Welcome to the CoDev blog, Solidarity Works. This is where we’ll bring you exciting news about CoDev’s work, the work of our partners and life in our world. Whether it’s stories from the field during a trip, or the latest news on an issue that affects our partners, we’ll make sure you are up to date.
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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.
CoDev issued an urgent action alert to partners and members to send to Nicaraguan authorities, urging them to cease harassment of MEC and other Nicaraguan women’s organizations.
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
Jaime Atilio Rodriguez
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.
CoDev worked with CUPE BC Communications Director Dan Gawthrop to develop his excellent report on the event, which was published by both CUPE BC and CUPE National.
Emergency Hurricane Relief
Home of a CODEMUH organizer in Choluma, Honduras
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.
On learning of the damage, Café Etico teamed up with Courtney’s World Community Coffee to collect emergency support for the two coops.
As 2020 grinds towards its end, we have received many greetings from partners in Latin America to CoDevelopment Canada and our members and Canadian partners. (more…)
#Giving Tuesday 2020
In mid-November, two powerful, contiguous hurricanes battered Nicaragua, Honduras, and Guatemala, leaving a trail of destruction in their wake. Eta and Iota generated mudslides and flooding, burying villages, flooding homes, and destroying crops. Government responses have been woefully inadequate and many of our Partners have been seriously affected.
CoDev is raising funds for these partners: Artesana, a Guatemalan organization supporting imprisoned women and their families, and the Honduran Women’s Collective, CODEMUH which accompanies workers in the country’s maquila (sweatshop) zones.
Artesana delivering emergency aid to families of imprisoned women.
Artesana has borrowed a truck and is delivering donations of food, clothing and sanitary supplies (masks, hand sanitizer, basic medicines) to affected families of imprisoned women. Artesana’s share of the donations sent by CoDev will support the truck’s fuel costs and purchase additional emergency supplies. (more…)
Exiled Honduran teacher leader Jaime Atilio Rodriguez
In late October 2019, Honduran teacher activist Jaime Rodriguez was abducted, tortured, thrown off a bridge and left for dead. He survived, and when well enough to travel, went into exile in Mexico just before the Covid 19 pandemic began. CoDevelopment Canada called on supporters to help Jaime through these difficult months of exile. As organizations and as individuals you responded with an outpouring of solidarity. On November 26 2020, Jaime will take his chances and return to his country. This is his message to you: (more…)
CoDev 2020 Annual General Meeting
2020 AGM Guest Speaker Santiago Diaz
We welcomed Jacqueline Alvarado Cruz, a Surrey teacher solidarity activist, who was elected to the board at this AGM. Read Jaqueline’s profile here. And congratulations to incumbent board members Nancy Hawkins, Neil Adolph, Diana Alvarez, Caitlin Johnston and Marina Meredith on their re-election to new two-year board terms.
We also reluctantly bade farewell to Carol Wood, Marion Pollack and Susan Weber, long-time board members whose terms expired with the 2020 AGM. All three served on CoDev’s board through a very interesting period for the organization and their contributions are deeply appreciated.
A big advantage we discovered with a virtual general meeting is that we are able to bring our Latin American partners into the event. Santiago Diaz, founder of the Salvadoran Association for Inter-Community Health and Social Services (APSIES) and the organization’s current director, Moises Garcia, spoke to members about their work to ensure that people in rural El Salvador have access to quality and relevant public healthcare. Santiago spoke movingly of the importance to APSIES of Solidarity from CoDev and its Canadian partners over the past three decades.
2019-20 Annual Report
During July and August CoDev produced our Annual Report for the 2019-20 fiscal year. It provides an overview of CoDev’s work over the past year as well as profiles and interviews with our Latin American partners.
Following a Board-Staff Communications Brainstorming session in June, the ED and the Communications and Development Director (CDD) met to draw action items from the discussion and develop a plan to implement them. Among the tasks in progress:
- A 12-question survey to gather information on members’ use of CoDev social media and their preferred forms of communication from the organization. It will be sent to CoDev members in mid-October (along with a small incentive from Café Etico to encourage completion of the survey).
- A new Style Guide to encourage consistency in CoDev’s communications
- New partner profiles of Education Partners on the CoDev website.
- Subscribing to a new grant research service – GrantStation.
- Engaging a practicum student to develop a database focused on outreach and communications with departments, programs, clubs and associations in BC Post-Secondary Institutions
- With the cancellation of the annual dinner and silent auction the CDD is developing an online store to enable supporters to purchase online items.
- The Finance and Operations Director has developed a beta version of a new CoDev website. The draft website was presented to CoDev staff Sept 9 for input and revision.
Moving Our Events Online
CoDev’s Annual Dinner usually serves as an opportunity both to celebrate our achievements with CoDev members and partners and to generate much-needed revenue for activities not tied to our partner-supported projects. With the 2020 annual dinner being cancelled, we are developing a series of online fundraisers that enable members and Canadian partners to learn and interact with our partners in Latin America.
Our first experiment with an online fundraiser, “Inside Public Education in Latin America–The Impact of COVID-19,” proved to be a big success. The event was directed toward CoDev’s education partners and drew some 80 participants to an afternoon of presentations, live music and dance with our teacher union partners FECODE (Colombia), ANDES 21 de Junio (El Salvador) and SUTEP (Peru). Special thanks to CoDev program assistant Alexandra Henao who closed the event with an online Salsa class. The event raised some $4,000 for CoDev, approximately one third of what we normally raise at an annual dinner.
CoDev’s second online fundraiser “Spotlight on Colombia: Cultures of Resistance” is scheduled for Saturday, November 7. This event will feature CoDev partner NOMADESC (Association for Social Research and Action) and the Buenaventura Civic Strike Committee in an exchange involving updates on Colombian social movements, music and dance (and a possible guest appearance from Victor Hugo Vidal, former Strike Committee spokesperson who was elected mayor of Buenaventura last October). Get Your Tickets Now
An Independent Americas Policy Group
CoDevelopment Canada belongs to three national coalitions: the Canadian Council for International Cooperation (CCIC), the Americas Policy Group (APG) and the Canadian Network for Corporate Accountability (CNCA). CoDev has always been most active in the APG, the coalition that focuses on Canadian’s role in the Americas, particularly Canadian foreign policy and the defense of human rights in the region.
June through August, CoDev participated in the transition committee that oversaw the transition to an independent APG. The new coalition will have a part-time staff-person and an office in the United Steel Workers’ building in Ottawa.
New Organizational Member
CoDev welcomes the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC-BC Region) as a new organizational member. CoDev and the PSAC have collaborated frequently in the past in solidarity with partners in Colombia and Honduras. More recently we worked closely in the creation of the independent Americas Policy Group, and we are pleased to have the PSAC join us as an organizational member that contributes to our work in Canada.
Support for Exiled Honduran Teacher-Leader Jaime Rodriguez
Jaime Rodriguez, former president of CoDev partner COPEMH was abducted, tortured and left for dead in the Choluteca river late last year. Although he survived this most recent assassination attempt, it was not the first time Jaime has suffered repression for his defense of public education and his resistance to the de facto regime. The teacher leader has gone into exile, successfully applying for refugee status in Mexico.
Jaime Atilio Rodriguez
Jaime arrived in Mexico in late February, just before the COVID-19 pandemic forced the closure of many government offices and the shuttering of many industries. It took months for him to obtain the basic residency credentials needed to open a bank account and he has still been unable to find work.
We believe that Jaime’s case is an important example of the challenges our teacher Partners face in Latin America and are launching a broader support campaign for Jaime that includes a Go-Fund-Me fundraising drive that will be launched publicly shortly after Thanksgiving.
Helping partners address the pandemic
The spread of the COVID-19 virus throughout Latin America has created new challenges to all of our partners. Through online training and small emergency grants, CoDev is assisting our partners in addressing those challenges
Honduran Teacher Webinars
The pandemic-related sudden shift to online education has taken place throughout much of the world, and has been particularly challenging for our Latin American teacher partners, who find themselves suddenly having to teach multiple grades of large numbers of students via cell phones. With the assistance of Jaime Rodriguez, CoDev has joined with the IDEA Network to offer several hundred teachers affiliated with four Honduran public-school teachers’ organizations a course that provides a critical perspective on Teaching/Learning Conditions in the transition to online education.
Emergency Project Funding
MEC: basic supports for fired maquila workers.
CoDev’s Nicaraguan partner MEC (Movement of Employed and Unemployed Women Workers) communicated with CoDevelopment as the pandemic took hold in late March 2020, that many women workers were being laid-off as maquilas shut down in the free-trade zones. MEC told us many of the fired workers were having trouble meeting their basic survival needs.
CoDev Canadian partner CUPE and MEC wrote an addendum to their agency agreement to include activities aimed at providing food security for women workers and their families, and training on biosecurity to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Donation for CoDev’s Guatemalan Partner Artesana.
Two online fundraisers were organized to help Artesana address the situation of COVID-19 that threatens women imprisoned in Guatemala’s crowded penitentiaries. CoDev raised CDN $900 in donations for this work.
Donation to CoDev’s Guatemalan Partner Nuestra Voz.
Nuestra Voz, an association of mainly indigenous Guatemalan women, also faced growing obstacles to their work in the context of the pandemic. Thanks to a contribution from the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, CoDev was able to send an extra $800
to Nuestra Voz.
As part of the Giving Tuesday fundraiser CoDevelopment Canada raised CDN $700.00 to donate to APSIES to address the situation of COVID-19 in rural communities in Eastern El Salvador.
New Café Etico Crop
Café Etico imported a container of our Nicaraguan co-op partners’ 2019-20 coffee harvest in late July. However, the Canadian Border Service Agency (CBSA) selected the container for inspection and held it for 14 days. This resulted in $3,600 in extra charges for Café Etico. In the past decade Café Etico imports have been targeted by the CBSA at a rate that is approximately 35 times the average.
Café Etico has joined four other small non-profit coffee importers to file complaints for unfair targeting of fair-trade imports with both the CBSA and the Public Safety Canada, which is responsible for the agency.
The pandemic has had a large impact on Café Etico’s sales and as a result we have an over-supply of green beans. Café Etico will be ordering a smaller amount this year from our Nicaraguan co-op partners, and is contacting local roasters to encourage them to buy some of our extra green bean stock.
For ongoing updates on CoDev and our Latin American and Canadian partners: