WCVI's LAP initially focused on US-Central America relations because of growing concerns in the Mexican America community in the southwest over then President Reagan's policy of military intervention against the revolutions unfolding in Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala.
In the 1980's Reagan's policy of so called "low intensity war" in Central America had caused a massive influx of refugees into US Latino communities in the southwest as well as Florida, New York, Maryland, and Illinois. Indeed New Mexico Governor Toney Anaya created quite a stir in 1984 when he declared New Mexico a sanctuary state for Central American refugees. Anaya was Co-Chair of Jesse Jackson's Rainbow Coalition at the time.
WCVI's LAP took Latino leaders on fact finding and or election observers delegations to:
- Nicaragua/Costa Rica in 1988;
- Mexico/El Salvador/Nicaragua in 1989;
- Nicaragua's Presidential Elections in 1990;
- El Salvador's Legislative Elections in 1991;
The returning delegations then did briefing sessions with Latino leaders in their home communities in places like San Antonio, Los Angeles, Corpus Christi, Phoenix and WCVI issued publications on their experiences.
The highlight of this early Latin America work was Willie Velasquez role in rallying Mexican American opposition to US military aid to the Nicaraguan contras seeking to overthrow the Sandinista Government.
Velasquez visited Nicaragua and Costa Rica in Jan 1988 with a distinguished group of Latino leaders that included former New Mexico Governor Toney Anaya, former LULAC National President Mario Obledo, Texas State Representative Eddie Cavazos, UTSA Professor Avelardo Valdez, Brownsville Refugee Attorney Linda Yanez, NPR Correspondent Alfredo Cruz, SVRI Executive Director Bob Brischetto and LAP Coordinator Antonio Gonzalez to learn about the "Contadora Peace Process" supported by Venezuela, Panama, Colombia and Mexico and the Esquipulas Peace Agreement chiefly advocated by Costa Rica
Velasquez and the group flew to DC directly from Costa Rica and lobbied the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) to oppose continuing US military aid to the Contra rebels in Nicaragua in a vote to be taken days later. CHC Chairman Albert Bustamante hosted a press conference in the Capitol with Velasquez and Gov. Anaya to release the delegation's findings of support for the unfolding Central American peace process.
Military aid to the Contras was canceled by Congress in that Feb 1988 vote, forcing an end to US military intervention which had financed a proxy intervention killing 50,000 Nicaraguans during the 1980's. The majority of the CHC voted against Contra military aid.
During 1993-95 WCVI-LAP conducted an unprecedented organizing project in El Salvador. LAP opened two offices in San Salvador and San Miguel (led by veteran organizers from Texas and California Armando Villareal, Nacho Perez, Eliseo Solis and Richard Castanon) and trained and managed 500 paid voter registration canvassers drawn from the ranks of progressive parties, unions, women's groups, and professional organizations who contacted hundreds of thousands of Salvadoran voters to register them to vote and educate them about the upcoming "peace" elections.
LAP's activities helped El Salvador transition from civil war to peace, with democratic elections culminating in the 1994 Presidential elections that effectively ended the Salvadoran Civil War.
The Salvadoran peace agreement and subsequent inclusive Presidential election process of 1993-94 also brought an end to US military aid to the Salvadoran government whose repression had displaced more than a million Salvadorans, killed hundreds of thousands and ironically caused creation of large Salvadoran communities in US cities like Los Angeles, Houston and Washington, DC.