Under the theme “Fight Back, Fight For,” the 5th National Latino Congreso took place in Austin Texas. Previous congresses were hosted in Los Angeles California, and El Paso Texas.
From the 25th to the 27th of March, organizations from across the United States gathered to discuss important issues that affect Latino communities at a time when newly released census data shows that the Hispanic population in the US grew 43 percent during the past decade to 50.5 million people. Delegates representing a wide range of organizations converged to discuss cuts in education, immigration laws, green energy, the voter ID bill, the Dream Act and the latest developments in Latin America.
Convener organizations included the Hispanic Federation, (HF), Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA), League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), Mexican American Political Association (MAPA), National Alliance of Latin American and Caribbean Communities (NALACC), National Hispanic Environmental Council (NHEC), Southwest Voter Registration Education Project (SVREP), and the William C. Velasquez Institute (WCVI).
The National Latino Congreso was endorsed by a number of elected officials but this year the event was characterized primarily by a multitude of grassroots organizations raising issues directly affecting their communities. Hundreds of delegates participated in plenaries, workshops and educational and cultural events. Additionally, attendees were able to visit tables and receive information from participant organizations.
A number of resolutions were presented, discussed and voted on during the two days of the Congress.
As in previous years, the International Committee for the Freedom of the Cuban 5 was one of the endorsers of the National Latino Congreso. A new comprehensive display, that explains and illustrates who the Five are and the ongoing struggle to free them, attracted lots of attention as delegates walked through the halls where tables were set up. The International Committee’s table was filled with literature about the case including the latest report by Amnesty International that calls for Obama to pardon the Cuban Five. Many of the delegates visiting the table were learning about the case for the first time and most of them signed up to get information and updates.
On Saturday, hundreds of delegates gathered at St. Edward University to participate in a plenary session on immigration reform, Latin America and drug policy reform.
Amongst the presenters of the plenary was Porfirio Muñoz Ledo, President of the Foreign Relation Commission of Mexico City’s Federal District.
At the end of the plenary an important number of resolutions were brought up to the floor for discussion. The first resolution presented and approved by the delegates was one about US-Latin America relations authored by Antonio Gonzalez President of the William C. Velazquez Institute. As one of the action steps the resolution calls for an end of the blockade against Cuba, and the repeal of laws and regulations, such as the Helms-Burton Act of March 1996. Two other resolutions approved by delegates called for the extradition of Luis Posada Carriles to the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and asked President Barack Obama to take Cuba off the list of countries that sponsor terrorism. Delegates were made aware of the irony that in the same state Posada Carriles was on trial in El Paso accused of lying to immigration authorities instead of being tried for his long history of criminal acts.
Additionally another resolution that passed asked the National Latino Congreso to send a letter to President Obama insisting on the immediate release of the Cuba Five political prisoners held in the United States. The second action item of this same resolution urged the US to comply with international laws allowing for the right of regular visits for the families of all prisoners, including the immediate
granting of humanitarian visas to Adriana Perez and to Olga Salanueva in order that they may visit their husbands Gerardo Hernandez and Rene Gonzalez, respectively.
After the plenary session delegates had the opportunity to watch the new documentary by Saul Landau on the long history of US sponsored terror against Cuba entitled “Will the Real Terrorist please Stand Up!” Nelson Valdez, Emeritus Professor of Sociology at the University of New Mexico, who is featured in the movie, followed with comments and answered questions from the audience. Valdes has written extensively on the politics and development in Cuba, Venezuela and elsewhere in Latin America.
Bringing the case of the Cuban Five to annual events such as the National Latino Congreso is an important way to raise awareness about the injustice committed against these 5 heroic men whose only crime was to defend the right of the Cuban people to live in peace with dignity.