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In 2021 the Biden administration established the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), a Covid relief bill that was directed to communities to cope with financial difficulties during and after the Covid 19 pandemic. 

Cuyahoga County received close to a billion dollars including $511 million for the city of Cleveland. Following this, the city asked its residents how the funding should be spent, to which one in five Clevelanders marked "safety and policing" as the most important issue. This fear of crime legitimized the city and wider county to spend a bulk of the ARPA funding on law enforcement and public security, directing it in large parts towards salaries and bonuses for police officers and the recruitment of new personnel. Cleveland alone secured $190 million for policing, with $63 million going into salaries and bonuses, adding up to over $150 million in salaries county wide. Much of this funding comes from the state's Violent Crime Reduction Grant program, a program that before Covid had a budget of $8 million and was supposed to included financing for social crime prevention initiatives.        

The second largest investment coming from the security budget was spent on purchasing police equipment, vehicles and hundreds of cameras, adding up to around $14.6 million from Cleveland alone. 

Critics state that the narrow spending on violence reduction and crime prevention is not nearly enough to bring actual security to the city's street. Even though the ARPA guidelines include "community violence intervention," these guidelines can be interpreted loosely, leading to Cleveland categorizing police equipment as "community violence intervention.                                

Cleveland leaders acknowledged that policing alone won't solve the problem of community violence but have also affirmed that shifting money away from police is a difficult task. Cuyahoga County Council representative Richard Starr has supported the use of more ARPA funding to help at-risk kids to get mentors, education and to aquire job skills to prevent them from sliding off into crime, stating that "it starts with them lacking recourses and support." The Greater Cleveland American Rescue Plan Coalition demanded  to prioritize housing, behavioral health, broadband access and education for those most affected by the Covid pandemic. The Cleveland Peacemakers Alliance, another social organization, calls for the use of mental health experts as first response to mental health crises and not armed police officers. Cleveland lawmakers approved $5 million of the ARPA  funds for a pilot Crisis Intervention Team,  enabling them to double the size of their first response social worker force and hiring strategists to oversee the program. Lawmakers also left the door open to "explore opportunities" to a community response that isn't police. 

Furthermore, the grassroots coalition Participatory Budgeting Cleveland brought forward a proposal to set aside $30 million of the ARPA funds for the 30.8% of Clevlanders living in poverty, to have a say in the spending of the budget. Mayor Justin Bibb promoted a small amount of $5 million for a Civic Participation Fund that would involve residents' input on spending.  Cuyahoga County already set aside $5 million to create a Youth Diversion Center as an alternative, to offer mental health and substance abuse treatment instead of sending kids to juvenile detention centers. The program has yet to launch.  

News Article

2022 marked the 25th anniversary of the  Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice. Every year thousands of followers visit the Teach-In to honor the Jesuit martyrs and pledge for justice in Central and South America. 

The annual meeting first took place in 1997 as a commemoration for six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her 15-year-old daughter who were murdered by Salvadoran government forces in 1989 during the Salvadoran civil war. The victims worked at the Jesuit-run University of Central America (UCA) and were strongly outspoken about about the rights of the poor and about the military’s violence against Salvadorans. During an offensive on the nation's capital, San Salvador, a group of soldiers searched the UCA and executed the eight victims. Nineteen of the soldiers involved in the massacre were previously trained at the U.S. Army School of the Americas as part of U.S. aid to the Salvadoran government and military.

Ever since the civil war started, the Jesuit community in the United States was strongly opposed to U.S. military aid. The murders were a sad proof of what was always stated, the U.S. trained war criminals. 

Every year the Jesuit community gathers to remember there martyrs and demand peace and equality.      

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The FAIR TRADE CAMPAINGNS just launched their most recent newsletter. 

In it, the Fair Trade Campaign tackles topics like the Fair Trade Finals, a program that sends goodie kits with fair trade products to schools for sales, raffles or other end of semester events. 

November is not only known as the month in which the troubling holiday Thanksgiving takes place, it is also Native American Heritage month. The newsletter provides different possibilities to find information about Native American culture, land and the violent history of Thanksgiving.

Last month the annual international Fair Trade Towns Conference took place. A delegation of the Fair Trade Campaigns was invited to Ecuador, to learn about the lives of producers across the region, and ways to support them. Presenters from all over the globe attended the event to build a network for a more fair future.

Besides these events, the newsletter sheds light on the partner Florecal, a farm that sends high quality fair trade roses across the globe, all while making  the most out of their Community Development Funds and providing infrastructure.

If you are interested in the newsletter, you can subscribe at https://action.fairtradecampaigns.org/ 

 

 

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Today we remember the Kristallnacht. 

On November 9 1938 the German antisemitism erupted into never before seen violence.

In the night between November 9 and 10, hundreds of members of the SA, SS and the Hitler Youth, together with antisemitic civilians attacked Jewish, stores, restaurant and synagogues, setting fires, smashing windows and hunting down Jewish people. That night the fascist killed more than  90 innocent people and leaving the existents of hundreds more in shatters. This crime was the first big pogrom towards the Jewish population and foreshadowed the following Holocaust.

The event remembers us of the importance to prevent fascism from ever re-arising! 

NEVER FORGET, NEVER FORGIVE!     

News Article

The U.S. government has called out Guatemala for its treatment of corruption and human rights prosecutors and judges.

Numbers of high ranking prosecutors and judges are in jail for their work against corruption and many more have fled the country. 

The attorney generals office categorically rejects this criticism, calling the U.S. ill-informed and stating it "lacked knowledge of the Guatemalan justice system."

Last year the  Attorney General Maria Consuelo Porras herself was included in a list of corrupt and anti-democratic actors published by the U.S. State Department, singling her out for thwarting corruption investigations.

News Article

The Covid 19 pandemic caused a shift within the migration dynamics in South and Central America.

While up to 2020 more than 90% of asylum seekers reaching the U.S. border came from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, the composition shifted, and by August 2022 the second most common origin of migrants was Venezuela. 

Though this exodus towards the U.S. is a more recent development, mass migration from Venezuela has been happening for years. In the last decade 7.1 million Venezuelans fled the country, 80% of whom seeking refuge in South and Central American countries as well as Caribbean nations.

In these countries many of the refugees are met with an uncertain migration status, discrimination, xenophobia, violence and an inability to meet basic needs. These circumstances drive a rising number of Venezuelans to the U.S.where they are faced with hostile anti-immigration policies. In March of 2020, the Trump Administration used the Covid 19 pandemic as a pretext for one of the sharpest laws against migration in history. The president reinstated "Title 42" ( a statute last invoked in 1929 to bar the entrance of ships during a meningitis outbreak) so that most migrants who arrive at a U.S. port of entry without documentation and that any migrants found at the U.S. border must be expelled to Mexico or the country of heritage. [Note: only a limited number of countries accept Title 42 expulsions from the US.] For many Venezuelans this means a lengthy process or no chance for entry in to the U.S. at all.

Following the U.S. policies, Mexico began to mandate a tourist visa for Venezuelans entering the country.    

Though Biden promised to make changes in the U.S. immigration policies,  Title 42 has not been annulled.  Together with Biden's financial support for the countries of origin and those who take in big numbers of refugees, Title 42 is used to keep migrants from reaching and entering the U.S. This is especially visual in the fact that the administration still has not established a reception system for migrants to apply for asylum. 

To end this humanitarian crisis, the U.S. government has to invest into reception and robust asylum systems, stop policies discouraging asylum seekers, and end Title 42. Furthermore, it has to increase opportunities for people to apply for a humanitarian visa within Venezuela. 

But it is not all on Biden. Regional challenges require regional approaches and the governments of the Americas have to build regional protection systems.