Open Letter to the U.S. Department of Justice concerning CISPES
Written by Latin American Solidarity Coalition
The following letter is an effort by the Latin AmericaSolidarity Coalition (LASC) to stand by one of the founding members, theCommittee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES).
In January, CISPES received a letter from the Departmentof Justice claiming the organization might be in violation of the 1938 ForeignAgents Registration Act. CISPES isnot, of course, a foreign agent, butsince we now seem to inhabit an evidence free-zone here in Washington D.C. it,the LASC felt it important to take this letter seriously as an effort by the USGovernment to intimidate CISPES.
We have no doubt that the Bush administration disagreeswith the work that CISPES does. CISPESis working to close the International Law Enforcement Academy in El Salvador, has worked tirelessly to oppose theBush trade agenda in the region, and routinely speaks out against U.S. interference in the electoral process in El Salvador. The organization does this while continuingto promote an alternative vision of democracy based on the desires of thepeople of El Salvador. None of this is criminal, but all of itchallenges U.S. claims tohegemony in Central America - and that seems to be "the crime" the U.S. governmentis concerned about. The LASC and theorganizations signed on below are saying we will stand with our friends intelling the Justice Department to "back off."
To whom it may concern:
We write to express our frustration with the Departmentof Justice's recent actions regarding our friends at the Committee inSolidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES). The Department of Justice's effort to callinto question the legality of CISPES' relationship with actors in El Salvador seems a thinly disguised effort tointimidate CISPES, whose only "crime," it would seem, is disagreeingwith U.S. foreign policygoals in El Salvador.
Though not really surprised by the Department ofJustice's action in this time of policing through fear, we must speak outagainst any effort to portray transnational relationships of friendship ascriminal. We also speak out because theJustice Department's history of investigating organizations for purely politicalreasons, absent a legitimate criminal predicate, is well known, and has been apractice aimed at solidarity organizations before. Indeed, CISPES' was thetarget of politically motivated investigations throughout the 1980s that foundno evidence of criminal activity.
Our organizations work in solidarity with people in LatinAmerica out of a deep commitment to principles of self-determination andpopular democracy; to the idea that people everywhere deserve the opportunityto define for themselves a way of life that is fulfilling and free fromintimidation.
Sadly the U.S.government is not interested in promoting such a perspective. This administration has brazenly threatenedcountries in Latin America with sanctions forelecting the "wrong people." This administration and members of Congress have attempted to swayelectoral outcomes in El Salvador(2004) and Nicaragua (2000,2006) by threatening the suspension of remittances if the people did not votefor the choice of the U.S. Indeed, the right-wing ARENAparty's entire history, including its founding by U.S.trained and supported death squad leader Roberto D'Aubuisson, has been toservice the interests of the U.S.government as well as ElSalvador's tiny elite.government.
CISPES has the right to support alternatives put forwardby the Salvadoran people. Is it U.S. policythat no alternative to ARENA is permitted?
And it is a criminal act to suggest otherwise? We believe that CISPES should be allowed tocontinue educating and organizing about the negative impacts of U.S. policieslike CAFTA, while challenging U.S. Congressional funding for faultyinstitutions like the International Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA.)
As solidarity organizations we speak out with theconviction that another world is possible and that the exercise of power can beaimed at affirming life, not destroying it. And we do this well within our right to question our own government'sactions in Latin America.
We stand in solidarity with our friends at CISPES and in El Salvador by demanding that the Department ofJustice stop its effort to intimidate CISPES, just as we demand that the StateDepartment stop interfering in the election processes in El Salvador, aswell as elsewhere in the region.
Alliancefor Global Justice
American Friends Service Committee, Hartford, CT
Bend-Condega Friendship Project
Center for Alternative Mining Development Policy
Chicago ReligiousLeadership Network on Latin America
The Coalition for Justice
Consumers for Peace
Eugene, OR Latin America Solidarity Committee (formerlyCISCAP)
Institutode Relaciones Económicas Internacionales en Ginebra
Marin Interfaith Taskforce on LatinAmerica
Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns
May First/People Link
National Labor Committee
The National Network of US-El Salvador Sister Cities
Office of the Americas
PortlandCentral America SolidarityCenter (PCASC)
The RichlandCenter-Santa TeresaSister CityProject
SHARE Foundation: Building a New El SalvadorToday