From the first days after its founding in 1975, COHA worked closely with Senator Kennedy’s office, often on an urgent basis, when the lives of various embattled Latin Americans were at risk as a result of a series of dirty wars being waged by the region’s military and other authoritarian regimes against their own citizens during the 1980’s.
In the course of this long relationship, we were particularly grateful for Senator Kennedy’s kind words about this organization which he inserted in the Congressional Record, where he referred to COHA as “one of our nation’s most respected bodies of scholars and policy makers.”
COHA worked with Senator Kennedy on a range of crises breaking-out in Latin America. Along with a handful of other invaluable senators serving in the same way like Tom Harkin of Iowa and Christopher Dodd of Connecticut, Senator Kennedy was one of the best informed and most caring U.S. legislators when it came to responding to the humanitarian tragedies being perpetrated in various Latin American countries such as Argentina, Guatemala, Chile, Colombia and El Salvador, among others.
During this period, Senator Kennedy – by picking up the phone and making a vital call backing some important legislative initiative, raising inquiries with the Pentagon or challenging some State Department interpretation that lessened the impact of existing U.S. policies punishing those regimes that blemished rights standards, and by his office sending off communiqués to Chilean, Argentine, Uruguayan, or Brazilian officials demanding clarifications concerning the status of “disappeared” national figures as well as humble citizens, civic leaders or trade union officials – was able to save lives and counter inappropriate White House initiatives. No one in Washington made a greater difference when it came to showing solidarity with the cause of public rectitude throughout Latin America than this man, of the now fallen giant, Senator Kennedy.