Decision on SOA Visas reversed! Grassroots pressure works - thanks!

The two speakers named by the SOA Watch's Latin American partners to represent them at the SOA Watch vigil (Nov. 19-21, 2010) were denied entrance to the United States. Both Gerardo Brenes - a Costa Rican graduate of the SOA and activist with the Quaker Peace Center in San Jose, and Alejandro Ramirez - a university student and activist with the Youth Resistance movement in Honduras, had their visa applications rejected by the U.S. embassies in their countries last week. However, due to a grassroots outcry following the Action Alert last week, this decision was reversed! Thanks for your part.....and read more

Grassroots Pressure Works!
U.S. Embassy Reverses Visa Denial for Member of the Honduran Resistance!
We are thrilled to let you know that last week's grassroots pressure campaign that followed the clearly political denial of the travel visa for Alejandro Ramirez by the U.S. embassy in Honduras has worked! Thanks so much to everyone who made phone calls and sent emails to make this happen.

The U.S. embassy granted Alejandro a second interview yesterday and approved his travel visa to attend the November vigil and speak from the stage at the gates of Fort Benning, Georgia! If you haven't made your travel plans yet, do so now and join Alejandro and thousands of social justice activists from across the Americas from November 19-21, 2010 (click here for the schedule of events.) If you can help to pay for Alejandro's plane ticket, click here.

The other SOA Watch vigil speaker whose visa was denied, Gerardo Brenes (a former SOA graduate) was granted a second interview as well. His new interview is going to take place in 2 days. However, it is still an uphill battle, as Gerardo is prominent in the news in Costa Rica, opposing U.S. warships and marines, and works to pressure the Costa Rican government to stop sending police forces to be trained at the School of the Americas. Click here for more information and to take action.
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From the Action Alert last week:
Gerardo and Alejandro were among participants from 17 Latin American countries at the recent SOAW South-North Encuentro. They were tapped to bring the Encuentro’s major concerns about the SOA and U.S. militarization in Latin America to the gates of Ft. Benning.

Gerardo is a former Costa Rica police officer and would have been the first graduate of the SOA to speak out against the school in front of his Alma Mater. His experience of the absolute disregard for human rights in his SOA training led him to become a leading activist in pressuring his government to withdraw from the school (Click here to watch a video interview with Gerardo). Gerardo has also been a public voice in speaking out against 46 U.S. warships and thousands of marines that are scheduled to be sent to this Central American “country of peace”.

Alejandro became an active member of the Honduran Youth Resistance Movement after his country suffered a coup at the hands of two SOA graduates last year. Over 50 people – journalists, teachers, students and union leaders, have lost their lives for opposing the coup regime and its illegal successor . Alejandro is a history student at the National Autonomous University of Honduras and works with COFADEH (Committee of Family Members of Detained and Disappeared in Honduras) in their violence prevention program.
 


Generate Grassroots Pressure to Overturn the Visa Denial! Take Action Now:

Send a message to the U.S. State Department in Washington, San Jose and Tegucigalpa urging them to grant visitor visas to Gerardo Brenes and Alejandro Ramirez so that they can speak at the November Vigil (19-21, 2010) at the gates of Fort Benning, Georgia:


1. Call State Department

a. re Gerardo Brenes of Costa Rica:
Call Jennifer Bantrump of the Costa Rica Desk of the State Department at (202) 647-3519. Sample script below.

b. re Alejandro Ramirez of Honduras

Call Gabriela Zambrano of the Honduras Desk of the State Department at 202-647-3482. Sample script below.

2. Send an email to Consul General

a. re Gerardo Brenes of Costa Rica:
Write Consul General Paul Birdsall at the U.S. Embassy in San Jose, at consultarsanjose@state.gov and copy Jennifer Bantrump of the Costa Rica Desk of the State Department at bantrumpjr@state.gov Sample script below.

b. re Alejandro Ramirez of Honduras
Write Consul General William Douglas of the U.S. embassy in Tegucigalpa, Honduras at usahonduras@state.gov and copy Gabriela Zambrano of the Honduras Desk of the State Department at zambranomg@state.gov Sample script below.

(Sample email below)


SAMPLE PHONE CALL regarding Gerardo Brenes:

Hello, my name is ______________. I am very troubled to learn that the U.S. Consulate in San Jose, Costa Rica denied a travel visa to Mr. Gerardo Brenes who was invited by the School of the Americas Watch to speak about human rights issues in Costa Rica at the annual vigil in Columbus Georgia from November 19-21, 2010. Will you call Consul General Paul Birdsall in San Jose today and ask him to immediately authorize a travel visa to Mr. Brenes so he can travel to the U.S. on to participate in this event? Thank you.

SAMPLE PHONE CALL regarding Alejandro Ramirez:
Hello, my name is ______________. I am very troubled to learn that the U.S. Consulate in Tegucigalpa, Honduras denied a travel visa to Mr. Alejandro Ramirez who was invited by the School of the Americas Watch to speak about human rights issues in Honduras at the annual vigil in Columbus Georgia from November 19-21, 2010. Will you call Consul General William Douglas in Tegucigalpa today and ask him to immediately authorize a travel visa to Mr. Ramirez so he can travel to the U.S. on to participate in this event? Thank you.


SAMPLE EMAIL regarding Gerardo Brenes

Dear Mr. Birdsall,

Last week the U.S. Consulate in San Jose denied a travel visa to Mr. Gerardo Brenes. Mr. Brenes was invited by School of the Americas Watch to speak about human rights in Costa Rica at the annual vigil in Columbus, Georgia, from November 19-21, 2010.

I understand that Mr. Brenes presented an invitation from the School of the Americas during his interview, as well as sufficient evidence that he had strong ties that would bring him back to his country.

I am deeply concerned about this visa denial, and I ask you to immediately authorize a travel visa to Mr. Brenes so that he can travel to the United States to participate in the SOAW vigil from November 19-21, 2010.

Sincerely,
[Your name and address]


SAMPLE EMAIL regarding Alejandro Ramirez


Dear Mr. Douglas,

Last week the U.S. Consulate in Tegucigalpa denied a travel visa to Mr. Alejandro Ramirez. Mr. Ramirez was invited by School of the Americas Watch to speak about human rights in Honduras at the annual vigil in Columbus, Georgia, from November 19-21, 2010.

I understand that Mr. Ramirez presented an invitation from the School of the Americas during his interview, as well as sufficient evidence that he had strong ties that would bring him back to his country.

I am deeply concerned about this visa denial, and I ask you to immediately authorize a travel visa to Mr. Ramirez so that he can travel to the United States to participate in the SOA Watch vigil from November 19-21, 2010.

Sincerely,
[Your name and address]


Stand up for justice:

SOAW.org/take-action/november-vigil