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For many years, Ohioans have been supporting IRTF's work to advocate for the protection of water sources and the safety of environmental defenders in Central America.  Here in Ohio we heard first hand about the dire situation in Honduras on April 22, 2023 when we hosted Reynaldo Domínguez, an environmental defender from the community of Guapinol. His community members and family have paid a heavy price for their efforts to protect the Guapinol River from contamination caused by an iron oxide mine.  In January and June of this year, two of Reynaldo’s brothers were assassinated. 

The mine is operated inside a national protected area by a Honduran company called Los Pinares, owned by Lenir Pérez and Ana  Facussé. Now living in Miami, Lenir Pérez is under investigation by the FBI, which recently raided his home. The family of his wife, Ana Facussé,  owns the Dinant corporation, which has an ugly history of carrying out violence against campesinos (small farmers). Over the past several years, we have been following and responding to serious human rights violations committed by agents connected to the Dinant corporation:  surveillance, harassment, illegally grabbing campesino farm land, disappearances of community leaders, and even murders.

The Dear Colleague letter to Secretary of State Anthony Blinken (Aug 15, 2023) urges him to ensure that the US Embassy in Tegucigalpa supports efforts by the government of Honduras to protect environmental defenders and investigations into the violent networks associated with the Dinant corporation. Because of Dinant’s access to financing from multilateral development banks (and its involvement in corruption and human rights violations), the US government’s efforts to address root causes of emigration from Honduras are being undermined.

IRTF worked with the Honduras Solidarity Network to urge all 50+ members of the US House Committee on Foreign Affairs, as well as all US reps from Ohio, to sign this important letter to protect environmental defenders in Honduras. 

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In the investigative work titled Ecological and human dimensions of avocado expansion in México, profits resulting from this recent avocado boom “are concentrated among a few, powerful large producers, thereby limiting the social and economic benefits to the local community.” Juan, a small-scale farmer and Equal Exchange partner near the city of Peribán, provides context: “The majority of producers are smallholders, but newcomers tend to be large companies who are establishing themselves in the market.” With these new arrivals, he continues, “There is a larger profit that we as smallholders haven’t seen.” The profits raked in by larger companies most often end up in the hands of foreign ownership rather than benefiting the local economy. More yet, the market oversaturation brought on by these corporations drives down the prices paid to all producers.

The Fair Trade Alternative

Equal Exchange imports avocados exclusively from democratically structured, organic- and Fairtrade-certified cooperatives of small-scale farmers (each possessing under 10 hectares of orchard) in Michoacán. With direct weekly pricing negotiations, additional Fairtrade premiums paid to the cooperatives, and collaborative efforts to maximize efficiency, both parties strive to thrive ethically in an industry dominated by large, foreign-owned corporations.

As part of a cooperative, small-scale farmers have their avocados harvested and sold collectively. In doing so, they amplify their power within a market in which large-scale foreign corporations—and the packhouses that often serve as a bridge to them—wield undue control over pricing. In addition to economic benefits, the cooperatives foment positive ecological impacts in a region deeply affected by both local and global environmental trends. 

As if economic and environmental improvements aren’t enough, our partnering cooperatives also strive to bolster social services and general welfare in their respective communities. Such efforts are made possible by a “Fairtrade premium” of $1.356 per case of avocados that Equal Exchange tacks on to every purchase order. During the busiest times of the growing season, these premiums can amount to over $7,000/week (USD) paid to the cooperatives with the express purpose of reinvesting in their local communities. 

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Liberation Theology: History and Praxis

On July 18, IRTF in coalition with the Autonomous University of Political Education held a discussion on the history and praxis of Liberation Theology. Through collective knowledge and wisdom sharing we gained insight into the role that theology has played in revolutionary struggles, from the forests of Central America to the olive groves of Palestine.

 After a presentation on context with key takeaways and common vocabulary, organizers from different anti-imperialist faith communities shared from their own lived experiences. Our friend Allie told us about anti-zionist activism with Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP). Chance from the Palestinian Youth Movement explained the relations between Islam, Christianity and the Palestinian Liberation struggle. He spoke on the importance of love, peace and solidarity, which makes up the core of Islam and cooperation with Christian and Jewish movements. To also get a deeper understanding of Liberation Theology from the Christian context, former IRTF coordinator Tony Vento talked about the decades he has been part of the fight for freedom, peace and equality within the Latin American solidarity movement. Our co-director Chrissy moderated the panel, and gave insight into their relationship with their Colombian culture and the role faith plays in their work. 

If you are interested in our discussion you can watch the recording, at or listen to the audio version. 

We deeply enjoyed this get together, the exchange of ideas, and discussion between speakers and guests alike. We want to thank all our supporters and volunteers who made this possible and the friends and other guests who took part. Due to the overwhelmingly positive response to this event, we plan to host another session in September. Stay tuned for more information. 


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Nicaragua's struggle for sovereigty and self determination has been a thorn in the side of many political figures in the United States for decades. After the Nicaraguan Sandinista revolution overthrew the 43 year long dynasty dictatorship of the Somoza family in 1979 and took power, the United States began its opposition campaign by arming the Contra militia and establishing a total embargo against the country, which was only lifted after the Sandinista government was voted out in an election heavily influenced by the United States in 1990.

After the Nicaraguan people elected Daniel Ortega, a member of the Sandinista FSLN party in 2006, the United States stepped up its sanctions again. Most recently the United States has established a ban on the importation of Nicaraguan gold and sugar, two of the country's most important export products.

Now in 2023 Republican and Democrat senators alike are starting a new attempt to double down on these sanctions, trying to restrict loans for economic development from the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (CABEI) which funds roads, water and energy projects, as well as housing in the country.  The legislation proposed by the leadership of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee (Sen.Tim Kaine, Sen. Marco Rubio) would also ban the sale of coffee, beef and a number of fair trade products produced by small indigenous collectives. If imposed, these sanctions would infringe upon the property rights of U.S. citizens and residents investing in Nicaragua by mandating no new investment or even home improvement. Furthermore, the US mandates a search for human rights violations or some other way to suspend Nicaragua from DR-CAFTA, a trade agreement that has benefited both the United States and Nicaragua. If this legislation goes through, the ban of loans by the CABEI would take away one of the last sources of loans; the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) have already stopped most loans as part of active sanctions. 

Although there is legitimate critique of Daniel Ortega's government, which has come from Sandinistas and NGO's alike, it is undeniable that the FSLN government has made astounding progress in areas like education, social security, housing, and infrastructure. If the United States imposes further sanctions, it would be a severe blow to the Nicaraguan budget and its ability to keep social programs in place.  

We share the Alliance for Global Justice's call to stop the senators' plans to impose new sanctions and call for an end to the violent sanctions already harming Nicaragua's civilian population.   If you want to help to stop further sanctions, you can  Click here to send messages to your senators!        

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Following the recent district court decision in the East Bay Sanctuary Covenant case (re the Biden asylum ban), IRTF joined 202 other justice-focused organizations in signing this joint  letter to the President urging his administration to not continue to fight to keep the asylum ban in place. We are urging the administration to drop their appeal to Judge Tigar’s ruling on July 25 that the new asylum processes put into place after Title 42 was lifted on May 11 are unconstitutional.

“Imposing punishments on vulnerable people who may be eligible for asylum under our laws is inhumane and bolsters xenophobic narratives that falsely paint people seeking asylum as threats.”

You can read the full letter here.

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President Bukele, who imposed a State of Exception in March 2022, says that his iron-fist approach to crime has been successful in dismantling gangs in urban centers. Now he’s moving the crackdown and round-up of suspected gang members to the countryside. In Cabañas, an agricultural department in the north, 7,000 soldiers and 1,000 police established a security border surrounding a region larger than New York City to “extract [the gang members] from their hideaways.

Rights groups have been highly critical of the mass arrests carried out under the state of emergency, saying they have led to thousands of people being arbitrarily detained. They have documented the deaths of 174 people in state custody and over 6,400 human rights abuses.

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On behalf of IRTF’s Rapid Response Network (RRN) members, we wrote six letters this month to heads of state and other high-level officials in Colombia and Guatemala, urging their swift action in response to human rights abuses occurring in their countries.  We join with civil society groups in Latin America to: (1) protect people living under threat, (2) demand investigations into human rights crimes, (3) bring human rights criminals to justice.

Volunteers with the Rapid Response Network (RRN)—together with IRTF staff—write letters in response to six urgent human rights cases each month. We send copies of these letters to US ambassadors, embassy human rights officers, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, regional representatives of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and desk officers at the US State Department. To read the letters, see , or ask us to mail you hard copies.

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A new law passed this week allows up to 900 alleged gang members to be tried at once. Human rights groups are highly critical because the collective trials will further violate "the rights to an adequate defense, to a fair trial and the presumption of innocence," said Amnesty International Americas director Erika Guevara Rosas. The Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL) said collective trials would make it "impossible" to guarantee "a fair trial and the right to a defense." Marcela Martino, CEJIL deputy director for Central America and Mexico, told reporters: "This makes us wonder if the government's policy of persecuting the gangs, organized crime, is killing the rule of law and democracy.”

Is this truly about crime or about Bukele’s ambitions to hold onto the presidency? Judge Antonio Durán in the city of Zacatecoluca has been critical of the State of Exception that President Bukele imposed in March 2022: "This is all part of Bukele's campaign for reelection, which is unconstitutional." With a controversial green light from the Constitutional Court, Bukele announced that he will run in elections in February 2024, despite a constitutional ban on successive presidential terms.