Action Alert: US Embassy Denies Visas to Two Salvadoran Anti-mining Movement Leaders

News
Leaders Scheduled for Speaking Tour on Mining Struggle and US Trade Policy
**Demand that the US government stop denying visas to voices of the mining resistance!**

 On September 28, the US Embassy in El Salvador denied travel visas to Salvadoran anti-mining leaders Teresa Zenayda Serrano Iraheta and Father Santos Neftalí Ruiz Martínez for a CISPES speaking tour of the US.  Serrano and Ruiz are scheduled to speak about the strong grassroots struggle against mining in Cabañas and on the national level, as well as the destructive effects of the US-Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR).  Yesterday morning they went to the US Consulate in San Salvador and presented the necessary documents, including proof of employment, family ties and over twenty letters of invitation from Congressional Representatives, churches, universities and other community groups. Serrano’s reviewer refused to look at any of the invitation letters – including those from Congressional Representatives - except for the CISPES letter.  Serrano furnished not only her employment records, but also her husband’s and his property titles. 

 The stated reason for both visa denials was “lack of stable employment in El Salvador.” This is especially preposterous for Ruiz, given that the reviewer denied his visa before examining his employment records.  In fact, the reviewer hardly questioned Ruiz, and instead consulted at length with the consular officer who had just rejected Serrano’s visa.

 

The US Consulate is using bogus and insulting “economic concerns” to obscure the true political reasons for preventing these committed organizers – who have demonstrated strong ties to community and family - from addressing US audiences. Serrano and Ruiz are both convinced that their anti-mining work is the real political cause for the visa denials. Why is the US government actively preventing their voices from being heard in the US? There are a few possible reasons:

  • Community members have reported that US Embassy officials visited Cabañas, warning members of the mining resistance against linking the presence of Pacific Rim with acts of violence against community organizers, claiming that movement organizations could be sued for libel.
  • Both anti-mining leaders have been openly critical of US policies, including CAFTA-DR and the US-funded International Law Enforcement Academy in San Salvador, and would use the national tour platform to continue expressing their strong criticisms to people across the US.
  • CISPES as an organization exposed US government intervention in El Salvador’s 2005 presidential elections, after ex-Ambassador Charles Glazer admitted as much to a 2008 CISPES delegation.

 

 For 30 years, CISPES has brought Salvadoran working-class, community organizers on speaking tours of the US and not a single person has overstayed her visa. 

 

Don’t let the US government silence the message of these Salvadoran mining resistance leaders!

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TAKE ACTION!

  1. Fax and email the Consul General, Carl Cockburn, of the US Embassy in El Salvador to demand that Serrano and Ruiz immediately be granted visas.  See sample faxes below for Serrano and Ruiz - please send one fax and email for each movement leader.  Fax No: 011(503) 2278-5522, E-mail: [email protected].

 

  1. Notify CISPES that you sent a fax and send a copy of your email and any reply from the Consulate to Lisa at the CISPES National Office: [email protected].

 

 

MRS. SERRANO SAMPLE FAX:

To: Carl S. Cockburn, Consul General

US Embassy, El Salvador

Fax No: 011-503-2278-5522

Email: [email protected]

 

RE: Visa Request Reconsideration for Mrs. Teresa Zenayda Serrano Iraheta

 

September 29, 2010

 

 

Dear Mr. Carl S. Cockburn,

 

I am writing to express my concern about your office’s decision to deny Mrs. Teresa Zenayda Serrano Iraheta a non-immigrant travel visa on September 28.  Mrs. Serrano has been invited on a speaking tour of the West Coast in the United States this fall.

 

I understand that she has gone through all the appropriate steps to secure a visa to enter the US:  she appeared at the Embassy with the necessary documentation, including written invitations from US Congressional Representatives in the states where she would be visiting, churches, universities and other organizations. She showed past proof of income as an independent contractor in El Salvador, her tax returns, her husband’s proof of employment and land titles, as well as the birth certificate of her three-year-old daughter. 

 

All of this evidence is more than enough to prove Mrs. Serrano’s ties to El Salvador, and therefore I question the denial of a non-immigrant visa on grounds that she has insufficient income in El Salvador, which I understand to be the stated reason for the denial.

 

I am disappointed and concerned that the reviewer refused to look at the letters of invitation from universities, churches and the offices of several Members of Congress and that Mrs. Serrano was not given any formal documentation of the reasons her travel visa was denied.

 

Therefore, I am concerned that Mrs. Serrano was denied a visa for political reasons, potentially due to her community organizing work to stop the El Dorado gold mine from being opened in her community.

 

As a  (PROFESSOR, COMMUNITY MEMBER, ETC.), I would welcome the testimony Mrs. Serrano planned to provide during her visit and believe that people in the US have the right to learn directly from Salvadorans about the issues facing rural communities and the environment in Latin America.   CISPES, the organization inviting Mrs. Serrano for the tour, has been organizing events like these for nearly 30 years and has never had anyone overstay their visa. Therefore, I respectfully request that Mrs. Serrano be issued a visa immediately so that she can arrive in the US in time for the October tour, which begins October 16.

 

Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.

 

Sincerely,

 

 

_______________

 

 

FR. RUIZ SAMPLE FAX:

To: Carl S. Cockburn, Consul General

US Embassy, El Salvador

Fax No: 011-503-2278-5522

Email: [email protected]

 

RE: Visa Request Reconsideration for Fr. Santos Neftalí Ruiz Martínez

September 29, 2010

 

 

Dear Mr. Carl S. Cockburn,

 

I am writing to express my concern about your office’s decision to deny Fr. Santos Neftalí Ruiz Martínez a non-immigrant travel visa during his appointment on September 28.  Fr. Ruiz has been invited on a speaking tour of the East Coast in the United States this fall.

 

I understand that he has gone through all the appropriate steps to secure a visa to enter the US:  he appeared at the Embassy with the necessary documentation, including proof of employment as a Catholic priest, and written invitations from Congressional offices, churches, universities and other organizations.

 

As I understand it, Fr. Ruiz, an ordained Catholic priest, was denied a visa on the grounds that he has not shown sufficient “stability” in El Salvador. Therefore, I was troubled to learn that the Consular staff refused to grant the visa without even asking for proof of work or income, both of which Fr. Ruiz attempted to provide and was refused.

 

I understand that Fr. Ruiz was denied his visa immediately after consultation with another consular staff member who had, just prior to his appointment, denied a similar visa request to another guest from CISPES, the organization inviting Fr. Ruiz for the speaking tour.

 

Therefore, I am concerned that Fr. Ruiz was denied a visa for political reasons, potentially due to his community organizing work to stop the El Dorado gold mine from being opened in his community.

 

As a (PROFESSOR, COMMUNITY MEMBER ETC.), I would welcome the testimony Fr. Ruiz planned to provide during his visit and believe that people in the US have the right to learn directly from Salvadorans about the issues facing rural communities and the environment in Latin America. CISPES has been organizing events like these for nearly 30 years and has never had anyone overstay their visa.

 

Therefore, I respectfully request that Fr. Ruiz be issued a visa immediately so that he can arrive in the US in time for the speaking tour, which begins October 16.

 

Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.

 

Sincerely,

 

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