2012 Latin America Workshops

In Latin America, wars have been fought and societies turned upside down by strife over economic inequality. But what does it look like now? The United States has a history of involvement in Latin America, creating trade agreements and providing military and socioeconomic aid. How can we ensure that our government provides aid that will help not hurt our Latin American brothers and sisters? Join us for six exciting workshops that will address these questions. Come learn about free trade agreements, U.S. aid for refugees, the Cuban embargo, the harmful effects of gold mining and biofuel production, alternative national economic models, and more!

Workshops CoordinatorsVanessa Kritzer and Ben LeiterLatin America Working Group

Session I – Saturday, March 24, 11:00 am – 12:30 pm

Successful Economic Alternatives in Latin America 

In the past decade, many Latin American countries have elected progressive governments that have initiated a myriad of alternative economic programs with mixed success. What are some of the more promising examples of working alternatives? How have they been able to improve people’s lives? What do they tell us in the United States as we look to reform our own economic system?

Speakers: Mike Fox, editor of NACLA; Mark Weisbrot, Center for Economic Policy Research


Faith Leading the Way: Ecumenical Activism for Land Rights and Peace in Colombia 

Millions of people in Colombia have been pushed off their lands by violent actors to make way for economic megaprojects like gold mining or palm oil production. Colombian faith-based leaders are often on the forefront of social movements to regain land rights for the country’s massive population of internally displaced persons. This past year, a new law went into effect in Colombia that promises to return lands to Colombia’s displaced families. Could this be a real solution to the humanitarian crisis or is it just empty promises? In this workshop, leaders of the Presbyterian Church in Colombia will talk about what’s really happening in rural Colombia and what it means for people of faith to advocate for economic justice from a biblical perspective.

Speakers: Rev. Jairo Barriga and Rev. Milciades Pua, Presbyterian Church of Colombia; Rev. Shannan Vance-Ocampo and Rev. Linda Eastwood, Presbyterian Peace Fellowship


Session II – Saturday, March 24, 2:15 – 3:45 pm

Trade Agreements and Human Rights: How the Victimizers Sue the Victims in Latin America 

In the context of high global prices for natural resources, several countries in Latin America that seek to increase the benefits of those resources for their own people, while attempting to maintain an environmental balance, are finding themselves increasingly at odds with transnational corporations. Transnational companies in the extractive industries are increasingly using their new rights under free trade agreements (FTAs) and bilateral investment treaties (BITs) to sue governments in unaccountable and non transparent international arbitration tribunals. Democracy, sovereignty, the right of people to decide over the use of their lands and resources and the sustainability of entire regions are all subverted by the right given to corporations to demand multi millionaire compensations for the profits they expected to have –that is, not even for the actual investment they may have lost – when governments respond to the demands of their communities. Moreover, these investor – State rules (as they are known) are designed to prevent many governments from acting in favor of public interests and environmental imperatives.

Speakers: Conrado Olivera, Joining Hands Against Hunger Network (Peru) and Mesa Tecnica (La Oroya); Manuel Perez Rocha, Institute for Policy Studies; Alex Herman, Harrison Institute for Public Law; Rev. Alexa
Smith, Presbyterian Church (USA) Hunger Program


Keep Your State from Being “Alabama-d”: The Economy & Anti-Immigrant Policies

Cosponsored with Domestic U.S. Workshops

Immigrants often become scapegoats during economic downturns, despite playing important roles in our communities and economy. This workshop examines state anti-immigrant bills, negative enforcement measures, such as the ‘Secure Communities’ program and the expansion of unnecessary and costly immigrant detention. Come learn how people of faith can powerfully oppose and defeat anti-immigrant legislation, become involved in detention visitation ministry and offer community support to immigrants released from detention. Join us to learn, discuss, plan, organize, and act!

Presenters: Anna Campbell, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service; Noel Andersen, Immigrants’ Rights, Church World Service


A Shared Responsibility: Supporting Refugees in their Countries of Refuge 

In addition to the 5 million people who have been internally displaced by Colombia’s conflict, 500,000 Colombians have taken refuge in Ecuador, Panama, and Venezuela. What do these people encounter as they search for safety, security, and a new start? How do the cities and countries receiving them deal with this influx of people when they may be already
struggling to provide for the needs of current residents? And what can the U.S. government and international humanitarian organizations do to help these vulnerable populations and the governments dealing with this crisis?

Speakers: Marc Hanson, Refugees International; Shaina Aber, Jesuit Refugee Service/USA


Session III, Sunday, March 25, 11:00 am – 12:30

Ignoring Economic Reforms? How the U.S. Embargo on Cuba is Only Isolating the United States

New economic reforms within Cuba that have allowed citizens to start small private enterprises are only one of many significant changes occurring on the island.. These small enterprises are allowing Cubans to work for themselves and find a new form of independence. Our government should support these reforms, yet we continue to tout an embargo in attempt to
create “regime change.” What can we do to make a difference and help the Cuban people?

Speakers: Luis Rumbaut, Cuban American Alliance Education Fund (CAAEF); Mavis Anderson, Latin America Working Group; Emily Chow, Latin America Working Group


All That is Gold Does Not Glitter:  How Latin America’s Gold Rush is Poisoning Communities 

Throughout Latin America, transnational corporations have in recent years begun extracting gold on a large scale, taking advantage of local poverty and weak governance to reap unparalleled profits for their investors in the Global North. Their operations, which generate conflict, shred social fabric, and contaminate the environment, continue to grow at an alarming rate due to the passage of free trade agreements and record gold prices. This panel will examine how the corporate gold rush in Latin American is harming communities, what those communities are doing to resist, and how we can best support them.

Speakers: Gustavo Castro Soto, Otros Mundos, Chiapas, Mexico; A community leader from the anti-mining struggle in Guatemala (TBA); Nick
Magel, EARTHWORKS; Amanda Kistler, Center for International Environmental Law 

Photo (c) Linda Panetta. Used with permission.

Contributing Sponsors & Partner Organizations