ACTION ALERT: Colombian Stowaways in Portland, OR
Two Colombian stowaways are in Emanuel Hospital in Portland, OR, after surviving a horrendous two-week journey in a ship's rudder compartment. The Portland-based Peace in Colombia Action Group is calling for letters of support and solidarity to be sent to these men at the hospital.
Three Colombian stowaways were discovered April 26th near the Port of Vancouver. The two surviving Colombians remain at the Legacy Emanuel Hospital in Portland, Oregon. The INS has posted security at the hospital until these men can be released by a doctor, into federal custody. One of the two men is in staying in the trauma unit, and the other in the intensive care unit.
Peace in Colombia Action Group (PICAG), a Portland-based group that works for a peaceful solution to the war in Colombia, has begun a small campaign on behalf of these men. The INS is NOT allowing us to visit the men or have any direct contact. According to Ed Sale, PR spokesman for the Portland INS office, this is standard procedure, but Sale could not offer any other reason for this restriction. He did, however, assure us that it is OK to bring them things, the same as you would for any other person in the hospital.
PICAG is encouraging all Latin America solidarity activists to send cards and letters of support to these men, letting them know that they are not alone and that we care about their well-being. Obviously, letters in Spanish are better, but English is OK too.
Valerie Riggs, unit manager for the Emanuel trauma unit has agreed to be the mail contact for the two men. i.e., people can send cards and letters to her, and she will make sure that BOTH men get them. (Please send TWO of each card and letter, because the two men are not together.) Address them to:
"Anonymous Colombian Patient #1" and
"Anonymous Colombian Patient #2"
c/o Valerie Riggs
2801 N. Gantenbein
Portland, OR 97227.
The two men's names may be released to the media soon, at which point we will be able to direct mail to them more easily. (Activists, please be aware, although the INS is being their usual obstructionist selves, the staff at Emanuel have been very cooperative, so please be nice to them!)
Kathleen Juergens, PICAG member who is heading up this solidarity campaign, would like to "encourage people to pass around cards, in your workplace, church group, wherever you can. I think even if we write messages in English, the intent will be understood. Maybe this seems like a token gesture, but I remember being in jail myself (under much less traumatic circumstances than our Colombian brothers) and what a HUGE difference it made to get messages of hope and encouragement from the outside."
Aside from letters, which we have been told by a few sources will be extremely appreciated, the Colombians have arrived in Portland with absolutely nothing. They need basic items such as socks, underwear and other clothing. Spanish-language books, magazines, videos, etc., might help take their minds off being injured and in pain. And flowers and candy are always a nice gesture! Portland-based supporters should stop by Emanuel Hospital to drop items off. Out-of-town supporters can mail packages to the men, or contact PICAG to coordinate donations.
As soon as we have a chance to coordinate with the men's lawyer, we will have a better idea of how we can help support them politically. We will probably begin soliciting monetary donations. In the meantime, messages of support and solidarity are very important!
Three men, who stowed away on April 12th in the coastal Colombian town of Buenaventura, were discovered in their hideaway early April 26th near Vancouver,WA, after inspectors heard a pounding sound coming from the rudder area. The survivors were suffering from dehydration, malnutrition and exposure.
A third stowaway died during the trip while hidden on the Sammi Herald, a 560-foot ship headed for the Port of Vancouver. One of the survivors identified the man as Armando Vinero, stating that the man had been dead five days. The Colombian Consulate in San Francisco has been alerted so that it could notify the man's relatives.
As of Wednesday afternoon, INS officials were able to conduct interviews with both survivors. These men are receiving treatment at the Legacy Emanuel Hospital & Health Center. One man is in fair medical condition and is staying in the trauma unit. The other man remains in serious condition after receiving surgery to reduce swelling in his feet and legs and is staying in the intensive care unit.
Kathleen's thoughts regarding Colombia Activism were "Unfortunately, this does not take the place of the political work we need to be doing, especially responding to the action alerts from Colombia. But this is an opportunity to reach out directly to some of the victims of the war in Colombia, and try to make a difference in their lives. Even without knowing the details of these men's stories, I think we can safely assume that they were suffering horribly, to make a 2-week journey in a ship's rudder compartment seem like a preferable alternative to their lives in Colombia."
Peace in Colombia Action Group (PICAG)
Kim Alphandary - firstname.lastname@example.org
Kathleen Juergens - email@example.com
Dead stowaway tentatively identified, 05/01/02
INS quizzes stowaway, places him in custody, 04/30/02
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