Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Open Letter to US President Barak Obama

Dear US President Barak Obama:

We write to you as Barrio Nuevo, a young grassroots organization from the Latino community in Toronto. Much like many of the organizations you have worked for in the past, we are working to inspire social change and the development of our community by our community.

As first and second generation immigrants we understand the significance of your election to the Presidency of the United States not only for racialized people in your home country but also for all people around the world. Many in your country have chosen to express their desire for a different direction in your domestic and international policy by casting their votes and resting their hopes on you. It may not surprise you to know that many outside of the United States also have the hope that you will change the foreign policy of the US government and that the state of affairs countries impacted by US foreign policy will improve as a result.

We are concerned about the state of the Latino population in North America and our countries of origin in Latin America. Though we live here in Canada, we are very connected and informed of the state of Latin America and understand the impact of North American foreign policies on that region. This letter asks you to challenge yourself to reach beyond the traditional role that the United States has played in Latin America and to go past the propaganda that is still perpetuated about our region and people.

We ask you to act positively on 4 key matters pertaining to Latin Americans and Latin America:

1. Normalization of the immigrant Latino population working in the United States

There are literally millions of immigrant workers in the United States (primarily in areas that less than 200 years ago were part of Mexico). These people are supporting families and looking to build a future that was denied due to conflicts and problems in their own nations. They are crossing under perilous conditions which include not only recently constructed fences and walls but also the prospect of encountering armed militias that have been self appointed to ‘protect the border’.
As a humanitarian imperative, immigrant workers have to be given status so they can live without fear and without threat of having their families ripped apart or worse.

2. Ending the inhumane embargo against the sovereign Republic and people of Cuba

As seen from your presidential elections, the political tendencies and appetites in the most ardently anti-Castro segments on the United States are changing.
As called for by numerous United Nations resolutions and NGO’s you have a unique opportunity to demonstrate to the World that the United States is no longer interested in playing imperial master by dropping the embargo against Cuba.
Both the US and Cuban economies, and more importantly Cuban people have suffered long enough under this callous project.

3. Respecting the democratic decisions and movements of Latin America

Never in recent memory has Latin America seen such thriving civil societies taking active part on deciding the future of their nations. To the dismay of some, many elections have produced victories for parties that have been labelled pariahs by certain circles and have produced policies which have brought discomfort to those who still worship ‘free markets’.
Whatever the economic and social policies, they are the concern of the people that are determining them. The elections and governments elected in Latin America over the last decade must be respected and US funding and support of opposition parties and fronts must immediately end.

4. Ending military and material support for the Colombian government

While governments and elections must be respected, it does not mean that government must be aided by the United States. The Colombian government, a top recipient of US military aid since before the Bush Administration has been flagrantly implicated in vote buying, drug trafficking and assassination and disappearances of trade unionists, journalists, community leaders and others.
Consistent with our previous point, we are asking you to NOT interfere with the internal situation of Colombia. We are asking you to remove your military aid to this government which is using these resources to commit the worst human rights violations in the hemisphere.

We encourage your will “to begin diplomatic conversations about how to improve relations” and applaud your recognition of “all countries in the region [having] something of importance to contribute” along with the role of your state being “not to dictate policies… but to find cooperation and mutual interest.” We believe that in order for this to happen successfully, each country must be respected equally with the right to political and economic sovereignty.

- Barrio Nuevo Canada

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