Rising Together, Resisting Extraction
IRTF 41st annual Commemoration of the Martyrs of Central America and Colombia
Thank you to the more than 120 people who attended the IRTF annual Commemoration of the Martyrs online on Sunday, November 7, 2021. You helped to create a beautiful and moving tribute to human rights defenders throughout southern Mexico, Central America, and Colombia. Thank you!
Rapid Response Network – to add your name to urgent human rights letters
During the event we took up a special collection to support Karen Spring’s work in Honduras, the work of Reynaldo Domínguez with the Guapinol Environmental Defense Committee and the Common Goods Defense Council of Tocoa, as well as the ongoing solidarity work of IRTF. Thank you to all who pledged a total of $2875!
If you would like to make a donation, you can mail a tax-deductible check to IRTF, 3606 Bridge Ave., Cleveland OH 44113, or click here to give online.
Join IRTF’s Legacy Circle! Extend your commitment to human rights by making a planned gift to IRTF. A planned gift is any major gift which you specify as part of your overall financial and/or estate planning. Donor-advised funds, IRA distributions, cash, stocks, bequests, and more. Start your legacy for a better world today. Contact PlannedGiving@irtfcleveland.org to start planning.
We would like to thank all the many congregations and community organizations that have partnered with us or otherwise supported and promoted our work over these past 40 years. You can see some of them in our program book (which was beautifully put together by IRTF volunteer Brent Stowe) who supported this event with paid display ads. Please show your own support for them.
We are especially grateful to our main sponsors for this event:
Church of the Resurrection
Community of St Peter
Congregation of St Joseph
Heights Friends of Immigrants
Ignatian Solidarity Network
St Ignatius High School
Sisters of Charity of St Augustine
Ursuline Sisters of Cleveland
Margaret M Wong & Associates
Thank you for your continued and generous support of IRTF’s mission of human rights and solidarity.
On November 7, 2021, we were honored to host speakers from Honduras (Reynaldo Domínguez and Karen Spring) along with Meletke Melaku from the ACLU of Ohio.
Please read some of the highlights from their presentations below.
US money going to Honduras for supposed “security” is not about the security of the people. It’s to create and protect economic opportunities for transnational corporations. It’s to protect their interests when they dig mines, build hydroelectric dams, or privatize social services like health care and education.
If the US money for “security” were truly about the War on Drugs (as we are often told), then Honduras would not be the narco-state that it is. If the US were truly concerned about “security,” then it would not tolerate a president (Juan Orlando Hernandez) whose own brother was sentenced early this year in US federal court to a life sentence for drug trafficking. And the court ruling repeatedly makes links of illegal activity to the Honduran president himself.
US economic and development aid also is not helping. For instance, in its program to mitigate the impacts of climate change, the US is telling small farmers in Honduras that they must buy genetically modified seeds from US corporations. Who is really benefiting from US foreign aid?
-Karen Spring is the longtime co-coordinator of the Honduras Solidarity Network and the host of the Honduras Now podcast.
As members of the Municipal Defense Council on the Common and Public Goods of Tocoa, we see each other as sisters and brothers, that we all have something in common – the struggles of the people.
Protection of our water, education, health and the right to defend those common goods because they belong to us, the people. of us , like myself , have been in this struggle since the 1980s. Women, in particular, play a big role in this people’s resistance. Some
Thirty-two of us have been criminalized, incarcerated. And we could be assassinated… we don’t know when.
The system wants to make money, no matter what. They call us enemies, communists. But we are not. It’s not like that. What we oppose is this model of development that puts water in danger. Without the water, our lives would be nothing.
Extractive industries (like mining) have killed 153 defenders since 2009 (the year the coup happened). Hitmen in police uniforms kidnapped four Garífuna leaders in July 2020.
And our 8 brothers from Guapinol imprisoned.
Nucor Steel is still the biggest player with the Los Pinares mining company in Honduras.
The legislature passed a law to modify the parameters of the Montaña de Botaderos Carlos Escaleras National Park, carving out a section of the park so that Los Pinares could construct the iron oxide mine for Nucor Steel. Unbelievable.
How can they say this is development when they contaminate , they kill defenders like Berta Cáceres.
They take the wealth and leave us with nothing.
They criminalize us.
But despite these challenges, we persist.
Most of us are Christians who attend church. That gives us faith and the strength to persevere.
-Reynaldo Domínguez Ramos was one of several water defenders arrested and imprisoned in early 2019 for participating in the Encampment for Defense of Water to prevent impending environmental harms to the Guapinol River. The protest began in August 2018 when hundreds of residents of Guapinol occupied the margins of a road leading to the Los Pinares mining company .The demonstrators suffered police aggression, criminalization, and finally—in October 2018—a violent forced eviction by the military and militarized police units. Eight members of the encampment, called the Guapinol 8, have been imprisoned in pretrial detention since September 2019. Their trial is scheduled for the first two weeks of December 2021.
On any given day in Ohio, as many as 12,000 people are held in jail pretrial. Most are jailed not because of what they've allegedly done, but because of what they don't have: cash to bail themselves out. This detention is devastating to them and their families, not to mention unnecessarily costly for Ohio taxpayers.
We’ve had success this past year working with the Ohio State Assembly to change that. If they become law, bills in the Senate (SB 182) and the Ohio House (HB 315) would reduce pretrial detention by 63%.
The number one charge for people sitting in pretrial detention is drug possession.
Right now there is an over-reliance on cash bail. Judges order cash bail based on a bond schedule. This proposed legislation would eliminate the current bond schedules used by judges. It would end wealth-based detention.
The new system would base bond on things like: (1) does this person pose a flight risk ; (2) does this person pose a specific threat to a specific person?
The new system would allow for the release of more people, charged with low level offenses like drug possession, back to their families, back to their jobs. This will strengthen communities.
-Melekte Melaku: In her work as an organizing strategist with the ACLU of Ohio, Melekte Melaku coordinates Ohio bail reform efforts in collaboration with other statewide organizations like Americans for Prosperity Ohio, The Bail Project, The Buckeye Institute, Ohio Justice and Policy Center, and Ohio Organizing Collaborative.
Why we gather for the Commemoration
IRTF was founded four decades ago in response to the brutal killing of four US women in El Salvador on December 2, 1980. Jean Donovan and Sister Dorothy Kazel (from Cleveland) and Sister Ita Ford and Sister Maura Clarke (from Maryknoll) paid with their lives for their decision to stay in solidarity with poor, marginalized victims of the US-sponsored armed violence, which eventually claimed the lives of 75,000 Salvadorans and led to the mass exodus of 1 million refugees. We carry forward their legacy of solidarity today because human rights defenders continue to be threatened, criminalized, and killed for daring to speak truth to power.
IRTF: in solidarity with the people of Central America and Colombia, promoting peace, justice, human rights, and systemic transformation through nonviolence.