The first section summarizes church statements and actions collectively dealing with several Central American countries during the 1980s and 1990s, often referred to as the Central American Crisis. Separate country-specific content follows and summarizes church statements and actions in response to particular situations within that country. They are: Chile, Cuba, Dominican Republic and Guatemala.
Select actions of the church regarding justice and human rights in Central American countries in the 1980s and 1990s
1992: General Assembly commended the Government of Canada for steps taken to bring gross and systematic abusers of human rights to account in Guatemala and for participation in and support of a UN observer mission in El Salvador. General Assembly asked the Canadian government to take further steps including: directing Canadian aid through Canadian and Guatemalan NGOs (to avoid corruption); urging the Honduran government to respect international labour laws, urging the U.S. government to accept full responsibility for post-invasion reparations; communicating concern for a worsening human rights situation in Costa Rica to the Costa Rican government; to encouraging the El Salvadorian government to implement peace accord provisions and pressing the US government to transfer its military aid funds to a peace fund; increasing material support to Nicaragua for post-war rebuilding, maintaining an open door to Central American refugees and linking aid and development money with human rights performances. (A&P 1992, pp. 344-356, 42)
1990: General Assembly called on the Government of Canada and its consular officials to support all peaceful efforts by Central Americans to achieve self-determination and justice, to consider applications to enter Canada, especially from El Salvador, to assist Nicaraguan efforts to rebuild its economy, and to press for substantial assistance to Nicaragua from the US government, including the disbanding of contra forces. (A&P 1990, pp. 392-4, 62,557,38). Context Note: In 1979, a revolutionary movement overthrew the Nicaraguan dictatorship and, in elections held the following year, became the governing party in Nicaragua, engaging in a significant program of social reform. Similar movements were active in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. The US administration provided economic and military assistance both to the Nicaraguan forces opposed to the new government (the “contras”) and to the governments of other Central American countries who opposed not only armed revolutionary movements, but also civil society movements committed to peaceful change, democracy and human rights.
1988: General Assembly sent solidarity letters to partners in El Salvador and called on the Canadian government to: distance itself from U.S. policy providing arms assistance to the military struggle and to continue efforts for peace in El Salvador; direct aid to El Salvador and Nicaragua through non-governmental agencies (NGOs); and increase aid to Nicaragua; advocate for a change in U.S. policy on Nicaragua in the direction of a negotiated settlement and non-interference; urge Nicaraguan support for a negotiated settlement in El Salvador; and condemn any interventionist policy of the Soviet Union. (A&P 1988, pp. 364-366, 35, 51)
1986: General Assembly expressed its concern to President Jose Napoleon Duarte of El Salvador over recent political detentions and called on Presbyterians to give refuge to those fleeing oppression, to be aware of situations which provoke people to flee their homelands and to “be faithful to the demands of the Lord for compassion, justice and peace.” General Assembly encouraged the Government of Canada to establish an embassy in Nicaragua and to encourage the U.S., Cuba and Soviet Union to terminate their military involvement in Nicaragua. (A&P 1986, pp. 370-373, 56)
1985: General Assembly commended the Canadian government for its support of the Contadora process (a diplomatic initiative which sought to stabilize the situation in Nicaragua, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras through a Latin-American led diplomatic effort facilitated by Mexico, Venezuela, Colombia and Panama who served as mediators in the negotiations) and asked that it offer to become a signatory of the treaty. (A&P 1985, pp. 347-348, 33)
1983: General Assembly declared its belief that foreign intervention in Central America, at the level then practiced by the United States only makes a bad situation worse, inhibiting rather than encouraging the growth of just societies. General Assembly encouraged the Canadian government to dissociate itself from military action in the region and to support negotiations to end the civil war in El Salvador. The initiative of the Presbytery of Montreal in sending a delegation to Central America was commended and comparable action by other presbyteries was recommended. (A&P 1983, pp. 374, 79)
1982: General Assembly urged the Government of Canada to pursue a Central and South American policy that would work toward alleviating social injustice, restoring human rights and easing east-west tensions. (A&P 1982, pp. 375, 76)
1974: The International Affairs Committee reported to General Assembly that it had consulted with the Government of Canada on behalf of Chilean refugees (Pinochet toppled the government in 1974). (A&P 1974, p. 285)
1996: General Assembly sent greetings to the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Cuba, along with prayers for their faith and work in a time of change and challenge. General Assembly stated its support of the Canadian governments objections to United States legislation (the aim of which was to penalize non-American corporations whose trade with Cuba supposedly benefited from Cuba’s seizure of American properties – the Canadian government’s objections were based on the economic hardship already imposed on the Cuban people by American trade sanctions and the extra-territorial reach of this legislation.) (A&P 1996, pp. 278-294, 48-49)
2016: The 142nd GA recommended that the Moderator write to Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs expressing The PCC’s concern about the treatment and deportation of Haitians living in the Dominican Republic and particularly those impacted by the 2013 decision of the Dominican Constitutional Tribunal which stripped Juliana Deguis Pierre of her citizenship, and request that GOC officials raise these concerns with Dominican Republic government officials (IAC 11.1.5) The Moderator wrote to the Ambassador of the Dominican Republic to Canada urging the Government of the Dominican Republic to discontinue revoking citizenship of people of Haitian descent impacted by the 2013 decision of the Dominican Constitutional Tribunal. (A&P 2016, pp. 306-314, 23)
2016: General Assembly wrote to Guatemalan partners inquiring about the impact of their governments support for the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and urging the Canadian government to encourage the Government of Guatemala to implement the Declaration. (A&P 2016, pp. 306-314, 23)
1996: General Assembly asked the Canadian government for continued pressure on the Guatemalan government to honour human rights accords it has signed and for the continued funding of two political officers in its embassy in Guatemala, one of whom has specific responsibilities for monitoring human rights. Context note: Guatemala’s military still exerted a strong influence that protected military officers from criminal prosecution on human rights charges. Political harassment, kidnappings, torture and assassinations were still common. A minister of the Kakchiquel Presbytery had been kidnapped, tortured and killed in July 1995. His successor narrowly escaped a kidnapping. For a time, the Presbyterian Church in Canada provided his widow with accompaniment by a Canadian volunteer to assure her safety. (A&P 1996, pp. 292-294, 49)