Current Issues

Current hot item globally — New York Court Case, Argentina debt and Vulture Fund.  Below is a summary from Jubilee USA

Yesterday, February 28th, Jubilee USA stood with the poor and against vulture funds at the New York 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals – the last stop before the Supreme Court. We vigiled outside and observed with hundreds of people packed in the court and several overflow rooms. Over the past 24 hours, hundreds of media outlets covered the story and featured the arguments of Jubilee USA. In addition to Jubilee USA’s vigil outside the US Court, Jubilee South organized an amazing demonstration in Buenos Aires and Jubilee Debt Campaign banged pots and pans outside the doors of the London office of the lead vulture fund, NML Capital.

Eric LeCompte, Executive Director of Jubilee USA, issued this statement on the deep global ramifications that this ruling will have on the world’s poorest:

“If the judges rule in favor of these hedge funds, it will mean these funds will more aggressively target poor countries in fragile financial recovery. If they rule with Argentina, it will mean that it will be harder for these types of funds to exploit countries in financial distress. The actions of NML Capital and Aurelius Capital hurt legitimate investors and poor people.”

“Judges at the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will issue their ruling in the coming weeks. We pray that they will side with the people of Argentina, the US Government and the world’s poorest people.”

Reports on two recent activities Jubilee Oregon has be involved with…

First Presbyterian Church, Portland’s Jubilee Sunday, October 14, 2012

First Presbyterian’s Jubilee Sunday speakers, Reginald “Reggie” Lizieu of Haiti and Jubilee Oregon’s Chair, Bob Brown, in a Minute for Mission from the pulpit, invited members of the congregation to “just give me one minute of your time” and “come hear about all the exciting things Jubilee USA Network and Jubilee Oregon are doing,” respectively.  Following a powerfully relevant sermon delivered by Rev. Charles Svendsen on wealth and poverty entitled “Last to First” referencing Job 38:1-7 and Mark 10:17-31, 30 participants did just that in an after-worship Jubilee Sunday event, beginning with a sit-down catered gourmet luncheon. 

Reggie Lizieu, a Portland Community College and medical program student and member of Westminster Presbyterian, began by telling about his upbringing in Haiti and what it is like to live in the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere.  People were thankful, he said, to get just one meal a day.  Listeners were noticeably moved. Reggie then reviewed Haiti’s debt history, beginning with debt imposed by France in exchange for freedom from slavery.  He talked about political instability and corruption, more debt, and the devastating earthquake.  He thanked Jubilee USA Network for working successfully for cancellation of Haiti’s international and U.S. debt.  He talked about fighting the lingering cholera epidemic, addressing the refugee problem, and the need to cancel Haiti’s new debt obligations so that rebuilding can occur. He praised USAID for helping to train youth in anti-corruption strategies. Reggie ended on a note of hope: hope because the Haitian people are resilient; abiding hope because people here can join together by praying and caring about Haiti, by writing letters and advocating for Haiti.

Bob Brown, member of Havurah Shalom, began his talk by referring to worsening global economic challenges, wealth disparity, and international debt in the Global South and now in the Global North.  He noted the debt owed by the U.S. and the Global North to countries in the Global South for contributing to global warming.  Bob reviewed the work of Jubilee USA Network and illustrated many ways in which it was making a difference in advocacy and public policy, working in a bipartisan fashion. Bob, who has distinguished himself leading Jubilee Oregon by partnering with many local economic justice groups and causes, talked about Jubilee Oregon’s partners — from Jubilee Zambia and a group advocating for fair international trade agreements, to those working on mortgage debt and student debt (a class at Portland State University), to work with local fair trade organizations.  Bob invited those present to get more involved to help carry on this important work. 

Members of the congregation asked several questions answered by Reggie and Bob.  A final question was on what difference it has made since Jim Yong Kim, physician, anthropologist and recent President of Dartmouth College, became head of the World Bank.  Although it was deemed too soon to know, the question is ripe for observing and answering as time passes.  The audience applauded for the third time in appreciation, and took with them a number of Jubilee informational handouts for future reference.  

Daisy Rojas’ Reflections on Cuba

Roberta Badger-Cain
Bob Brown
Jubilee Oregon

Daisy Rojas’ simultaneously translated presentation, “Cuba, the People, the Embargo and the Economy,” held at Central Lutheran Church, Portland, Oregon, on October 9, 2012, held some surprises and important little-known information. Co-sponsored by Jubilee Oregon, Witness for Peace NW and Portland Central American Solidarity Committee, 55 people were in attendance, filling the room.  The atmosphere was electric!

The ease in which Daisy and her superb translator, Diego Benitez, communicated, showed that they had much experience as a team.  Never dull and sometimes funny, Daisy weaved and danced, gesticulated, and was, intermittently, serious and intense, smiling and laughing. 

Several things surprised Roberta Badger-Cain, Jubilee Oregon and First Presbyterian Church member:

  1. In the days of colonial occupation of Cuba, the entire native population that inhabited Cuba was destroyed – every man, woman and child.  The Spanish who brought in slaves mainly from South Africa and Namibia following the discovery of gold on the island, together remained.  Residents of Cuba are either Spanish or Creole (Spanish – African mix).  Learning this, it was good to hear that despite some racial difficulties, Cubans before and since the revolution, live in strong solidarity.
  1. Recently, Raul Castro, further easing governmental authoritarianism, asked the Cuban people for their suggestions for changes needed for Cuba.  His administration declared they would consider all recommendations.  Daisy reported that thousands of critiques/suggestions have been pouring in.  This move may have been made so that the “brain drain” that has been going on for some time, slows, ceases, and ideally, even turns around so that Cubans repatriated in Canada, the U.S., or Spain, may begin to consider returning some day. But for whatever reason, such a request is nothing short of miraculous, especially for a communistic, albeit modified, system.
  1. Having Daisy corroborate the bitter-sweet results of more capitalistic social, economic and political practices in recent years, it shouldn’t have been surprising to learn that Cuba has severe exit restrictions on those leaving; basically, once a Cuban leaves, he/she is not allowed to return.  But I was amazed. Thinking about it, fear of returnees bringing back more negative than positive influences from capitalistic cultures seems plausible.  So imagine my renewed surprise to pick up the New York Times (October 17, 2012) and see a front page article entitled, “Easing Path Out of Country, Cuba Is Dropping Exit Visas”! Even with a caveat, and despite the ongoing hardships of the U.S. embargo and world economic challenges, I am happy for Daisy Rojas and the Cuban people.  May freedom with justice be upon them.   

Bob Brown, Chair of Jubilee Oregon and member of Havurah Shalom, reflected on his visit with Daisy and on what she discussed in her talk:   

  1. The room was filled with interest and enthusiasm.  There is so much interest in Cuba and it continues to amaze me that, after 50 years, we still enforce an embargo with a country that is so close to us. In some ways, however, the embargo has made the people and the institutions stronger and more resilient. Daisy reported that there is much to be thankful for in Cuba: 90% literacy rate, women’s’ equality, an education system that is free through college, a medical system that provides excellent care to everyone (although there are some issues with getting drugs and other supplies because of the embargo).
  2. There is change in the wind in Cuba – especially around the economic systems of the country. The “class-less” society of Cuba is opening opportunities for economic reform. People can now own property, business can form without government controls and individuals are encouraged to participate more in a market economy. My question to Daisy was about protecting the values of equality and community as the country moves into a more market driven culture.  Daisy’s answer to this question was that she agreed that there were risks in this cultural shift. Upon reflection, I feel there are big risks but that if there are people like Daisy in leadership roles in Cuba, the systems will adapt in ways to maintain some of the virtues of their society. Time will tell. I hope this is not just wishful thinking.

Our brief time with Daisy and Diego was so enriching to us. We are thankful to Witness for Peace NW for sponsoring Daisy and for all the welcome and support our Portland community demonstrated to our guests. We have much to learn from Cuba and I now have two friends who I hope to visit soon.

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