Latin America Working Group
Melinda St. Louis, President
Melinda St. Louis is the International Campaigns Director at Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch and former Deputy Director of Jubilee USA. She holds a master's degree in Public Policy from Georgetown University in Washington D.C. From 2002-2004, she worked in the WFP national office as Advocacy and Campaigns Coordinator, where she helped develop WFP's stateside campaigns on trade justice, peace in Colombia, and ending the Cuban embargo. From 2000-2002, Melinda served on WFP's International Team in Nicaragua, leading delegations and analyzing the constantly changing reality for labor organizing in Nicaragua's Free Trade Zones for U.S. labor solidarity groups. Prior to her tenure at WFP, Melinda was the Mid-Atlantic regional organizer for the Campaign for Labor Rights and Coordinator of the Latin America Emergency Response Network.
Shaina Aber-Hanson, Secretary/Treasurer
Shaina Aber-Hanson is the Policy Director at the U.S. Jesuit Conference, Office of Social and International Ministries, supporting and empowering U.S. Jesuits and the Ignatian family in areas of social justice concern. In this role, she advocates on matters of social and international relevance before the U.S. government and corporate institutions, coordinating efforts aimed at fulfilling the social justice mission of the Jesuit Provincials of the United States in collaboration with over 200 U.S.-based Jesuit institutions in addition to individual Jesuit-affiliated social ministry efforts and Jesuit-affiliated works abroad. For six years she served as Associate Advocacy Director for Jesuit Refugee Service/USA, where she was responsible for leading the organization’s advocacy efforts aimed at improving the lives of refugees and the forcibly displaced in Latin America and the Caribbean, and analyzing the impact of U.S. asylum, detention and deportation policies. In 2006, she co-authored a study entitled Unintended Consequences: Refugee Victims of the War on Terror, published in the Georgetown University Journal for International Law, examining the effects of the USA Patriot and Real I.D. Acts on Colombian refugees seeking durable solutions in Ecuador. Shaina holds a J.D. and Special Certificate in Refugee and Humanitarian Emergencies from Georgetown University Law Center and a B.A. in Latin American Studies from Macalester College, where she published an honors thesis on Race Relations in Cuba Before and After the Revolution.
Gary L. Cozette is the Program Director of the Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America (CRLN), a 600-member network of both lay and clergy leaders who together work for human rights, justice and peace in Latin America. Prior to this, Gary served as a Presbyterian Church (USA) lay mission worker in El Salvador from 1984-1987 doing human rights reporting from the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of San Salvador to an ecumenical urgent action network in North America. Gary has led over 30 delegations of religious and community leaders to Latin America, including delegations to El Salvador with three current members of Congress from Illinois (1989), Cuba with the Illinois Conference of Churches (2000), and Colombia with Chicago area African-American leaders (2003). Previously, Gary has served on the Board of Governors of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) as well as the board of CRISPAZ in El Salvador. Gary lives in Chicago with his domestic partner of 16 years, Joseph M. Lada.
Louis Head is Facilitator of the South by Southwest Experiment, a partnership between established grassroots social justice organizations in New Mexico, Texas and Mississippi. He holds a BA in Political Economy from the University of Michigan, where he also organized one of the first Central America solidarity organizations in the United States. From 1982-1998 he helped build the NM-based SouthWest Organizing Project, and presently is a board member of that organization. He then co-founded and directed the Cuba Research and Analysis Group, which engaged in a variety of exchange and applied research efforts related to Cuba and US-Cuba relations. In 2004, CRAG initiated US-Cuba Cultural Exchange, a national network of artists and arts presenters that worked successfully to maintain performance as a category of legal travel to Cuba, and then to re-open cultural pathways between the two countries. During 2009-10, he served on the National Planning Committee of the U.S. Social Forum and coordinated global south participation at the 2010 USSF in Detroit. He brings with him a wealth of experience related to U.S.-Latin America relations, including those between Latin American social justice movements and organizations and their U.S. counterparts.
Jess Hunter-Bowman is the Associate Director of Witness for Peace, a 20,000-strong grassroots organization dedicated to building U.S. policies that support peace, justice and sustainable economies in the Americas. Jess previously worked at the U.S. Office on Colombia as the Senior Associate, directing the Public Education Program and supporting the Advocacy Program. From 1998 to 2002, Jess served as a member of the Witness for Peace International Team. He worked on the Guatemala program and co-founded both the Mexico and Colombia programs. He has been published in the Miami Herald, the Providence Journal and other papers and is the author of a chapter in the book Children of the Drug War.
Theo Sitther is the Senior Legislative Associate for International Affairs at the Mennonite Central Committee Washington Office. He leads MCC’s advocacy initiatives on U.S. foreign policy related to Latin America, Asia, and trade issues. On Latin America, he has promoted attention to peace building in Colombia, worked for generous US aid to post-earthquake Haiti, along with greater aid accountability and transparency, and helped lead interfaith coalition efforts for fairer trade policies. Prior to joining MCC, Theo was a lobbyist and draft counselor for the Center on Conscience and War. He is completing a Master’s degree in peacebuilding and conflict transformation from Eastern Mennonite University and has a Bachelor’s degree in biblical studies from Eastern University
Vanessa Kritzer is the Online Campaigns Manager at the League of Conservation Voters, which works to turn environmental values into national priorities. For three years prior to joining LCV in June 2012, Vanessa worked on program and communications with us at the Latin America Working Group. In her time at LAWG, Vanessa helped pioneer new programs in social media and online-to-offline organizing to strengthen our efforts on the Stand by Colombia's Victims of Violence campaign. Prior to her work with us, Vanessa was a Canvass Director for the DNC field campaign during the 2008 elections and worked in the Dominican Republic in 2007 for the women's empowerment project Tú, Mujer. Vanessa graduated from Vassar College with a degree in Latin American and Latino/a studies and Political Science. She brings to the LAWG board her strong passion for human rights and her belief in the power of storytelling and technology to unite people for change.
Latin America Working Group Education Fund
Carolyn Gallaher, President
Carolyn Gallaher is an associate professor in the School of International Service at American University. She teaches courses on Human Geography, Latin American Politics, and Political Violence. Professor Gallaher frequently takes student groups to Mexico. Carolyn's research is closely aligned with her teaching interests. She studies patterns of political violence,and has done extensive research on the Zapatistas in Mexico, the UVF in Northern Ireland, and the U.S. Militia Movement. Her recent book, On the Fault Line: Race, Class, and the American Patriot Movement, chronicles the Kentucky State Militia from 1997-2002.
Bernice Romero, Secretary/Treasurer
Bernice Romero is the Senior Director of Humanitarian Policy and Advocacy at Save the Children US. Prior to that post, Bernice was Advocacy Director for Oxfam International, where she advocated for debt relief and cancellation, fair trade policies, disaster relief and sustainable aid programs. Save the Children aims to inspire breakthroughs in the way the world treats children, and to achieve lasting change in their lives by improving their health, education and economic opportunities. In times of crisis, Save the Children also mobilizes rapid assistance to help children recover from the effects of war, conflict and natural disasters. Bernice lends her expertise in advocating for just global policies to the LAWGEF board.
Todd A. Eisenstadt
Todd A. Eisenstadt teaches political science at American University’s Department of Government. He directs a USAID Higher Education and Development Program grant: “Uniting Law and Society in Oaxaca, Mexico: A Research and Teaching Program” and is finishing a related manuscript “Indians by Choice: Traditional Societies and the State in Southern Mexico.” He is also the author of Courting Democracy in Mexico: Party Strategies and Electoral Institutions (Cambridge University Press, 2004), and academic work, op-ed columns, and policy papers on Mexico’s democratization, U.S.-Mexico relations, and border immigration issues. Formerly an award-winning "police beat" reporter at the Nashville Tennessean, Eisenstadt has conducted research throughout Mexico, as well as in Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, and Peru. He got his PhD at the University of California-San Diego and spent two years as visiting professor of international relations at El Colegio de México.
Martin Shupack is Church World Service’s Director of Advocacy in Washington, DC. Church World Service is a global humanitarian aid agency and ministry of 36 Protestant, Orthodox and Anglican denominations in the United States, working with local organizations worldwide to support sustainable development, meet emergency needs, help the displaced, and address the root causes of poverty, hunger and powerlessness. Prior to coming to Washington in 1995, Marty and his family served with Mennonite Central Committee in Mexico City. Before that he served in pastoral ministry in Illinois for many years. Marty is married and has three children, and is a member of the Mennonite Church. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois and Harvard Law School.
Jeanne Lemkau is a psychologist, writer, and Professor Emerita of Family Medicine and Community Health at Wright State University School of Medicine in Dayton, Ohio. She holds a doctorate in clinical psychology and a master’s in creative non-fiction writing. In the early 1970s she served with the Peace Corps in rural Nicaragua. Subsequently, as a faculty member in academic medicine, she developed curricula in global health, led medical delegations to Nicaragua, and studied and taught about health care in Cuba. She has published widely on cultural issues, psychology, family medicine, and Cuba, and recently collaborated with Dr. David Strug of Yeshiva University on a study of the effects of travel restrictions on Cuban-American families. She currently practices clinical psychology in Yellow Springs, Ohio and teaches at the McGregor School of Antioch University. Since 2000 she has focused her writing and activism efforts on Cuba and U.S.-Cuba policy.
Winifred Tate is an assistant professor of anthropology at Colby College in Waterville, Maine, and a visiting research fellow at the National Security Archive. She is the author of Counting the Dead: The Culture and Politics of Human Rights Activism in Colombia (University of California Press Public Anthropology Series, 2007). She has researched political violence, drug trafficking and U.S. foreign policy as a consultant for a number of international organizations, including UNICEF, Human Rights Watch, the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, the U.S. Institute of Peace, Human Rights First and Freedom House. She also worked as a senior fellow and Colombian analyst for three years at the Washington Office on Latin America. Her current research focuses on U.S. foreign policy debates during Plan Colombia, and the impact of these policies on the Putumayo department of southern Colombia.
Adriana Beltrán serves as Washington Office on Latin America’s (WOLA) Associate for Organized Crime and Police Reform. During her ten years with WOLA, Beltrán has worked extensively on Guatemala, including leading WOLA's Central America Advocacy Training Program. Her research into Guatemala's clandestine groups led to the book "Hidden Powers." As part of this work, Beltrán has been a long-time advocate for the establishment of a UN commission to investigate illegal armed groups, an effort that has recently seen positive developments with the approval and establishment of the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG). She holds a Bachelors degree in International Studies and Political Science from Loras College in Dubuque, IA.
Annalise Udall Romoser
Annalise Udall Romoser is currently the Field Communications Officer for Latin America at Lutheran World Relief (LWR). Prior to this position, Annalise served as LWR´s Director for Public Policy and Advocacy, leading advocacy on humanitarian, development and human rights issues for the organization. Annalise has served as Senior Associate at the U.S. Office on Colombia and has worked throughout Colombia as a team member with Witness for Peace documenting the impacts of U.S. military and drug policy on human and cultural rights. As Program Coordinator at Americans for Indian Opportunity, she worked with U.S. tribal governments and international Indigenous groups to advance tribal leadership and sovereignty. She holds a Master’s degree in Latin American studies and International migration from the University of California, San Diego.
Joe Perez is the CEO of J. Perez Associates Inc. Active in many causes, including expanding Latino participation in a range of fields, he has been a board member of the Willy Velazquez Institute, a member of the National Association of Latino Elected Officials (NALEO), and a Commissioner for the Private Industry Council of Los Angeles county. He has also been a member of the advocacy committee of the California Association for Health Services at Home and a co-founder of the Japan-American Society of Oklahoma and the Japan-American Society of San Antonio.
Abigail Poe is the Deputy Director of the Center for International Policy and the Director of CIP's Latin America Rights & Security Program. CIP's Latin America Rights & Security Program advocates a U.S. policy to Latin America and the Caribbean based on international cooperation, demilitarization and respect for human rights. Since 2007, Abigail has worked on "Just the Facts," a joint project with LAWG and WOLA that monitors security and U.S. military assistance to Latin America and the Caribbean. She holds a Master's degree in Latin American Studies from Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service and a B.A. in Environmental Studies and Policy from Bates College. Before CIP, Poe spent two years in Quito, Ecuador, where she produced a news-commentary radio show, developed and managed an online, direct-to-consumer flower company and worked as a project developer for a local non-profit.