Thursday, May 29, 2008

Bert Corona Day: Los Angeles

MAY 29, 2008

Cesar Chavez called him his mentor to us when we once met him in La Paz to spend the day and share experiences. He was the modern founder of the immigrants' rights movement in the United States, and ironically, not enough of the immigrants currently fighting for legal status and respect for their human dignity, and the organizations that advocate for them, know about his life and work. The Los Angeles City Council yesterday declared today, May 29, 2008, Bert Corona Day, and the resolution "urges all residents to celebrate Bert Corona's life and contributions by engaging in service, events, and actions representative of his legacy on his birthday," and that his day "shall be observed as Bert Corona Day in the City of Los Angeles and that the City of Los Angeles honors Bert Corona and his life, work and legacy."
The resolution was introduced by Councilmembers Richard Alarcon and Jose Huizar, and in this they pay appropriate homage to a person who did so much to not only improve the conditions of life and work of immigrants, but also to increase political representation for Mexican Americans and Latinos. Alarcon and Huizar are the direct beneficiaries of his life's work, and they acknowledge the same. Both represent districts that are probably amongst the jurisdictions that had the largest number of individuals who qualified for the 1986 amnesty, legalized their status, and seven years later obtained U.S. citizenship status and voted for the first time in their adopted country. Eventually three million previously undocumented migrants would do so. Latino political representation throughout the U.S., especially in the Southwest, would grow exponentially as a result from 1996 forward.

Mario Garcia, the author who collaborated with Bert Corona in the narration of his memoirs asks and answers the question, "Who is Bert Corona?" "To put it simply, Bert Corona is a Mexican-American labor and community activist, whom I have admired for many years. After collaborating on the writing of his life history, I admire him even more. Bert Corona is a Mexican-American whose life and political career correspond to many of the key themes and periods of twentieth-century American history, in particular those of the Mexican-American experience. His life and work embody the changing character of the Mexican- American communities in the United States." (Memories of Chicano History: The Life and Narrative of Bert Corona, University of California Press, 1994)

Bert Corona was born in 1918 in El Paso, Texas from a family of revolutionaries, literally. The family fled Mexico during the revolution from their native state of Chihuahua like so many hundreds of thousands of other immigrants and refugees. Corona's father had served as a military officer under General Francisco Pancho Villa, and was ultimately assassinated, as was the great revolutionary caudillo Villa. Garcia defines Corona's generation as follows, "Having grown up along the border as the child of Mexican immigrants, Corona represented by the 1930s a new generation of Mexican-Americans who had been born or raised in the United States and who began to distinguish themselves from their immigrant roots. They were still mexicanos, but they were also American citizens. According to Garcia, Corona's generation "became aware of an identity that resembled what W.E.B. DuBois referred to as the "double consciousness" of black Americans: the consciousness both of being black and of being American." He refers to the Mexican-American Generation at that "which came of political age between the 1930s and the 1950s, " and in particular, "Corona joined in the renewed struggles for social justice and first-class citizenship identified with this political generation."

Corona's life extended from his two years education at the University of Southern California (USC) on a basketball scholarship, the International Longshore and Warehousemen Union (ILGWU) where he served as an organizer and union officer, an enlisted soldier- paratrooper in the U.S. Army, and activist and founder of many organizations, some of which include the Mexican American Youth Movement (MAM) in the 1930s, the National Congress of Spanish-speaking Peoples (1930s), Community Service Organization (1940s), the Asociacion Nacional Mexico-Americana (ANMA) in the 1950s, the Mexican American Political Association (MAPA) in the 1960s, the Center of Autonomous Social Action (C.A.S.A.) in the 1970s, and the Hermandad Mexicana Nacional in the 1980s forward. He participated in the founding of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) and the National Council of La Raza, and many other organizations and coalitions.

Corona was born on the same day as President John F. Kennedy, but one year later, and died on January 15, 2001, the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. - a curious historical coincidence.

He lived and worked long enough to realize many dreams, goals, and accomplishments, and observe, while directly participating in, the greatest spike of political representation for Latinos throughout the U.S.

Today we commemorate what would have been Corona's 90th birthday and thank the Los Angeles City Council for their thoughtfulness in unanimously approving the Bert Corona Day resolution, and especially the initiative taken by Councilmembers Alarcon and Huizar. He along with Soledad Alatorre, Socorro Jimenez, Isabel "Chavela" Rodriguez, Rose Chernin, Humberto Camacho, and many other activists and leaders of that early period, were the founders of the modern immigrants' rights movement, launched the first KNOW YOUR RIGHTS campaigns, organized mass mobilizations against invasive immigration raids and unjust deportations, fought to pressure the labor movement to eliminate all barriers to union organization of undocumented immigrants, publicly criticized Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta, and the UFW to correct their position on the immigration question, and formed some of the first national coalitions to demand legalization and humane federal immigration reform.

Having worked with Bert Corona for more than a quarter of a century in both CASA and Hermandad Mexicana Nacional, I can say unequivocally that he would have graciously accepted the accolade, but would have firmly advocated for immigration reform on a municipal level - things that local elected officials (even those who authored the resolution) can immediately do without deferring to the U.S. Congress or waiting for "comprehensive" immigration reform at the federal level.

He would have spoken forcefully in favor of stopping the impounding of vehicles by police authorities due to the lack of a driver's license. He would have proposed a municipal I.D. for anyone desiring one as a minimal and fair protection option to the state's racist policy of denying a state I.D. and driver's license to undocumented migrants - not dissimilar to the leadership demonstrated by the city of San Francisco. Corona would have insisted on strengthening Special Order 40, which in fact was enacted based on his personal advocacy with the Los Angeles Police Department in 1979. And, he certainly would have demanded much from those to whom much is given, the mayor and city council, to make the city of the angels much more immigrant and refugee friendly, a sanctuary as declared under Mayor Tom Bradley, an ICE-raid free environment, and recognize that the questions of affordable housing, access to universal healthcare, expansion of reasonably priced public transportation, and a fair wage for all workers in all industries are most definitely within the scope of municipal jurisdiction, and also intricately related to the question of fair and humane immigration polices and practices.

Nativo V. Lopez
National President
Mexican American Political Association (MAPA)
Hermandad Mexicana Latinoamericana

Join us in this prolonged campaign for driver's licenses and visas for our families. The first step in making change is to join an organization that pursues the change we desire. We welcome you to our ranks.
Other organizations leading this movement include: Hermandad Mexicana Latinoamericana, Mexican American Political Association (MAPA), MAPA Youth Leadership, Liberty and Justice for Immigrants Movement, National Alliance for Immigrant's Rights, and immigrant's rights coalitions throughout the U.S..

Nativo V. Lopez, National President of MAPA (323) 269-1575

Join the Mexican American Political Association mailing list

Mexican American Political Association
phone: 323-269-1575

Mexican American Political Association | 310 N. Soto Street | Los Angeles | CA | 90033

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Obama could do better on Latin America

Obama vs McCain On Latin America:
Good Start, Many Flaws

Obama's speech is a call for direct dialogue
and new trade deals with Latin America, but
continued counterinsurgency in Columbia,
tensions with Venezuela

By Tom Hayden

Progressives for Obama - May 26, 2008

Barack Obama called last week for new Latin American
policies in his first major policy declaration towards
the region.

The speech was classic Obama, substantive, centrist,
subtle, and pragmatic, above all drawing a sharp
difference between Obama's support for "direct
diplomacy" versus John McCain's status quo policies
towards Cuba and the region.

As a measure of how far the anti-Castro Cubans have
shifted towards the center, Obama's speech was praised
by his Miami hosts, the Cuban American National

As a measure of Obama's own evolution to the center
from the left, however, Obama committed himself to
maintaining the economic embargo of Cuba which he
questioned when he ran for the US Senate in 2004.

Nevertheless, the speech will be well-received in
progressive circles as a breakthrough from past
policies aimed at isolation and undermining of the
Cuban government. Obama also cited Franklin Roosevelt's
presidency and "good neighbor" policies several times,
a course proposed recently by the Progressives for
Obama network*:

"What all of us strive for is freedom as FDR described
it. Political freedom. Religious freedom. But also
freedom from want, and freedom from fear. At our best,
the United States has been a force for these four
freedoms in the Americas. But if we're honest with
ourselves, we'll acknowledge that at times we've failed
to engage the people of the region with the respect
owed to a partner... "We cannot ignore suffering to our
south, nor stand for the globalization of the empty
stomach. Responsibility rests with governments in the
region, but we must do our part. I will substantially
increase our aid to the Americas, and embrace the
Millennium Development Goals of halving global poverty
by 2015...

"We cannot accept trade that enriches those at the top
of the ladder while cutting out the rungs at the
bottom. It's time to understand that the goal of our
trade policy must be trade that works for all people in
all countries. "Yet while there has been great economic
progress, there is still back-breaking inequality.
Despite a growing middle class, 100 million people live
on less than two dollars a day, and 40 percent of Latin
Americans live in poverty. This feeds everything from
drugs, to migration, to support for leaders that appeal
to the poor without delivering on their promises...That
is why the United States must stand for growth in the
Americas from the bottom up."

This rhetoric is sure to be welcomed as well, after
many years of failed US efforts to impose corporate
trade policies on Central and Latin America through
NAFTA, CAFTA and the derailed FTAA. However, in the
absence of government spending and regulatory measures
- from Latin America, the US and wealthier nations -
the Obama proposals imply a continuation of private
sector economic development and modest gestures like
micro-loans, education and job-training, and small
business development.

But while these are positive, if cautious, policy
steps, the dangerous flaw in Obama's speech was his
apparent commitment to supporting the US
counterinsurgency war In Columbia, secretive drug wars
across the continent, and a veiled threat against

"We will fully support Colombia's fight against the
FARC. We'll work with the government to end the reign
of terror from right wing paramilitaries. We will
support Colombia's right to strike terrorists who seek
safe-haven across its borders. And we will shine a
light on any support for the FARC that comes from
neighboring governments. This behavior must be exposed
to international condemnation, regional isolation, and
- if need be - strong sanctions. It must not stand."

It should be obvious to Obama that these approaches may
likely fail like the US embargo of Cuba. The US is in
retreat in Latin America, its trade proposals derailed
and its last military base being closed in Ecuador. But
like his pledges to send more troops to Afghanistan and
even attack jihadists in Pakistan [in violation of that
country's declared opposition], Obama proposes to
continue US military intervention in Colombia's civil
war even to the point of supporting cross-border raids
into Venezuela or Ecuador.

Towards Venezuela, Obama is burdened with the
contradictions of the liberal national security hawks,
admitting that Hugo Chavez was elected democratically
but asserting that Chavez doesn't "govern
democratically." Obama ignores Venezuela's own
successful "bottom up" efforts to alleviate poverty
with public investments from its national oil company.
He further ignores Venezuela's own voters' recent
ballot box rejection of a sweeping Chavez initiative.
Like many liberal hawks, Obama differs with the Bush
Administration's attacks on Chavez because they are

"Yet the Bush Administration's blustery condemnations
and clumsy attempts to undermine Chavez have only
strengthened his hand."

Not a word about US complicity in the attempted coup
against Chavez, nor the remarkable Venezuelan mass
movement that resisted that coup. In the extreme
discomfort of American centrists, including the media,
at accepting the democratically-chosen government of
Venezuela with all its various shortcomings, one can
see a lingering imperial assumption beneath all
rhetoric to the contrary. It can be said, of course,
that Chavez, with his own blustering rhetoric, doesn't
make liberal centrist acceptance easier. But there is
an understandable history here, not only the old
history of Conquest and Monroe Doctrine, but the
immediate history of the 2002 attempted overthrow of
Chavez with American complicity.

If Barack Obama can ask us to better understand the
black anger of his pastor Jeremiah Wright, surely he
himself should be able to understand the volcanic rage
which echoes in voices like those of Hugo Chavez and,
before him, Fidel Castro, across Latin America.
According to sources in Caracas and Havana, Hugo Chavez
himself may privately dismiss all this Venezuela-
bashing as mere US election year posturing. "If it
helps Obama get elected, okay, we'll talk later", in
the paraphrase of one close observer. But Obama could
sink himself in a US counterinsurgency quagmire in
Columbia, which could spiral into greater tensions with
Venezuela and Ecuador. He seems to believe Colombia is
America's democratic gift to Latin America, when most
in the region view it as the client state serving as an
outpost of Yanqui military intervention.

There is a better alternative that Obama and his
advisers ignore, the distinct possibility that the
anti-government guerrilla movement in Columbia [FARC]
is being gradually convinced to evolve into a political
force, as the IRA did in Northern Ireland. The FARC was
born in a time of civil wars and military juntas across
the continent, but in recent years many [former]
revolutionary and guerilla leaders have swept to power
democratically, from Nicaragua to Uruguay to Bolivia.
The conditions for transforming the armed conflict in
Colombia into a political one, while difficult, have
never been more favorable. A negotiated political
outcome is in the interests of Columbia, Venezuela,
Cuba and neighboring countries.

But that prospect will be dimmed if an Obama
administration continues promoting a one-sided victory
a Uribe government riddled with its own death squads
and drug traffickers, protected with American money,
American arms and US Special Forces. [The recent
extradiction of several Columbia drug traffickers to
the US was an effort to secure a trade deal, not to
change the essential character of the regime in
Bogota]. To make matters worse, Obama endorses the drug
war paradigm that street gangs are the new enemy:

"As President, I'll make it clear that we're coming
after the guns, we're coming after the money
laundering, and we're coming after the vehicles that
enable this crime. And we'll crack down on the demand
for drugs in our own communities, and restore funding
for drug task forces and the COPS program. We must win
the fights on our own streets if we're going to secure
the region." This formulation is upside down. Street
gangs like Mara Salvatrucha or 18th Street are
symptomatic of the overall crisis of poverty,
discrimination and repression in which the US has
collaborated in Central and Latin America. These
particular street gangs were created in places like Los
Angeles among hundreds of thousands of child refugees
of the US-sponsored Central American wars. They formed
gangs for security and identity, they become involved
in the drug trade because there were no legitimate job
opportunities for undocumented exiles, and they became
violent because they were born and raised in the trauma
of war.

Of course, it is legitimate both in terms of policy and
politics for Obama to defend a law enforcement approach
as part of the mix, but a war on gangs, like a war on
drugs, is hopeless, counter-productive and immoral
without a war on the greed that is devouring hundreds
of millions of young people in Latin America. The
funding to "win the fights on our own streets" would
eclipse any budgets for jobs or education for inner
city youth. The irony should not forgotten either that
the US has been involved in corruption, dictatorships
and the drug trade, from the casinos of Havana in the
1950s to cocaine sales on the streets of LA that funded
weapons for the Contras in the 1980s.

Finally, Obama's vision of the region as a more equal
partnership will be tested by the ambitious energy
development plan dropped into his speech, The rhetoric
appears balanced, but in the context of existing power
relationships the outcome could deepen Latin America's
role, once again, as a resource colony of the United

"We'll allow industrial emitters to offset a portion of
this cost by investing in low carbon energy projects in
Latin America and the Caribbean. And we'll increase
research and development across the Americas in clean
coal technology, in the next generation of sustainable
biofuels not taken from food crops, and in wind and
solar energy. We'll enlist the World Bank, the
Organization of American States, and the Inter-American
Development Bank to support these investments, and
ensure that these projects enhance natural resources
like land, wildlife, and rain forests. We'll finally
enforce environmental standards in our trade deals."

The best that can be said of this speech is that it's a
brave beginning, a break from Bush, and that the
progressive changes sweeping Latin America hopefully
may educate and move Obama towards a far greater
partnership project than he now envisions. Obama, it
should be emphasized, has never been to Latin America,
and his book, Audacity of Hope, passes over the region
in its chapter on "The World Beyond Our Borders", even
though it was written at a time of democratic upheaval
across the continent.

The lack of a powerful progressive Latin American lobby
in the US, combined with his lack of engagement there,
means Obama will be surrounded by advisers who believe
the US is the hegemon. By comparison, FDR was bolder
than Obama in his "good neighbor" policy. He rejected
US military interventions, and supported Mexico's
nationalization of its oil resources against the
lobbying pressure of the US multinationals. Obama's
position is reminiscent of the early John Kennedy, who
trapped himself at the Bay of Pigs, glamorized the
Special Forces, and offered a centrist Alliance for
Progress as America's answer to the Cuban model in
Latin America. Instead of yielding reform, the mano
duro policies of dictatorships and death squads swept
the region with US support and training for repressive
army and police forces.

Now that Latin America, on its own, has swept those
dictatorships away and is following its own democratic
path, it is presumptuous of Obama to propose himself as
the protector of Latin America from Hugo Chavez,
guerrillas and drug lords, all of them symptomatic
responses to US policies over many decades.

[* NOTE. In its founding call, Progressives for Obama
demanded a new Good Neighbor policy towards Latin
America, as follows: "Nor can we impose NAFTA-style
trade agreements on so many nations that seek only to
control their own national resources and economic
destinies. We cannot globalize corporate and financial
power over democratic values and institutions.

Since the Clinton Administration pushed through NAFTA
against the Democratic majority in Congress, one Latin
American nation after another has elected progressive
governments that reject US trade deals and hegemony. We
are isolated in Latin America by our Cold War and drug
war crusades, by the $500 million counter-insurgency in
Columbia, support for the 2002 coup attempt in
Venezuela, and the ineffectual blockade of Cuba.

We need to return to the Good Neighbor policies of
Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1930s, which rejected
Yankee military intervention and accepted Mexico's
right to nationalize its oil in the face of industry
opposition. The pursuit of NAFTA-style trade policies
inflames our immigration crisis as well, by uprooting
countless campesinos who inevitably seek low-wage jobs
north of the border in order to survive. We need
balanced and democratically-approved trade agreements
that focus on the needs of workers, consumers and the
environment. The Banana Republic is a retail chain, not
an American colony protected by the Monroe Doctrine."]


Monday, May 26, 2008

Elections and other items in Puerto Rico

It was interesting to me that the article submitted just before this
spoke of the "new imperialism". Good article except for the fact
that it did not mention that the US still has several colonies.
Guam , Virgin Islands, Northern Marianas and the largest my own
Puerto Rico. I find it interesting that the US left except for the
old Guaridan newspaper from New York and the Militant shy away from
the mention of the existing US colonies. It seems to be more
confortable mentioning Venezuela, Chile, Bolivia.

Where to begin and keep this short.

Brigada Antonio Maceo...Some prominant members like Marifili Perez
have recanted their support but the vast mayority of the 55 who went
are still firm supporters of the revolution. Many live here in
Puerto Rico and are also supporters of the Independence movement.

Filiberto Ojeda Rios...interesting character. Believed in using all
forms of struggle to liberate our island nation. Yet, during the
Vieques Movement he saw that non violence was working and he let it
run its course. We won. We kicked the largest navy in the world
out. Without firing a shot.

For 15 years he Ojeda-Rios lived in the municipality of
Hormigueros. This is right next to the city of Mayaguez. In his
barrio he was known as don Luis. He would go to the little plaza in
the town of Hormigueros and play dominoes with the groupos that
gathered there during the breezy tropical nights. No one suspected
who he was.

Then on September 23, 2005 at about 2 pm comes the US FBI special
squads with more than 200 agents. They surround his Barrio Jaguitas
sector Plan Bonito home. It is a small one bedroom house up a steep
little mountain road. Flowers and fruit trees carefully planted.

The FBI amplfies its blockade to include the whole barrio with its
more than 600 people. No one in. No one out.

Negociations. Ojeda age 72 is alone with his wife. It is the day on
which Puerto Ricans commorate the Lares Revolt for independence
against Spain in 1868. Filiberto has sent his traditional message.
It is being read at the Plaza of the Revolution in Lares as the FBI
starts to "negociate". Beatriz his wife, is let go. No more
negociations. Shots are fired by FBI and then Ojeda Rios. A sharp
shooter puts a bullet through the window and wounds Ojeda Rios. He
moves against the front door. The FBI can see the blood coming out
from under the door. Does nothing for over 24 hours. Lets him bleed
to death.

FBI does not lift the blockade of his barrio for over a day and a
half. Kids are left at home without their parents. People cannot
get back to their homes after work. The barrio hears in English as
FBI agents for over three hours curse Ojeda Rios and Puerto Ricans.
FBI voices are carried over the still country afternoon and night.

At about 5 pm when the folks are coming down the mountains from the
commoration at Lares the radio stations start giving the news of what
is happening in Hormigueros. People flock to the town. Try to get
through the barriers now set up by the island police. No luck.
Doctors, nurses and lawyers are ready to help Ojeda. No one is
permitted through.

Indignation about what is happening is wide spread through out our
island nation. Even those who are pro anexation. The governor
alleges that he and the Secretary of Justice were left out of the

A couple of days later the body of Filiberto is taken to San Juan.
An autopsy and then to the College of Lawyers. The next day he is
taken to the cementary of the barrio where he was born Rio Blanco in
Neguabo. Eastern Puerto Rico just across from the island
municipalities of Vieques and Culebra. All alone the route people
stand with Puerto Rican flags. It takes hours to get to the
cememtary. Thousands are there.

The death of Filiberto confronted each Puerto Rican up close and
personal with the fact that we are a colony. We do not rule in our
own land. The police chief of Hormigueros said that he could have
taken Filiberto in without firing a shot. Yet the big FBI came with
over 200 of its agents to kill one man.

What has followed in western Puerto Rico has been a continous program
of FBI harrastment of pro independence activists. Interesting they
do not harrass the old folks who are more than use to it by now.
They harrass our young.

During the first week of June. Puerto Ricans in New York will have
the now famous Puerto Rican day parade. There will be Puerto Rican
flags everywhere. Please not that it was illegal for us to fly that
flag in Puerto Rico until after 1952. Please note that even then the
flag flown did not have the correct color blue. It was allowed with
navy blue which is the color of the US flag. Our flag is sky blue
the same color of the Cuban flag. They were created by the same
people at the same time in 1895.

Later that week Puerto Ricans will go to present speaches before the
United Nations Decolonization committee. This is done every year.
We have already 25 resolutions from that committe saying that we have
a right to our own self determination. This year even our governor is
going. He will say that the US lied to the UN in 1953 when it said
we had attained self determination.

What do we want from the UN. We want a discussion of our case before
the UN General Assembly. A discussion which confronts the fact that
in an era where there are few colonies, the "greatest" "democracy" in
the world has the mayority of them.

Yesterday Clinton came to Hormigueros. She did not mention
Filiberto. She did not mention the fact that we are a colony. She
came like so many other US politicans have come for the 110 years of
US colonization. Spoke pretty, empty words with glorious proimises
which will not be kept.

The same happened the day before when Obama came to Ponce. No
difference between him and Hilary here.

Obama wants to apply the Monroe doctrine again. There is nothing new
in this. He says everywhere that he is a different politican and
will bring change and hope. No change, much less hope will come here
until US politicans and folks in general acknowledge that they have a
contradiciton here. A so called democracy owns colonies or
possessions as they are sometimes called.

The death of Filiberto. The repercusions within the island justice
system where the FBI has whitewashed its "performance" and will not
let the local justice department investige what happened in
Hormigueros has confronted even the governor with the fact that we
are a colony.

The day of the circus primary we will have a march repudiating it in
San Juan. There are many other ways in which Puerto Rico can use
this money inorder to better our conditions. This whole circus has
little or nothing to do with us.

To all, parden my English. It is my second language.


Sunday, May 25, 2008

Socialists and Social Democrats create Union of South American Nations

UNASUR, the Right Way, Michelle Bachelet
Brasilia, May 23 (Prensa Latina) Creation of the UNASUR (Union of South American Nations) is a historic step in the right direction, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet asserted on Friday, after assuming its presidency pro tempore.

Bachelet said this new mechanism will allow continuing making progress in the in the process to integrate the Latin American nations and it is essential to face up to the common challenges and as a catalyst for the regional development.

With a world order that involves new actors, including new emerging countries, the UNASUR will allow the Latin American nations speaking with a more powerful voice, faced with the global problems, she said.

She warned that the Union's members should focus their attention on the issues that unite them, promote political coordination and propose clear goals and objectives.

In this reference, she was in favor of insisting on social policies to fight poverty and encourage trade, scientific research, and issues related to energy security in the region.


Friday, May 23, 2008

Border Towns track Mexican students

In Calexico, Calif., schools crack down on students who live across the border.
By Randy Dotinga | Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor
and Mary Knox Merrill | staff
from the May 23, 2008 edition

CALEXICO AND SAN DIEGO, CALIF. - If you cross the US-Mexican border at the town of Calexico you might run into a photographer named Daniel Santillan. But he's not likely to be shooting pictures of tourists. He only has eyes for Mexican schoolchildren who want an American education.

Mr. Santillan is a residency enforcer, assigned by local education officials to make sure students live in the US, not Mexico. When he's not tracking students on weekday mornings at the border crossing, he visits local homes to make sure children live where their parents say they do.

Santillan isn't thrilled about busting youngsters for living south of the border, but he accepts his job. "The bottom line is that these kids are taking up room," he says.

It's impossible to know how many Mexican students cross the border daily to attend school in the US, sent by parents who think they'll get a better education. Still, border communities have fretted over their presence for more than a decade.

Some schools are now doing more to enforce residency requirements under pressure from politicians and activists concerned about wasted taxpayer money.

Calexico's schools, however, have gone further than others by sending Santillan to photograph students at the border and requiring parents to provide proof of residency twice a year.

The school district, which serves 9,000 students in a poor southwestern California border town, wasn't overly concerned about Mexican students until about three years ago.

After all, Calexico schools didn't lose any money by accepting the students, since the state of California reimburses the district for each student it accepts. Also, Mexican students didn't necessarily stand out, since 95 percent of Calexico residents are Latino. And close relationships with Calexico's sister city in Mexico – the sprawling metropolis Mexicali – made cross-border trips easy.

District officials say they only began to take action because of complaints about overcrowding – some students had to be bused across town to schools that had room for them – and low test scores under the federal No Child Left Behind program.

Mexican students tend to produce lower test scores because their English skills are poor, says Gilbert Barraza, principal of Calexico High School.

"The elephant in the room is the [test-score] liability these kids bring to the table," he says.

Partly as a result of its crackdown, the Calexico district has lost 300 students and nearly $2 million in state funding that is based on the number of students in its schools. But Mr. Barraza says this has helped the overcrowded campuses.

"Enrollment was getting out of control and we had to address it," Barraza says.

Elsewhere along the border, schools pay varying levels of attention to Mexican students. In San Diego County, officials have had to tread carefully since the mid-1990s, when a video clip showing schoolchildren crossing the border in a rural area created a stir. The small school district serving the region ultimately had to expel a reported 325 of its students because they didn't live within its boundaries.

Under federal law, schools cannot ask students about their citizenship status. Even if they could ask, many Mexican children have American citizenship because they were born here. But schools can verify where students live.

The Sweetwater Union High School District, which serves 42,000 students in several San Diego-area border cities, requires parents to show proof of residency each year in person.

The proof can come in the form of documents such as water bills or mortgage papers. In addition, the district now requires documentation if a relative who lives in the district claims to be a child's guardian and a new computer system will allow school officials to immediately identify addresses that don't exist.

"We've really tried to close a lot of the loopholes," says spokeswoman Lillian Leopold. "We think we're pretty strict, but we're not a police agency."

The district does allow Mexican students to attend its schools if they pay annual tuition of $7,435, Ms. Leopold says. No one does that at the moment, however.

Students living across the border can attend some US colleges and universities if they pay tuition. An estimated 10 percent of the students at the University of Texas-El Paso are Mexican citizens, says linguistics professor Jon Amastae, former director of the university's department of inter-American and border studies. According to news reports, some of these students cross the border to attend school.

Meanwhile, so many schoolchildren come through the El Paso border that officials created a special pedestrian lane for them. The Houston Chronicle reported that about 1,200 used the lane during a single morning in 2007.

Some El Paso residents have complained about the influx of Mexican students. But Mr. Amastae thinks most residents are on his side. "Here along the border, most people share the idea that we all have an interest in raising education levels," in both countries, he says. "Doing so benefits all of us."

• Randy Dotinga reported from San Diego and Mary Knox Merrill reported from Calexico.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Stop ICE Raids

ICE Raids Are Violating Laws and
Destroying Our Rights
Justice for Postville -- ICE Must:
End Raids, Cease Detentions and Deportations
Stop Breaking Up Families, Devastating Our Communities
And Destabilizing the Economy
Oakland, CA- May 19, 2008 - The National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (NNIRR) condemns the latest Department of Homeland Security immigration raid carried out on Monday, May 12, by the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) against immigrant workers at a meat-packing plant in Postville, Iowa. ICE has committed a flagrant injustice under the cover of law and must be held accountable.

ICE's actions have left the people of Postville in a state of shock, as its very social and economic well-being has been called into question, threatening the future of its residents. After the ICE raid, scores of immigrant workers and their family members fled to a local church, seeking sanctuary at St. Bridget Church.

Workers at the Postville plant were reported to be in a labor dispute with employers. Despite policy prohibiting immigration police interference and ignoring union organizers' pleas, ICE amassed a small army and proceeded to carry out a massive operation in the early hours of the day. ICE used two helicopters and brought in over 200 federal, county and local police agents including from ICE, the FBI and other federal and local agencies, and dozens of vehicles and buses to haul off workers.

ICE began unleashing a series of raids in different parts of the country that started right before and continued after the national May 1 mass mobilizations. In mid-April, ICE immigration enforcement raids struck Poultry Pride plants in five different states, another meat processing company, arresting over 300 workers. Then on May 2 in northern California, ICE took action against a small family-own restaurant chain in six cities, arresting over 60 workers. Then during May 5-6, ICE stationed themselves in front of one elementary public school and one high school in Oakland and Berkeley, CA, arresting at least four persons and scaring the hell out students, parents and workers. ICE arrests hundreds of documented and undocumented immigrants every day in border and non-border regions of the country, incarcerating as many 30,000 immigrants on any given week, through raids and other means.

The Biggest Raid to Cover Up Immigrant Jail Abuses?

ICE's timing of the Postville raids is also questionable. In the days leading up to this raid, major newspapers reports were exposing the harsh conditions ICE subjects persons to in immigration detention, including the revelation that dozens of immigrants have died in detention over the last few years from abusive treatment and lack of medical care.

Then ICE delivered a devastating blow to Postville, a small town with 2,273 residents. By calling the Postville the largest raid in history, ICE was drawing attention away from the on-going exposé of the harsh conditions in ICE jails. While ICE has arrested more workers in previous sweeps, in Postville some 390 workers were arrested, out of some 900 workers at the plant.

ICE gave the Postville immigrant community no warning of this monstrous assault. In the weekend before the ICE raid, community members were aghast at the preparations they were witnessing: Department of Homeland Security began amassing police agents and the resources to carry out this crushing blow against workers, including setting up a temporary jail at a nearby "Cattle Congress" facility, where the men were jailed. Women were put in the local jail.

After the raid, ICE stifled the immigrant workers access to legal counsel. And, in the days and weeks leading up to the raid, in a multi-agency collaboration DHS investigations included getting addresses, social security numbers and other private information about the workers' families, youth and students from the local school district.

Stop the ICE Raids, End Detentions and Deportations

ICE wields raids for their multiple political and social impacts, sweeping up more immigrants than are usually named on their warrants. Intimidating and terrifying, work-site and other immigration raids account for about 2% of all immigrants who are detained and deported yearly. Almost 5,000 immigrants were deported through raids, out of over 260,000, in fiscal year 2007.

ICE deliberately uses raids to send shock waves through immigrant communities, to repress rights and suppress organizing efforts, as well as to promote and showcase new enforcement policies and strategies. The results are devastating: families are separated, communities are traumatized and the economic losses caused by immigration enforcement are almost exclusively borne by immigrants and their communities.

ICE's actions against Postville were a deliberate attack on the rights and wellbeing of immigrants everywhere. ICE raids expose workers to further exploitation and undermine labor rights and unions; they help perpetuate abuses and act as a cover-up mechanism for other violations that go unpunished. After an ICE raid, parents stop sending their children to school, they stop going to work, to church and avoid shopping and other public spaces out of fear. ICE makes communities vulnerable to abuse, crime and violence.

Demanding Justice and Human Rights for All

We can stop ICE raids and other ICE abuses by demanding accountability as part of organizing for justice and human rights. Immigration laws and enforcement are destroying the rights of immigrants and workers, and spell a disaster for workers and the economy. ICE immigration raids, detentions and deportations are causing untold hardships on immigrant families and their communities.

ICE claims that its policy of releasing women who may be pregnant or a parent with children with electronic ankle-bracelets is humanitarian. A humanitarian policy would ensure that all immigrants are protected from abuses, are able to work at a job with a living wage and have their labor rights upheld - not be in being held in virtual jail and forbidden to work or live without fear, to provide for their families here and abroad. ICE policies are not humanitarian and inflict great harm on our communities.

NNIRR demands that the all workers be freed and that ICE take true humanitarian actions by:
Providing work permits to all these workers so they are not abused or exploited while their cases are pending;
Complying with the U.S. Constitution, upholding their due process rights with full access to legal counsel and access to the courts; and,
Ending the policy of "No-Match" letters, which ICE uses to criminalize workers and allows employers to abuse immigrants, undermining the civil and labor rights of all.

Express Solidarity with the Postville Immigrant Workers and Families

Show your solidarity with the Postville community. Please consider sending a generous donation to help provide legal services and cover the basic needs of the immigrant workers and their families who were affected by the ICE raid. Many families have sought refuge at their local church and need support to raise their voices and assert their rights.

Make your check or money order payable to "St. Bridget Hispanic Ministry Fund," write "Postville raid" in the memo and mail to:

St Bridget Church
ATTN: Sr. Mary McCauley
PO Box 369
Postville, IA 52162

Tel. (563) 864-3138

Saturday, May 17, 2008

A new dirty war

A New Dirty War

Why Mexican Justice is a Euphemism


Even in the best of times, Mexican justice is a euphemism - and these are not the best of times. With 90% of all crimes unprosecuted or unreported, conviction rates are below 10% and too often those who are convicted are innocent victims themselves, rounded up and summarily charged so that security forces - there are 1671 police agencies in Mexico - can clear crimes that may well have been commited by the police themselves.

The two-tiered justice system is profoundly disequal in its treatment of those arrested. Odds are that the rich and powerful will never see the inside of a jail cell - if not immediately released, they will be held for questioning ("arraigo") at private hotels such as the Federal Prosecutor's Office maintains in Mexico City.

Those that have no juice with authorities or a slick lawyer to spring them disappear behind bars for stretches that are better measured in geologic time, awaiting the glacial pace of court proceedings and often held without even being formally charged. A year can elapse before a prisoner is formally declared a prisoner, the signal that the court will actually hear the case. Because most prisoners are not bailable (either because they too poor or because the crimes with which they are charged do not allow for release on bail), they will be imprisoned throughout the process, "defended" by public defenders whose caseloads are so out of control that they don't even know who they are defending. Guilt, which is presumed, and innocence which must be proven (the Napoleonic Code) is decided by a single judge - there is no jury of one's peers.

Although judgments must be rendered within a year, they are often deferred. When a conviction and sentence is handed down, the defendant has the option to appeal for an "amparo", an injunction protecting the appellant from being imprisoned although he or she may have already been imprisoned for years. If a higher court does grant the "amparo" against the sentence, the prisoner may be freed "under caution" - which means that he or she must report to court authorities once a week although no new trial will ever be held. Most cases are eventually dismissed with the payment of a fine that is a multiple of the daily minimum wage.

This Via Cruces is doubly onerous for those catalogued as political prisoners. Prison authorities encourage isolation and the ostracizing of prisoners with social activism backgrounds and many spend years in solitary confinement subject to violence by prison officials and other prisoners and tortured by intelligence agencies to reveal information or renounce their convictions. Some just disappear while in captivity. Speaking for the National Front Against Repression (FNCR), leftist Senator Rosario Ibarra, whose own son vanished after being detained by federal authorities in 1976, estimates that there are currently 900 political prisoners in Mexican lockups. Ibarra campaigns in congress for a national amnesty.


The criminalization of social protest has been the benchmark of President Felipe Calderon's 17 months in office since his fraud-marred election in 2006. Calderon's first political prisoner was Flavio Sosa, a frequent spokesperson for the Oaxaca Peoples' Popular Assembly (APPO) which, along with striking teachers, occupied the plaza of that state's capital from May through November of 2006 demanding the removal of despotic governor Ulises Ruiz.

Following a crackdown by federal police on November 25th of that year which resulted in over 200 arrests of activists, Sosa and two other APPO leaders were summoned to Mexico City to "dialogue" with Calderon's newly installed Interior Secretary Francisco Ramirez Acuna. Upon leaving the secretariat following a December 4th session, three days after Calderon's chaotic inauguration, Sosa and his brother Horacio were surrounded by federal agents and hustled off to Mexico's most notorious maximum prison then known as Almaloya, charged with the kidnapping of two cops (they had been discovered infiltrating an APPO meeting), blocking highways, seizing state television facilities, and burning down Oaxaca's highest court.

Both Flavio and Horacio and later a third brother Eric (the two brothers' crime appears to be sharing the name "Sosa" with Flavio) were held in isolation in a section of the Almaloya Super Maxi that houses the nation's top-tier druglords, brutal kidnappers like Daniel Arizmendi, "El Mochaorejas" ("The Earchopper"), and confessed political assassin Mario Aburto. Denied contact with lawyers or family, phone calls and all reading materials, and roughly strip searched every four hours, Sosa's supporters feared for his mental health.

After eight months of such cruel and unusual punishment, Flavio Sosa was reclaimed by Governor Ruiz from Calderon, wrapped up in chains, and helicoptered to a Oaxaca state prison. By August 2007, Sosa remained one of the last of the APPO's prisoners - hundreds rounded up in November and transported to jails out of the state had been released on bail. But justice had not triumphed. At least 26 victims had been gunned down by Ruiz's police, including U.S. independent journalist Brad Will, yet no officer has ever been charged in the killings. Impunity reigns

One further example of how the justice system works in Oaxaca: Emiterio Merrino, an APPO activist beaten to within an inch of his life by Ruiz's Ministerial Police during July 2007 demonstrations, was recently fined several thousand pesos by a Oaxaca judge after failing to appear in court - Merrino, who is confined to a wheelchair, was left incontinent and his sight irrevocably damaged by the attack. He still cannot speak.

During his incarceration in state prison, Sosa maintains that Ruiz's intermediaries offered him his release and $10,000 USD for each of the next three years if he would leave Mexico, a deal Flavio appears to have turned down. Sosa has in fact been an unstable political ally. Elected to Mexico's Chamber of Deputies in 1999 on the left-center Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) ticket, he jumped to the right-wing PAN party and supported ex-president Vicente Fox in 2000. In 2004, Sosa jumped parties again, aligning himself with a spurious local formation designed to siphon votes from the PRD, a strategy that guaranteed Ruiz's victory.

Finally this April 19th, 16 months after his arrest and 60 pounds svelter (Flavio had been dangerously overweight when he went to jail), Sosa was freed after a judge dismissed all charges against him in a lightning-fast hearing that lasted only 20 minutes. In truth, the activist had not even been present at the demonstrations where many of the events he was charged with inciting occurred.

Sosa's large family was waiting at the prison gates to embrace him along with the much-discredited leader of Section 22 of the Oaxaca's teachers union Ezekiel Rosales. Section 22, whose annual strike for a new contract ignited the 2006 uprising, is once again threatening to strike in mid-May.


The tumultuous skein of resistance and repression in Oaxaca followed hard on the heels of the government's now notorious rampage in San Salvador Atenco, an agricultural enclave on the shores of Lake Texcoco just outside Mexico City May 3rd and 4th 2006 after a minor altercation at a local flower market escalated into wholesale mayhem. 2000 state and federal police, bent on revenge for the farmers' successful struggle to cancel expropriation of communal lands for a multi-billion dollar international airport back in 2001, stormed the town before dawn May 4th. Singling out sympathizers of the Popular Front to Defend the Land (FPDT), the robocops savagely beat the villagers, destroyed their homes, and dragged 207 protestors off to prison, including one farmer in a wheelchair. 26 women were sexually abused while being transported to a state lockup and two young men were killed by police shooters during the two-day assault. Five non-Mexican human rights observers were summarily deported from Mexico.

The brutality of the attack has been widely decried by international human rights organizations ranging from Amnesty International to the Inter-American Human Rights Commission as Exhibit A on a lengthy list of violations by security forces and the failure of the Mexican justice system and the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) to provide relief.

Two years to the date of this outrage, 16 Atencans and their supporters remain jailed, 13 of them facing lengthy sentences for blocking a federal highway near the town. 27 others, some of them woman who were sexually assaulted by the police, were recently released on bail, among them Magdalena Garcia, a Mazahua Indian who was designated a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International. Two flower venders also remain jailed, charged with being in possession of dangerous weapons - their machetes or field knives.

In addition, three leaders of the Atenco-base FPDT - Ignacio Del Valle, Felipe Alvarez, and Hector Galindo - are being held in isolation at Almaloya (now Altiplano), the same super maxi where the Sosas were incarcerated, sentenced to 67 years imprisonment for "kidnapping." The nature of their crime? During an April 2006 negotiating session with Mexico state school authorities, the leaders of the FPDT locked the door to keep the officials from leaving the room.

Those responsible for the Atenco travesty have not been held accountable. 21 police officers accused of sexual assault including rape and sodomy, were warned not to do it again by their superiors. Then-Secretary of Public Security Eduardo Medina Mora, who oversaw the operation, is now Mexico's Attorney General. Admiral Wilfrido Robledo, who coordinated Mexico state police and was responsible for the logistics of the attack, now heads up security for Carlos Slim, the world's richest tycoon. Enrique Pena Nieto, governor of Mexico state who greenlighted the assault, is being touted as Mexico's next president.

Lady Justice is undergoing tests to determine just who it was that raped her.


B. Traven's "Rebellion of The Hanged" is a classic tale of justice in pre-revolutionary Chiapas in which Indian prisoners are hung from trees as punishment for defying their masters. The story hasn't changed much since Traven's day.

Far away from the national spotlight, Chiapas, Mexico's southernmost state straddling the Guatemalan border, remains an entity where Lady Justice is violated every day. The prisoner population in the state is overwhelmingly dark in complexion - Mestizos and Indians. Indigenous peoples comprise a third of the state's population but about three quarters of the prisoners in the Chiapas penal system. Many do not speak Spanish and were denied translators for their day in court - according to federal law, translators must be available to non-Spanish-speaking defendants.

Those behind bars in Chiapas are prisoners of class and convenience, often poor campesinos taken into custody while walking a country road or traveling up to the county seat to do commerce, with no connection to the crimes with which they are charged - former Chiapas state prosecutor Mariano Herran is currently under investigation for railroading innocent Indians into state penitentiaries.

Other prisoners were hauled in by authorities for reclaiming lands that had once been theirs. Although no members of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation are currently cooling their heels in Chiapas jails, many incarcerated indigenas have affiliated with the Zapatistas' Other Campaign while locked up.

This March, Indian prisoners went on prolonged hunger strikes in four Chiapas "CERESOs" or Social Rehabilitation Centers to protest their incarcerations. "Pueblo Creyente", a Catholic base community affiliated with the San Cristobal de las Casas diocese and backed up Bishop Felipe Arizmendi (no relation to the Earchopper) won the release of Tzotzil Indian Zacario Hernandez after a 45 day fast.

At its height, nearly 50 Indian prisoners were refusing to eat and the movement was gaining so much momentum from day to day that Governor Juan Sabines agreed to reexamine their cases and eventually 137 prisoners were released because of irregularities in the judicial proceedings that put them in jail.

Two Chol Indian farmers, Angel Concepcion Perez and Francisco Perez, both allied with the Other Campaign, continue on hunger strike. Both have served 12 years for an alleged murder during a 1996 land struggle in the north of Chiapas but the body of the allegedly deceased has yet to appear.


Unlike their one-time EZLN rivals, Mexico's other guerrilla, the Popular Revolutionary Army, counts over 40 prisoners in state and federal prisons, a dozen of them Zapotec Indians from the Loxichas in Oaxaca's coastal sierra who were rounded up in 1996 in the wake of coordinated guerrilla attacks. Two leaders of the breakaway Revolutionary Army of the Insurgent People (ERPI) Gloria Arenas AKA "Comandanta Aurora" and Jacobo Silva Nieto, "Comandante Arturo", were entrapped in 1999 following the Mexican army massacre of 11 ERPI recruits in a schoolhouse on Guerrero's Costa Chica and are serving 40 year sentences in maximum security prisons - legislators representing the National Front Against Repression seeking to interview the two were turned away by prison authorities April 6th.

Although the EPR had gone dormant for many years, the disappearance of two of its historic leaders, Edmundo Reyes Amaya and Gabriel Cruz Sanchez, woke the guerrilla from its deep sleep. Both men were seen being taken in stretchers by police from a hotel in the Oaxaca market May 25th 2007 but have never been seen again. After Governor Ruiz and President Calderon vigorously denied culpability for the disappearances, the EPR embarked upon a retaliatory bombing spree, taking out petroleum pipelines in three states and minimally damaging a Sears outlet in an upscale Oaxaca shopping mall.

This April 24th, Mexican military troops forced their way into Oaxaca Ministerial Police headquarters at gunpoint and seized sub-commander Pedro Hernandez Hernandez and his chauffer in connection with the disappearances of Reyes and Cruz Sanchez and the two were brought to Mexico City for further questioning where they are being held under "arraigo" for 90 days in one of the federal prosecutor's private hotels. Also under investigation is Romeo Ruiz, a cousin of the governor, who is said to have played an unspecified role in the caper.


Social activists who take part in civil disobedience are often not immediately prosecuted for their acts of resistance. Instead, secret arrest warrants are issued and served at the whim of judges and police. This April, Cipriana Herrera, an activist who works for justice for Las Muertas ("The Dead Girls") of Ciudad Juarez, 300 women who have been murdered in that border city since 1992, was stopped by state police agents on a Chihuahua freeway, handcuffed, and taken off to jail, accused of blocking one of the international bridges between Juarez and El Paso - in October 2005!

Las Muertas of Juarez have achieved international notoriety in the annals of misogyny. Despite innumerable investigations into the feminicides, the appearance of dozens of books and several films and the visit of two United Nations Human Rights Commissioners (Mary Robinson and Lucile Arbour), the Dead Girls have been relegated to the cold case file by state and federal authorities. As in Oaxaca, Atenco, and Guerrero, impunity reigns.

According to Chihuahua farmers leader Victor Quintana at least 40 secret arrest warrants are pending for local social activists in that northern state.


The failure of Mexico's National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) to aggressively challenge such egregious violations was recently critiqued by the Washington-based Human Rights Watch. In an unprecedented "special" report, the CNDH was blasted for abdicating its responsibilities to social activists victimized at Atenco and in Oaxaca and Chiapas. Similarly, the Mexican Supreme Court, which has investigative powers, appears to have abandoned announced probes into the abuses in Oaxaca and Atenco.

Rosario Ibarra, whose son was taken during the "dirty war" of the 1970s in which hundreds of social activists were disappeared after being captured by security forces, compares Calderon's campaign to criminalize social protest with that dark moment in Mexico's history.

Indeed, one of the architects of that first dirty war, General Mario Arturo Acosta Chaparro, accused of personally executing 20 campesinos in Guerrero where he headed the state police, and organizing death flights ("Vuelos de Muerte") from an Acapulco air force base that dumped the bodies of 148 missing rebels in the Pacific Ocean between 1974 and 1978, was recently retired from the Mexican military with full honors.

Chaparro's career was "faithful testimony to a patriotic life" his peers decreed, lauding the General's "spirit of dedication to Mexico and its institutions."

As Lady Justice gives up the ghost here, that description is being chiseled into her tombstone.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

New Economic Order: Brazil-India-South Africa

India-Brazil-South Africa (IBSA) Strengthens its Commitment to Democracy

BuaNews (Tshwane) May 12, 2008


The "strategic alliance" that is the India-Brazil-South
Africa trilateral axis is now more than simply a
dialogue but a "privileged relationship" favouring a
world where democracy will prevail not only in its
political manifestation but also on social and cultural
levels, writes Shaun Benton.

This is according to the Foreign Minister of Brazil,
Celso Amorim, who joined South African Foreign Minister
Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and Indian Foreign Minister
Pranab Mukherjee at the fifth IBSA Ministerial
Commission meeting at Somerset West in Cape Town on

The IBSA alliance, said Mr Amorim, is "in favour of our
peoples, of humanity, a world where democracy will
prevail - not just a political democracy but a social,
cultural democracy".

Mr Mukherjee told the audience from the three countries
gathered at the Lord Charles Hotel that it was "truly a
special relationship" that now has the ability to
impact on the world at large, should it be adequately

For Ms Dlamini-Zuma, the IBSA formation, started in
2003, has now gained "unprecedented momentum" as a
cross-continental, trilateral forum that is now
"beginning to be noticed" by the rest of the world.

In terms of trade - widely seen as probably the most
important of the levers that turn the trilateral axis -
the combined value at the end of last year had reached
over $10 billion, said Mr Mukherjee.

This means that the three countries could feasibly see
their target of $15 billion in turnover from combined
trade by 2010 being exceeded, the Indian Foreign
Minister said, adding that the success of IBSA requires
the resolution of "connectivity problems".

The meeting of the three countries at ministerial level
comes less than one year since a meeting in New Delhi,
India, and precedes the third IBSA presidential summit
scheduled for the Indian capital in October.

The second summit of IBSA - which has 10 working groups
that bring together senior officials from the three
countries, providing focal points of convergence - was
hosted by South Africa last year.

Currently, the navies of the three countries are
engaged in joint exercises - the first time the three
nations are cementing the geopolitical alliance with
military cooperation - off the coast of Cape Town, as
part of the IBSAMAR "maritime camaraderie".

Such exercises raise the visibility of the IBSA
alliance and as such are "very important", said Mr
Amorim, allowing, as they do, the world to see "how we
are working together" and providing an evolving
geopolitical "identity".

Such an identity means that the three rapidly
developing countries are no longer subject, in their
relations with one another, to the "intermediation of
richer, more powerful nations", he said, but rather,
the three can now immediately engage in the "great
economic space of the South".

The catalyst of tighter cooperation would be economic
growth jointly encouraged and shared between the three
nations - all leaders in their respective continents -
said Ms Dlamini-Zuma.

While the three countries have three distinct levels of
interaction, from joint positions on global issues such
as United Nations reform to government-to-government
cooperation, the "people-to-people" cooperation between
the three countries needs to be widened and deepened,
she said.

This ground level, people-to-people interaction would
require "less bureaucracy" and more action on tangible
issues of cooperation, the South African foreign
minister said.

Meanwhile, in a communique released to the press, the
three foreign ministers reiterated that the structures
of global governance needed to become "more democratic,
representative and legitimate by increasing the
participation of the South in their decision-making".

Such a reordering of the international system would be
meaningful only if accompanied by a "comprehensive"
reform of the United Nations and its Security Council,
both in the permanent and non-permanent categories of

Underlining the seriousness with which such reform is
viewed, intergovernmental negotiations on the issue of
reform of the 15-member - including five, permanent,
veto-wielding countries - Security Council must
commence "forthwith", they said.

Similarly, a call for reform of the international
financial institutions - most notably the International
Monetary Fund and the World Bank - was reiterated, with
India, Brazil and South Africa lamenting the "slow rate
of progress" of such change, which would bring the
voices of developing countries to the governance and
administration of these crucial financial levers.

At the same time, the achievement of the Millennium
Development Goals - aimed primarily at dramatically
reducing global levels of poverty and hunger and 2015,
requires "equity and transparency" in international
economic relations for developing countries.

To this end, the fifth IBSA ministerial meeting
welcomed a commitment made by India, at the Africa-
India Forum Summit held last month, to extend a duty-
free tariff preference scheme to all Least Developed
Countries, on the back of a similar commitment recently
made by Brazil.

The three ministers also called on the world's most
developed countries - the industrialised North - to
provide a "substantial and effective" reduction in
Overall Trade Distorting Support, such as farm

It is these government subsidies to farmers in the rich
North that the Brazilian Foreign Minister - referring
to recent remarks by Brazilian President Luiz Inácio
Lula da Silva - on Sunday likened to a drug that turned
the farmers of rich nations into "addicts" while the
real "victims" of this addiction are the developing
countries, whose economies are in many cases still
highly dependent on agriculture.

Trade between Brazil, India and South Africa also came
into sharper focus, with the governments welcoming
moves by their trade ministers towards harmonising
progress made in preferential trade agreements between
the South African Customs Union (SACU) and Mercosur,
the Latin American trading bloc.

Similar progress in the India-Mercosur trade axis could
then culminate in an India-Mercosur-SACU trilateral
trade arrangement, which is likely to be ultimately
crucial to the real fruition of the IBSA axis, with
such an outcome being urged by the three ministers.

Intellectual property rights was also covered, with
"balance" sought in order for these rights to become
properly consolidated by the three nations.

Joint positions were also taken further biodiversity,
climate change - with technology transfer to developing
nations seen as a central to providing capacity for
mitigation and adaptation - as well as sustainable
development and not least, human settlements.

As of this year, the meeting noted, half the world's
population is living in cities, with urban slum
dwellers now numbering over one billion people.

By 2020, most of the largest cities in the world would
be located in the South, raising "serious concerns over
the urbanisation of poverty".

Gender equality was also put on the table, as well as
issues surrounding energy - in an environment of
soaring oil prices - and the question of disarmament
and non-proliferation of nuclear weapons.

The foreign ministers of the three democracies also
hailed the importance of the advancement of the global
human rights agenda, noting at this point progress
being made at building the United Nations' elevated
Human Rights Council (which replaces the UN's Human
Rights Commission).

Ms Dlamini-Zuma, Mr Mukherjee and Mr Amorim also
reiterated their commitment to the "complete
elimination" of nuclear weapons, and expressed concern
at the lack of attention being paid towards
disarmament, which are "mutually reinforcing processes
requiring continuous irreversible progress".

According to the IBSA communique, the removal of all
nuclear weapons from the world would be best served by
embarking on this process systematically, and ensuring
that it is done in "a comprehensive, universal, non-
discriminatory and verifiable manner".

Copyright (c) 2008 BuaNews. All rights reserved.
Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (


Friday, May 09, 2008

Immigration Raids

May 8, 2008
Quaker Organization Condemns Immigration Raids
The Pacific Mountain Region of the American Friends Service Committee expresses deep concern about the immigration raids that took place in the past days in Oakland, Berkeley, San Francisco and other Bay Area cities. “These actions violate peoples’ right to live without harassment and fear, and they stir up unfounded negative sentiments towards migrants and divide working-class families and migrant communities,” said Laura Magnani, Assistant Regional Director for Justice for the AFSC. “We call on ICE and other immigration authorities to adhere to policies that ensure the fair treatment and respect for the civil and constitutional rights of all detainees, access to legal counsel, and the ability to stay in close proximity to their loved ones.”
The American Friends Service Committee expresses its continued support for undocumented immigrants and affirms the basic principle that people who have established new lives in the United States should have access to procedures that permit them to adjust their immigration status. Specifically, AFSC calls on the United States government to grant permanent legal status to all undocumented men, women, and children who reside in the U.S. Furthermore, AFSC calls upon the United States government to implement immigration policies that will:
respect human rights and international law;
provide nondiscriminatory application of immigration laws;
support legalized entry to those under duress or fleeing natural disaster, regardless of national origins and political affiliation; and
Support those pursuing family re-unification.
According to Luis Magaña AFSC’s immigration specialist, “Undocumented immigration represents a desperate response to desperate circumstances, including war, persecution, civil strife, and severe economic distress. Knowing the many types of violence and exclusion faced by undocumented immigrants, and recognizing that no legislative measure or enforcement tactic has ever stopped undocumented immigration, we have consistently pressed for the legalization of the largest possible number of undocumented immigrants and have worked to help undocumented people obtain legal status.”
Undocumented immigrants work, pay taxes, and contribute to the economic, social, and cultural development of their communities in countless ways. A legalization program would recognize the equity undocumented people have built up through their participation in U.S. society and acknowledge the inherent injustice of the secrecy, vulnerability, and exploitation imposed on undocumented women, men, and children.
AFSC is committed to the struggle for rights and justice for all immigrant communities. “We pledge to join other organizations sharing this concern and calling for reform of U.S. immigration policies. We applaud the steps immigrant communities have taken to project their own voices into the policy arena and pledge to work alongside them to assure that their voices are strongly heard in the movement for a just immigration policy,” Magaña said.
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The American Friends Service Committee is a Quaker organization that includes people of various faiths who are committed to social justice, peace and humanitarian service. Its work is based on the belief in the worth of every person and faith in the power of love to overcome violence and injustice.