Latin America – Caribbean


Tomas Rivero casts a net as he fishes on the Pilcomayo River outside of Villamontes, Bolivia. He is a leader of the Union of Pilcomayo River Fishers, and an advocate for cleaning up the river, which has been plagued by contamination from upstream mining and road construction. This portion of the river is inside the protected Aguaragüe National Park and Integrated Management Natural Area. Photo: Paul Jeffrey

Tomas Rivero casts a net as he fishes on the Pilcomayo River outside of Villamontes, Bolivia. He is a leader of the Union of Pilcomayo River Fishers, and an advocate for cleaning up the river, which has been plagued by contamination from upstream mining and road construction. This portion of the river is inside the protected Aguaragüe National Park and Integrated Management Natural Area. Photo: Paul Jeffrey

Introduction by Martin Coria

Working with others of any or no faith to eradicate hunger and poverty at the time we promote peace and justice is central to CWS identity, programs and presence in Latin America and the Caribbean region.

There are four things I am proud of in the last year in our region.

First, after many, many years of continued, tireless, professional advocacy to normalize relations between the U.S. and Cuba, finally we are on the path towards normalization. I think that CWS, the faith community in both countries, CWS partners, the Washington Office on Latin America, the Latin American Working Group and the Cuban Council of Churches deserve credit for it. It’s a big accomplishment.

A second thing that makes me really, really proud is that I am convinced that due to the concerted awareness-raising and advocacy efforts of CWS and partner Platform for Children of Incarcerated Parents in Latin America, the 2 million children with incarcerated parents in this region and their caregivers are today more visible to authorities, the state, civil society and children’s experts than they were a year ago. We are gradually making this neglected and quite invisible group of vulnerable children more visible, and it is creating opportunities for programs that benefit them.

I think the way CWS and our allies in Washington and in the faith community responded to the Central American unaccompanied children crisis in mid-2014 was exemplary. Many children and their families are still in detention centers, and CWS and others continue to advocate for them. The way CWS stood up for them makes me proud.

I also want to note the responsible way CWS has addressed and continues to address the relationship and conflict between Haiti and the Dominican Republic, and especially the way CWS is responding to the situation of Dominicans of Haitian descent risking statelessness.

In the coming year we need to make sure our Haiti program adapts to the new institutional reality in Haiti. Haiti is having presidential elections in October, and I think the CWS program in Haiti needs to respond to and take advantage of this new and welcome development.

I think there’s still a lot to do to call attention to children of incarcerated parents. We need to increase and improve services for the children. Visibility must lead to action, improvements and change. We will continue to raise this issue, and make recommendations to decision makers so actual change will take place.

We need to also make every effort possible to make sure our food security program in Central America responds to changing migration patterns and country conditions, especially in Guatemala and Honduras.

One of the subregions most severely affected by climate change, where the themes of hunger and poverty, and peace and justice are almost impossible to separate, is the Gran Chaco region. Here, we will start seeing the results of increased attention paid to the roles and challenges faced by indigenous women and youth in CWS programming. The determination and resilience shown by indigenous men and women to bring non-violent change continues to both challenge and inspire us.