Gustavo Torres was born and raised in Medellin, Colombia. In 1987 he relocated to Nicaragua, where he spent the next four years working as a journalist for a newspaper published by that nation’s Marxist-Leninist Sandinista regime. During that period, Torres met the woman who soon thereafter became his first wife, an American Sandinista sympathizer and an abortion-rights advocate. In 1991 Torres moved to the United States, where he married the woman and found work as an organizer for the immigrant-rights group CASA de Maryland. Two years later he was named CASA’s executive director, a position he has held ever since. In 1995 Torres became a U.S. citizen, and the following year he divorced his wife.
In the mid-2000s, Torres condemned the Minuteman Project—an alliance of American citizens whose mission was to alert the U.S. Border Patrol to the presence of unauthorized border-crossers in the American Southwest—for its practice of dispatching volunteers to CASA day-laborer centers and snapping photos not only of the illegal immigrants who congregated there, but also of the employers who sought to hire them. In early 2006, Torres accused the Minutemen of practicing “the politics of fear and hate.” Pledging retribution, he stated: “We are going to target them in a specific way…. CASA representatives will go out with cameras and video cameras to record the Minutemen, but that will only be the first step. Then we are going to picket their houses, and the schools of their kids, and go to their work. If they are going to do this to us, we are going to respond in the same way, to let people know their neighbors are extremists, that they are anti-immigrant.”
On the eve of a 2006 U.S. Senate vote on a Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill designed to grant legal status to long-term illegal immigrants, Torres participated in a large pro-amnesty demonstration. “If they don’t pay attention to us now, the next step is civil disobedience,” said Torres.
In 2007 Torres co-chaired the transition team of Maryland’s newly elected governor, Democrat Martin O’Malley. He subsequently served on O’Malley’s Council for New Americans, as chairman of its working group on citizenship issues. Meanwhile, Torres’s second wife, Sonia Mora, was a member of O’Malley’s Commission on Hispanic Affairs and was a public-sector employee in Montgomery County.
At a November 2007 “Revolution in the U.S.” conference in socialist Venezuela, Torres sat on a panel that analyzed the character of America’s working class and the prospects for fomenting transformative revolution in the United States. In his remarks, Torres emphasized that Hispanic “empowerment” in the U.S. was contingent upon the members of that community becoming registered and active voters. Fellow panel members included University of Colorado professor Ward Churchill, poet Amiri Baraka, Prout Institute founder Dada Maheshvarananda, and representatives from the Socialist Workers Party, the Black Panther Party, Iraq Veterans Against the War, and the Hostosiano Independence Movement of Puerto Rico. During the three-year period (2008-10) immediately following Torres’s appearance at this conference, CASA received $1.5 million in funding from the regime of Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chávez.
Over the years, Torres has organized public rallies and events in collaboration with a number of radical, pro-open-borders groups such as the American Communist Party; the Free the Cuban Five Committee (which defended a Miami-based, KGB-trained, Castro spy ring whose activities were uncovered by the FBI in September 1998); the Washington, DC branch of the FMLN (a Marxist-Leninist revolutionary group based in El Salvador); and the Committee In Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (a radical anti-American organization founded by prominent members of the Salvadoran Communist Party).
In addition to his duties with CASA de Maryland, Torres currently serves as a board member of the Organizer’s Forum, a Tides Center project that convenes labor and community organizers for two major gatherings per year—one domestic and one international. The founder of this Forum was Wade Rathke, the former longtime leader of the now-defunct community organization ACORN.
Closely aligned ideologically with Barack Obama, Torres has visited the Obama White House to discuss strategies for promoting the passage of comprehensive immigration reform legislation that provides a path-to-citizenship for the millions of illegal aliens currently residing in the United States.
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