**Take Action to demand that the U.S. government stop denying visas to opposition voices!**
On Thursday 20, the U.S. Embassy in El Salvador denied Salvadoran union leader Maria de los Angeles Pleitez Carcamo a visa to come on a speaking tour of the U.S. Pleitez is scheduled to participate in CISPES’s “We Are Not Terrorists, Organizing is Our Right!” tour from Oct 16-31. During the tour Pleitez will talk about her union’s work to stop the privatization of the public health care system and the increasing repression that social movement and union leaders are suffering from the Salvadoran government.
On the morning of September 20, Pleitez went to the U.S. Consulate in San Salvador and presented all of her documents, including proof of work, family ties, and over a dozen letters of invitation from Congressional Representatives and other community groups. In the visa interview, the U.S. consular representative questioned Pleitez about her ties to CISPES and her union work. The official rejection letter cited lack of “economic and social ties” to El Salvador, but the interviewing officer made it clear that the rejection was a political decision when he concluded the interview, saying “this is very delicate situation you cannot travel because we need to protect U.S. security.”
Pleitez believes she was denied the visa because the U.S. government does not want people in the United States to know about repression against the social movement and union leaders in El Salvador. Pleitez is a national leader in the Salvadoran General Hospitals Union (SIGEESAL), and SIGEESAL has recently been targeted for its work to stop privatization. On September 4, eight SIGEESAL members were illegally arrested for participating in a demonstration against the privatization of the national health care system. A number of other organizations have also been attacked for their activism recently. In July, 14 people were arrested in Suchitoto for participating in a peaceful protest against the privatization of water. Those protesters are being charged with “terrorist acts” and face up to 60 years of prison. The SIGEESAL activists are being charged with public disorder and could also face years in prison.
The U.S. Embassy in El Salvador is contributing to the repression of the social movement and union organizing by denying this visa and not allowing Ms. Pleitez to tell their stories in the United States As long as the U.S. government is supporting this repression in El Salvador it is critical that communities in the U.S. be allowed to meet with people like Pleitez to share experiences and build common strategies. The only “danger” we face is allowing the government to keep us uninformed! Take action to demand that the U.S. Consulate grant Ms. Pleitez a visa immediately.
1. Write to the Consul General of the US Embassy in El Salvador to demand that Pleitez immediately be granted a visa. Write to Carl Cockburn, Consul General -Fax: 011(503)2278-5522, or e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org (see below for sample fax)
2. Report back on your discussion or send a copy of your message and any reply to the CISPES National Office: email@example.com.
COMMITTEE IN SOLIDARITY WITH THE PEOPLE OF EL SALVADOR
1525 Newton St NW, Washington DC, 20010 202-521-2510 FAX: 202-332-3339 firstname.lastname@example.org
* Organizations and Unions, please send letter on institutional letterhead.
To: Carl S. Cockburn, Consul General
US Embassy, El Salvador
September 20, 2007
Dear Mr. Carl S. Cockburn,
I am writing to express my concern about your office’s decision to deny Ms. Maria de los Angeles Pleitez Carcamo her visa on September 20. Ms. Pleitez has been invited to tour the United States this fall, and she has gone through all the appropriate steps to secure a visa to enter the U.S. She appeared at the Embassy with the necessary documentation, including written invitations from U.S. Congressional Representatives, unions, and other organizations, as well as proof of her multiple years of employment in El Salvador.
All of this evidence is more than enough to prove Ms. Pleitez’s ties to El Salvador, and therefore I question the official letter of denial stating that she has not proven ties to El Salvador (under section 214(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act.) CISPES, the organization inviting Ms. Pleitez for the tour, has been organizing events like these for over 27 years and has never had anyone overstay their visa.
In fact, the statements of the Consul General – that Ms. Pleitez can not travel to the U.S. “for the security of the country” – make the political dimensions of the decision obvious. In her role as a union leader Ms. Pleitez and her fellow union members have been targets of recent police repression and arrests due to their resistance to government privatization plans, and the U.S. government has apparently decided to further silence those who express opposition to government policy.
It is shameful that the U.S. government, through the Consul General’s office, is denying people in the U.S. the right to learn directly from Salvadorans about the issues facing worker people in Latin America. I insist that Ms. Pleitez be issued a visa immediately so that she can arrive in the U.S. in time for the October tour.
Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.