Washington, DC Advocacy Trip a Success for Friends of Brad Will!

Planning to Stop ‘Plan Mexico’

November 8th, 2007 – Friends of Brad Will write: While Friends of Brad Will joined Brad’s family in D.C. to lobby for justice for his murder and for other people murdered in Oaxaca, Atenco and elsewhere, the Mexican authorities which Bush would like to lavish with ‘drug war’ money were busy arresting activists and mourners in Oaxaca.

Here is the report on our convergence on D.C.

The Friends of Brad Will advocacy trip on November 1st and 2nd to Washington, DC was a great success, thanks to our nation-wide network. Over 100 people took part in the wide spectrum of activities, events and lobbying that we organized to coincide with Dia de los Muertos commemoration. Our efforts gained in impact and poignancy, having family of Brad with us.

The two day whirlwind trip was slated to continue the effort to achieve justice in the murder of U.S. Journalist and activist Brad Will, end the impunity for human rights violations in Oaxaca and elsewhere and stop the proposed funding of a Bush/Calderon ‘Plan Mexico’ that would have disastrous consequences for the Mexican people.

Audio: Download the mp3 | 100 riders in Critical Mass protest Plan Mexico, then ride to Georgetown

Besides a full schedule of daily briefing and lobbying on the “Hill”, we conducted a press conference, organized a panel discussion with leading advocates, and held a demonstration.

We met with over 15 Congress Members and their staffs, mostly on the House Foreign Affairs committee. There were a variety of supportive responses by Congress people and we will be building on the unifying themes shared by Democrats and Republican alike, including that:

‘Plan Mexico’ was formed without input or consultation from Congress, it needs to be pealed off from the Iraq Appropriations Bill and considered as a stand alone item, and human rights concerns must take precedence over unaccountable militarization that would insert Blackwater-style mercenaries and practices into Mexico.

Most were familiar with the details of Brad Will, human rights violations in Mexico, and the fact that Mexico is second only to Iraq in danger to reporters. Although they are hearing us, many expressed clearly a need for reinforcement from the grassroots. In response to this request, we suggested that there should be no problem among our network to give them a much needed boost now for the week preceding the November 14th 2PM hearing to consider ‘Plan Mexico’. (see below)

We held a press conference in front of the Embassy of Mexico and met with high-level staff who emerged to see what the crowd was all about. One evening we organized a panel discussion with Amnesty International, Global Exchange, National Lawyers Guild, Beehive Collective and others. Parallels were made with ‘Plan Colombia’ and the verified deleterious impacts, which that militarization package has wrought. Military suppression and ecological devastation have gone hand in hand with “free trade” and corporate exploitation, according to the stunning poster by the Beehive Collective.

The culmination of the trip was a procession and demonstration in front of the Mexican Cultural Institute where a Frida Kahlo exhibition and celebration brought hundreds of the DC cognoscenti; artists, writers and people interested in Mexican politics and culture were in attendance. We gave out 1000 info/action fliers to seriously interested people. We seemed like a welcoming part of the gala event with the puppets, banners and a skull hat worn by one participant. The highlight was when the DC Critical Mass ride arrived, stopping their ride at the Mexican Consulate and joining our efforts against Plan Mexico and for Brad and others murdered.

ACTION: Plan Mexico should be opposed by those with the power to do so; that means, US. U.S. taxpayers and activists in a privileged place to talk to Congress and make our voices heard. Go to http://friendsofbradwill.org/tag/plan-mexico/ for next ACTION steps to stop Plan Mexico.

About 100 Critical Mass riders in D.C. joined a dozen or so advocates for a rally at the Mexican Embassy on November 2nd for Day of the Dead.

See you all in D.C. on November 14th to Stop Plan Mexico and demand justice for Brad Will.

Many thanks to the Human Rights Committee at St. Mark’s Church in Adams Morgan, D.C. for joining FoBW for advocacy efforts and meetings with Congress people. Their questioning of Plan Mexico will be due to your work and that of our entire network.

Special thanks to Ms. Sanchez and her 4th grade class for their interest in Oaxaca and stopping Plan Mexico!

And to our friends at the NLG!

sources: http://www.friendsofbradwill.org

One comment

  1. Report written by member of Friends of Brad Will who attended the recent hearing in D.C. on Plan Mexico. I believe the portion of the transcript provided below here includes the correction – mentioned in the report – of Assistant Secretary of State Shannon, at a moment in his testimony where he tried to confute the issue/s/ of narco-trafficking, organized crime and the murder of Brad.

    Report: Friends of Brad Will Launch Intervention at Congressional Hearing on Plan Mexico

    The House Commitee on Foreign Affairs meeting is met by protests.

    At the November 14th U.S. Congressional hearing on Plan Mexico, Friends of Brad Will shifted the talk from a 1.4 billion dollar package to bolster Mexico’s security against narco-trafficing to a discussion on Mexican government impunity to commit human rights abuses against pro-democracy dissidents, labor activists, and journalists. At five different times during the hearing, Friends of Brad Will “corrected” Thomas Shannon, Assistant Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs for Western Hemisphere Affairs, and David Johnson, from the Bureau of Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs. Friends of Brad Will argued that giving a military aid package to the Mexican government would lead to more human rights abuses like ones that have occurred along the U.S./Mexican border, Atenco, Chiapas, and Oaxaca, where Brad Will died covering the people’s movement against Governor Ruiz.

    Mr. Shannon began his speech by saying, “He (President Calderon) is reorganizing the federal police, putting new and additional resources in the hands of his security services, deploying military units to support police operations, rooting out corrupt officials, attacking –.” Friends of Brad Will interjected, “Civilians in Oaxaca!” Some members of the crowd laughed, including high school students on a field trip, before Chairman Lantos called for order. After a warning and another intervention where a member of FoBW told the story of journalist Brad Will’s murder in Oaxaca, that member of our network was removed by a police officer and released outside of the hearing.

    Other Congressman in the room began to join in with the criticism as well. The presence of the demonstrators seemed to empower others to make their voices heard. Many in the room echoed the demonstrators concerns over human rights abuses and argued that drug abuse should be curbed through public education at the point of consumption instead of at the point of production, where many join drug cartels due to poverty.

    Representative Scott raised the question, ” What’s going on with the journalists? How many have been killed? And have there been any American journalists killed?” As Mr. Shannon replied, accusing drug cartels of killing Brad Will, a Friend of Brad Will named Brandon Jourdan corrected him, “Oh you mean the PRI, Pristas, policemen without uniforms linked to the government?” Representative Engel called for order and Jourdan complied. Audience members again chuckled and Shannon’s tone became nervous.

    After a brief recess, the hearing continued and so did the interventions. Mr. Shannon and Mr. Johnson continued their rhetoric on drug enforcement, but began to increasingly talk about human rights in response to protesters and inquiries from disgruntled Congressmen. As Shannon began a lengthy discussion on how Plan Mexico would help with human rights, another member of the audience – a close friend of Brad Will – again brought up Will’s death, the impunity of Mexican police and military to commit acts of aggression, and the past problems with the militarization of Mexico. After refusing to comply with Representative Engel’s call for order, she was removed from the hearing.

    Due to the interventions from several Friends of Brad Will, the hearing on the Plan Mexico was turned into a hearing on human rights in Mexico. Plan Mexico has received widespread criticism from human rights and labor groups, such as the United Steelworkers.



    Let me just ask briefly a few questions, though. What’s going on with the
    journalists? How many have been killed? And have there been any American
    journalists killed?

    MR. SHANNON: I’ll get you the exact number of journalists killed, but
    it’s significant. And there have been American journalists killed, some of
    which we heard today in this room regarding the case of Brad Will.

    Violence against journalists in Mexico is a big problem, not just for
    the larger profession of journalism, but for what Mexico is attempting to
    do in fighting organized crime, because much of the violence against
    journalism and journalists is directed by organized crime. And it has a purpose,
    and that is to —

    AUDIENCE MEMBERS: (Off mike.)

    REP. ENGEL: Excuse me. The chair notes that there is a disturbance of
    the committee proceedings. May I ask anyone in the audience to please
    cease. If not, that person will be removed.


    MR. SHANNON: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

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