idea.

From now on, Board member Eric Gallion will take over the Weekly Update.
If you want to have your event  posted in that extensive listing, send
your event to: weeklynews@wnypeace.org. Eric and Peggy – our office
manager – will monitor Director@wnypeace.org and respond accordingly.

In the absence of a director, it’s not clear how the Peace Center will
handle requests for Peace Center endorsement of events. Most likely your
request will be decided at the Peace Center’s monthly board meeting. So
get your request in 2 months ahead of time to assure adequate timing.

Over the past 2 weeks I received many kind notes and I thank each one of you.


--- Charley

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

LASC-Pastors for Peace BBQ, July 12, 2013

Please Come to a BBQ fun time & fundraiser for
this year's Pastors for Peace Caravan to Cuba
Friday July 12  5 - 9 PM
74 Wellington Rd. near Hertel Ave. in Buffalo, phone 835 4705 for info
(suggested donation $10 - $20 +)
WITH Dave Thomas,Canadian Cuban Friendship Association, Niagara Chair who
spends months in Cuba motor cycling & also caravanistas past & present.
AND music by La Marimba:
Tiffany Nicely, Ringo Brill, and Gabriel Gutierrez perform original
arrangements of traditional music from Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean.
See them on YouTube:

IFCO/Pastors for Peace in Buffalo, NY this year, through an exciting educational and
cultural program will celebrate the 24th Friendshipment Caravan to Cuba! In July 2013 the
caravan will travel visiting 100 US and Canadian cities, educating people about the

July 8-15 Cuba Caravan Week:  Organizing          
        events throughout the US*and Canada
July 16 Travel to Mexico City/ Participant  orientation
July 17 Participate in major event in
                     Mexico City
July 18 Depart from Mexico City
July 19- 29 Caravan program in Cuba
July 29 Return to Mexico City
July 30 Return to the Hub City & Report  Back

P4P will go directly to Santiago de Cuba to help reconstruct after Hurricane Sandy and to
be part of the 60th Anniversary of the attack on the Moncada Barracks. This year P4P will
not be traveling on school busses, but first fly from our hub cities to Mexico City, where
we will join our Mexican partners in a gala event. Cuba is well known for its rich culture
& focus on human development – all which comes from investment in human beings. We will
meet the young scientists, doctors, teachers, social workers, artists, musicians and
community activists who are increasingly at the forefront of developing their own society
and participating in internationalist missions to assist the peoples of other countries.
P4P is accepting the advice that Fidel gave: "Victory is winning the Battle of Ideas".  We
want to end the Blockade. P4P is organizing on a new & exciting model this year, so stay
tuned for details!

WAYS YOU CAN GET INVOLVED Join us on a voyage of friendship and discovery!

•Join the caravan as a caravanista – contact P4P for an application form.
email cucaravan@igc.org

•Sponsor a young person or encourage others to apply – distribute our
brochure; sponsor someone from your community.

•Get involved locally – host a caravan event in your community and come
* Friday July 12 to a BBQ fun time & fundraiser:
5 - 9 PM 74 Wellington Rd. near Hertel Ave. in Buffalo, phone 835 4705 for info
(suggested donation $10 - $20 +)
with speakers from Canada & and also caravanistas past & present.

Contact Info: IFCO/Pastors for Peace
418 W. 145th St., New York, NY 10031
Ph: 212-926-5757 Fax: 212-926-5842
Email: p4p@igc.org      web site:   www.pastorsforpeace.org

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Buffalo student: Injustice in Honduras

"Death Squads Are Back"   
With the recent upsurge of death squads in Honduras all of the national solidarity organizations have taken an active roll in informing us as to why this is happening. LASC has taken the opportunity to participate in delegations to this small Central American country. Arianne Walker, a student at Canisius College went to Honduras this past March on a delegation sponsored by Rights Action, an international solidarity organization. Arianne spent time learning about political and environmental issues. In her own words, Arianne wrote " The trip all around was eye-opening because because I did not know all the injustices such as the forced movement of the Garifuna People (original settlers in Honduras) and the effects of the mining industry is having on indigenous people of Honduras".                                                    

We have also leaned through AP that there is continued funding from the U.S. to the Honduran National Police.The chief of Police,l Juan C. Bonilla has been accused of three extrajudicial killings and 11 disappearances. The Center for Economic Research has asked:" Did the A P Catch State Dept. Officials Lying to Congress About Honduran Death Squads?"  There are serious human rights abuses by the Honduran National Police. These abuses have surged with U.S,increase in supporting militarizing the police force. Documentation of these abuses have increased and unless effective steps are taken they will increase. The military-backed regime in power since the 2009 military coup, remains in control due to its military and economic relations with the U.S. and Canada with world-wide banking institutions supporting this effort.     
LASC continues to communicate with our congresspeople (requested to sign on to "Dear Colleague" letter to investigate the increase in death squads).  We would encourage everyone to contact your congressperson to de-militarize the Honduran National Police (Call Cong. Higgins: 852-3501 or 202-225-3306, Collins--634-2324 or 202-225-5265, Reed: 315-759-5229 or 202-225-3161. Join a delegation with Rights Action. More info: rightsaction.org         

Cuban Five deserve to have case reopened

Letter to the Buffalo News, published June 8, 2013
Cuban Five deserve to have case reopened

This week, hundreds of people worldwide have been pouring into Washington to demand justice for the so-called Cuban Five. Their “crime”: They came to Florida to monitor anti-Castro Cuban exiles who, for 40 years, had terrorized their homeland, killing 3,478 Cubans. After gathering the information, Havana presented the evidence to the FBI, expecting Washington to stop the terrorist attacks. But instead of nabbing the real criminals, the five Cubans were arrested and convicted by a Miami court. Lawyers’ requests for an impartial venue were rejected.
In 2009, the lawyers petitioned the Supreme Court to reopen the case. The court rejected the case without explanation. Since then, President Obama has insisted the Cubans had their “due process rights,” a claim that collides against enormous evidence favoring the prisoners. The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in 2005 denounced the court’s proceedings, particularly the prosecutor, for “inflaming the jury’s prejudices,” a “reprehensible” violation of her oath of office. Later, activists discovered that the U.S. government had paid Miami journalists to demonize the defendants before the trial. Amnesty International, in 2011, classified the trial under its section “Unfair Trials.”
Unfortunately, most Americans know little about the injustices inflicted on the Cubans; and the media have ignored them. That’s why hundreds of prominent people worldwide, from lawmakers to religious leaders, have come to Washington to expose the falsehoods keeping the Cubans incarcerated and to demand justice for them.
Edward Cuddy

Friday, 7 June 2013

Report on April LASC humanitarian aid event

In place of an April coffeehouse, on Thursday, April 25th LASC presented the 32nd Annual Father A. Joseph Bissonette Latin America Event, upstairs in the Wick Student Center at Daemen College. This Latin america humanitarian aid event raises funds for many projects that LASC has worked with over the years. We also invite local fair trade and social justice organizations to have free information tables. The speaker this year, on "Building Justice in Latin America", was Sharon Hostetler, Executive Director of Witness For Peace. During the 80-90's this organization lead passive resistance on the borders of Central American countries that were experiencing civil wars. For the past twenty years they have organized  delegations to many countries in Latin America. Sharon's talk also gave a good view of human and indigenous rights in Latin America, and how failed US trade policies have amounted to an economic war against the people of the western hemisphere. Here are links to some of Sharon's reports:

http://witnessforpeace.org/article.php?id=1316  from sharon
http://witnessforpeace.org/article.php?id=1315  info on free trade zones

Political Situation of Palenque/Mexico – 2013

Political Situation of Palenque/Mexico – 2013 (a report from sisters in Chiapas)

I. New President

PRI Party came into office (again) in December 2012.  This is the party that was in dictatorship for over 70 years and now, after 12 years, is back in office.  They say they are “different” than the PRI of the past but, that is not the case as has already been seen with the changes they have made in the structure of government over the past two months.  Some of the things that President Pena Nieto has moved toward and that affect our people in Palenque, especially village communities of indigenous peoples are:

1. Labor Laws have been changed to favor competition in the market place rather than honoring the dignity of work that every human being has a right to.  The new laws are unjust in workers rights, access to employment, benefits, etc.  Big corporations are favored at the cost of slave labor of the unskilled and working class.  This is especially true for miners, those working in refineries, etc.

2. Privatization of education that is making access to education for the poor almost impossible.  The Educational system in the country is sub-standard as it is and does not provide opportunities for real learning to take place.  For example, in Palenque, most village communities have “schools” only up to sixth grade and, even at that, teachers do not show up for class, the education is poor, lack of school books and supplies, no bi-lingual education so that native peoples can learn Spanish, etc.

3. Farming, production of food is at risk.  The government provides free seeds that are genetically altered, free chemicals and pesticides that put Mother Earth at risk in favor of mass production of food that is exported.  The poor do not have access to the fruits of their own labor, their hands.

4. There is an increase in government programs that supposedly help the poor, but what it is doing is creating dependency.  Rather than providing opportunities for people to develop skills, they are given a check.  This does not promote the dignity of the person.

5. The push for Tourism in Palenque is depriving people of their own land in favor of building up luxury hotels/spas, privatizing natural resources (waterfalls, scenic areas, etc.).  Some comment that tourism brings in jobs and we are finding that these type of “jobs” destroy the make up of village communities and families, bringing in false values around money that can alienate people from their identify, values, culture, ancestors, etc.

6. Health Care:  The Government provides insurance (Seguro Popular) that does not guarantee medical attention, access to medication, nor emergency care. In Palenque the people are afraid of the local hospital; they do not trust the government and say that if you go there you do not come out alive.  Native peoples are not always treated and medical negligence is not uncommon.  We helped set up a “Citizens’ Coalition” so that incidents can be reported and we can pressure for attention or improvement of services.

7. Economic concerns: basic minimum salary is still 60 pesos for a day of labor (about five dollars a day) and the cost of basic food staples have increased (tortillas, corn, beans, etc.) In town the cost of electricity, gas, etc. have gone up so much that the basic cost of living is putting pressure on the eruption of violence, gangs, assaults, robberies, etc.

8. Social: fear to organize and protest unjust situations.  Police, federal and state law enforcement is corrupt and do not protect the people.  We need to be a society that is more participative in announcing and denouncing so as to be a better country.

The list could go on and on . . . but these are some of our realities in Palenque and the village communities we serve.  We know it is pretty much true all over the country.

II. Violence in Mexico: Organized Crime

Our past president, Calderon, went after organized crime with a military approach of violence against violence at the cost of 125,000 lives in six years.  It has been a blood bath.  Disappearances are common, increasing suspicion and distrust.   No one is safe because sometimes the Organized Crime kills innocent people in retaliation. The News daily includes images of dead bodies, parts of bodies, heads, etc. that grip our senses. Organized Crime is about Drug Lords/families fighting to control the drug corridor of Mexico to bring drugs from further south and take them to the States.  But this fight has also included the cooperation of politicians, security forces, police, military, etc. Money and the need for money have taken over our country.

Our new President has connections with organized crime and we suspect that a “deal is being cut” where the government will “look the other way” and criminal activities will continue.  Impunity is common on all levels.

III. Immigrants

Not far from us, in Pakal na, a train stops to unload and load cargo.  On top of the trains are anywhere from 50 – 200 people who are trying to find their way north. When the train arrives, they come down in need of water, food, medical attention, and a change of clothes, sleep, and safety.  Organized Crime gangs assault the immigrants. There are deaths, kidnappings, forcing immigrants into gang activities, forced prostitution, etc.

Our Sisters have been called upon to provide medical care, meds and other supplies. We also are asked to come and give them a “spiritual pep-talk” because they are so fearful and discouraged.  We pray, give blessings, rosaries, medals, etc.

Our parish, in collaboration with the Diocese, other parishes and international donations, has now employed two Sisters in full time ministry to the immigrants. They coordinate a daily food programs, medical attention, etc. while establishing a network system at each train stop that can help care for and protect the immigrants. A small parcel of land near the train has been purchased and a small house is being built so that the immigrants can shower, rest, eat . . . in safety.

IV. Signs of Hope

This little update on the situation in Mexico/Palenque would not be complete without sharing some of the signs of hope that have emerged out of this moment in our history. It is about the groups that have emerged out of our darkness:

1. “Peace with Justice and Dignity” (Paz con Justicia y Dignidad).  Javier Sicilia, a well-known peace activist and poet, has organized a Caravan for Peace that includes 13 buses with 700 people.  They travel all over Mexico (even went to Washington, DC) to bring their message of peace.  They are family members of those who have been murdered, disappeared, kidnapped, etc. who share their story of sorrow, suffering, loss and pain. They arrived in Palenque.  We met them with candles one night, welcoming them in solidarity.  It is quite impressive and encouraging how many more groups are arising out of their pain, gathering strength in the country.  Javier Sicilia’s son was murdered. This is what started this movement for Peace.

2. “We Are Number 132” (Somos Numero 132).  This is a movement of University Students that began with peaceful demonstrations during the Presidential Campaign last year.  The PRI party had controlled all news media, favoring their agenda.  Reporters of independent news were killed, missing, for telling the truth about organized crime and government involvement with it.  These students demanded truth and freedom of reporting.  They marched streets, carried out various nonviolent actions.  The government responded with violence and several students were killed, put in jail, etc.  These students have given great Hope to the country, hope for it’s future.

3. This past December 21, 2012 (marking the end of the Mayan calendar and the beginning of a New Era) thousands of Zapatistas marched in silence into four major towns in Chiapas to make their presence known, to let the Government know that they are still “alive and well” and remind the Government that the Peace Agreements made after the Uprising in 1994 have still not been carried out.  It was a rather powerful moment to see them walk down the main street of Palenque in silence.

There are many more reasons for Hope.  One, of course, is what Holy Name Province is providing through the Medical Mission and the support given from all three USA Provinces to the diverse ministries our Sisters are carrying out that give further Hope to the people of Palenque.

Report on LASC Coffeehouse, May 20, 2013

On May 20, the LASC coffeehouse  presentation was "Working to Free the Cuban Five!" with speaker Alici Jrapko, one of the national organizers for "5 days for the Cuban 5" events in Washington DC this year, between May 30 and June 5 of 2013.

Since 2006 Alicia has been the US coordinator of the International Committee for the Freedom of the Cuban 5, who are  political prisoners incarcerated since 1998 in the United States. Their plight began when Cuba sent them to America in the 1990's to monitor the terrorist activities of anti-Cuban exile groups in Miami. After gathering the information, Havana presented the evidence to the U.S. government, hoping Washington would stop the illegal attacks. Instead of nabbing the Cuban-American terrorists, Washington arrested the five Cubans for trumped-up charges that they were spying on the United States government and convicted the five Cubans in a rigged Miami federal court, in a region awashed with anti-Castro hostility. Their story is not well known in our country, but thousands of people worldwide, including 10 Nobel Laureates, have been pushing Washington to free them. Rene Gonzalez, one of the Cuban 5 who regained his freedom by renouncing his United States citizenship, after having served his sentence, urged President Barack Obama "to have the courage to pardon them by the powers conferred to him".

Our speaker Alicia was born in Cordoba Argentina, but came to the United States during the dictatorship of the 1970's that was responsible for the deaths of over 30,000 progressives, trade unionists and students there. She has been involved in many different struggles in the US, but her main focus has been the fight against hostile US policy toward Cuba. She has been participated in many of the Pastors for Peace caravans to Chiapas and Cuba, and in 1994 she became a leading organizer for the US/Cuba Friendshipment on the west coast, after making one of the early embargo challenges at the Peace Bridge in Buffalo! Alicia worked on the national campaign to return Elian Gonzalez back to Cuba and was on the committee that interviewed US students applying for scholarship to study medicine at the Latin American School of Medicine in Cuba; and in October 2011 she was the organizer of the US tour of La Colmenita, the national children's theater group of Cuba.

She gave us up-to-date information on the work to free the Cuban 5, especially the planned activities in Washington this year. Along with calling for the freedom of the Cuban 5, the protest at the White House will include demands for ending the travel ban, removing Cuba from the list of countries that promote terrorism, ending the criminal economic blockade of Cuba and closing Guantanamo Prison.

Speakers were to include: Angela Davis; Ignacio Ramonet former editor-in-Chief of Le Monde Diplomatique; Dolores Huerta, co founder of the United Farm Workers (UFW); Fernando Morais, author of "The last soldiers of the cold war"; and Martin Garbus, American lawyer member of the legal team of the Cuban Five. Also participating: Cuban associations from Florida, , the Bolivarian Circle of Miami, the Christian Women Association in Defense of the Family, Jewish Solidarity, and  parliamentarians, jurists and organizers from Latin America and Europe.

Here is a link:   http://www.thecuban5.org/

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Cuban 5 background

The next Peace Center/LASC coffeehouse will take place at Daemen College, Wick Center, 7-9, Monday, May 20.  The theme is "Working to Free the Cuban Five" by speaker Alicia Jrapko.  Ms. Jrapko had fled to the U.S. from Argentina during a brutal dictorial regime.  Since 2001, she has focused on Freeing the "Cuban Five," incarcerated since 1998.

Although the story is not well known in our country, thousands of people worldwide, including 10 Nobel Laureates, have been pushing Washington to free the Cubans.  Their plight began when Cuba sent them to America to gather evidence exposing the Cuban-American exiles who had been attacking the Cuban people for decades.  After gathering the information, Havana presented the evidence to the U.S. government, hoping Washington would stop the illegal attacks.  Instead of nabbing the Cuban-American terrorists, Washington arrested the five Cubans for trumped-up charges that they were spying on the United States government and convicted the five Cubans in a rigged Miami federal court, in a region awashed with anti- Castro hostility.

To get a broader understanding of the five Cubans, google -- "Edward Cuddy Cuban Five."

Thursday, 18 April 2013

April 25 local fundraiser, honoring Witness for Peace

L.A.S.C. presents the 32nd Annual Latin America Event
7:30 pm Thursday, April 25th, 2013
Daemen college, 4380 Main Street, Wick Center
Building Justice in Latin America:
Sharon Hostetler, Executive Director, Witness for Peace

Social and refreshments at 6:30 PM 
with Fair Trade and NGO Information Tables
• Speaker at 7:30 PM 

Ticket Prices: STANDARD: $15/Person, PATRON: $30+/Person (includes LASC membership)
Free for students (with identification)
Proceeds Will Benefit LASC’S humanitarian aid efforts

Checks payable to WNY Peace Center/LASC
Send to: WNY Peace Center, 1272 Delaware Avenue,
Buffalo, NY 14209
or call WNYPC at 716-332-3904

The 32nd Annual Father A. Joseph Bissonette
Latin America Event, presented by
The Latin American Solidarity Committee
of the WNY Peace Center

a Chiapas Mexico coffee co-op with ties to Buffalo


Here is a link to an article from the Arizona Daily Star (March 23, 2013)
about the history of Café Justo, a Chiapas Mexico coffee co-op with ties to Buffalo.
You can contact the Peace Center or L.A.S.C. to order some, thanks to Howard Henry.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

The endless horror of Guantanamo


Samir's  now 35 years old -- a Yemeni – continuously incarcerated in
Gitmo for the last 11.4 years, while authorities struggle mightily to
discover the evidence that will prove, beyond a nano-doubt, whatever crime
he committed. The top graduates from all our prestigious civilian and
military schools are trying to uncover that vital information --
information that only Samir has -- which is absolutely critical to U.S.
security, but so far -- after 11.4 years -- the Yemeni still insists on
his innocence.

It should be abundantly clear to every sentient human being that Gitmo
authorities have absolutely zero (I say below zero..) evidence of wrong
doing on Samir’s part: if they did, his trial would have been over 10
years ago.

So the authorities need lots of help -- Samir’s help --  in the form of
his confession.

Why can't Samir confess to his crimes? He's torturing us!

It would help financially if he confessed, saving US taxpayers a bundle.
Apart from defense, we are investing $800,000 per year for his
incarceration, for each of those 11.4 years: that's $9.12 million spent to
date -- and still expressions of innocence pore from his lips, as he hangs
from the Cross in Gitmo prison.

Never in the history of human civilization, have so many, invested so much
money, in one person still languishing in crucifixion.

Feeding tubes -- the modern day equivalent of Jesus' nails -- inserted
into his stomach by eight members of the Extreme Reaction Force (ERF) clad
in riot gear -- pump fluids into his distended stomach as his arms and
legs are strapped to the bed.

"I spent 26 hours in this state, tied to the bed. During this time I was
not permitted to go to the toilet. They inserted a catheter, which was
painful, degrading and unnecessary. I was not even permitted to pray."

Still, after soiled clothes...we await for his confession. Samir's still
torturing us!

Did the helmeted Roman's look any different from the ERFs 2000 years ago;
did the Romans do anything different 2000 years ago? Do our religious
institutions do anything different today? Do governments do anything
different today? Do our educational institutions do anything different

We certainly do things differently today: Jesus had a trial 2000 year ago
and faced his accusers,  before being nailed the Cross. Today, you're
strapped to the Cross with feeding tubes...and the trial starts upon your
confession. Bon appetit!

Oh, this mightily dangerous 77 lbs man! After 11.4 years, he's still
torturing us!

As our country descends into  feeding tube frenzy, let us therefore brace
ourselves to our duty, and so bear ourselves that, if the American Empire
and its Corporations lasts for a thousand years, men will still say, 'This
was their finest hour.'

At this rate, it could be...



1. Gitmo is Killing Me, by SAMIR NAJI al HASAN MOQBEL, NY Times, April 14,
2013. Samir has been in Gitmo for.....11.4 years without charge.
2. Military spending: https://afsc.org for some good info.
3. Guantánamo: the most expensive prison on earth, by By CAROL ROSENBERG,
Miami Herald, Nov 25, 2011.
4. Apologies to Winston Churchill
5. Thank you Edwina Gateley!

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Peaceful Conflict Resolution
  Peace Jam Buffalo’s Conference Trip
PeaceJam Buffalo went to the PeaceJam NE Conference in at U-Conn Storrs April 5-7, and it was fantastic. Thanks to many kind donors, we were able to bring seven teens to the conference. Featured Nobel Peace Laureate Jody Williams got that prize in 1997 due to the successful banning of landmines internationally (the US remains one of the holdouts). She has turned her focus to robot killers. A Google search brings up movies, but scientists are developing robots that operate on land, sea, and air that will, under specified circumstances, kill people without any human intervention (today’s drones still have an operator). The youth were excited by Jody’s presence, her zeal to stop militarism, her down-to-earth ways, and her interest in them.
They were also inspired by each other. They loved being part of an international movement, something bigger than themselves; as well as being surrounded by a couple hundred like minded peers working for nonviolence, peace, and justice. About a dozen people from Newtown were there, talking about their pain and devoted action. The Newtown teens gave a workshop about their lobbying and organizing. Our Buffalo youth gave a hip-hop dance workshop which was a big hit. Co-Adviser Jan Burns (of Erie County Council for the Prevention of Alcohol and Substance Abuse, co-sponsor and host to PeaceJam Buffalo) and I couldn’t attend as we also gave a workshop, on - you guessed it – Peaceful Conflict Resolution, but our Carlanda Wilson was able to go and videotape the workshop. [You can see the video by/ at_____________.]
PeaceJammers also presented their Global Call to Action (GCA) project to Jody and each other. (The youth are the ones to pick their own project.) PeaceJam Buffalo’s GCA is focused on Breaking the Cycle of Violence, and doing it by “coming together as one”- CTAO - gathering for discussion, planning, working, and increasing understanding through increased community. Discussion is to include Restoring the Earth’s Environment, Stopping Child Maltreatment, and Ending Racism and Hate. Please join us on June 1, 11 am, at St. Columba-Brigid, 75 Hickory St, Buffalo where we will have a very diverse gathering which will include education, inspiration, and action. It’ll be a win-win for sure.
Lastly, our PeaceJammers are not only inspired but inspiring. Whenever I told anyone I was from Buffalo, they always said, “Oh, your kids are wonderful!” or “Yes, _ [name] ____ is in my family group! I learned so much from her” or “He is so great, one of the best people I know!” They met with enthusiastic appreciation at the contra-dance they went to as invited - a first for all of them – at the UCC Church where we stayed. I felt very proud of them, as would/will you. Please remember to save the date of June 1 as described above, and you’ll feel new hope for the future. We look forward to seeing you there.

Monday, 4 March 2013

LASC March 2013 Coffeehouse- coming soon

Latin America Solidarity Committee
March 2013 Coffeehouse
Indigenous Struggles in Latin America

       7-9 pm        Monday        March 18
   Wick Student Center,  Alumni Lounge   OUR SPRING LOCATION
 Daemen College,      4380 Main Street

Anne Petermann and  Orin Langelle have worked since 1996
in solidarity with Indigenous communities in Latin America,
from Chiapas, Mexico to Nicaragua to South America.
Now based in Buffalo, Langelle is a concerned photojournalist
with extensive photographs from the region.
Together they direct the Global Justice Ecology Project,
building brides between environmental and social justice groups.



LASC February 2013 Coffeehouse

LASC is the Latin America Solidarity Committee of the WNY Peace Center.
On the third Monday of each month we host a presentation by locally-connected solidarity projects
with Latin America and the Caribbean.  For this Spring, we are holding our presentations at Daemen College, in the Alumni Lounge of the Wick Student Center.  

Our February Coffeehouse was a return presentation on a long and successful project in Chiapas, through the Sisters Of St. Francis, Stella Niagara, New York.  Our speakers were
Dr. Robert Bull, Sr. Maura Forkort, and Dr. Dina Sulaiman, introduced by Sr. Nancy Zelma, who helps to coordinate the WNY part of the project.  Since 1995, local volunteers have
organized medical projects for indigenous communities near Palenque,  in Chiapas.  Each of the presenters gave a great view of the project and of their experiences serving the people.

Sr. Maura also brought us a report  on political tensions and developments in the region, written
by their religious community there  We hope to post a copy of that report here soon.

We had a large group of attendees, some were WNYers who have previously worked on the project, and many were Daemen students.   Lots of detailed information and interesting questions.

You can get more information from Sr. Nancy Zelma at  SRNANCYZ@gmail
Here is a page from one of their recent newsletters:

LASC January 2013 Coffeehouse

LASC is the Latin America Solidarity Committee of the WNY Peace Center.
Our January 21 Coffeehouse was a great presentation by Wendy Schwenker, on her
study visits to Heifer International projects in Guatemala.   She had meet with five community projects there last year.  She had lots of pictures of the people in the communities their, and stories about their varied situations and experiences.   She told us about the gracious welcomes the communities gave to the Heifer delegation, and what she saw of how communities work together, organize themselves, and share and pass on their successes.    

For the Spring, we are holding these monthly presentations at Daemen College, in the Alumni Lounge of the Wick Student Center.   We had quite a few new attendees.  Lots of questions came up about the history of Heifer International, how it is funded by gifts, how the communities develop their projects, and the nuts-and-bolds of how the projects work. We thank Wendy for giving us a vivid on-the-ground view of what she witnessed in Guatemala.    Here is a link:  www.heifer.org