Archive for the 'Sovereignty Issues' Category

Historic Black Latino Summit Previews Power of Solidarity- & Intimacy

October 8, 2008

I had the privilege and pleasure to attend this week’s Black-Latino Summit (BLS) held in Los Angeles on Sunday and Monday. Organized by Policy Link and the William C. Velazquez Institute, the BLS brought together more than 500 black and Latino leaders and activists who spent 2 days debating and discussing the history and future and concerns and shared agenda of our respective communities.

To their credit, BLS organizers opted not to include the media in their event, which , I think, says much about the commitment to go beyond much of the foto op opportunism that usually passes for “Black-brown unity.” I believe they are sincerely trying to develop an agenda. While I’m not at liberty to provide details of the intense planning that took place, I can say that they distributed and discussed position papers (see the Summit web page) around a number of critical issues including criminal justice, education and jobs, immigration and several other issues. And issues of the spirit and heart were also at the center of discussions.

One preliminary learning I bring back with me has to do with the enormous challenge we have before us in terms of moving the ripples of such momentous events beyond the local discussion of the 500 attendees. More specifically, I realized that one of, perhaps the, primary antidotes to the mediation of black-Latino relations by the MSM is obvious, fundamental, yet elusive: intimacy. Listening to the attendees articulate and struggle with feelings, thoughts and plans, it became clear to me that we need to short circuit the electric organization of our senses and thoughts by our increasingly noxious media system, especially around race. The struggle to allow ourselves to be vulnerable within our selves and with others, is the best way I know to dispel and decimate the racial workings that really do divide us. More on this later. For now, stay tuned for the next, more public events of the BLS beginning with a followup meeting in Washington DC in the Spring, when the new President will be greeted with a well-thought out and defined agenda for the Blacks, Latinos and the entire country. Stay tuned to the BLS website.

Economic 9-11: The Shrinking of Political Space

September 26, 2008

(photo by Jamie Denise Lahane)

New America Media, News analysis, Roberto Lovato, Posted: Sep 26, 2008 Share/Save/Bookmarka2a_linkname=document.title;a2a_linkurl=location.href;

Editor’s Note: Behind the economic bailout is a looming specter of government as Big ‘Banker’ Brother, and activists are protesting for fear of further erosion of civil liberties, reports NAM contributor Roberto Lovato.

NEW YORK – Arun Gupta stood between the throngs of tourists and the small army of activists squeezing onto the narrow concrete island occupied largely by the 7,000 pound bronze Wall Street bull and declared, “We’re here to say no to the bailout.”

Gupta is an editor at the New York Indypendent newspaper whose open letter opposing the Bush administration’s $700 billion bailout is largely credited with inspiring the protests on Wall Street in other cities. “But we’re also here because, in times of economic decline like ours, the natural inclination of government is to close down political space,” he noted.

Gupta, along with a host of other observers from across the political spectrum, believes that the debate about the Bush administration’s bailout plan obfuscates another looming threat: how the bailout behind the economic crisis could further erode free speech, the right to protest, the right to privacy – all repressive measures instituted after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

At that time, many believed that the Bush administration was using the symbolism of Ground Zero to narrow political space – curtailing civil liberties – in an effort to silence opposition to the Iraq invasion. Today, Gupta and others believe that the government is preparing for another domestic war, a war on the poor and middle class – the sector of the population that is most affected by today’s economic realities – by controlling their economic and political freedom. Gupta fears that the government, as Big ‘Banker’ Brother, could play the dual roles of financier (who may or may not provide loans to its citizens) and cop (who will quell complaints about any rejections).

Even staunch conservatives with deep roots in Wall Street are alarmed at the possible political effects of the current economic policy. Paul Craig Roberts, former Reagan administration assistant secretary of the U.S. Treasury, who is also a former associate editor of The Wall Street Journal editorial page, sounded an economic and political alarm that echoed in the financial canyons around Wall Street when he wrote a column titled “Has Deregulation Sired Fascism?”

“The real issue is whether we, the people, allow powerful interests to use the economic collapse to create an even more unaccountable executive branch,” he said during our interview. “History teaches us that it’s easier for government to give us our money back than it is for them to give us back the freedoms and civil liberties government takes.”

On Thursday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi appeared to share these concerns when she said that the fiscal catastrophe was “a tragedy they [the Bush administration] must have known was coming and were very late in coming to Congress on.” Pelosi also stated that the administration sought “an expansive power for the (Treasury) secretary that was almost laughable.”

The physical, legal and political space had already been shrinking as a result of government actions in the aftermath of 9-11: public streets severely narrowed by the now ubiquitous steel fencing; decorative bulwarks and defensive walls put up by government and private sector interests; “permanent emergency” laws passed by both Democrats and Republicans; laws like the Patriot Act that criminalize forms of protest that were previously legal and which also unleashed powerful data-mining technology and other unprecedented surveillance powers of local, state and federal government; bipartisan legislation that gives the government the power to break into citizens’ homes and conduct secret searches and police raids. Add to this the made-for-TV-ratings arrests carried out against independent journalists like Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman while covering the Republican National Convention.

Gupta and others see the potential for the current economic crisis to facilitate government actions like those denounced by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) shortly after 9-11, when they released a report that stated, “The nation’s highest-ranking law enforcement officer is using his bully pulpit to shut down dissent and debate.”

Located next to the Hudson River and a brisk walk from the bronze bull and Ground Zero, is the ACLU headquarters, born from government threats to civil rights in times of economic crisis. After the economic unrest during and after WWI, the liberal Wilson Administration led several initiatives – including the Espionage Act of 1917, the Sedition Act of 1918 and other laws – to enable the rash of warrantless raids, massive surveillance and widespread criminalization of protest. In response, Roger Nash Baldwin, Jeannette Rankin and other New York activists launched the ACLU in 1920.

Baldwin, Rankin and their peers were fighting to maintain political space in the industrial age. Now Gupta and his fellow activists see themselves as doing the same in the digital age.

“What we’re witnessing is an interesting dynamic between the analog and digital worlds in terms of how we combine mobilization with technology,” said Gupta. “Email helped spread word of this protest like wildfire. At first I received responses to my open letter from a huge number of activists. But then it kept growing in concentric circles of impact extending to more than 100 cities. That’s a lot of political space that would not have been created otherwise – and we need to keep it up if we’re going to get out of this crisis.”

Meet the Bloggers: Full Episode of Bailout Bashing with Speaker Pelosi

September 26, 2008

Meet the Bloggers

Do check out this recent episode of the Meet the Bloggers Show. Though recorded yesterday, the show raises issues that have not and will not be discussed by the Republicans, Democrats and the MSM. Whether or not you watch, news of WAMU’s failure -the biggest bank failure in U.S.history-should remind us all to be vigilant -and active-around what may portend profound problems for us all.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Meet the Bloggers: Full Episode of Ba…“, posted with vodpod

Passports Denied: Mexican-Americans Can’t Travel

September 23, 2008


New America Media, News feature, Roberto Lovato, Posted: Sep 22, 2008 Share/Save/Bookmark

Editor’s note: Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people of Mexican descent were subjected to unreasonable and arbitrary demands to prove that they are citizens of the United States before getting a passport. This includes Texas native, David Hernandez, a decorated Army veteran, reports NAM writer Roberto Lovato.

Texas native David Hernandez, a decorated Army veteran who served his country in different parts of the world, can no longer see the world after his country denied him a passport.

Hernandez and other residents living in and around the U.S.-Mexico border are plaintiffs in a class-action lawsuit alleging that, in denying them passports, the U.S. State Department is engaging in a new kind of racial discrimination: non-citizen profiling.

“This all started when I sent them (the U.S. State Department) my passport and they sent me a letter saying that it wasn’t sufficient. So, I sent them all kinds of documents -a baptismal certificate, military records, pictures of me in the pre-kindergarten, a copy of my grandmother’s birth certificate that showed that she was an American citizen,” he said, adding, “and that still wasn’t enough. I knew something was wrong when they even started asking me for things like Census documents from the 1930’s that don’t even exist.”

Hernandez and the other plaintiffs say that the U.S. government is denying them passports because they are persons of Mexican and Latino descent whose births were assisted by parteras, or midwives. “The law says that if you’re born in this country, have parents who are or who get naturalized, you are a citizen,” said Hernandez his voice cracking with anger and frustration. “We were all born here. We’re all citizens. The only difference is that we’re Hispanic, we grew up poor and we happened not to be born in a hospital. My mother had to pay a partera $40 instead.”

Lawyers for Hernandez and the other plaintiffs say they have documented a systematic pattern of racial discrimination among hundreds, perhaps thousands of people of Mexican descent who, like him, applied for passports and were subjected to unreasonable and arbitrary demands for an inordinate and often impossible-to-find documents proving they are citizens of the United States.

For Robin Goldfaden, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which is co-counsel in the case along with other law firms, the passport suit “shows a spirit of disregard for birthright citizenship and a reckless disregard for the actual citizenship of an entire class of people.”

Goldfaden pointed out that although midwifery is a long-held tradition among whites, blacks and others living in Appalachia, Texas and other parts of the United States where hospital-assisted birth is unaffordable or unavailable, the denial of passports is only taking place among people of Mexican descent living along the southern border.

“Some of the plaintiffs in this case were born in the 1930s and earlier, when, for example, half of all babies in Texas were delivered by midwives,” said Goldfaden, who believes that the case raises concerns beyond those raised by Hernandez and other plaintiffs. “Anytime the government violates due process and the constitutional promise of equal protection as they did in this case, we should all be concerned.”

The passport case comes on the heels of intensified efforts to fundamentally alter the definition of who is and isn’t a citizen. For several years, members of Congress and anti-immigrant groups in Texas and several other states have proposed state and federal laws denying birthright citizenship to the U.S. born children of undocumented immigrants. Some Texas residents like Father Mike Seiffert also trace such practices to the long history of denying citizenship to different categories of people in the United States.

“I was born in Alabama” said Seiffert, who is pastor of the San Felipe de Jesus Catholic church in Brownsville, “and I’ve seen this kind of discrimination before; I’ve seen government officials trying to deny rights to people by not recognizing them as citizens, only here in Texas it’s not African Americans, but Latinos.”

Seiffert became aware of the passport denial issue in his church. “After a couple of the members of my congregation came to me concerned and even crying because they were denied passports and would no longer be able to see their families in Mexico, I decided to ask the congregation if there were others facing similar situations,” Seiffert said. “And 60 people came up and said they had the same passport problem.”

He called what happened to members of his congregation affected by the passports situation “disgraceful.” Behind the tears, he said are, “Many members of our congregation (who) won’t be able to do what they’ve done for decades: cross the border to see their families; many won’t be able to sustain themselves by doing business as they’ve always done in Mexico,” he said. “There’s no hospital around here and when you drive many miles to get healthcare, it’s very expensive. So people will also be denied basic healthcare because they will no longer be able to go just across the border to get cheap medicine or see a doctor in Matamorros for $15. This is deeply disturbing and it reminds me of Alabama.”

And like in the deep South, the non-citizen profiling in Texas is also inspiring activism among many. “I grew up studying the history of civil rights, Martin Luther King and how he had to fight his own government,” said Hernandez, ” But I never thought I’d be fighting for my civil rights. Now I understand history in a different way.”

The Coming Crush: Italy Uses Gypsies and Migrants to Legitimate Repression

September 22, 2008

Le Monde diplomatique - English edition

This article from Le Monde Diplomatique provides us a mirror image of the Looking Glass of lies and repression we call “immigration policy” in the Good Ole U.S. of A. Developments in Berlusconi’s Italia seem to prove one of the main theses behind this blog: that immigrants provide the state with the perfect excuse with which to pass authoritarian legislation that impacts the larger, non-immigrant populace. Consider how the Italian state is using the more than 150,000 Roma and Sinti people throughout the former fascista state

“In Rome, police in battle dress have evacuated Gypsy settlements and prevented children from going to school, and the city’s rightwing mayor, Gianni Alemanno, is having fingerprints taken of those who remain. In Milan, Silvio Berlusconi’s government has appointed a “commissioner extraordinary for the Roma emergency” and enforced ID checks for people entering their camps. In Naples, the police charged a settlement with Molotov cocktails, forcing families to flee; the faces of the terrified children were seen on television screens around the country that evening.”

The policies, language and generalized terror inspired by these policies harken back to a previous period, but would not be so foreign to undocumented migrants living in towns like Hazleton, Pennsylvania or Postville, Iowa. In both cases, the high-profile (ie; Italy’s Berlusconi, owner of much of Italy’s media, networks government actions with private sector media spin) actions of government take us beyond the lethargic and long-held explanations of too many well-intentioned, but dangerously naive “immigrant rights activists” in the U.S.: that immigrants are scapegoats; that immigration is a wedge issue that eases up after each election cycle. Such faulty thinking fails to consider the crisis of economic stability and political legitimacy that has, for many years, fundamentally altered the role of most governments and heads of state in this dizzyingly chaotic world system. And, as a result, we here in the U.S. fail to critique what’s happening around immigration with the broader lens used by people like the mayor of Venice, Massimo Cacciari, who said, “If they (the government) continue like that, they’ll be a threat to democracy.”

As the political and economic crisis upon us unfolds into what all economists agree will be a long (2-3 year or much, much more) downturn, we should expect and prepare for the even greater repressive measures unleashed by a political and economic system in severe decline, measures that, on the surface appear to target migrants, but that, in fact, have a much larger populace in the cross hairs of the state. Speaking of gypsies, migrants and other stateless and displaced peoples, philosopher Hannah Arendt, gave us a warning back in 1943 in her short essay, “We Refugees”,

“For him (the refugee) history is no longer a closed book, and politics ceases to be the privilege of the Gentiles. He knows that the banishment of the Jewish people in Europe was followed immediately by that of the majority of the European peoples. Refugees expelled from one country to the next represent the avant-garde of their people.”

As many of you may know, Arendt went on to pen her most prescient and popular work, The Origins of Totalitarianism, in no small part thanks to her studies of the effects on and actions against some of society’s most vulnerable groups: Jews, migrants and gypsies. In our time of perpetual war, economic devastation and unprecedented problems of political legitimacy, let us take note of what history tells us is the coming crush

And we should also remember what Arendt told us about how totalitarian practices survive the death of more blatantly totalitarian states like those of Nazi Germany and the former Soviet Union. More than any time in memory, I think we need to find the language and words appropriate to describe the morphing monster of a system that is ours, which combines human, democratic space with the many-headed hydra of repression we see normalized on our TV sets and browsers with a frequency found in old-school propaganda and in sci-fi flicks. In addition to holding little analytical value, screeching “fascism” won’t do much beyond deadening the mind and closing the heart to political cliches. The monster of our government feeds off of the dead. All the more reason to create the kind of living, critical language that must be part of any antidote to the crisis upon us.

Financial Meltdown Ushers in New Era of Socialism, Top Down Socialism

September 19, 2008

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If you’re not following the economic news closely, you might want to start. That even the MSM is speaking of the crisis upon us as “catastrophic”, “the worst crisis since the Great Depression”, etc should not just give us pause, but should instead lead to careful study and personal and political planning. With more than $900 billion of our tax dollars already spent on bailing out big companies like AIG, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, to name but the most recent, we have clearly embarked upon a new era of socialism, top-down socialism in which we are “privatizing profits and socializing the losses”, in the words of NYU economist Nouriel Roubini.

Formerly ridiculed by some in the MSM as “Dr. Doom” for his predictions of a meltdown like the one we’re in, Roubini is now one of the most important voices speaking about the financial meltdown. He earned his place, in no small part, thanks to his courage and intelligence in predicting that a confluence of factors – radical free market ideology, lack of transparency, de-regulation, out and out lying, corruption, and government enabling of its corporate keepers, to name a few,-would lead us into this colossal mess.

I highly reccommend you follow posts on Roubini’s site, which is updated daily and contains lots of important and useful information. Hardly a radical Marxist, he has sounded alarms that are only now being heard. Check out this article he wrote yesterday titled “The transformation of the USA into the USSRA (United Socialist State Republic of America) continues at full speed with the nationalization of AIG.

With the federal government taking an 80% stake in AIG as it becomes big businesses’ lender of last resort, we have essentially started the process of nationalizing the banking system. Problem is the distribution of profits and losses; The rich get the profits while we pay for their mismanagement, lying and corruption with our taxes. Add to the nearly $1 trillion we’ve already spent on bailing out big businesses the $3 trillion the Bush Administration is well on its way to underwriting Halliburton, Blackwater and others with in Iraq and you have a $4 trillion drain on the economic basis of our citizenship. When combined with stolen elections, electoral malfeasance and the domination of our political system by big corporations, this situation renders our citizenship and sovereignty politically and economically worthless.

The big dividend for us, especially the poorer among us, are increasing numbers of cops, national guard, heavily-armed immigration agents and other big gun-toting types whose primary function is serving and protecting-big business. Remember: the CEO’s and their military-industrial partners knew how much funny, fake money was on their balance sheets before we did (and we still don’t know how bad things are!) and surely started laying the policing-military groundwork to “protect” their interests long ago, but did so under cover of “the war on drugs”, “getting tough on immigrants” and “defending the homeland,” to name but a few of the more well-known excuses for militarizing society before the meltdown.

In any case, ou also can get a sense of Roubini’s approach from the MSNBC interview below. Note , for example, the enormous difference between the flubby tone and outlook of the corporate talking heads and Roubini’s diamond-cutter talk as when he predicts that upwards of 700 banks, maybe even including such giants like WAMU, will go belly up before this unprecedented economic threat subsides. Let us hope it subsides soon and brings about a new economic day. Just wanted to signal alert on an economic crisis I think will also be accompanied by even more repression if history holds any lessons. This abject, dangerous failure of and increased state violence prophecied by the Free Market Religion should serve to remind us that it’s High Time to dust off our own sacred books containing the ancient knowledge of self-determination, self-defense and bottom-up socialism. So, pay close attention to this tragic economic development as the seeds of perdition and possiblity are contained therein. Really.

Alaska Sounds like Aztlan — Palin Leading the Secessionist Reconquista?

September 5, 2008

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New America Media, Commentary, Roberto Lovato, Posted: Sep 04, 2008

NEW YORK — Sarah Palin’s repetition (5 times) of the word “Alaska,” her home state, during her acceptance speech last night may actually have sounded to some Latinos like “Aztlan,” the mythical homeland of the Aztecs. If Lou Dobbs and other political prognosticators are right, Latinos’ interpretation of the Republican vice presidential nominee’s references to her home state were not simply the product of bad English-to-Spanish translation (Spanish language media’s payback for years of garbled, sometimes horrific, Spanish-to-English translations in mainstream media, perhaps?), but something else, something much more nefarious: the mainstreaming of secessionist sentiments.

Palin’s personal connections to the Alaska Independence Party (AIP), which has, since 1978 sought the Last Frontier states’ separation from these United States, have brought state secessionist sentiments onto the national political stage like no candidate since Alexander Stephens and his Confederate President Jefferson Davis’ did in the lead up to the civil war. Palin and her husband, Todd, the “First Dude,” may well have their greatest appeal among Latinos in the south-western United States if we are to believe Lou Dobbs, Michelle Malkin, Pat Buchannan and many other conservative commentators and politicians who rail daily against what they believe is the upcoming conflict sparked by Latinos’ lust to reclaim their former land.

Just a week before Palin’s speech, for example, a videotape was released in which New York Congressional candidate Jack Davis decried how “in the latter part of this century or the next, Mexicans will be a majority in many of the states, and could therefore take control of the state government using the democratic process.” And, he added: “They could then secede from the United States, and then we might have another civil war.”

For almost a decade now, the careful research, in-depth investigations and the almost daily denunciations of the commentators have detailed a Southwestern Latino, especially “illegal” Mexican, plot to secede from the United States in what has become popularly known as the “reconquista,” or reconquest.

According to Malkin, “Aztlan is a long-held notion among Mexico’s intellectual elite and political class, which asserts that the American southwest rightly belongs to Mexico. Advocates believe the reclamation (or reconquista) of Aztlan will occur through sheer demographic force.” Like most of the commentators and pundits, Malkin has the uncanny ability to divine the workings of the Latino immigrant mind, without speaking Spanish. And after years of careful study of the Latino Fifth Column, Malkin and other Latino experts will surely be alarmed by how Palin’s speech shortened the distance from cold Alaska to sunny Aztlan.

Meanwhile, the major and minor Latino organizations and Latino leaders allegedly spearheading this invisible demographic empire, (all of whom are more careful and surreptitious than Palin and the First Dude about any statements or ties to secessionist groups), may be inspired to go public by the Palin’s links (ie; Todd was a card carrying AIP member in 1995 and 2002) to an organization with 13,681 registered members whose political platform calls for securing the “complete repatriation of the public lands, held by the federal government, to the state and people of Alaska.”

Sarah Palin’s mantra-like repetitions of the Aztlan-sounding “Alaska” may finally provide the conservative commentators their most definitive lead in their relentless hunt for the secessionist menace. The big difference is that the more dangerous secessionist movement will not be led by white people belonging openly to an actual political party whose candidates (including a former governor) and initiatives are included on state voting ballots, a secessionist party ignored by the media and lauded loudly by politicians like Palin for their “inspiring convention,” and encouraged by her to “keep up the good work.”

Instead, the imminent and potentially catastrophic urge to unmerge will be realized by poor, brown-skinned secessionistas, especially those “illegal” Latinos that syndicated multimedia stars like Glenn Back regularly tell us are silently, secretly waiting to come out of their closet of illegality by taking back the Southwest. “You’ve got people coming here that have no intention of being Americans. They say, you know, ‘Hey, this is our land. We deserve it back.'”

Though they have spared us the pain of focusing on the lesser, whiter of the secessionist threats, Dobbs, Malkin, Beck and their peers must be credited for their pre-emptive strikes against a threat that has yet to come out of its separatist cave — but which may finally do so in no small part thanks to the secessionist leanings of a candidate who promises to “put America first” when she starts working the White House.

Palin’s rapid and apparently non-vetted rise to political prominence may, however, also reveal contradictions in some of these same pundits who’ve denounced those carrying the “reconquista” gene.

Though he has for many years made regular statements and written many books and articles about how Latinos are bringing about “the complete Balkanization of America,” MSNBC commentator Pat Buchannan himself has ties to the secessionista-friendly GOP vice presidential candidate and her hombre. Just last week Buchanan confessed to MSNBC’s Chris Matthews that Palin “was a brigadeer in 1996 as was her husband … They were at a fundraiser for me. She’s a terrific gal, she’s a rebel reformer.”

Unfortunately for Buchannan and his conservative commentator peers, Palin may turn out to be more rebel than reformer as rural and big city Latinos in the Southwest start hearing calls to create the Aztlan Confederacy in her stump speeches about small town Alaska.

Whatever the outcome, we are fortunate to have political observers and politicians that are so committed to the cause of racial and political unity.

Italy Latest to Use Immigrants as an Excuse for Militarizing Sreets

August 6, 2008

No stranger to deploying totalitarian-lite methods before a severe economic and political crisis, Italia became but the most recent country to militarize its streets under cover of what has rapidly become one of the most fascionable excuses for militarism: immigrants. This article in today’s New York Times (NYT) should be considered a free advertisement for the cottage industry that’s bringing us police states all across this crisis-ridden globe.

Rather than view immigrants as a human expression of the dire crisis the global elites have created, the NYT and other media have instead opted to uncritically accept the elite solution for the problem elite neoliberalism created: militarismo. Though such cowardice and crisis-ridden states like Berlusconi’s Italy are not new, the intensity of the worldwide focus on immigrants as a threat requiring military solutions is pretty unprecedented. The degree of global political alignment between government, economic and media elites reflected in the Times piece also causes one to pause for a second look.

Those of you interested in exploring this migrant-militarization trend, especially its U.S. variant, further might want to check out this analytical piece I wrote for Political Research Associates, a Boston think-tank.

Race, Politics & the Deadly Rise of (Corporate) Media Sovereignty

July 27, 2008

Democracy Now!

For the more than 10,000 attending the 4-day Unity Journalists of Color conference-the largest single gathering of journalists in the United States- one theme overwhelmingly dominated all others: how the thousands of under and unemployed journalists attending the conference signal a colossal crisis of U.S. journalism-and U.S. democracy. Whether it was the many traumatized and fear-filled workers we encountered , or the obvious humiliation of Truth in Journalism we heard on panels or the unprecedented lack of government transparency we discussed, the hallways of Unity were buzzing with devastatingly bad news.

The primary source of the bad news?: the sinister and extremely anti-democratic concentration of media ownership and power in fewer and fewer hands. Many of us are returning home clear of how one of the great threats to any democratic functioning is the deadly rise of Corporate Media Sovereignty. Nowhere was the threat more palpable than around that most critical of media issues of our time, Net Neutrality, the struggle to keep the internet open and free from the clutches of the exploiters of journalists, the purveyors of candy-coated UnTruth and enablers of government secrecy: Big Media.

I for one return from Chicago more convinced of the need to support the Death Penalty, the Corporate Death Penalty as applied to those companies that devastate the public good. We need to get back to those days when bad corporations lost their legal right to exist for violating the Public Good. This was the case from the foundation of the country until the late 19th century and we need to bring back the power of the people to apply the Death Penalty to corporations by denying them what in legal terms is known as “corporate personhood.”

This interview on Democracy Now explores these issues in the context of the interplay between race, media and politics. We discuss how, for example, Janet Murguia and the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) -the same folks who supported the nomination of war criminal Alberto Gonzalez, are silent on Iraq and accept money from and promote the Pentagon- have been silenced and neutralized around Net Neutrality by the money they get from telecommunications companies eager to control the Internet. So check out how DN co-host (and now NAHJ Hall of Famer) Juan Gonzalez and author Amy Alexander and I explore these and other issues. Enjoy!

The Guantanamization of Immigrant Detention

June 18, 2008

Imran Ahmad (a pseudonym), a 29 year-old Pakistani computer scientist who can see the Statue of Liberty from his studio apartment in Brooklyn’s Sunset Park neighborhood, says he no longer believes in the symbol of freedom cast in copper. “Freedom is relative. It depends on things like where you’re from and what you look like” says Ahmad. He reached this conclusion, he says, because of what happened to him as a orange-uniformed detainee held for more than 3 years in numerous federal detention facilities: the denial of habeas corpus (his constitutional right to plead his case before a judge), facing growling dogs, watching friends languish and die while in custody, the “subtle torture” of living for months in a tiny, windowless white room while a nearby TV set blared American Idol or “24.”

After a fellow detainee died under mysterious circumstances, which were covered up by detention facility authorities, Ahmad says he was threatened with lines like “We don’t want you to tell or speak to anyone about this” and “We have cameras and people [detainees] who are watching you, monitoring you.” Though Ahmad was released, he is still in deportation proceedings.

Ahmad’s story will not shock anyone familiar with stories of death, violence and other abuse coming out of Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and other offshore military detention facilities holding men in orange prison uniforms. But what makes his story noteworthy is that it reflects how many of these same offshore practices are now being perpetrated against detainees held within the borders of the United States: the hundreds of thousands of immigrants held in one of the growing number of detention facilities run by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE), the most militarized branch of the U.S. government besides the Pentagon.

To protest what they consider the increasingly cruel and inhuman conditions and practices in the ICE detention facilities, Ahmad and thousands of activists are organizing the Night of 1000 Conversations, a series of vigils, town halls, house meetings and other events which will take place in over 250 towns and cities across the country on June 19th .

Among the principal concerns to be discussed during the nationwide events are what critics say, is nothing less than a “Guantanamization” of migrant detention within the borders of the United States: death, abuse and neglect at the hands of detention facility guards (many of whom are former military personnel who served in Iraq and Afghanistan); the prolonged and indefinite detention of thousands including children and families denied due process and other fundamental rights as they languish in filthy, overcrowded and extremely unhealthy facilities; orange-uniformed detainees sedated with psychotropic drugs, attacked by growling dogs and physically and sexually abused by guards; multi-million government contracts for prison construction and management given to high-powered, military industrial and prison industrial giants like Halliburton and the Utah-based Management and Training Corporation, whose former director set up the infamous Abu Ghraib detention facility.

Jamil Dakwar, director of the Human Rights Division of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), is currently at Guantanamo, outside one of the notorious Military Commission hearings created as a result of the recently rescinded (but still being implemented) law that denied the right to habeas corpus to both military and immigrant facility detainees. Dakwar sees clearly how detention practices on the island have now crept onto detention facilities on the mainland. “The general lack of accountability and oversight, the secrecy, the lack of respect for human dignity for persons held in military and immigration facilities, the lack of legally binding standards regulating treatment of persons in both (military and immigrant) facilities—all of this leads to the abuses we’re now seeing in both” said Dakwar, adding, “In cases of people who die while in custody, for example, the government makes it extremely difficult to impossible to find out who is responsible for conditions that lead to the killing or other loss of life.”

For her part, Dakwar’s ALCU colleague, Amrit Singh, a staff attorney who has worked on different cases involving people detained by the Pentagon in Guantanamo and people held in ICE detention facilities believes that “Noncitizen detainees at home and abroad are part of the same continuum of mistreatment. The dogs used on detainees in the New Jersey [immigrant] detention facilities look very similar to the dogs used on detainees in Abu Ghraib and Iraq.”

In the case of both the military and immigrant detention facilities, says Singh, the Bush Administration has used national security imperatives to deny many of the Freedom of Information Act requests she and her colleagues have filed in their efforts to find out things like how people are being treated in detention, under what conditions did detainees die and what kind of medical treatment they are receiving. Asked about progress towards answering these and other questions, Singh responded, “The answer to these questions are still not being made available to us.”

The connections between abuse and death in military and immigration facilities has also caught the eye of the international community. Singh, Darwit and some of the groups and individuals participating in the Night of 1000 Conversations, will be submitting testimony to a United Nations Special Rapporteur who, in the next two weeks, will visit several U.S. cities as he investigates deaths in both overseas detention facilities and in U.S. prisons and immigration detention facilities.

And, as he prepares to take part in the Night of 1000 Conversations, former detainee Ahmad says he will raise his voice to educate people about what he sees as the primary cause of the abuses he saw while in detention, “Creating guilty people and detention are all about war. I will tell people about how all those arrests, all that abuse are all about war, a war on immigrants.”

What Obama and McCain Can Learn From Evo Morales About Immigration – and Leadership

June 18, 2008

If you want to hear what a Real Leader sounds like with regard to immigration policy, check out Bolivian President Evo Morales’ Open Letter to the European Union (EU) about the today’s vote EU vote on its “Return Directive,” which calls for a deportation of undocumented persons from EU territories.

I had the pleasure of interviewing President Morales during his visit to the U.N. last year and found him to be a leader of extraordinary insight, intelligence and deep conviction. Instead mimicking the Bush Administration’s drug war-crazed policy of undermining Morales and other Latin leaders, Presidential candidates Obama and McCain might, instead try to learn from Bolivia’s first indigenous head of state in 500 years, especially when it comes to the immigration that started with those “illegals” whose boats were packed with all the trappings of “civilization”: bibles crammed next to the big canons and muskets and balls and chains.

Just imagine if our own immigration debate included statements from our leaders like this one:

Europeans arrived en masse to Latin and North America, without visas or conditions imposed on them by the authorities. They were simply welcomed, and continue to be, in our American continent, which absorbed at that time the European economic misery and political crisis. They came to our continent to exploit the natural wealth and to transfer it to Europe, with a high cost for the original populations in America. As is the case of our Cerro Rico de Potosi and its fabulous silver mines that gave monetary mass to the European continent from the 16th to the 19th centuries. The people, the wealth and the rights of the migrant Europeans were always respected.


And, if you’d like to sign a petition calling on the EU to reject the Return Directive, go here.

There’s much more in this letter that should be studied and emulated. So check it out and enjoy – and imagine.

Open Letter from Bolivian President to EU on the “Return Directive


Up until the end of the World War II, Europe was an emigrant continent. Tens of thousands of Europeans departed for the Americas to colonize, to escape hunger, the financial crisis, the wars or European totalitarianisms and the persecution of ethnic minorities.

Today, I am following with concern the process of the so called “Return Directive”. The text, validated last June 5th by the Interior Ministers of 27 countries in the European Union, comes up for a vote on June 18 in the European Parliament. I feel that it is a drastic hardening of the detention and expulsion conditions for undocumented immigrants, regardless of the time they have lived in the European countries, their work situation, their family ties, or their ability and achievements to integrate.

Europeans arrived en masse to Latin and North America, without visas or conditions imposed on them by the authorities. They were simply welcomed, and continue to be, in our American continent, which absorbed at that time the European economic misery and political crisis. They came to our continent to exploit the natural wealth and to transfer it to Europe, with a high cost for the original populations in America. As is the case of our Cerro Rico de Potosi and its fabulous silver mines that gave monetary mass to the European continent from the 16th to the 19th centuries. The people, the wealth and the rights of the migrant Europeans were always respected.

Today, the European Union is the main destiny for immigrants around the world which s a consequence of its positive image of space and prosperity and public freedoms. The great majority of immigrants go to the EU to contribute to this prosperity, not to take advantage of it. They are employed in public works, construction, and in services to people in hospitals, which the Europeans cannot do or do not want. They contribute to the demographic dynamics of the European continent, maintaining the relationship between the employed and the retired which provides for the generous social security system and helps the dynamics of internal markets and social cohesion. The migrant offers a solution to demographic and financial problems in the EU.

For us, our emigrants represent help in development that Europeans do not give us – since few countries really reach the minimum objective of 0.7% of its GDP in development assistance. Latin America received, in 2006, remittance (monies sent back) totaling 68,000million dollars, or more than the total foreign investment in our countries. On the worldwide level it reached $300,000 million dollars which is more than US $104,000 million authorized for development assistance. My own country, Bolivia, received more than 10% of the GDP in remittance (1,100 million dollars) or a third of our annual Exports of natural gas.

Unfortunately, “Return Directive” project is an enormous complication to this reality. If we can conceive that each State or group of States can define their migratory policies in every sovereignty, we cannot accept that the fundamental rights of the people be denied to our compatriots and brother Latin-Americans. The “Return Directive” foresees the possibility of jailing undocumented immigrants for up to 18 months before their expulsion – or “distancing”, according to the terms of the directive. 18 months! Without a judgment or justice! As it stands today the project text of the directive clearly violates articles 2, 3, 5,6,7,8 and 9 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948.

In particular, Article 13 of the Declaration states:
“1. All persons have a right to move freely and to choose their residence in the territory of a State.
2. All personas have the right to leave any country, including their own, and to return to their country.”

And, the worst of all, is that the possibility exists for the mothers of families with minor children to be arrested, without regards to the family and school situation, in these internment centers where we know that depression, hunger strikes, and suicide happens. How can we accept without reacting for them to be concentrated in camps our compatriots and Latin American brothers without documents, of which the great majority have been working and integrating for years. On what side is the duty of humanitarian action? Where is the “freedom of movement”, protection against arbitrary imprisonment?

On a parallel, the European Union is trying to convince the Andean Community that the Nations (Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru) to sign an “Association Agreement” that includes the third pillar of the Free Trade Agreement, of the same nature and content as that imposed by the United States. We are under intense pressure from the European Commission to accept conditions of great liberalization of our trade, financial services, intellectual property rights and our public works. In addition under so called “judicial protection” we are being pressured about the nationalization of the water, gas and telecommunications that were done on the Worldwide Workers’ Day. I ask, in that case, where is the “judicial protection” for our women, adolescents, children and workers that look for better horizons in Europe?

Under these conditions, if the “Return Directive” is passed, we will be ethically unable to deepen the negotiations with the European Union, and we reserve the right to legislate such that the European Citizens have the same obligations for visas that they impose on the Bolivians from the first of April 2007, according to the diplomatic principal of reciprocity. We have not exercised it up until now, precisely because we were awaiting good signs from the EU.

The world, its continents, its oceans and its poles know important global difficulties: global warming, contamination, the slow but sure disappearance of the energy resources and biodiversity while hunger and poverty increase in every country, debilitating our societies. To make migrants, whether they have documents or not, the scapegoats of these global problems, is not the solution. It does not meet any reality. The social cohesion problems that Europe is suffering from are not the fault of the migrants, rather the result of the model of development imposed by the North, which destroys the planet and dismembers human societies.

In the name of the people of Bolivia, of all of my brothers on the continent and regions of the world like the Maghreb and the countries of Africa, I appeal to the conscience of the European leaders and deputies, of the peoples, citizens and activists of Europe, for them not to approve the text of the “Return Directive”. As it is today, it is a directive of vengeance. I also call on the European Union to elaborate, over the next months, a migration policy that is respectful of human rights, which allows us to maintain this dynamics that is helpful to both continents and that repairs once and for all the tremendous historic debt, both economic and ecological that the European countries owe to a large part of the Third World, and to close once and for all the open veins of Latin America. They cannot fail today in their “policies of integration” as they have failed with their supposed “civilizing mission” from colonial times.

Receive all of you, authorities, Euro parliamentarians, brothers and sisters, fraternal greetings from Bolivia. And in particular our solidarity to all of the “clandestinos.”

Evo Morales Ayma
President of the Republic of Bolivia


Carta abierta de Evo Morales a propósito de la “directiva retorno” de la UE

Evo Morales advirtió que si U.E endurece su política migratoria estaría imposibilitado de profundizar las negociaciones del Acuerdo de Asociación y se reservaría el derecho de exigir visa a europeos

Evo Morales (Bolpress – 10 June 2008)

Hasta finales de la Segunda guerra mundial, Europa fue un continente de emigrantes. Decenas de millones de Europeos partieron a las Américas para colonizar, escapar de las hambrunas, las crisis financieras, las guerras o de los totalitarismos europeos y de la persecución a minorías étnicas.

Hoy, estoy siguiendo con preocupación el proceso de la llamada “directiva retorno”. El texto, validado el pasado 5 de junio por los ministros del Interior de los 27 países de la Unión Europea, tiene que ser votado el 18 de junio en el Parlamento Europeo. Siento que endurece de manera drástica las condiciones de detención y expulsión a los migrantes indocumentados, cualquiera sea su tiempo de permanencia en los países europeos, su situación laboral, sus lazos familiares, su voluntad y sus logros de integración.

A los países de América Latina y Norteamérica llegaron los europeos, masivamente, sin visas ni condiciones impuestas por las autoridades. Fueron siempre bienvenidos, Y. lo siguen siendo, en nuestros países del continente americano, que absorbieron entonces la miseria económica europea y sus crisis políticas. Vinieron a nuestro continente a explotar riquezas y a transferirlas s Europa, con un altísimo costo para las poblaciones originales de América. Como en el caso de nuestro Cerro Rico de Potosí y sus fabulosas minas de plata que permitieron dar masa monetaria al continente europeo desde el siglo XVI hasta el XIX. Las personas, los bienes y los derechos de los migrantes europeos siempre fueron respetados.

Hoy, la Unión Europea es el principal destino de los migrantes del mundo lo cual es consecuencia de su positiva imagen de espacio de prosperidad y de libertades públicas. La inmensa mayoría de los migrantes viene a la UE para contribuir a esta prosperidad, no para aprovecharse de ella. Ocupan los empleos de obras públicas, construcción, en los servicios a la persona y hospitales, que no pueden o no quieren ocupar los europeos. Contribuyen al dinamismo demográfico del continente europeo, a mantener la relación entre activos e inactivos que vuelve posible sus generosos sistemas de seguridad social y dinamizan el mercado interno y la cohesión social. Los migrantes ofrecen una solución a los problemas demográficos y financieros de la UE.

Para nosotros, nuestros migrantes representan la ayuda al desarrollo que los Europeos no nos dan – ya que pocos países alcanzan realmente el mínimo objetivo del 0,7% de su PIB en la ayuda al desarrollo. América Latina recibió, en 2006, 68.000 millones de dólares de remesas, o sea más que el total de las inversiones extranjeras en nuestros países. A nivel mundial alcanzan 300.000 millones de dólares, que superan a los 104.000 millones otorgados por concepto de ayuda al desarrollo. Mi propio país, Bolivia, recibió mas del 10% del PIB en remesas (1.100 millones de dólares) o un tercio de nuestras exportaciones anuales de gas natural.

Es decir que los flujos de migración son benéficos tanto para los Europeos y de manera marginal para nosotros del Tercer Mundo ya que también perdemos a contingentes que suman millones de nuestra mano de obra calificada, en la que de una manera u otra nuestros Estados, aunque pobres, han invertido recursos humanos y financieros.
Lamentablemente, el proyecto de “directiva retorno” complica terriblemente esta realidad. Si concebimos que cada Estado o grupo de Estados puede definir sus políticas migratorias en toda soberanía, no podemos aceptar que los derechos fundamentales de las personas sean denegados a nuestros compatriotas y hermanos latinoamericanos. La “directiva retorno” prevé la posibilidad de un encarcelamiento de los migrantes indocumentados hasta 18 meses antes de su expulsión -o “alejamiento”, según el término de la directiva. ¡18 meses! ¡Sin juicio ni justicia! Tal como esta hoy el proyecto de texto de la directiva viola claramente los artículos 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8 y 9 de la Declaración Universal de los Derechos Humanos de 1948.

En particular el artículo 13 de la Declaración reza:
“1. Toda persona tiene derecho a circular libremente y a elegir su residencia en el territorio de un Estado.
2. Toda persona tiene derecho a salir de cualquier país, incluso del propio, y a regresar a su país”.

Y, lo peor de todo, existe la posibilidad de encarcelar a madres de familia y menores de edad, sin tomar en cuenta su situación familiar o escolar, en estos centros de internamientos donde sabemos ocurren depresiones, huelgas de hambre, suicidios. ¿Cómo podemos aceptar sin reaccionar que sean concentrados en campos compatriotas y hermanos latinoamericanos indocumentados, de los cuales la inmensa mayoría lleva años trabajando e integrándose? ¿De qué lado esta hoy el deber de ingerencia humanitaria? ¿Dónde está la “libertad de circular”, la protección contra encarcelamientos arbitrarios?

Paralelamente, la Unión Europea trata de convencer a la Comunidad Andina de Naciones (Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador y Perú) de firmar un “Acuerdo de Asociación” que incluye en su tercer pilar un Tratado de Libre Comercio, de misma naturaleza y contenido que los que imponen los Estados Unidos. Estamos bajo intensa presión de la Comisión Europea para aceptar condiciones de profunda liberalización para el comercio, los servicios financieros, propiedad intelectual o nuestros servicios públicos. Además a título de la protección jurídica se nos presiona por el proceso de nacionalización del agua, el gas y telecomunicaciones realizados en el Día Mundial de los Trabajadores. Pregunto, en ese caso ¿dónde está la “seguridad jurídica” para nuestras mujeres, adolescentes, niños y trabajadores que buscan mejores horizontes en Europa?

Promover la libertad de circulación de mercancías y finanzas, mientras en frente vemos encarcelamiento sin juicio para nuestros hermanos que trataron de circular libremente. Eso es negar los fundamentos de la libertad y de los derechos democráticos.

Bajo estas condiciones, de aprobarse esta “directiva retorno”, estaríamos en la imposibilidad ética de profundizar las negociaciones con la Unión Europea, y nos reservamos del derecho de normar con los ciudadanos europeos las mismas obligaciones de visa que nos imponen a los Bolivianos desde el primero de abril de 2007, según el principio diplomático de reciprocidad. No lo hemos ejercido hasta ahora, justamente por esperar buenas señales de la UE.

El mundo, sus continentes, sus océanos y sus polos conocen importantes dificultades globales: el calentamiento global, la contaminación, la desaparición lenta pero segura de recursos energéticos y biodiversidad mientras aumenta el hambre y la pobreza en todos los países, fragilizando nuestras sociedades. Hacer de los migrantes, que sean documentados o no, los chivos expiatorios de estos problemas globales, no es ninguna solución. No corresponde a ninguna realidad. Los problemas de cohesión social que sufre Europa no son culpa de los migrantes, sino el resultado del modelo de desarrollo impuesto por el Norte, que destruye el planeta y desmiembra las sociedades de los hombres.

A nombre del pueblo de Bolivia, de todos mis hermanos del continente regiones del mundo como el Maghreb, Asia y los países de Africa, hago un llamado a la conciencia de los líderes y diputados europeos, de los pueblos, ciudadanos y activistas de Europa, para que no se apruebe e1 texto de la “directiva retorno”. Tal cual la conocemos hoy, es una directiva de la vergüenza. Llamo también a la Unión Europea a elaborar, en los próximos meses, una política migratoria respetuosa de los derechos humanos, que permita mantener este dinamismo provechoso para ambos continentes y que repare de una vez por todas la tremenda deuda histórica, económica y ecológica que tienen los países de Europa con gran parte del Tercer Mundo, que cierre de una vez las venas todavía abiertas de América Latina. No pueden fallar hoy en sus “políticas de integración” como han fracasado con su supuesta “misión civilizatoria” del tiempo de las colonias.

Reciban todos ustedes, autoridades, europarlamentarios, compañeras y compañeros saludos fraternales desde Bolivia. Y en particular nuestra solidaridad a todos los “clandestinos”.

Evo Morales Ayma
Presidente de la República de Bolivia

Clinton Wins Puerto Rico, a Colony With 0 Bearing on the General Election

June 2, 2008

Touting her victory in Puerto Rico as another sign that she is the best candidate to win a general election, Hillary Clinton told supporters that the “show of overwhelming support,” gives her more reason to continue her statistical Lost Cause

Unfortunately, her statement runs smack into the tragic historical reality of the Puerto Rican condition: colonialismo. As a de facto U.S. colony stolen from Spain, the island and, more importantly, the island’s inhabitants occupy a second class status vis a vis the land we imperial citizens sleep and work in. More specifically, the colonial status of Puerto Rico disenfranchises Puerto Ricans, who, though they are U.S. citizens, are not allowed to vote in general elections.

So when the Clinton’s trumpet the PR vote as some indicator of that general election inevitability they’ve lost since Iowa, they’re being dishonest. In addition, they are winning in what is an anomaly this election year in the Latino U.S.: a low turnout Latino election. While Latinos in other primaries are voting a stupendously high 59% more than in 2004, Puerto Rico is also witnessing record turnouts too-record low turnouts, as my friend Liza Sabater points out.

Neither does this vote say anything about Latino predisposition to vote for Obama in a general election. Nothing in the historical or recent record indicates that there’s even a sliver of truth of Latino unwillingness to vote for either black candidates generally or for Barack Obama specifically. Nothing. Though they do not come out and say it, the Clinton message has been and continues to be, “My Latinos will not vote for a black man-but they’ll vote for me.”

With Latinos voting Democratic at an average of 78% in this year’s primaries (versus somewhere between 56-73% -in 2004 primaries), the Clinton’s attempts to instill fear of a return of some Latinos to the glaringly white tent of Republicanism will likely fail regardless of who the Democratic candidate

If Spanish language, mainstream and other media did their job, Latinos might better-know the unprecedented and breathtaking amount of prevarication, racial tomfoolery and naked manipulation the Clinton’s have inserted into our political process, they might not vote for them at all. So, you see, manufactured consent works for both Republicans and Democrats.

Obama on Latin America: “Small Change”, If Any

May 29, 2008


(this article first appeared in the Black Agenda Report)

by Roberto Lovato

Many of us had great “hope” for the much-vaunted “change” in U.S. policy towards Latin America. But listening to Barack Obama’s “substantive” speech on U.S. Latin America policy last week and reading his “New Partnership with the Americas” policy proposal, it’s pretty clear that Obama will do nothing to alter the basic structure of George W. Bush’s Latin America policy: trade backed by militarism.

Given the painful failure and generalized destruction wrought by the last century of U.S. policy in the hemisphere, the basic outline of “substantive” policy towards America Latina should look something like this

  • Immediate de-escalation of tensions between Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia and US ally/surrogate Colombia. One would hope that, in the face of the atrocities in Colombia, Ubama would add a condemnation as loud as those Democrats wield at Cuba, whose violation of sovereignty (condemned by OAS) and human rights record-death squad killings, disappearances, torture of thousands-pales before that of Colombia;

  • Holding up Colombia’s multi-billion dollar military aid package would also indicate some substance;

  • Dismantling NAFTA, CAFTA and other trade and economic policies (ie some IMF and World Bank programs) that destroy livelihoods and communities (nay regions), bust government budgets and further enrich the elites in these countries;

  • Ending the embargo on Cuba. Will Obama stop beating the tattered political pinata of Cuba or simply spin it a little differently, hit it more gently?

  • Ending the low intensity destabilization programs in Venezuela and Bolivia;

  • Re-negotiating Bush’s crop-killing ethanol program;

  • Aborting Plan Mexico, which is already Colombianzing (ie; drug wars, anti-insurgent war, repression against opposition under cover of national security, etc.) a country that, for more than 80 years, has lived without the imposition of military rule. U.S. Presidents from Roosevelt, Kennedy, Reagan and Carter have paid for the arming of death squads who kidnap and torture jurists, journalists, union members and ordinary citizens as our “Latin American policy”;

  • Placing migration policy within the hemispheric context in which it originates;

  • Closing the School of the Americas and the ILEA training facility in El Salvador, both of which are factories for barbarism under the guise of national security.

With some important exceptions – engaging Venezuela, reconfiguring the World Bank and IMF, environmental agreements- his current approach to Latin America veers only slightly to the left of Bushismo. There is little in his speeches and proposals that is “liberal”, “progressive” or very enlightened in terms of easing the crush of poverty and repression in the region. In fact, Obama’s proposals for continuing and expanding the drug war in the hemisphere will only complete the efforts of the Bush Administration to re-militarize the region under cover of fighting drug wars.

In the search for post-Cold War enemies, the Bush Administration found its new excuse to militarize the region in the drug cartels, who, must be dealt with, but not in the Bush way.

Obama should know better.

The full text of Obama’s Miami speech can be found here.

Barack Obama’s “New Partnership For Latin America” also outlines his Latin America policies, and is located here.

Below are quotes from and brief analyses of these documents.

On the brutal 46 year embargo of Cuba I will maintain the embargo. It provides us with the leverage to present the regime with a clear choice…” Traveling to, or doing business in or with Cuba will remain illegal under US law. Academics and artists from Cuba will be denied visas, no cultural exchange permitted.
On US responsibility for deposing President Aristide and imposing the current regime poverty and terror upon Haiti Nothing The policy will not change
On US funding of the brutal war and death squad regime of Colombia When I am President, we will continue the Andean Counter-Drug Program, and update it to meet evolving challenges. 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. ” The policy will not change. The Colombian government has a blank check and a green light to murder and engage in cross-border provocations at will.
On the US continuing low-intensity war against Venezuela In Venezuela, Hugo Chavez is a democratically elected leader. But we also know that he does not govern democratically. He talks of the people, but his actions just serve his own power. Yet the Bush Administration’s blustery condemnations and clumsy attempts to undermine Chavez have only strengthened his hand.” Destabilization attempts under an Obama administration may be less blustery and clumsy.

NPR-Latino USA Commentary: On the Need to Destroy Juan Crow

May 24, 2008

Latino USA Globe

Thanks to Maria Hinojosa, Mincho Jacob and the folks at NPR’s Latino USA for letting me record this call to action disguised as a commentary:

NPR Latino USA Commentary

In the Bush White House, “Laptop” is Spanish for “WMD”

May 22, 2008

Another in what smells like the latest media-enabled Bush Administration escalation of tensions with its perceived enemies, in this case the Venezuelan government and Hugo Chavez. The government of U.S. ally Alvaro Uribe, the bloodiest leader in the hemisphere thanks to more than $4 billion in U.S. military aid, is using a recent report by Interpol, the global policing agency, to back its claims that laptops found after the bombing of a Colombian guerrilla camp in Ecuador offer proof of Venezuelan support for the insurgent FARC.

As we look into this latest adventure of the Bush Administration, some of us are reminded of the “evidence” Bush, his “allies” and the U.S. media gave us before dragging us into the abyss of Iraq or the growing tensions with Iran; Those old enough to remember will also be reminded of the many “white papers” put out by the Reagan Administration “proving” subversion and terrorism in El Salvador and Central America and how these papers and other “evidence” were used to justify increased military aid that resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of children, indigenous people and others in El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua. Such Presidential proof usually means the slaughter of more innocents in the name of the National Interest, in this case the U.S. interest in turning the left tide in Latin America. In the words of Uruguayan political analyst, Raul Zibechi, this latest Colombian adventure is

..”part of the strategy of the United States to alter the military balance in the region. In the crosshairs is Venezuelan and Ecuadorian oil; however it also serves as a check on Brazil as an emerging regional power.”

And in what appears to be the elite, bipartisan consensus in Washington, both John McCain and Hillary Clinton support the Bush Administration and death squad President Alvaro Uribe. Even more sadly, it appears that Barack Obama’s “hope” does not extend beyond our southern border as he too ignores the violation of soveriegnty and the human rights atrocities of the Uribe Administration.

For their part, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post and most of the MSM have gone well out of their way to tout the Interpol report as corroborating Colombia’s claims about the controversial laptops all the while ignoring statements of concern about the Uribe government’s handling of this “evidence” made by people like Robert Kenneth Noble, the Secretary General of Interpol who stated emphatically that

“The volume of this data (on the laptops) would correspond to 39.5 million pages in Microsoft Word. 39.5 million. It would take more than a thousand years to read all the data if 1 person read 100 pages per day.”

A thousand years?

Either Colombia’s defense department somehow managed to recruit an army of miracle workers who magically compressed a thousand years into the 2 days they held (under questionable circumstances) the laptops or another nasty and quite dangerous escalation of political and military tensions is brewing in the White House. It appears that, in George Bush’s broken lexicon, “latop” is Spanish for “WMD”.

For more information about this important and tense situation, see this interview with my friend Forest Hylton on the Real News.

Migrants Beaten, Burned and Killed in S. Africa

May 20, 2008

Violence in South Africa

(S. African police trying to aid Zimbabwean man burned by S. African anti-migrant mobs)

S. African mobs armed with machetes, sticks and other weapons beat, burned and killed Zimbabwean migrants in areas in and around Johannesburg. The best reporting on these truly tragic developments can be found in the U.K. Guardian.

These most recent attacks follow escalating anti-migrant violence aimed not just at Zimbabweans, but at Somalis, Mozambicans and other groups in the past couple of years. What is striking about this turn of events is that S. Africa has been and continues to be at the fore of economic and political development in Africa. Adding a painfully ironic twist to this tragedy is the fact that the Ramaphosa squatter community (named for Cyril Ramaphosa, former secretary general of the African National Congress or “ANC) and other sites of recent violence against non-citizens were the site of death squad and other state violence against black S. Africans during the apartheid era. Now men in ANC government uniforms are protecting non-citizens being terrorized by citizens.

The South African violence must be viewed as one of the many noxious effects of the global crisis gripping Africa and the entire planet. Anti-migrant violence worldwide is on the increase in no small part because even some of the once strong economies and polities like those of S. Africa or the U.S. are exhibiting the symptons -and deadly behaviors- of failed states.

Radio Nation Interview: Politics, Economics and Psychology of Exploitation in the U.S. South

May 17, 2008

RADIO NATION with Laura Flanders

Check out this deeper delving into the workings of oppression and social control – and the movement response to- in the deep South. As always, Laura Flanders just shines as she illuminates with her smart line of questioning and discussion. Check it out.

Radio Nation Interview on Juan Crow

Mayday Interview With Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!

May 2, 2008

Democracy Now!

Check out Amy’s great show on Mayday and migrant’s rights. The Reverend Jesse Jackson, other guests and I also connected the dots between global trade, militarism and migration. Check it out. Full transcript below, complete with lots of “uh’s” during my Q&A. You can find the video of the interview on Democracy Now’s site.

Democracy Now! Mayday Interview


Mike Whitehead, Worker at Micro Solutions. He was illegally detained during the Feb. 7 ICE raid.

Christopher Scherer, Staff attorney for the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law.

Roberto Lovato, Writes for New America Media and is a frequent contributor to The Nation Magazine. He blogs at

Rush Transcript

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AMY GOODMAN: We’re broadcasting from Los Angeles, California on this historic day, a day for—in the struggle for labor rights and the eight-hour work day, tens of thousands are expected to march across the country today, linking immigrants’ rights to May Day for the third year in a row. The major demands include legal status for undocumented migrant workers and an end to the raids and deportations that have torn families apart. One of the biggest rallies is expected to take place today here in Los Angeles.

As we continue our coverage of these issues, we turn to one of the most controversial immigration topics in this country: workplace raids carried out by armed US agents. If you were in Los Angeles in early February, you might have seen these reports on your local news.

    KTLA-5 NEWS ANCHOR: [ICE] raided a Van Nuys company today. The raid took place at a printer supply manufacturer called Micro Solutions Enterprises. Family and friends rushed over as soon as they heard what was going on.

    REPORTER: From News Copter 13, you can see a toddler who doesn’t quite understand why she can’t be with her mother.

AMY GOODMAN: On February 7th, hundreds of agents from the Department of Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, known as ICE, raided a Los Angeles company called Micro Solutions. During the raid, US agents arrested 138 immigrant workers. In addition, armed ICE agents detained 114 workers who were US citizens or lawful permanent residents.

The Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law has just filed claims on behalf of these workers. It’s believed to be the first time a group of US citizens and lawful residents have brought claims against the government for being illegally detained during an ICE raid. If the claims are successful, this legal strategy could force the Department of Homeland Security to change its policy about workplace raids.

I’m joined here in Los Angeles by two guests. Christopher Scherer is a staff attorney with the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law. Mike Whitehead also joins us. He’s a worker at Micro Solutions, illegally detained during the February 7th ICE raid. In New York, we’re joined by the journalist Roberto Lovato. He is a writer for New America Media and a frequent contributor to The Nation magazine. He blogs at
We welcome you all to Democracy Now!

Well, Mike Whitehead, let’s begin with you. What happened on February 7th?

MIKE WHITEHEAD: February 7, we were brought in—a hundred-plus agents were come into the facility and had us detained for a number of hours. I personally was detained for about an hour of that time in a conference room, to begin with. We were hustled into the room and told that we couldn’t move, we couldn’t leave, we had to keep our hands visible, we couldn’t use our cell phones, which was sort of disturbing to me, because I didn’t know what we did wrong. You know, I’m a US citizen. We were shuffled around to another area of the facility and asked to be segregated later at a time that we were later cleared. But we were detained for approximately one hour, me personally.

AMY GOODMAN: And did you know who the armed men were?

MIKE WHITEHEAD: At the beginning, I didn’t, because I didn’t recognize “ICE” on the back of their jackets. I mean, there was a hundred-plus agents, armed, flak vests that said “ICE” on the back of them. I later figured it out. I mean, it was pretty obvious who they were.

AMY GOODMAN: Christopher Scherer, can you talk about the legality of this?

CHRISTOPHER SCHERER: Well, we don’t feel there was any legality to this. It’s a violation of Fourth Amendment rights of citizens of lawful permanent residents. ICE is coming in and detaining an entire factory worth of individuals and holding them under armed guard and allowing them to leave when they decide, when they think it’s appropriate.

AMY GOODMAN: How common is this?

CHRISTOPHER SCHERER: It’s happened all over the country. I mean, it’s happened here in Southern California at Micro Solutions. It happened in Texas, in Iowa, with the Swift raids, where they held literally thousands of American citizens while they were looking for undocumented workers.

AMY GOODMAN: Roberto Lovato, can you talk about this?

ROBERTO LOVATO: Yeah. First of all, I want to encourage everybody to get out on the streets today if they feel outraged about what happened to Mike and what’s happening to thousands of citizens and non-citizens in the United States. I really encourage you to go out there and support them and also to get a dose of hope, because that’s what May Day is about, a workers’ and immigrants’ hope.

What happened to Mike is, as I said, not unique. I have traveled the country interviewing citizens and non-citizens who are experiencing these kinds of raids and violence, state violence, with increasing frequency. And I really feel for Mike, because it’s proving a thesis I’ve had for a while now, which is that the immigration raids, the attacks, the increasing militarization of police forces, of the National Guard at the border, are all indicators of how immigrants are being used to normalize having people with guns in our midst. In other words, first it was the people in the yellow outfits detained after 9/11. Now it’s the Mexican and other immigrants. And as we see with the case of Mike, now it’s US citizens and workers who are being subjected to what in another context, in another country, would be called, say, “terrorismo de estado,” state terrorism.

Peoples—Mike, I’m sure, may have dreams about this. His body may shake because of being violated, as if—you know, having his rights and his person violated. And so, it’s an indicator of why we need to get out to protest and assert our rights, because, as I said, immigration is being used to militarize within the borders of the country.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask Mike Whitehead not only about you, but about all the other workers. Can you talk about the reaction when the agents came in? What time of day was it?

MIKE WHITEHEAD: It was about 3:45, close to 4:00. The reaction was that we thought we were under some sort of attack. We didn’t know what was going on. They never disclosed who they were and what they were there for.

AMY GOODMAN: And so, what about the immigrants who worked there, whether documented or not?

MIKE WHITEHEAD: Oh, that we have close to 800 employees in our facility, so it was a mass detention. As far as who was undocumented, I have no idea who was undocumented in our facility. We follow our I-9s. I know that we are compliant and have been cooperating with ICE and Homeland Security.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, let me put this question to Roberto Lovato. The overall policy of immigration right now, and especially here in California and then going down to the border?

ROBERTO LOVATO: Well, you have a radical transformation of the political and demographic topography of the United States happening right now. It’s concentrated in the Southwest, and it’s because of the growth of Latino and other populations, but especially the Latino population. And you’re seeing it in the streets. It’s altering our political system. And you’re seeing it in our electoral process. And I think that instills a lot of fear in certain powers that be, because it’s no longer kind of the black-white politics and the era of the Southern strategy. We’re watching something take place that nobody really has an idea where it’s going or what’s going to happen. We do know, for—as, for example, as reported in the LA Times, that immigrant voters are going to radically transform not just the Southwestern United States, but the entire United States in the coming years. And this is inevitable, unless there’s some sort of massive tragedy, which I hope not and I would fight with every bone in my body, but—as would others.

But so, we have to look at—it’s just an issue of control. The border is not a fact. The border is an idea, OK? The border is violated every day by the primary criminals that are, in fact, transnational corporations that cause migration in the first place. And so, it’s no coincidence that we’re focusing on, for example, the undocumented worker and not on the employer that hires them, in the debate. They are breaking the law, if anybody’s breaking the law, as much as, if not more than, the undocumented worker. Yet the entire debate is focused on the human being and not the citizen that is the corporation, because to focus on them, we would have to, for example, apply the death penalty to corporations and take away their citizenship, as we do with prisoners. And that’s, I think, what’s at stake here, Amy.

AMY GOODMAN: Let me go to Christopher Scherer, staff attorney for the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law. What about the responsibility of the employer versus the workers?

CHRISTOPHER SCHERER: Well, I mean, there’s no question that employers are under an obligation to comply with, you know, all the rules and regulations with regard to who they hire and hiring legal—at least checking the status of the people that they hire. But in this situation, all those things have been done. And, you know, if—the employer in the situation may be a subject of fraud, a victim in the situation, and it doesn’t change the fact that ICE is coming into these factories without color of warrant, without exigent circumstance that could justify the types of detentions that are taking place and holding citizens and permanent residents against their will.

AMY GOODMAN: And what about the companies, Roberto Lovato, that benefit, that are profiting off of the increased militarization, particularly along the border?

ROBERTO LOVATO: Well, we’re watching the birth of what some people, like Deepa Fernandez and others, are calling the military-industrial-migration complex, a set of interests, economic, political, that are profiting politically and economically from this new, what I would call a war on immigrants. If, say, the drones at the border or the National Guard at the border or the fact that the ICE, the immigration agency, is in fact the most militarized arm of the federal government besides the Pentagon—a lot of people don’t know this—and so, if you look at that, those are indicators of a war, of an enemy. And so, we know from Iraq that the government acts not just out of what it says it’s going to do, but for other reasons. So why not apply that logic to what’s happening with immigration?

Because I think immigration is about controlling immigrant workers, putting fear in them, and I think it’s about electoral machinations that we’re seeing, especially by the Republicans, and also a lot of Democrats. But it’s also about the crisis of legitimacy in the state itself. I think there’s a crisis afoot. And when there’s a crisis, you want to bring in as many people with guns within. And so, there’s a lot of companies that are benefiting, like Blackwater, like—does this sound familiar?—Halliburton is building immigrant prisons. All these electronic surveillance companies are getting multimillion-, multibillion-dollar contracts, in the case of Boeing, to surveil, jail and harass immigrants. And so, you know, this whole anti-immigrant moment is extremely profitable for the stock portfolios of a lot of companies.

AMY GOODMAN: Roberto Lovato, can you talk about the “Three Amigos Summit” that took place in New Orleans, or as it came to be known, President Bush meeting with the heads of state of Canada and Mexico?

ROBERTO LOVATO: Yeah. There was—this is the most recent in a series of meetings that have taken place between the heads of state of Canada, Mexico and the United States. And it’s interesting to look at what their agenda is. It’s primarily about free trade and security. OK, and that’s not a coincidence. It’s not that they just put this together. It’s the fact that in order to implement the free trade policies in Mexico that drive migration, that destroy workers’ rights and the environment and that cause, you know, crisis after crisis, and now to do that in the United States and in Canada, you’re not just going to need to implement new laws, you’re going to have to back up the—yourself up with military force, as you see in the case of the discussions that were had about Plan Mexico.

Plan Mexico is essentially a plan to militarize or what I would call “Colombianize” Mexico. I was in Michoacan last year, and it’s one of the most militarized parts of Mexico, with—a country with no history of a—modern history of a military, of a militarized society like the rest of Latin America. And so, the summits are about fomenting free trade and helping to create excuses for putting, again, more people with guns in our societies, whether it’s in Mexico in Michoacan in the countryside, where they’re knocking on people’s doors and capturing them and causing more people to migrate, or whether it’s in Canada or now here in the United States, where you see the raids.

You look at those images, Amy, that you had of, say, MacArthur Park in Los Angeles. If you took away the LAPD names on those, that would look just like Gaza, if you look at the weaponry, the way they’re dressed, etc. So these are visual, clear indicators of the fact that immigration is not just about immigrants. It’s as much about those of us that are citizens and instilling fear and normalizing the idea that it’s OK to have people with guns and uniforms in times of crisis and meltdown like we have now.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you for joining us, Roberto Lovato, speaking to us from New York.

ROBERTO LOVATO: Thank you, Amy.

AMY GOODMAN: Roberto Lovato writes for New America Media, a frequent contributor to The Nation magazine. And our guests here in studio in Los Angeles, as we continue on the road, Christopher Scherer, staff attorney for the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law, and Mike Whitehead, one of the employees at Micro Solutions who was detained on February 7th during the ICE raid.

Bush,Calderon Plot Economic and Military Integration at NOLA Summit

April 22, 2008

At the center of today’s “Three Amigos” Summit in New Orleans between George W. Bush and his homologues, Mexico’s Felipe Calderon and Stephen Harper of Canada, is the sovereignty-swallowing nexus between trade, migration and military policy. As mentioned in this AP piece, Bush and Calderon held bilateral talks today in which they discussed NAFTA, the proposed free trade agreement (FTA) with Colombia and regional security. Much of the chatter in the press focused on how Calderon and Bush “defended” NAFTA and free trade.

Lacking in all of the coverage of this and other regional summits is any notion of the symbiotic relationship between trade and militarization throughout hemisphere, including the U.S.. None of the press, for example, makes the connection between how economy-integrating trade policies like NAFTA or the proposed U.S.-Colombia FTA are inevitably accompanied by increases in the domestic policing and military budgets of the U.S. and its “Latin American trade partners” like Colombia, home to the worst human rights record in the Americas thanks to the more than $4 billion in military aid it receives from the U.S.

As they continue negotiating an exponential increase in the military aid Mexico receives from the U.S., Bush and Calderon appear to be plotting a Colombianization (drug wars, counterinsurgency wars combined with free trade) just a stones throw from our southern border.

Nothing was said in today’s summit coverage about how Calderon and Bush are actually “defending” free trade with real guns and real troops.This link between increased free trade and mushrooming military budgets makes sense when we consider that border-smashing corporate interests represented by Bush and Calderon need uniformed people with guns to quash social tensions (formerly known as class conflicts) exacerbated by economic restructuring. Put another way, when the soft power middle class cushion between rich and poor gets tattered beyond repair by free trade, it is replaced by the hard power military cushion in both the U.S and Mexico.

Presidents George Bush (r) and Felipe Calderon in New Orleans, 21 Apr 2008

Following the same free trade+militarism=freedom formula, Bush and Calderon continued their plans to implement “Plan Merida”. Better known as “Plan Mexico”, Bush and Calderon’s plan is a “security” agreement designed deal with the “threat to our societies by drug trafficking and other criminal organizations operating on both sides of our common border. According to the Times Picayune, Bush told Calderon “I want to work with you in close coordination to defeat these drug traffickers”. After agreeing with Bush, Calderon added, “Recently, NAFTA has come under criticism, and I don’t believe people are realizing the benefits it has brought to the United States and Mexico”.

As I’ve stated here and elsewhere, such “benefits” come complete with plans for intensified militarization to respond to the post-cold war need for new enemies that both legitimate militarism and promote free trade as well as the idea of the state itself. Bush and Calderon are clear that, in the absence of the internal and external communist threat of the previous era, immigrants, drug cartels and youth gangs are joining “terrorists” in the mish mash of enemy-making in the post-Cold War politics of the hemisphere. For more on how this applies to immigrants in the U.S., see this recent piece. Those protesting the cheapening of their lives in the U.S. and Mexico are also joining the ranks of the unruly masses requiring enhanced legal and police control. Policing at protests like those of New Orleans preview and expand the closing of public space and rights by the true sovereign of our political and economic system: border-hopping big capital.

Interestingly, those protesting the summit included both locals organizing a very important “People’s Summit”, some left-leaning Latin American solidarity organizations and right-leaning Lou Dobbs “pro-sovereignty” groups and individuals, many of whom are quite anti-immigrant. Also curious was how Bush introduced New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin as “el alcalde” (Spanish words for “the mayor”). I remember being in New Orleans shortly after Katrina and hearing responses to Nagin’s statements about the need to “stop New Orleans from being overrun by Mexican workers.” I wonder what Nagin was thinking as he stood next to Bush and Calderon (see below) while they announced trade and military agreements that will foment further migration to New Orleans from Mexico?