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A few well-written words can convey a wealth of information, particularly when there is no lag time between when they are written and when they are read. The IPS blog gives you an opportunity to hear directly from IPS scholars and staff on ideas large and small and for us to hear back from you.

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Entries tagged "Orlando Letelier"

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Camila Vallejo's Letelier-Moffitt Acceptance Speech

October 17, 2012 ·

I would like to thank the Institute for Policy Studies. I thank IPS not only for this Letelier-Moffitt Human Rights Award  that you've given the Chilean Students Movement for our struggle to recover the right to an education, but also for what you stand for and your ties to everything that's happening today in Chile.

Camila Vallejo speaksAfter 39 years, it's impossible — even for young people like us who were born after 1988 — to study the history of Orlando Letelier or anyone else who was tortured or assassinated during the dictatorship without feeling paid. We feel the pain of injustice, the pain of that inhumanity, and the pain of a great blow to democracy that hasn't healed to this day.

And although there's been a powerful attempt to erase our collective memory and silence our entire nation, in Chile we won't forget. We can't forget the Pinochet dictactorship's victims, just as we can't forget the aspirations of the movement that gave rise to Salvador Allende's government.

That movement was interrupted by a violent coup and a brutal and bloody dictatorship. But it wasn't defeated, it was interrupted. Its driving force and principles were to defend the interests and dignity of the people.

That movement respected human rights while aspiring to grant all men and women access to a decent education and quality health care. That movement aimed to bring the benefits of our nation's natural wealth to all Chileans. That movement built sovereignty while strengthening democracy.

In that movement, men and women developed the awareness and will to organize for justice and freedom.

I believe that the Institute, through its work, represents women and men like Ronni and Orlando — people who embodied this movement's ideals and gave their lives for their activism.

It is with sorrow, but also with joy and hope that we cherish the ideas and ideals that embody this movement — the defense of human rights and the struggle for social justice.

Many Chileans are now taking back the reins of history, as indicated by today's great social movements. We must recover from the Pinochet dictatorship's terrible consequences if we want to have a true democracy.

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights affirmed that even today there still is no justice in Chile because our electoral sytstem guarantees that human rights violators are over-represented in our parliament, relative to their victims.

In our country, there is no justice. Even if we don't have a dictator anymore, we still haven't gotten rid of the political model that his regime imposed upon us — a market-driven dictatorship. This neoliberal model has proven to be incompatible with respect for human rights. When the great wealth of the very few is derived from the life and work of the vast majority, it isn't compatible with democracy.

Our best way to thank you for this award is to carry on with the historic work to which we have dedicated our lives. We will continue to fight for universal, high-quality, and free public education, workers' rights, and excellent health care for all. We will fight to nationalize Chile's natural resources once again. We will continue the struggle for self-determination and respect that our indigenous peoples deserve.

Today, Chile's indigenous people are a shining example of resistance to the repression and militarization they endure at the hands of our government. We should fight for a new Chilean Constitution, which will shed the neoliberal state the dictatorship imposed on us for the  benefit the nation's richest people.

As Allende said, the Chilean people's struggle isn't a fight among generations, and it's certainly not the monopoly of one political party. This must be a struggle by workers, students, professionals, and many social and political movements ready to take on the challenge of joining together despite our differences, because we have grasped the historic challenge that we face.

That is why I would like to dedicate this award not just to all Chilean students, who technically won it, but also to our professors and teachers, as well as the indigenous peoples of Chile.

Appropriately enough, in Chile we celebrate Teachers Day every October 16. Just yesterday, we paid tribute to them.

I am also dedicating this award to the indigenous Mapuche people currently held as political prisoners — including the four who have been on a hunger strike for nearly two months. After hundreds of years of resistance, they are not giving up the fight for their land or their right to their own culture. This award is for everyone who is fighting to make Chile a better place.

Camila Vallejo is the vice-president of the Confederation of Chilean Students (Confederación de Estudiantes de Chile). She and Noam Titelman accepted a 2012 Letelier-Moffitt Human Rights Award from the Institute for Policy Studies.

John Cavanagh: Letelier-Moffitt Awards Speech

October 17, 2012 ·

Welcome to the 36th annual Letelier-Moffitt Human Rights Awards.

John Canagh at the 2011 LM Awards.

As I look around this room, I am in awe of the thousands of collective years of committed activism and scholarship and struggle for a better world that this crowd represents. When Ronni Karpen Moffitt and Orlando Letelier were murdered 36 years ago by agents of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, Orlando was only 44 years old. And yet he'd achieved enough to be considered one of the revered elders of the human rights movement.

Tonight, we have many long-time progressive heroes in the room. Let me recognize just two. First, a man who began stirring up trouble as a White House aide when he questioned the military build-up in the early 1960s — IPS co-founder Marcus Raskin. And second, the woman who turned her husband Orlando Letelier's tragic death into a force for justice and democracy: Isabel Letelier.

But, tonight — in many ways — is about the generation that Ronni Karpen Moffitt represents — the teens and twentysomethings. Ronni's life was cut short at 25, but she'd already made big contributions to the world, and these young people are too. Many here tonight are fighting outrageous student loans, fighting against sweatshops, and shaking up the world in other creative ways. We salute you and your Chilean counterparts here tonight.

At the Institute for Policy Studies, our long-term goal is to speed the transition from a militarized and casino Wall Street economy to a green, caring and democratic Main Street economy. I want to give shout outs to two sets of allies who are giving us a lot of hope these days. First, how about those striking Walmart workers? Isn't it about time we replaced the union-busting, community-destroying Walmart model of business?

My second shout out goes to our European allies in the fight for a financial transaction tax — what many are calling a Robin Hood Tax. Last week, they got 11 of their governments on board — proving it is possible to fight the financial industry and win. Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor and publisher of the The Nation magazine, yesterday referred to my IPS colleague Sarah Anderson, as a "relentless warrior" in this fight. And she is. We're proud to be working with many of you on this and looking forward to celebrating a U.S. victory.

So, tonight. Tonight, amidst the clutter of money-soaked politics, we have an opportunity to look into the future and celebrate some clear and inspirational paths forward. For this next generation of struggle, a central part of all of our tasks is to figure out how to roll back corporate rights as we strengthen human and labor rights, environmental rights, and peace. With this lens, our distinguished Letelier-Moffitt selection committee has picked two groups on the front lines of urgent battles: the right to education and the right to housing.

At the same time, both groups keep their sites on larger systemic change. The Chilean Students Movement is not just taking on the need for affordable education, they're taking on the whole free market legacy of the Pinochet era. As our awardees, Camila Vallejo and Noam Titelman pointed out on Democracy Now! yesterday, it was Orlando Letelier who predicted that free-market economics would lead to privatization and inequality. Likewise, City Life/Vida Urbana isn't just taking on the mortgage lenders, they're taking on the whole free market legacy of the Reagan and Bush eras. Both movements are planting the seeds of transformative change through direct action. Both are expanding our imaginations on how to make change happen.

John Cavanagh is the director of the Institute for Policy Studies, which hosts the annual Letelier-Moffitt human rights awards ceremony and reception. www.IPS-dc.org

Join Us October 17 at the Letelier-Moffitt Awards

October 12, 2012 ·

We’d love to see you Wednesday, October 17, at the Letelier-Moffitt Human Rights Awards reception and ceremony at the Carnegie Institution. It will be an uplifting evening, with generations of social justice activists on hand to enjoy the artistry of DC’s most powerful and visionary youth poets and the music of Patricio Zamorano and his band as we celebrate national and international voices for justice.

Tickets may sell out soon, so purchase yours now or support this important event even if you can't attend.

Student leaders Noam Titelman, Camila Vallejo and Boris Gabriel participate in a demonstration in downtown SantiagoWe are thrilled to honor two amazing organizations in 2012 with much in common. Just as the Chilean Students Movement is challenging Augusto Pinochet's legacy and free-market ideology, City Life/Vida Urbana is standing up to Ronald Reagan's legacy and ideology. These struggles are also united in building a better world rooted in the rights to education, housing, and other core needs. And they are planting the seeds of transformative change.

Both groups remind us of what so many of you know so well: Powerful social movements equipped with bold ideas are the catalysts for positive social change. IPS is proud to belong to dynamic coalitions forging powerful new approaches that are making a difference.

The great actor and activist Danny Glover will present the City Life/Vida Urbana award to Curdina Hill and Steve Meacham. Tiffany Loftin, president of the United States Student Association, will present the award to the Chilean student leaders Camila Vallejo and Noam Titelman.

City Life actionFun fact: Readers of the UK's Guardian newspaper chose Vallejo as "the person of the year."

If you've attended in recent years, please take note of our new venue, located at 1530 P Street, NW in Washington, DC. The reception will begin at 5:30 p.m. and the ceremony will get underway at 7 p.m.

The Institute for Policy Studies has honored human rights heroes for 36 years in the names of our colleagues Orlando Letelier and Ronni Karpen Moffitt, who were assassinated in 1976 by agents of the Chilean dictatorship. John Cavanagh is the Institute's director and Joy Zarembka is its associate director. IPS-dc.org

Occupy Wall Street's Deep Roots

October 13, 2011 ·

A journalist asked me the other day where the Occupy Wall Street and Occupy DC protests came from. This is the story I told him.

These movements have deep roots. They were planted over the past century by the millions of workers who stood up to exploitation and won basic labor rights and drove up taxes on the wealthy to create a middle class.

Movements like Occupy Wall Street have deep roots. CC Photo by sarabeephoto.That fight sprouted a new root — the struggle for civil rights — and that fight melded with fights to end an unjust war in Vietnam. Then, in the 1970s, women came together to change how the nation thought about sexism, creating the space for new movements that said if you think sexism is wrong, why is homophobia OK? Then environmentalists started asking why it's OK to leave our grandchildren with a polluted planet. These are deep roots.

Around that time, in 1976, the exiled Chilean leader who was working at the Institute for Policy Studies, Orlando Letelier, was speaking before a packed crowd at Madison Square Garden, demanding an end to dictatorship. When he and his IPS colleague Ronni Karpen Moffitt were assassinated by that dictatorship 15 days later, their family and friends — including some here tonight at this human rights awards ceremony we hold in their names — responded by turning this tragedy into a powerful force for international human rights.

Then, two decades ago, these movements gave birth to the global justice movement, and millions came together to oppose corporate greed and corporate rule. In Chiapas, Mexico, indigenous people stood up to free trade They said: enough. Nine years ago, 15 million people in 600 cities said no to war against Iraq. Three years ago, millions poured into the streets to fight for immigrant rights.

This is the Peoples History. And if Howard Zinn were alive today, he'd be writing a new chapter right now.

It might start with the fruit vendor in Tunisia who said: enough. It would describe the millions of Egyptians who said: enough. It would describe the thousands of Mexicans who have stood up to the violence and said: enough. And it would tell about the brave people of Wisconsin who said: enough.

Yes, a part of our history is one of war, racism, genocide, and violent inequality. But, the more important part is the history of people coming together, fighting back, and creating a more decent and humane union.

So, today, we celebrate you all: you who are ending the wars, from CODEPINK to Peace Action; you from trade unions; you from progressive faith groups; you who are stopping the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline; you who are creating marriage equality; you who are rebuilding the American Dream and winning support for a DREAM Act; you who are Caring Across Generations; and you who will build the new economy that will provide dignified livelihoods to our next generation in a way that preserves the planet.

And for the thousands who are unrolling your sleeping bags in McPherson Square and Freedom Plaza and Liberty Park tonight, and in occupations all over this country, we celebrate you as you continue the history of resistance to make this country and this world better for all of us.

What does the Institute for Policy Studies have to do with Occupy Wall Street? For 48 years, IPS has turned ideas into action for peace, justice, and the environment, linking our work with the dynamic social movements of our time. And, we speak truth to power, so today, for example, one of our central messages in this time of supposed austerity is that there is no shortage of money.

And, our work details how we can mobilize that money while pursuing peace — by eliminating hundreds of billions in war spending; while pursuing justice — by sensibly taxing the wealthy, corporations, and Wall Street speculation; and while protecting the environment — through carbon and pollution taxes.

There is plenty of money for jobs and for the other things this country so desperately needs.

Institute for Policy Studies Director John Cavanagh is a leader in the movement against corporate-led globalization. He delivered this speech at the 2011 Letelier-Moffitt Human Rights Awards ceremony on October 12.

Belen, Posada Del Migrante (Bethlehem, the Migrant's Shelter) and the Suffering of Central American Migrants

October 3, 2011 ·

This year, the Letelier-Moffitt international award will be presented to Belén, Posada Del Migrante (Bethlehem, the Migrant's Shelter), a migrant shelter based in Saltillo, Coahuila, Mexico that provides humanitarian assistance to migrants in transit and works to protect them from kidnapping, extortion, sexual abuse, and murder. As a voice for the human rights of migrants in transit, it has courageously worked to document abuses against migrants and denounce human rights violations of migrants by Mexican officials.

But no stranger had to spend the night in the street, for my door was always open to the traveler.
Job 31, 32

Eleven Years of Violence and Persecution, Against the Odds: The blood and deaths of migrants, and the seeds of hope.

The Year 2000
Migrants prepare for an orientation at Belen, Posada del Migrante. Photo by Humanidad sin Fronteras.The Mexican city of Saltillo and its community shuddered with the arrival of the first Central American migrants. They were fleeing Hurricane Mitch, as well as the poverty and violence they endured in their countries. For this aristocratic city's conservative majority, it was a threat, an invasion of their supposed harmony and traditional peace. After this fear came criminalization, rejection, disdain, and that xenophobic question: Why couldn't they go somewhere else?

Nevertheless, the migrants, beaten men and women — who were dirty and dispossessed when they entered the city's outskirts — just said; "We're hungry and we're tired and we have been beaten!" This underscored one of the most beautiful and evangelical traditions that prevails in our community: take our bread and share it! Whenever a migrant arrives, at midnight, in the early morning, at dawn, or in the heat of the day, there will always be a group who will take him or her in, that will say: "It doesn't matter what time it is, you're going to sit down at our table, share our bread, and then go rest."

2001: The Criminalization of Aiding Migrants Sets in and the Murders Begin
Criminal charges were increasingly brought against us for aiding migrants. "Conservative Christian" groups considered it "sinful" to give the refugees shelter, because they were supposedly arriving "illegally," which made them "illegal" too. There were even people who were happy when they died, saying "they deserved it for having come here."

The wave of migration gave way to murder and spilled blood. Delmer, Alexander, and David, all Hondurans, were murdered by bullets, as they slept. Ismael Cruz was stoned to death by security guards on the train.

We were bloodstained when we retrieved the bodies, but this act planted the seeds of hope. It gave us the courage to persevere.

With the strong backing of our Bishop, Raul Vera, I organized together with three religious women the Bethlehem, the Migrant's Shelter next to the train tracks.

Frontera con Justicia y Humanidad Sin Fronteras

(These are two non-profit organizations whose names translate as "Bordering Justice" and "Humanity without Borders." They provide the migrants who have sought shelter in Saltillo with legal and counseling support.)

Obstacles and Challenges

Mariano, a migrant from Honduras, watches television at Belen, Posada del Migrante. Photo by LatinDispatch.We pushed back against the fear of migrants and the terrifying discrimination against them. It was necessary to engage the broader community in a debate over migration.

We didn't want to only focus on organizing a shelter. Instead, we addressed the overall issue of migration as a social and historical phenomenon that today runs through history, society, the fabric of society and the Church itself.

We didn't want to treat migrants simply as victims, but instead as a new kind of emerging heroes, and beacons of hope.

This is why we formed two organizations: Frontera con Justicia and Humanidad sin Fronteras to assemble a team of professionals that could offer persecuted migrants not just lodging, food, and health care, but a comprehensive package of services, including legal representation, counseling, and advocacy for laws aimed at protecting their rights.

It was a radical humanitarian endeavor. The migrants who came to our shelter would feel upon arrival that they had left the evils of persecution and aggression behind. Once they'd reached us, they could belong to a movement to build a more humane and liberating society.

The Violence Has Never Ceased

We would have loved to have seen an end to the violence. But to the contrary, it has grown and so have our enemies: organized crime, and the complicity of security forces.

The consequences have been dire: murders, kidnapping, torture, disappearances, rape, and sexual abuse, even the paradigm of anti-migrant cruelty, the massacre of 72 migrants in San Fernando, Tamaulipas in August 2010, and the discovery of 47 other clandestine mass graves with mutilated bodies.

Our Achievements

  1. More than 50,000 Central American migrants have passed through our shelter.
  2. In the 11 years of our work, we have made the broader community recognize the pain and suffering that migrants endure.
  3. We have made progress in political and legal advocacy work in favor of migrants.
  4. We have traveled abroad to connect with organizations and international bodies in the defense of migrants' rights.
  5. We have inaugurated "New Wine in New Casks" with a new Church with new liturgy and ecclesiology that has a migration perspective.
  6. We have innovated therapeutic humanitarian counseling for migrants who were tortured when they were kidnapped.

The Letelier-Moffitt Award's Significance

We would like to express our deepest gratitude to the human rights and migrant policy organizations that chose to give us this award. Criminal charges are increasingly being brought against us and we are now under attack more than ever. The levels of risk and insecurity faced by the people defending migrants' rights are the same as what the migrants themselves experience.

This is an award for courage and a just fight on behalf of people who have to migrate. We are in solidarity with these people. They are our brothers. With that in mind, we receive this award, not as bosses or experts but as fighters in the struggle for human rights.

Father Pedro Pantoja Arreola is the director of Belén, Posada Del Migrante (Bethlehem, the Migrant's Shelter) and chief adviser for two organizations that provide legal services and other forms of humanitarian support to Central American migrants, Frontera con Justicia (Bordering Justice) and Humanidad sin Fronteras (Humanity without Borders).

Emily Schwartz Greco translated this blog post, which is also available in Spanish on the Institute for Policy Studies website.

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