Executive Director Report – Winter 2020-21
Fall has been a busy season at CoDev between a flurry of online events and several natural and not-so-natural disasters requiring us to mobilize support for our Latin American partners.
Educators and Indigenous Rights in the Bolivian Elections
As Bolivia’s national elections approached in October, CoDev teamed up with the Ontario Secondary School Teachers (OSSTF)and the BC Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) for a webinar on the stakes involved for Bolivia’s educators and indigenous majority.
Igor Ampuero, director of Bolivia’s Foundation for Development and Education (FUNDE) presented on the advances in public education, particularly bilingual indigenous education. Common Frontiers Director Raul Burbano spoke on the role of the Organization of American States (OAS) in falsely reporting electoral fraud to justify the 2019 coup, with tacit support from the Canadian government.
The BCTF and OSSTF asked CoDev to help organize the webinar to draw members’ attention to Bolivia in case of a repeat of the events of 2019. However, the elections went smoothly, and when MAS was swept back into power both the de facto regime and the OAS recognized the indigenous-led party’s victory.
Feminist Sweatshop Organizers in Nicaragua Face New Threats
CoDev’s Nicaraguan partner, the Maria Elena Cuadra Movement of Employed and unemployed Women (MEC), faced new intimidation this fall after Nicaraguan VP Rosario Murillo issued inflammatory statements about feminist groups in the country. Soon afterwards, police surrounded MEC’s office September 25 and refused to allow staff to enter.
A new “Law for the Regulation of Foreign Agents,” entered into force in October, requiring organizations like MEC to register as foreign agents with the Nicaraguan government by December 15. MEC director Sandra Ramos says the organization prefers to risk closure and forfeiture of its assets than comply.
Sandra Ramos spoke about these issues to the CUPE BC International Solidarity Committee’s Fall meeting expressing concern that police may plant weapons or drugs in the MEC office as a pretext for shutting down MEC. She asked for support to improve security of the facilities. Both CUPE BC and CUPE National responded with generous contributions.
Guatemalan Women Tackle the Pandemic
In October, CoDev held a series of online meetings between Canadian partner, the Hawthorne Foundation, and their counterparts in Guatemala. Representatives of Artesana spoke of the challenges imprisoned women have faced since authorities banned prison visits. The Nuestra Voz women’s group explained to Hawthorne directors that since March, they have shifted training for members from micro-business development to Covid 19 safety and prevention filling the gap left by the State’s lack of attention to the health and safety of rural women.
Exiled Honduran Teacher-Leader Returns Home
In late October 2019, gunmen abducted Honduran teacher leader Jaime Atilio Rodriguez, torturing him before slitting his throat and throwing him into a river.
As a leader CoDev partner, COPEMH, Jaime had collaborated with CoDev for several years before his abduction. Surviving the attack, Jaime went into exile in Mexico. CoDev sought support from supporters and Canadian partners to help with basic needs. Contributions from the BCTF, and the Vancouver Elementary and Surrey Teachers Associations, as well as individual donations were generous.
Jaime returned to Honduras November 26, as the representative of Libre, the main opposition party, on Honduras’ National Electoral Commission. He hopes his new high-profile role will deter further attempts on his life. The night before he departed Mexico, Jaime penned this moving letter of thanks to all those who supported him through his months of exile.
Spotlight on Colombia
CoDev substituted our annual fundraising dinner with a series of online events to help connect our Canadian partners and members with the social struggles and culture of our Latin American partners. The recent, “Spotlight on Colombia: Cultures of Resistance,” featured partner NOMADESC and the Buenaventura Strike Committee. The event, opened by CUPE National President Mark Hancock, featured Buenaventura Mayor and former strike committee spokesperson Victor Hugo Vidal and NOMADESC director Berenice Celeyta, and other activists. Our Colombian partners combined a rich mix of human rights updates with music, dance and poetry. Despite the increased repression and attacks on social leaders since the pandemic, Colombia’s deep culture of resistance continues to flourish.
Emergency Hurricane Relief
An unprecedented two Category 4 hurricanes hit Central America in November. The storms killed some 300 people, displaced hundreds of thousands affecting all of CoDev’s partners in Nicaragua, Honduras and Guatemala. CoDev opted to focus an emergency appeal on two: Artesana in Guatemala and the Honduran Women’s Collective (CODEMUH).
The neighbourhoods of maquila workers with which CODEMUH works are close to the mouth of Honduras’ main river system and hundreds lost their homes and belongings in the floods that followed the storms. CODEMUH is particularly concerned for 70 of their shop-floor organizers whose homes were inundated and half buried in mud.
Immediately after Hurricane Eta, Artesana brought emergency supplies to the families of the imprisoned women they work with, but seeing the devastation in the communities where they lived and the lack of state support, they borrowed a cargo truck and have been delivering whole containers of emergency supplies.
CoDev continues its efforts to raise relief funds.
Café Etico supports Nicaraguan partner cooperatives affected by Hurricane Iota
Café Etico’s partners in Nicaragua’s coffee growing Matagalpa region were largely spared the force of Hurricane Eta, but 2 weeks later, Iota tore right through the region. The Pancasán and Dalia coops, producers of Café Etico’s Nicaraguan coffees, estimate they lost 25-30% of the new harvest. Worse, much of their staple food crops of rice and beans were destroyed in the storm.