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FAITH COMMUNITY, U.S. CONGRESS HELP CALIFORNIA NURSE
FIGHT DEPORTATION ORDER FROM NICARAGUA

February 2, 2001, WASHINGTON, D.C. – Members of the U.S. religious community and Congress are pressing the Nicaraguan government not to deport Dorothy Granada, a 70-year-old nurse and U.S. citizen.

In a letter spearheaded by Representatives Sam Farr (D-CA) and Cynthia McKinney (D-GA) to be released today (February 2), some 32 members of the U.S. Congress will call upon Nicaragua’s President Arnoldo Aleman to allow Granada to resume her work. Members of the U.S. and Central American faith communities published a similar appeal in Nicaragua’s national newspapers in mid-January. (Click here to read the letter.)

An Episcopalian from Santa Cruz, Calif., Granada and the clinic are supported by a network of Protestant churches and medical professionals in the United States, according to information on a Web site initiated by her supporters (www.peacehost.net/Dorothy).

For the last 10 years Granada has served as director of the Maria Luisa Ortiz Health Clinic in Mulukuku, a poor rural town with no doctors, in central Nicaragua. Nicaraguan President Aleman closed down the clinic in December and ordered Granada deported. Granada and the clinic are charged with performing abortions – illegal under Nicaraguan law – and serving only Sandinistas.

Granada denies both charges, saying she has "answered these accusations through the media as follows: We have patient records for the more than 23,500 women, children and men served in the last 10 years. In the entire municipality of 30,000 persons, there are less than 6,000 members of the Sandinista Party (a legally constituted political entity under Nicaraguan law.)

"Abortion is illegal in Nicaragua and in the clinic we have never performed an abortion….On the contrary, we beg women who come to us with undesired pregnancies –many from rape! -- to not seek abortion but to come to us for prenatal care and birthing. We promise the women we will work with them to find a way to care for their babies."

In mid-January, representatives of the National Council of Churches, several of its member communions—the Church of the Brethren, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and United Church of Christ/Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)—and of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns, Fellowship of Reconciliation, and the Episcopal Peace Fellowship—joined with Central American denominational and ecumenical leaders in publishing a letter to President Aleman in the national Nicaraguan papers.

The letter called for the reopening of the clinic, an end to efforts to deport Dorothy and for better relations between the Nicaraguan government and nongovernmental organizations, whose work with Nicaragua’s poor has recently been hampered by government harassment.

"Dorothy has dedicated her life to nonviolence and the right to health care," said Brenda Girton-Mitchell, Esq., Director of the National Council of Churches’ Washington Office and Associate General Secretary for Public Witness.

"At 6 a.m. on December 8th, her 70th birthday," Girton-Mitchell recounted, "14 armed police and immigration officials surrounded Granada’s house in Mulukuku with the intent of arresting and deporting her. She was in Managua on business, and decided to go into hiding when she heard the news. Later the President of Nicaragua and several of his top ministers publicly – and falsely -- accused Granada of performing abortions at the clinic and of serving only members of the Sandinista party. Without as much as a hearing, she was ordered deported."

Over the years, regular delegations to Mulukuku from U.S. churches and medical schools have created a base of support for Dorothy’s work and for the plight of the people of Nicaragua, the second poorest nation in the hemisphere, after Haiti.

"Annual United Methodist, Presbyterian, and Church of the Brethren delegations have focused on globalization issues, provided medical care, assisted in work projects, and established long-term relationships of solidarity," said Jaydee Hanson, Associate General Secretary for Public Witness and Advocacy, United Methodist Board of Church and Society "After all, it was from the Latin American churches that many of us learned what it means to stand with the poor of this world. Now we understand that such solidarity is part of our calling."

"Up until now, our support for the clinic has been primarily humanitarian, said Sue Wagner-Fields, Globalization Specialist with the Church of the Brethren and a leader of annual church delegations to Mulukuku, "but this attack on Dorothy and the Women’s Clinic has forced us to take political action. For nearly two months, an ‘emergency response’ network of supporters throughout the U.S. has been generating thousands of phone calls and faxes to representatives of both the U.S. and Nicaraguan governments."

The independent Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights and the Nicaraguan government’s own Office of the Ombudsman for the Defense of Human Rights have both called attention to government violation of Dorothy’s basic human rights under Nicaraguan and international law. Amnesty International has issued a worldwide alert on her behalf. U.S. Ambassador Oliver Garza has voiced support for Dorothy, saying that he is carefully watching to see whether her rights to due process are upheld.

In a letter spearheaded by Representatives Sam Farr (D-CA) and Cynthia McKinney (D-GA) to be released Friday, Feb. 2, members of the U.S. Congress will call upon President Aleman to allow Dorothy to resume her work in Mulukuku and to support the life-giving work of numerous non-governmental organizations to improve the well-being of Nicaraguans.

"The eyes of the world are on the Nicaraguan government," said Rep. Sam Farr, D-CA., "By letting Dorothy Granada run her rural clinic in peace, the government can demonstrate its commitment to human rights and to its own constitution."

In order to avoid being illegally detained and deported, Dorothy Granada remains in hiding, until her situation is resolved legally and politically. A ruling on an injunction order filed by Dorothy’s lawyers against the deportation order could be announced as early as today. A website with frequent updates about Dorothy and the clinic can be found at: www.peacehost.net/Dorothy/

-end-

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