Justice by and for the People in Guatemala

August 27th, 2015

[A] team of dogged investigators and prosecutors is on the cusp of an astonishing feat: bringing down President Otto Pérez Molina, who stands accused of having played a leading role in a huge kickback scheme. Authorities in Guatemala City arrested Mr. Pérez Molina’s former vice president, Roxana Baldetti, last Friday, and began to unveil an extensive dossier that has prompted public outrage and led to the resignation of at least 14 members of Mr. Pérez Molina’s cabinet.

[T]he transformation of Guatemala’s rule of law sector is a rare success story. It began in 2007 after civil society groups persuaded the government to agree to let the United Nations establish the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala, an independent investigative agency that works alongside the attorney general’s office.

The arrangement, which had plenty of skeptics and faced significant political resistance, has worked extraordinarily well. In recent years, foreign legal experts have trained and empowered Guatemalan prosecutors to take on complex cases that have reached into corners of the country that had long benefited from a culture of impunity. As misdeeds by self-dealing public officials have come to light, Guatemalans — who endure countless deprivations, including ill-equipped public hospitals and police officers who often can’t respond to emergencies for lack of fuel — have been rightly outraged. In recent days, protesters have taken to the streets to demand Mr. Pérez Molina’s resignation. . . .

In April . . . when details of the corruption investigation first began to emerge, Mr. Pérez Molina had little choice but to sign off on a new mandate for the commission, which has been funded by foreign donors, including $30 million from the United States. In recent days, prosecutors have said there is conclusive evidence suggesting that Mr. Pérez Molina and Ms. Baldetti were among the top beneficiaries of the kickback scheme, which allowed certain importers to pay reduced fees. . . .

That outcome would send a powerful message to Guatemalans who aspire to be governed by honest leaders. . . .

Read the complete editorial in the New York Times . . .

The United States enjoys impunity against its human rights violations in Guatemala and must be held accountable as well.  The US infected innocent Guatemalan people with sexually transmitted diseases beginning in the 1940s and has left them untreated and uncompensated to the present day. There is no better time than now for the US to provide justice to the Guatemala people. International authorities should take action against impunity for the US in Guatemala. See UCLA Prof. Michael Rodriguez, M.D., M.P.H., and Robert García, J.D., American Journal of Public Health – First, Do No Harm: US Sexually Transmitted Disease Experiments in Guatemala.

Pope Francis writes: “[I]it is essential to show special care for indigenous communities and their cultural traditions.” Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’ of the Holy Father Francis on Care for our Common Home,  ¶ 146.

Los Angeles

Pope Francis on Global Inequality: we cannot combat environmental degradation unless we attend to human degradation

August 25th, 2015

Pope Francis writes on human health in his encyclical on caring about climate, creation, and the poor and underprivileged:

Global Inequality

48. The human environment and the natural environment deteriorate together; we cannot adequately combat environmental degradation unless we attend to causes related to human and social degradation. “[T]he gravest effects of all attacks on the environment are suffered by the poorest.” . . .

49. It needs to be said that, generally speaking, there is little in the way of clear awareness of problems which especially affect the excluded. Yet they are the majority of the planet’s population, billions of people. These days, they are mentioned in international political and economic discussions, but one often has the impression that their problems are brought up as an after-thought, a question which gets added almost out of duty or in a tangential way, if not treated merely as collateral damage. Indeed, when all is said and done, they frequently remain at the bottom of the pile. This is due partly to the fact that many professionals, opinion makers, communications media and centres of power, being located in affluent urban areas, are far removed from the poor, with little direct contact with their problems. They live and reason from the comfortable position of a high level of development and a quality of life well beyond the reach of the majority of the world’s population. This lack of physical contact and encounter, encouraged at times by the disintegration of our cities, can lead to a numbing of conscience and to tendentious analyses which neglect parts of reality. At times this attitude exists side by side with a “green” rhetoric. Today, however, we have to realize that a true ecological approach always becomes a social approach; it must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.

51. Inequity affects not only individuals but entire countries; it compels us to consider an ethics of international relations. A true “ecological debt” exists, particularly between the global north and south, connected to commercial imbalances with effects on the environment, and the disproportionate use of natural resources by certain countries over long periods of time. . . . There is a pressing need to calculate the use of environmental space throughout the world for depositing gas residues which have been accumulating for two centuries and have created a situation which currently affects all the countries of the world. The warming caused by huge consumption on the part of some rich countries has repercussions on the poorest areas of the world . . . where a rise in temperature, together with drought, has proved devastating for farming. There is also the damage caused by the export of solid waste and toxic liquids to developing countries, and by the pollution produced by companies which operate in less developed countries in ways they could never do at home, in the countries in which they raise their capital: . . . . “Generally, after ceasing their activity and withdrawing, they leave behind great human and environmental liabilities such as unemployment, abandoned towns, the depletion of natural reserves, deforestation, the impoverishment of agriculture and local stock breeding, open pits, riven hills, polluted rivers and a handful of social works which are no longer sustainable.”

52. . . . The developed countries ought to help pay this debt by significantly limiting their consumption of non-renewable energy and by assisting poorer countries to support policies and programmes of sustainable development. The poorest areas and countries are less capable of adopting new models for reducing environmental impact because they lack the wherewithal to develop the necessary processes and to cover their costs. . . . As the United States bishops have said, greater attention must be given to “the needs of the poor, the weak and the vulnerable, in a debate often dominated by more powerful interests.” We need to strengthen the conviction that we are one single human family. . . .

53. The problem is that we still lack the culture needed to confront this crisis. We lack leadership capable of striking out on new paths and meeting the needs of the present with concern for all and without prejudice towards coming generations. The establishment of a legal framework which can set clear boundaries and ensure the protection of ecosystems has become indispensable, otherwise the new power structures based on the techno-economic paradigm may overwhelm not only our politics but also freedom and justice.

54. . . . Consequently the most one can expect is superficial rhetoric, sporadic acts of philanthropy and perfunctory expressions of concern for the environment, whereas any genuine attempt by groups within society to introduce change is viewed as a nuisance based on romantic illusions or an obstacle to be circumvented.

Pope Francis, Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’ of the Holy Father Francis on Care for our Common Home.  (Citations omitted).

Who are the poor and disadvantaged in the U.S. and in California? Disproportionately the poor and the disadvantaged are people of color.

Pope_Francis Inequality

CDU Health Disparities, Place Matters: Academia, Government, and Community Aug. 28-29

August 25th, 2015

Health professionals and partners across various disciplines are invited to engage in a 2-day discussion that explores health disparities in South LA. Presenters include local and national experts in the areas of health, public health theory and practice, policy and planning, health services, civil rights, and community engagement.

The City Project’s Robert García will speak August 29 on how to use civil rights tools to address health disparities. See the full agenda and list of speakers here.

Friday, August 28, 8am – 3pm
Saturday, August 29, 8am – 3pm. Networking reception to follow.

The event is free. Registration required (space is limited).
Continuing education units offered.

For event details and registration, click here.

CDU Health Disparities Seminar Series






























Police reform requires the people, federal intervention, and civil rights laws, not just a hero cop NY Times Letter to the Editor

August 24th, 2015

The New York Times Sunday Book Review published my letter to the Editor.

Where Credit Is Due

To the Editor, New York Times Sunday Book Review:

Mark Horowitz makes William Bratton out to be a hero of police reform in Los Angeles in his review of Joe Domanick’s “Blue” (Aug. 9): “Enter Bratton.” Really? That was it?

The Justice Department took over the Los Angeles Police Department under a federal court-ordered civil rights consent decree in 2001. The court oversaw a dramatic, forced transformation of the L.A.P.D. for 12 years until 2013, when it freed the department from the final vestiges of oversight by the federal government and the civilian police commission.

State Senator Tom Hayden, the civil rights advocate Paul Hoffman and I originally called for the Justice Department to restore order in the L.A.P.D. in the wake of the Rampart scandal in February 2000, through a letter to the Justice Department and an op-ed in The Los Angeles Times.

William Bratton deserves credit for helping to implement the reforms required under the consent decree while he was chief from 2002 to 2009, but he is not the cowboy hero Horowitz makes him out to be.

The writer is the founding director and counsel of the City Project.

New York Times Sunday Book Review, August 21, 2015

NYT Garcia book review 20150823

Diverse Community Collaborative Submits Comments on San Gabriel National Monument

August 21st, 2015

Photo: Dianne Erskine Hellrigel

The San Gabriel Mountains Community Collaborative has completed its comments on the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument “Need to Change” Analysis, which were delivered to the U.S. Forest Service.

The Community Collaborative has spent many months deliberating, evaluating, and finding common ground to ensure that the diverse interests of the communities that encircle the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument were taken into account. The Collaborative was pleased to reach 100-percent consensus on the comments.

“We were able to come up with a document that we can all support, which is the first time this has been done when a National Monument has been designated to serve the recreational needs of such a large, urban population,” said Liz Reilly, Councilwoman, City of Duarte, San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments.

“The California Off-Road Vehicle Association appreciates the opportunity to work with a diverse group of interests that has the ability to find common ground, which promotes the health of the forest and recreational enhancements,” remarked Linda Wucherpfennig, Angeles National Forest Field Representative, California Off-Road Vehicle Association.

Belinda Faustinos, Chair, San Gabriel Mountains Forever Coalition, said, “I am excited about this critical step for the National Monument management planning process and look forward to implementation in the near future.”

“The Gabrieleño Band of Mission Indians/Kizh Nation, led by Chief Ernest Salas, appreciates the tribe’s involvement in the Collaborative and is committed to preserving and protecting the sacred Hidakupa (San Gabriel Mountains) for the edification and education of all residents,” said Andrew Salas, Chairman, Gabrieleño Band of Mission Indians/Kizh Nation.

“The City Project looks forward to working with the U.S. Forest Service, National Forest Foundation, and the Community Collaborative to diversify access to and support for the San Gabriel Mountains for all,” noted Robert Garcia, Founding Director and Counsel, The City Project.

“This marks an exciting milestone for the National Monument management plan development,” said Joe Lyons, Chairperson, City of Claremont, San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments.

The San Gabriel Mountains Community Collaborative is a diverse group made up of approximately 45 community interests (including academic, business, civil rights, community, conservancies, cultural, environmental, environmental justice, ethnic diversity, education, youth, state and local government, Native American, public safety, recreation, special use permit holders, land lease holders, transportation, utilities, and water rights holders). The Collaborative’s purpose is to “Represent the general public by integrating diverse perspectives to identify, analyze, prioritize and advocate for values, resources, investments, management objectives and implementation practices that sustainably benefit all communities throughout the region, the Angeles National Forest and the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument.”

To view the consensus comment letter and learn more about the San Gabriel Mountains Community Collaborative, visit www.nationalforests.org/SanGabrielMountains.

Photo: Dianne Erskine Hellrigel


Latinos Disproportionately Support Climate Justice and Environment GreenLatinos, EarthJustice, & Latino Decisions

August 19th, 2015
A wide-range of environmental issues are as important to Latino voters as the passage of comprehensive immigration reform, according to a new poll by GreenLatinos, EarthJustice, and Stanford University Prof. Gary Segura and Pitzer Prof. Adrian Pantoja of Latino Decisions.


Mark Magaña, President and Founder of GreenLatinos, issued the following statement: “The results of this survey confirm what we have been saying for years, but bears repeating, substantial investment in the Latino community now will reap political, public policy and real benefits for the environment for generations to come. For Latinos, our strong positions on questions pertaining to the importance of stewardship of our natural environment and conservation of resources reflect long-held cultural tenets taught to us not as environmentalism, but based more on common sense, economic necessity, and good citizenry.”

Lisa Garcia, Vice President of Litigation and Healthy Communities at Earthjustice, issued the following statement: “This poll reiterates the strong connection Latinos have to the environment and the understanding that by enacting tougher environmental standards, we are protecting the health of our people, and the nation’s growing Latino community. Six out of 10 say stronger environmental laws will not only improve our economy, but create new jobs. Latinos are saying it loud and clear—the time to act is now.”

Polling memo.

Full survey results.

The City Project Climate is a civil rights and moral issue as well as a health, economic, and environmental issue.

Take Action! Physical Education and Fitness for All California Public School Students

August 17th, 2015

Parents, students, teachers, and anyone who cares about the health of our children can write to Tom Torlakson, the California Superintendent of Public Instruction, and ask him to enforce physical education and civil rights laws. Here is a sample message, which you can also revise and send to your school board members and local superintendent.

* * *

The Honorable Tom Torlakson
Superintendent of Public Instruction
California Department of Education
1430 N Street
Sacramento, CA 95814-5901
Phone 916-319-0800

Dear Superintendent Torlakson,

We need to improve physical education, fitness, and equal justice for all students in California’s public schools. African-American and Latino students are the worst off on the state-required physical fitness test (Fitnessgram). Too often these ethnic and racial disparities have a devastating impact on the long-term health and welfare of our children.

We ask you to have all public school districts evaluate and report their own physical education programs and fitness results. Districts and schools should use the Physical Education Tool Kit and Checklist by the Los Angeles County Department of Physical Education, and the Physical Education Infographic.

According to The California Endowment: “Great infographic with everything you need to know to advocate for #physicaleducation in school spr.ly/6013hYfb.”

Please make sure all children have equal access to physical education programs–no matter their race, ethnicity or socioeconomic status.

Thank you.

* * *

See the Physical Education Tool Kit and Checklist by the Los Angeles County Department of Physical Education.

See the AP story by Christine Armario Civil rights groups file complaint alleging discrimination in PE access at California schools.


AP The City Project, civil rights groups file complaint alleging discrimination in CA physical education access

August 14th, 2015

A coalition of civil rights and community health groups in California has filed an administrative complaint with the U.S. Department of Education alleging discriminatory practices in access to physical education.

The City Project, the California Center for Public Health Advocacy and other groups said Friday disparities continue to exist in access to physical education in public schools based on race and ethnicity throughout the state.

[T]he complaint refers to Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color or national origin in programs that receive federal funding. It also notes a 2014 “Dear Colleague” letter sent to districts by the U.S. Department of Education noting equal education opportunity means requiring that all students have access to a diverse range of courses and extracurricular activities, including athletics. . . . 

[I]n their letter to the U.S. Department of Education, the groups point to several recent studies finding that minority and low-income students in California have less access to physical education and significantly lower physical fitness passing rates.

“There is disturbing evidence of both unjustified discriminatory impacts, and intentional discrimination, in access to resources for physical education and fitness in California public schools,” the letter states.

Read the full AP story by Christine Armario

See The City Project’s blog post, Civil Rights Groups File Complaint against Discrimination in California Schools, Physical Education Programs

Students PE El Monte Madrid Middle School 20130531 1


EdSource The City Project, civil rights and health advocacy groups file complaint alleging civil rights violations in physical education

August 14th, 2015

In the latest salvo in a longstanding effort to enforce a California education law that requires physical education classes for all students, six health advocacy organizations filed a federal complaint Thursday charging that California public schools discriminate against Latino and African-American students by disproportionately denying them access to the classes, in violation of federal civil rights law.

The organizations asked for federal intervention to ensure that the California Department of Education and school districts comply with “the legal obligation to provide students with equal access to resources for physical education and fitness without regard to race, color, or national origin,” according to the complaint.

“Black and Hispanic students are systematically denied quality physical education,” according to the complaint sent to Catherine Lhamon, assistant secretary for civil rights at the U.S. Department of Education. The complaint was filed by the The City Project, the California Center for Public Health Advocacy, the California Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance, the Prevention Institute, the Latino Coalition for a Healthy California and the Anahuak Youth Sports Association.

Robert Garcia, founding director of The City Project, a Los Angeles civil rights advocacy group, said the complaint was filed as a federal civil rights violation on the basis of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and an October 2014 so-called “Dear Colleague” guidance letter from Llahmon to educators across the country. That letter reminded educators of their obligation to end “unlawful discrimination” caused by inequities in educational resources. . . .

[T]he complaint asked Llahmon of the U.S. Department of Education to send a “Dear Colleague” guidance letter to California educators reminding them of their obligation to ensure equal access to physical education, and take other steps to ensure that physical education minutes are being monitored and fulfilled. To that end, the organizations recommended the use of a Model Action Plan for physical education and a compliance checklist developed by the Los Angeles County Health Department and several of the health organizations that filed the complaint.

Read the full EdSource article by Jane Adams

See The City Project’s blog post, Civil Rights Groups File Complaint against Discrimination in California Schools, Physical Education Programs



Civil Rights Groups File Complaint against Discrimination in California Schools, Physical Education Programs

August 14th, 2015



Dr. Harold Goldstein
California Center for Public Health Advocacy
Office: (530) 297-6000, Mobile: (530) 400-9106

Robert García, J.D.
The City Project
Mobile: (213) 260-1035

logos physical education


Civil Rights Groups File Complaint against Discrimination in California Schools, Physical Education Programs 

LOS ANGELES, CALIF., AUGUST 14, 2015 … A coalition of health and civil rights groups today submitted an administrative complaint to the U.S. Department of Education against racial discrimination and disregard for state and federal law within the California Department of Education (CDE) and many school districts. According to the authors, educators in California have not satisfied their legal obligation to provide quality physical education to Latino and African-American children in the state.

“Too often these ethnic and racial disparities have a devastating impact on the long-term health and welfare of our children,” said Dr. Harold Goldstein, executive director of the California Center for Public Health Advocacy, a co-author of the filing. “Without adequate physical education, children are more likely to be obese, develop type 2 diabetes or have a lifetime of costly chronic disease. This is a tragedy to which education leaders have turned a blind eye.”

California law requires public schools to provide a minimum of 200 minutes of physical education every ten days in elementary schools and 400 minutes in middle and high schools, all taught by a qualified teacher. This legal minute requirement has been neglected in about half of California schools. Many of the schools fail to assign teachers properly credentialed in physical education, as is legally required.

Federal law, as described under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and its regulations, requires the CDE and federally funded schools to conduct quality audits to monitor and ensure compliance with civil rights and physical education laws. This legal obligation has largely been ignored. The CDE does not adequately audit the legal minimum of 10 percent of school districts each year or post findings online as required.

As a result, only 26 percent of Latino and 22 percent of African-American students pass the annual physical fitness test, according to a 2015 study by the University of Southern California (USC) Sol Price School of Public Policy. In at least 400 school districts – nearly half of the 900 surveyed – just one in ten African-American students are physically fit, compared to one in three for the average non-Hispanic white student in California.

Another peer-reviewed study, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, found that schools that do not comply with minimum physical education time requirements are more likely to serve disproportionately Latino or African-American students than compliant districts.

“Disparities in access to physical education and fitness are an unfortunate symptom of the state’s failure to follow physical education and civil rights standards,” said Robert García, founding director and counsel for The City Project, a co-author of the filing. “Our coalition hopes this complaint will move the California Superintendent of Public Instruction and school districts to alleviate these indefensible disparities in education and fitness. Physical education is key to our students’ academic success and health.”

The administrative complaint was sent to the U.S. Department of Education’s Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Catherine E. Lhamon and signed by six allied organizations: The City Project, California Center for Public Health Advocacy, California Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance, Prevention Institute, Latino Coalition for a Healthy California, and Anahuak Youth Sports Association. The complaint is not a lawsuit or related to any pending lawsuit.

The full letter, available here, seeks to have the California Department of Education, school districts and schools voluntarily comply with the law, using the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health Physical Education Tool Kit and Checklist. It also asks schools and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson to adopt a valid auditing system to ensure compliance with civil rights and physical education laws.

“We at CAHPERD have been well aware of the ‘fitness gap’ regarding African American and Latino students, and their unequal access to quality physical education here in California and around the nation. We are proud to be part of this action alerting the federal government about the physical fitness problem in many of our communities – a problem that is a huge public health issue. School boards and administrators can be inspired by – and feel confident in – knowing that enhancing the quality and time for physical education and physical activity during the school day has been proven to be a fundamental step to improve the academic achievement of their students.” Betty Hennessy, Ph.D., President, California Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation & Dance (CAHPERD).

“Physical activity is essential for health and for learning. All students deserve access to free, high-quality physical education, which is an essential element of a healthy and equitable school environment. Physical education provides students with the life skills needed to promote mental health and prevent inactivity-related illnesses, like hypertension and type 2 diabetes. That’s why Prevention Institute insists that all public schools provide the opportunity for physical activity and physical education.” Larry Cohen, Executive Director, Prevention Institute.

“Disparities in access to sports opportunities and physical fitness programs are another unfortunate aspect of our separate and unequal system of public education – with potential long term health impacts for children of color.  We recently examined these disparities in our report Finishing Last: Girls of Color and School Sports Opportunities (with the National Women’s Law Center). The complaint is an important step to addressing these disparities in California and ensuring that all children have adequate and comparable access to physical education.” Philip Tegeler, Poverty & Race Research Action Council.

“Our children have a right to healthy, active lives – and that starts with healthy, active schools. Physical education is an essential element of every child’s education. It enhances learning and is critical to tackling childhood obesity, a problem which disproportionately affects low-income communities and communities of color. Racial disparities in access to physical education in public schools not only perpetuates these problems, but also violates Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This is why New York Lawyers for the Public Interest supports the coalition’s efforts to remedy this critical situation and advance health and educational equity.” Erin George, Health Justice Advocate, New York Lawyers for the Public Interest (NYLPI).

Top photo: supportrealteachers.org.


The City Project is a multicultural, Latino-led team of civil rights advocates working with diverse allies to achieve equal justice, democracy and livability for all.

The California Center for Public Health Advocacy (CCPHA) is an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit organization at the forefront of solving the obesity and diabetes epidemics by advocating for groundbreaking policies that build a healthier California.

The California Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (CAHPERD) is a nonprofit that promotes the organizing and progress of school, community and statewide programs of health, physical education, recreation and dance.

The Prevention Institute serves as a national focal point for primary prevention practice — promoting policies, organizational practices and collaborative efforts that improve health and quality of life.

The Latino Coalition for a Healthy California (LCHC) was founded by health care providers, consumers and advocates to impact Latino health through enhanced information, policy development and community involvement.

The Anahuak Youth Sports Association (AYSA) is a nonprofit organization that was created to serve as an alternative to drugs, gangs and crime, using soccer as a hook to keep children off of the streets.