Thursday, February 2, 2012

Honduras Trip, Purple Strategies, Occupiers, Indiana U. Honduras Program Cancelled, DR, Cuba

Dear readers, as usual during February, I will be away in Honduras most of the month with my usual volunteer projects, the International Health Service of Minnesota medical brigade in villages around La Esperanza, visits to the blind school in Tegucigalpa and the Teleton rehab center in Choluteca, assistance to my scholarship students, a pat on the back for my village health promoters, and others, so please stand by for a report in March. A few items to mention before I leave.

Last night, on the way to meeting a friend for dinner, I happened across a big party featuring formally-dressed guests, valet parking, and purple strobe lights taking place in the north hall of our neighborhood’s venerable Eastern Market. Fortunately, it was an unseasonably warm evening with clear skies, facilitating functioning of the outdoor cooking in tents set up in the alley behind the market. So what was the occasion? A party celebrating the newly formed Purple Strategies bipartisan lobbying firm, one that caters to issues and their supporters across party lines, hence the purple blending of red and blue. Certainly such issues exist and many citizens are frankly tired of the extremes of partisanship now hobbling the political process. It will be interesting to see what issues this organization undertakes.

Riding by downtown DC, I saw the Occupy tents in Freedom Plaza, looking orderly, but placed very close together and filling up all the space, leaving no room for anyone else to enjoy the park. Supposedly, the National Park Service, which is in charge of the area, prohibits sleeping there. However, that’s been said for quite a while now, but the prohibition has not been enforced so far. A judge has apparently ruled against some of the Park Service’s attempts to prohibit sleeping.

In another blow against Honduras, Indiana University has cancelled a 10-year exchange program with the Honduran National Autonomous University over security concerns.

An article entitled “Stateless” in The Economist (Dec. 31, 2011), points out that Dominican-born individuals of Haitian ancestry are not considered Dominican nor does Haiti claim them, hence are considered stateless. They cannot get birth certificates or passports and, as consequence, often cannot enroll in school, get married or have a driver’s license, or travel outside the country.

Here is a recent statement from Amnesty International, where I swerve as volunteer coordinator for the Caribbean for AI-USA:

27 January 2012

AI Index: AMR 19/002/2012

Brazilian Government must defend the rights of Yoani Sánchez, Cuban blogger and all other dissidents, journalists and human rights activists
The news that Brazil has issued a visa for Yoani Sánchez, the Cuban blogger
and human rights activist, to visit the country for a film festival is an important
step in recognising her right to freedom of movement. The Cuban authorities
must now grant her permission to travel to Brazil to attend the screening of a
documentary by Brazilian documentary-maker Dado Galvão in Jequié, Bahia
State, on 10 February. The film features the story of Yoani Sánchez and other

Amnesty International is calling on the Brazilian government to intervene with
the Cuban authorities so that Yoani Sanchez is given permission to travel freely
to and from Cuba. On 20 January 2012 Amnesty International wrote to Brazil’s
Foreign Minister Antonio Patriota, calling on the Brazilian government to
intervene in this case and to discuss human rights violations in Cuba. (see

President Dilma Rousseff will be visiting Cuba on 31 January 2012. Amnesty International urges her to raise Yoeni Sánchez’ case with the Cuban authorities as well as the issue of freedom of expression, association, assembly andmovement which is of serious concern. The case of Yoani Sánchez and her
visit to Brazil gives the Brazilian authorities an opportunity to engage on those
issues with the Cuban government.

The Cuban authorities continue to severely restrict the freedom of expression,
assembly, and association of political dissidents, journalists and human rights
activists. Dissidents, journalists and human rights activists are subject to
arbitrary house arrest and other restrictions to prevent them from carrying out
legitimate and peaceful activities. In addition, the Cuban government is using
the denial of exit permits as a punitive measure against government critics and

Amnesty International trusts that President Rousseff will use her upcoming
visit to Cuba to reinforce Brazil’s increasing global influence in the promotion
and protection of human rights.