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Angelica Salazar (English), email@example.com Elena Freyre (Spanish), firstname.lastname@example.org
The Alliance for Cuba Engagement and Respect (ACERE) applauds the efforts of 80 members of the House of Representatives who called on President Biden to not delay executive action and to reverse the Trump administration's cruel sanctions against Cuba. The letter notes that the Trump policies -- implemented as the Cuban people faced acute shortages of food and medicine tied to the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic -- can be reversed with "a stroke of the pen." The letter also calls on Biden to seek an end to the six decades-long embargo -- one of the largest groups of members of Congress to ever make that demand. The letter was sent after the Biden administration announced anunprecedented review of the impact of U.S. sanctions policies on countries - including Cuba - as they battle the impact of COVID-19.
The newly-formed ACERE coalition was a driving force in creating grassroots support for the letter, organizing hundreds of emails and calls from constituents and advocates to their representatives.
"This strong show of support so early in the Biden administration shows that Congress will be a force for change in U.S. policy towards Cuba," said Elena Freyre, a longtime Cuban-American advocate for ending the U.S. embargo on Cuba, with FORNORM and ACERE. "Broad sectors of U.S. society support normalization with Cuba, including Cuban-Americans, agricultural producers and the business community, and citizens across the political spectrum. With support from champions in Congress, we are confident that this can be the administration that finally brings the failed embargo policy to a close."
"This letter is a sign of a sea change on Cuba policy in Congress, particularly given its support from all flanks of the Democratic Party and from a dozen influential members of House leadership, including Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Gregory Meeks and Appropriations Chair Rosa DeLauro," said Erik Sperling, executive director of the advocacy group Just Foreign Policy, that helped to initiate the letter.
The letter names several immediate moves that the Biden administration can take to alleviate sanctions on Cuba imposed by Trump, such as removing caps on remittances by Cuban-Americans and restoring travel exemptions that allowed the people of the U.S. to visit Cuba for people-to-people exchanges. The Congressmembers also urged the Biden administration to immediately retract the "politicized decision by the departing Trump Administration" to name Cuba as a state sponsor of terror -- a baseless move that was widely condemned.Beyond that, the letter lays out how to rekindle the path towards normalization, including restarting high-level bilateral dialogue, re-staffing embassies, and renewing working groups that were formed during the Obama administration on a wide range of key shared interests.
The letter also highlights Cuba's widely lauded medical missions to underserved countries, and urges the U.S. to restore medical cooperation with Cuba, citing as an example the Obama administration joint response to the Ebola crisis in Africa. The letter also urges an end to efforts to undermine Cuba's medical missions and discourage impoverished countries from accepting assistance from Cuban doctors.
The letter concludes by insisting that these steps should be part of a process that seeks an end to the "harmful and extra-territorial 'embargo' (also called an 'economic blockade')". It cites polls showing that the people of the U.S. support an end to the embargo, and highlights the "28 years of consecutive votes condemning [the embargo] by nearly all members of the U.N. General Assembly, including our allies."
"We thank our congressional representatives for speaking up in this letter to President Biden urging him to act quickly, boldly and broadly to end the cruel and inhumane economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed on the Cuban people," said Angelica Salazar, a Steering Committee member of ACERE. "We must remain 'impatient' and strong, as Rep. McGovern noted, in maintaining our grassroots pressure on both the Biden administration and on Congress. ACERE and our alliance members are committed to helping end the U.S. embargo on Cuba in 2021. Our national movement is growing!"
The full text of the letter and list of signers can be found here.
"As the climate crisis escalates," said one advocate, "ending these destructive extraction practices is a matter of survival—not just for the whales, otters, and other animals in the channel, but for all life on earth."
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday rejected a call from several fossil fuel companies to hear their challenge to a lower court ruling handed down a year ago, which prohibited fracking in federal waters off the coast of California.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last June upheld a decision to bar the issuing of permits for offshore fracking, finding that the U.S. Department of the Interior had violated the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the National Environmental Policy Act, and the Coastal Zone Management Act when it allowed fracking in offshore gas and oil wells in the Pacific.
In the original case, the ruling was the result of three separate lawsuits filed by the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) and the Wishtoyo Foundation, the Environmental Defense Center (EDC) and Santa Barbara Channelkeeper, and the state of California, challenging the federal government.
Earlier this year, fossil fuel companies ExxonMobil and DCOR, LLC were joined by the American Petroleum Institute in intervening in the case, filing a petition for certiorari in an effort to overturn the 9th Circuit ruling.
Despite the history of the case, the Biden administration opposed the fossil fuel companies' move, with Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar writing in a Supreme Court brief last week that "the court of appeals' decision does not warrant this court's review."
"California's amazing coast and vulnerable marine life deserve this victory, which will protect the ecosystem from the many dangers of offshore fracking," said Kristen Monsell, oceans legal director at CBD. "The fracking ban will help prevent more toxic chemicals from poisoning fish, sea otters, and other marine life."
EDC filed its lawsuit after finding in 2014 through several Freedom of Information Act requests that the federal government had issued more than 50 permits without conducting environmental reviews or a public comment process.
\u201cBig news in our Supreme Court case upholding a ban on offshore fracking. EDC discovered the federal government had approved 50 permits off the coast without proper review, and we filed our original lawsuit in 2014.\u201d— Environmental Defense Center (@Environmental Defense Center) 1685986264
"The Supreme Court was right to reject the oil industry's latest attempt to allow fracking and acidizing in our waters with zero meaningful environmental review," said Maggie Hall, senior attorney at EDC, on Monday. "The Santa Barbara Channel is one of the most ecologically rich and important regions in the world. As the climate crisis escalates, ending these destructive extraction practices is a matter of survival—not just for the whales, otters, and other animals in the channel, but for all life on earth."
The decision upheld by the Supreme Court forbids the Interior Department from issuing fracking permits without completing an assessment of the practice's adherence to the ESA and files an environmental impact statement that analyzes "the environmental impacts of extensive offshore fracking" and evaluates alternatives.
Monsell expressed hope that the Supreme Court's decision marks "the beginning of the end of drilling off California's coast" but noted that the Biden administration has welcomed fossil fuel extraction in federal waters, including in the Gulf of Mexico.
"Our ocean won't be truly protected," she said, "until offshore drilling stops once and for all."
"Public development banks must stop propping up a failing system, stand alongside Indigenous groups, and stop financing factory farming," said one campaigner.
A report published Monday reveals how multilateral development banks' financing of factory farms has unleashed significant social and ecological harm in Ecuador, and civil society groups say the banks' failure to consult or compensate affected Indigenous communities violates Ecuadorian law and their own policies.
Over the past 20 years, the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and IDB Invest, respectively the private sector branches of the World Bank Group and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) Group, have collectively poured more than $200 million into the expansion of PRONACA, Ecuador's fourth-largest corporation and by far its biggest pork and poultry producer.
The new analysis, assembled by the Ecuadorian Coordinator of Organizations for the Defense of Nature and the Environment (CEDENMA) with support from a coalition of international advocacy groups including Friends of the Earth and World Animal Protection, details the dire consequences of this lending in a small province west of Ecuador's capital of Quito.
"By giving millions of dollars of public money to PRONACA, IDB Invest and the IFC are violating their own policies and causing negative impacts to Indigenous communities and fragile ecosystems in Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas," Kari Hamerschlag, deputy director of the Food and Agriculture Program at Friends of the Earth U.S., said in a statement.
"This report is more evidence that every dollar spent on factory farming harms communities and jeopardizes development progress," said Hamerschlag. "Public development banks must stop propping up a failing system, stand alongside Indigenous groups, and stop financing factory farming."
"We used to have a thriving tourism industry, and now we only have polluted air and water. The expansion of pig farms in our community will bring even more pollution to our already contaminated communities."
This is not the first time PRONACA, a meat giant operating more than 100 factory farms and slaughterhouses throughout Ecuador, has faced criticism for its deleterious social and ecological effects. In addition to documenting the historical and ongoing destruction the company has inflicted nationwide, the new investigation highlights how public development banks (PDBs) are complicit in the despoilation of communities in Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas, which is home to 15 factory farms.
It is based on surveys of local residents that CEDENMA, an alliance of 52 environmental groups, conducted in the wake of the most recent round of PDB lending to PRONACA. IDB Invest provided its first loan, worth $50 million, to the company in 2020. IFC followed up with a $50 million loan of its own in 2021, though the World Bank Group's latest PRONACA financing came on top of the $120 million it had already lent to the company.
"Our extensive interviews with community members found that PRONACA's intensive pig farms in the Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas region have continued to pollute the air and contaminate rivers, killing off fish which local people rely on for food and jobs, and harming local tourism," said CEDENMA vice president Natalia Greene.
The report estimates that PRONACA's swine production in the area generates roughly 15 million pounds of toxic waste each day, fouling the soil, air, and waterways. Moreover, it examines for the first time how IFC and IDB Invest's most recent loans to PRONACA failed to comply with Ecuadorian law and five of their own policies (Performance Standards 1, 3, 4, 6, and 7), which require them to inform Indigenous communities about new operations and compensate them for ensuing damages.
"We used to have a thriving tourism industry, and now we only have polluted air and water," said Ricardo Calazacon, a local Indigenous leader in Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas and medicinal plant expert. "The expansion of pig farms in our community will bring even more pollution to our already contaminated communities. We have filed many complaints about the company to the local authorities but they have not listened to us or done anything to resolve the problems."
The following six-minute video summarizes many of the report's findings.
"CEDENMA is deeply concerned about IFC and IDB Invest's failure to adequately enforce its standards and mandates with respect to PRONACA's severe impacts on the water and the health of locally affected Indigenous communities," said Greene. "We are urging the public development banks and the government to enforce their policies and laws and help resolve long-standing impacts of PRONACA's operations on the health and well-being of Indigenous communities."
Community members and civil society groups are calling on IFC, IDB Invest, and the Ecuadorian government to uphold their obligations and force PRONACA to monitor and clean up its pollution. Their demands come amid a broader global campaign to get PDBs to "Stop Financing Factory Farming" (SFFF), including fresh efforts to persuade newly inaugurated World Bank President Ajay Banga to end all support for destructive, high-emitting livestock operations.
The SFFF campaign was launched in 2021 to expose how "financing industrial-scale meat and dairy operations directly contradicts PDBs' commitments to advance the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and align their lending with the Paris climate agreement."
A major share of deforestation in Latin America over the past 50 years can be attributed to land clearing for cattle and animal feed production. The corporate-dominated global food system is now the leading driver of biodiversity loss, and animal agriculture is responsible for nearly 20% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Despite this, the five largest PDBs have dumped more than $4.6 billion and counting into factory farms over the past decade.
"This is Gov. DeSantis, this is his baby, this is his project."
California Attorney General Rob Bonta on Sunday accused Florida governor and 2024 GOP presidential hopeful Ron DeSantis of duplicitously sending a group of South American migrants to Sacramento in a bid to score "cheap political points."
"This is Gov. DeSantis, this is his baby, this is his project, his fingerprints are all over it," Bonta, a Democrat, told the Los Angeles Times. "The governor signed it, the Legislature approved to fund it in the budget, and they hired Vertol Systems Co., a vendor, to carry out the work."
"It's DeSantis being exactly who he is and advertising to the world that he is petty, little... and full of political stunts that hurt, harm, and abuse and exploit people to try and get cheap political points," he added. "It's wrong."
Bonta's remarks were based on documents the 16 migrants from Venezuela and Colombia were carrying that showed the chartered flight they took from New Mexico to Sacramento was coordinated by the Florida Division of Emergency Management. Vertol Systems has arranged similar flights in the past, including the September 2022 transportation of a large group of Venezuelan and Colombian migrants from San Antonio, Texas to Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts.
"Human trafficking is not only despicable; it's a felony."
According to the faith-based community organizing group PICO California, the 16 South Americans were approached outside a migrant center in El Paso, Texas by representatives of a private contractor who promised them jobs and other assistance. The group was bused from El Paso to New Mexico and then flown to Sacramento, where they were dropped off Friday night outside the city's main Catholic church.
"They were lied to and deceived," PICO campaign director Eddie Carmona told the Associated Press.
\u201cPICO CA ardently condemns the actions that led to 16 of our immigrant brothers & sisters being transported across the country under false pretenses. We are grateful to our Sac community @SacramentoACT for showing up with radical compassion. https://t.co/3mAyDzHde7\u201d— PICO California (@PICO California) 1685836583
Bonta told the Times that "they never intended to help them find a job but told them that they would do that so they could get on the plane and sign their documents and be transported to Sacramento."
"They completely exploited, abused, and manipulated these folks who were vulnerable and were hoping and dreaming of a job and told they would be helped finding that job only to be abandoned," he added.
Cecilia Flores, narrative and communications strategist at the multi-faith advocacy group Sacramento Area Congregations Together, toldKCRA that the migrants are "in shock."
"I think they're very exhausted," she added. "I think they are just trying to catch up with processing exactly what happened."
Sacramento Bishop Jaime Soto told the Times that "the urgency to respond was heard by Catholics and people of goodwill."
"We are thankful to our partner organizations who took up the holy work of hospitality, dedicating their time and resources to ensure that every migrant did not feel alone and abandoned," he added.
\u201cAn investigation is underway after over a dozen migrants arrived in Sacramento, CA by private jet with no prior arrangement or care in place and documentation \u201cpurporting to be from the government of the State of Florida."\n\nUsing people as pawns -- again.\nhttps://t.co/YJQj6uqrbf\u201d— Rep. Anna V. Eskamani \ud83d\udd28 (@Rep. Anna V. Eskamani \ud83d\udd28) 1685896011
Bonta and Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newson said Saturday that they met with around a dozen of the affected migrants. Bonta said the California Department of Justice is investigating who paid for their flight and whether any laws were broken.
"While we continue to collect evidence, I want to say this very clearly: State-sanctioned kidnapping is not a public policy choice, it is immoral and disgusting," Bonta said in a statement. "We are a nation built by immigrants and we must condemn the cruelty and hateful rhetoric of those, whether they are state leaders or private parties, who refuse to recognize humanity and who turn their backs on extending dignity and care to fellow human beings."
"California and the Sacramento community will welcome these individuals with open arms and provide them with the respect, compassion, and care they will need after such a harrowing experience," he added.
\u201cToday I met with over a dozen migrants who were brought to Sacramento by private plane, with no prior arrangement or care in place.\n\nWe are investigating the circumstances by which these individuals were brought to California.\u201d— Rob Bonta (@Rob Bonta) 1685845344
Democratic Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg also issued a statement Saturday asserting that "human trafficking is not only despicable; it's a felony."
"I urge the appropriate authorities to investigate how 16 vulnerable people were lured to travel from El Paso, Texas, to Sacramento," he added. "Whoever is behind this must answer the following: Is there anything more cruel than using scared human beings to score cheap political points?"
DeSantis, along with Republican Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas and Doug Ducey, Arizona's former GOP governor, have bused or flown more than 12,000 migrants to Democratic-led cities since April to protest what they falsely call the Biden administration's "open border" immigration policies.
Florida's Republican-controlled Legislature has recently authorized $22 million for DeSantis' program of sending migrants to sanctuary states and cities.