Cancelled-Register for These Upcoming Travel Delegations in 2020!

Witness for Peace Southwest is partnering with Altruvistas to bring you three new solidarity delegations in the next year.  The delegations will be put on by the Altruvistas team in support of Witness for Peace Southwest and the work happening on the ground in each delegation location. You can register for any of these delegations here:

Cuba – April 26-May 3, 2020

Solidarity and Socialism: May Day in Cuba

Learn about the Cuban people’s revolutionary history and cultural resilience, while also celebrating May Day! Expect to learn about the importance of organized labor in Cuba. Explore the fruits of the Cuban Revolution: education, health care, sports, and the arts. Examine Cuban socialism and the impacts of the US embargo on the nation. Plus, enjoy an incredible culture!

Tour Price
$1780 double occupancy in 3 star hotels
$300 single supplement
Limited space is available—Apply early! Application with a non-refundable deposit of $500 is due by February 1st, 2019.

Puerto Rico- June 14-23, 2020

Puerto Rico’s status as a US commonwealth leaves the island without a vote and voice in their nation’s political future. Stand in solidarity with the people of Puerto Rico as they continue their fight for their independence against US occupation and militarization. We will learn about the history of Borinquen and its people’s history of resistance. We will explore the movement for independence and also statehood, while enjoying vibrant culture, some bomba y plena,  and extraordinary cuisine, of course.

Tour Price
$2875 double occupancy in 3 and 4 star hotels
$450 single supplement in 3 and 4 star hotels

Delegation fees cover all set-up preparation, 2 meals per day, accommodations, interpreters, transportation within the country, all entrance fees, donations to sister organizations, a $200 donation to WFPSW,  honoraria to speakers and a trained delegation coordinator. The fee also covers extensive reading and activist tools before and after the delegation. Limited space is available—Apply early! Application with a non-refundable deposit of $500 is due by April  1st, 2019.

Hawaii- July 25-August 2, 2020

Aloha aina, love of land…life. This is the way in which Hawaiians experience the world. Kīpaepae is a ceremony involving the stepping-stones for entering a house, and through this definition, travelers are recognized for reaching the lands sustained for thousands of years by native Hawaiian ancestors–from modern day contemporary times. This huaka`i, or “travel with an informed purpose,” is a journey to understand the Hawaiian nation before it was colonized and militarized by the US and became the 50th State. Through meaningful exchanges you will learn about cultural and ecological resilience, the status of current the Hawaiian sovereignty movement, and the inspirational successes of community organizing from Makua to Makai–while enjoying the beauty and the the aloha that the islands are known for.

Tour Price
$2740 double occupancy
$490 single supplement
Limited space is available—Apply early! Application with a non-refundable deposit of $500 is due by May 1st, 2019.

Two Webinars on Border Imperialism and the Border-Industrial Complex

Witness for Peace Southwest in partnership with the Alliance for Global Justice and No More Deaths presented two educational webinars on the current state of private profiteering on the US/ Mexico border and border imperialism. If you missed the chance to catch them live, you can watch the recording below!

More Than A Wall Webinar:

Featuring acclaimed author and journalist Todd Miller and media coordinator for No More Deaths, Paige Corich-Kleim. In this webinar Paige and Todd discuss the report More Than A Wall in order to examine the role of the world’s largest arms, security and information technology in shaping and profiting from the militarization of US borders.

Empire of Borders Webinar:

In this second webinar Todd Miller spoke on his new book Empire of Borders, about the expansion and imperialism of the US border regime, along with Nellie Jo David J.D., an activist and educator and  co-founder of the O’odham Anti-Border Collective who spoke to the ways this ongoing colonialism is playing out in the traditional Tohono O’odham lands of the US/Mexico border.

Past Highlights and Pictures

Highlights and Accomplishments

Southwest Region Witness for Peace

Moving Congress: In theSouthwest region secured 6 of 87 congressional signers on a Dear Colleague letter condemning human rights abuses in Honduras. On the Colombia Free Trade Agreement 4 congresspersons were swayed to vote NO through Southwest region efforts in October. WFPSW rallies were held at 3 Southern California undecided congressional offices a day before the free trade votes. 2 of the 3 reps voted against the free trade agreements the next day. Through grassroots pressure, this December Rep. Berman CA-28, ranking Democrat in the House Foreign Relations committee sent a public letter to Secretary Clinton questioning US funding of state sponsored repression in Honduras. This next year we will be bird-dogging congress during election campaigns to make sure they address the failed Drug War, Honduras human rights violations, the Cuban Embargo and immigration reform. (pictured WFPSW members at Rep. Henry Waxman’s office)

Honduras– The Southwest Region joined protests at the Honduran Consulate in the spring when there was a brutal military/police crack down on teacher/students protests that lead to the death of elementary school teacher Ilse Ivania Velásquez Rodríguez. In March the Southwest region hosted Gerardo Torres, leader of the Honduran Resistance Front, for several speaking events in Southern California. In September the Southwest region sent a nine-person delegation to Honduras that visited the campesino movements of the Aguan Valley, 4 political prisoners, served as international observers for the Sept 15 Resistance marches and met with the brand new US Ambassador to Honduras. The Southwest hosted Afro-Honduran Garifuna Doctor Luther Castillo for a workshop on Honduras at the School of the Americas vigil in Ft. Benning, Georgia. The Southwest continues to be an active member of the Honduras Solidarity Network. In 2012 we plan to send more protective accompaniment delegations to Honduras, push for more cuts in US funding and get a Dear Colleague letter circulating in the Senate.(pictured: delegate Sara Kohgadai with former Honduran President Mel Zelaya.)

Trade- Three free trade agreements came to a vote  for Colombia, Panama and South Korea. The Southwest held face to face meetings with several congressional offices in the spring in which reps committed to vote against the FTAs. During the final votes many reps spoke out strongly against the FTAs on the floor of the Senate and House. In the end 80% of House Democrats voted against the Colombia FTA and most significantly against a specific ask by President Obama to pass the trade agreements. In 2012 election season we will be holding reps accountable for their votes on the FTAs and will push for more congressional co-sponsors for the Trade Act, a bill that will stop any new FTAs and renegotiate all current FTAs. (pictured: rally at Rep. Karen Bass’ office. She voted against all 3 FTAs)

Colombia- In the Spring the Southwest hosted events for the Days and Prayer and Action on Colombia, in July we sent an accompaniment delegation to the humanitarian peace communities of Uraba, Colombia and in the fall we lobbied against the Colombia FTA and hosted Jani Silva, campesina leader from Putumayo, Colombia on a speaking tour that reached over 1000 people. In 2012 we will send protective accompaniment delegations to Uraba, Colombia and continue to raise awareness in the US of the failed drug war model. (pictured Southwest delegates in Uraba, Colombia)

Migrant Rights- In January we hosted the first domestic delegation on immigration and migrant rights in Ventura County, California. We co-sponsored multiple migrant rights forums and participated in campaigns to stop ICE’s Secure Communities Program. In the summer the Southwest sent volunteers to deliver water and humanitarian aid at the Arizona/Mexico border with the human rights group No More Deaths. In 2012 we will return to volunteer on the border, flight for an end to ICE’s S-COMM program and participate in migrant rights forums and Know Your Rights Trainings. (pictured: volunteers with No More Deaths take a break in the Arizona/Mexico desert.)

Cuba– the Southwest has participated in the efforts to protect Cuban family travel. Hardline Cuban Americans in congress twice this year have tried to roll back travel for Cuban Americans to Bush era policy. In December the Southwest sent 28 delegates to Cuba ranging from ages 24-76 and representing 18 states. This coming year we will support the campaign to Free the Cuban Five, organize delegations to Cuba and lobby to end the travel ban and embargo on Cuba. (pictured: International Workers Day march in Havana, Cuba)

Delegations– The Southwest sponsored 4 delegations to Honduras, Colombia, Cuba and Ventura County, CA. A total of 55

delegates participated and the Southwest Region awarded $3,175 in delegation scholarship assistance. In 2012 we have delegations planned for Honduras, Colombia, Cuba and domestic California and Arizona delegations on migrant rights. We also will be facilitating more short term and long term volunteer accompaniment teams in Uraba, Colombia and the Aguan Valley of Honduras. (pictured: Southwest region’s first domestic delegation focused on farmworkers and migrant rights in California.)

TANYA COLE – Letter to the Editor (Ventura County Star) – Drug war spending

In a recent forum for the candidates for the 26th Congressional District, Candidate Jess Herrera was asked if he were elected, would he work to combat the failed drug war by reducing U.S. Drug War spending abroad and decriminalizing drugs at home. By the reaction of the audience, this seemed to be a tough question.

Mr. Herrera said Mexico and Latin America need our help combating the drugs and the police at home are doing a fine job. Perhaps Mr. Herrera is not aware that the “Failed Drug War” is named so for a reason.

After billions of U.S. dollars have been spent in drug war aid to Latin America, we have only seen an increase in drug production and an increase in human rights violations by the militaries we fund, particularly Colombia, Mexico and Honduras. At home we have the largest prison spending and prison population in the world with most people in the system for non-violent drug related offenses.

I hope our congressional candidates do a bit more homework before this election.

During President Obama’s trip to Colombia for the Summit of the Americas last weekend, he received an earful from Latin American presidents about the failures of Washington’s drug war. Of all countries, we should understand supply and demand economics. President Obama should refocus our drug policies to drug prevention and rehabilitation programs. Decriminalization/regulation of drugs will put the cartels and drug dealers out of business. Investment in our communities instead of guns and jails is money better spent.

– Tanya Cole,


Published at


U.S. and Central America – part 2 – interview with Tanya Cole on Dec. 17, 2010

Part 2 of interview with Tanya Cole, Witness for Peace Southwest District organizer, and Cindy Piester of Pulse TV. Discuss the history of U.S. involvement in Central America and migration and immigration.


Tanya Cole: The Brutal Face of U.S. Latin America Policy – Then & Now

Tanya Cole, Witness for Peace Southwest District organizer, and Cindy Piester of Pulse TV discuss the ongoing brutal history of U.S. involvement in Latin America.

Refresh yourself on the CIA’s role of replacing democratically elected Latin governments after overthrowing them, and the brutal campaigns of repression that followed.

Grim history in broad strokes. An update in current ways and means of the U.S. governments continued efforts to control through violence.

Report on July 2010 Delegation to Colombia

by Patrick Bonner

Our 2010 trip to Colombia, sponsored by Witness for Peace Southwest, was partly to the same communities as in 2009, but also different.

A bit of background:

In 1997, a combined series of aerial and ground attacks by paramilitary forces and Colombia’s 17th Brigade, called Operation Genesis, displaced 15,000 people and killed more than 100, mostly Afro-Colombians, from the region of Colombia near Panama referred to as the Bajo Atrato. This region includes the basins of the Jiguamiandó, Curvaradó and other tributaries that flow into the Atrato River.  The army claimed to be pursuing guerrillas.  But when some of the displaced attempted to return, it became clear that the objective of Operation Genesis was to depopulate the area so that logging companies could cut down the forests and agribusiness companies could steal the land for cattle ranching and plantations, especially oil palm.

The displaced people have made several attempts at returning, only to be violently displaced again.  Their current effort consists of establishing a toe-hold by building clusters of houses and calling them Humanitarian Zones, off limits to any armed groups. At the same time, they continue to pursue the return of all their land through the courts. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights has told the Colombian government that it has to respect the Humanitarian Zones. The government gives lip service to this right, but the land has not yet been returned and the Humanitarian Zones face constant threats.

The companies and paramilitaries have brought in laborers from other regions.  Instead of paying those workers a living wage, the companies give them some of the land to use, land that is not theirs to give.  Those workers are referred to as repopulators.

In that region of Colombia, Afro-Colombians, as well as Mestizos who live with the Afro-Colombians and share their life-style, have a right under the 1991 Constitution to own land collectively. According to implementing legislation, known as Law 70, which was passed in 1993, the communities elect councils and representatives to be their voice in dealing with the national government and other entities. The communities had begun implementing this process when they were displaced in 1997.

Recently the agribusiness companies have been attempting to take over the process and install their own puppets. Earlier this year, Colombia’s Interior Department recognized the results of a phony election in the Curvaradó region that had been arranged by the companies.  But the Supreme Court overturned that recognition and ruled that a census of the region needs to take place followed by new elections. The communities want international observers for this process.  The agribusiness companies and their allies do not want international observers. It is expected that the census and election will take place soon, but as of August 2010, I have not received notice that it has been scheduled.

The paramilitary allies of the companies make death threats against the true community leaders. They also threaten members of the Interfaith Commission for Justice and Peace, a Colombian organization that accompanies the communities and provides a voice and link between the communities and the outside world.


In the Jiguamiandó river basin, we stayed two nights in the Afro-Colombian Humanitarian Zone of Pueblo Nuevo.

Last year in Pueblo Nuevo, we met two Embera Indigenous representatives who had hiked eight hours to meet with us.  They told us about the Embera’s struggle to save their reserve from devastation by two mining companies. (More about that below.) They invited us to visit the reserve and see their sacred mountain that was being threatened. Our trip this year was a response to that invitation.  It turned out that the logistics of getting to the mountain would be prohibitive.  But we were able to get as far as the Embera community of Alto Guayabal, a two-hour canoe trip from Pueblo Nuevo.

In January of this year, the Colombian army bombed near Alto Guayabal.  A man from the community was badly injured and paralyzed for life.  A baby died a couple weeks later.  The community believes the baby’s death was a result of the bombing. We later met with a representative of the Colombian army’s 17th Brigade.  He said he knew people were affected by the bombing but denied that the baby’s death was a result.  We asked why they bombed the area and he said it’s hard to know when civilians are in an area.


After two days in the Jiguamiandó river basin, we went by canoe and four-wheel-drive vehicles to the Curvaradó basin.  We visited Camelias and Caracolí, two Humanitarian Zones we had visited last year. And we ended with a visit to the new Humanitarian Zone in Llano Rico.  That Humanitarian Zone is dedicated to the memory of Argenito Diaz, a community leader who was killed by paramilitaries in January this year.

While in Camelias, we also visited a Biodiversity Zone. The Biodiversity Zones are areas set aside by the communities in an attempt to restore the forest to its condition before the agribusiness companies destroyed it. The task is daunting.  The agribusiness companies drained away much of the water that had sustained the trees and other plants.  We were shown a tiny bit of marsh which at one time had been a navigable stream. The companies introduced invasive plants that displace the natural flora. The community attempts to help the forest restore itself by weeding out some of the invasive species.


The agribusiness companies have a problem.  Oil palm is subject to a plant disease that has destroyed many of their plants.  (Thinking butterflies spread the disease, they killed off most of the butterflies in the region.)

Now they have discovered that a type of yuca, known as bitter yuca, can produce oil for biofuel.  It’s called bitter yuca because, after growing for about seven months, it is no longer edible.  Other types of yuca can grow for a couple years and become large while still being good to eat. Yuca is the Spanish word for cassava. It’s a staple food in Latin America and in parts of Africa.

While they have not given up on oil palm, the agribusiness companies are now promoting bitter yuca as a cash crop. Whatever their cash crop, those companies are destroying forests and stealing land.


In various places, we saw piles of lumber, evidence of ongoing forest destruction that accompanies the agribusiness operations.

Pan-American Highway

The Pan-American Highway stretches from Alaska to Panama.  And it goes from Colombia to Argentina.  But there is a gap where Panama meets Colombia. This is another part of the Bajo Atrato region, slightly north of where we were. The Uribe government of Colombia made it a priority to close that gap.  This mega-project will include a bridge across the Atrato River.  The communities in the area oppose the project with good reason.  The region where Colombia meets Panama is one of the most biodiverse places in the world.  National parks on both sides of the Panama/Colombia border seek to preserve the biodiversity. Until now, there have been no roads in the area, all travel being on foot or in boats. But we were told on this trip that Uribe convinced the new President of Panama and, in effect, it’s a done deal.  The environmental destruction will be enormous.

Mining and “Free-Trade”:

The Embera Indigenous people are trying to prevent mining companies from invading their land.  The Afro-Colombian and Mestizo communities we visited are also against those mining operations.  They live downstream and know the contamination from the mines would destroy the rivers on which they depend.

The two companies that want to mine copper, gold, and molybdenum on the Indigenous Reserve are Muriel and Rio Tinto.  Muriel is an obscure U.S. company.  Rio Tinto, a British and Australian company, is one of the largest mining companies in the world. Muriel is based in Denver, Colorado.  The U.S. headquarters of Rio Tinto are also in Denver.

Some parallels and personal conclusions:

The Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) was ratified in 2005.  It includes El Salvador along with the other Central American countries, the Dominican Republic, and the United States, but not Canada.  A Canadian company, called Pacific Rim, wants to mine for gold in El Salvador.  But the Salvadoran government, to protect its diminishing supply of usable water, has placed a moratorium on mining operations.  So Pacific Rim formed a subsidiary in Nevada and used that subsidiary to sue the government of El Salvador under the “investor protection” clause of CAFTA, claiming the loss of possible future profits.

The proposed “free-trade” agreement between Colombia and the United States has an “investor protection” clause similar to that in CAFTA and NAFTA.  If the U.S./Colombia trade deal is ratified by the U.S. Congress, I expect that it will be used to undermine the right of the Embera people to protect their home.  It will also further consolidate the land theft by agribusiness companies in the Curvaradó and Jiguamiandó river basins as well as in other parts of Colombia.

Please continue to tell your congressperson, your senators, and the Obama administration that you are against the U.S./ Colombia “free-trade” agreement.