Posts Tagged ‘#ayotzinapa’

Mass Graves, Mass Deportations and Blossoming of Big Hope in América

October 28, 2014

NEWLOGO

Ever since machine-gun-wielding members of the Mexican military kidnapped, raped and then beheaded her daughter, forcing several members of her family to migrate, my friend Ana María (name changed to protect her) understands all too intimately the deep connection between mass immigration from Mexico and the mass graves that reside there.

Yet, more than most, Ana María is a source of old-fashioned hope. Threatened by her own government and hunted down by drug cartels aligned to that very same government, she was intrepid enough to disguise herself and sneak into a military installation to interrogate a military officer suspected of being involved in the disappearance. She fights on, for the love of her daughter. Ana María’s is the spirit that transforms policies and topples governments, the spirit of América the beautiful, América the borderless.

The murderers are in the palace. (CREDIT: PetrohsW)

When I read, mostly in Spanish (US media is failing us on Mexico), about mass graves and Mexican migrants, I often think of her.

When, as a journalist, I notice how the unprecedented mass mobilizations like last Sunday’s protest in Mexico get none of the media coverage in U.S. media that similar or smaller protests in Hong Kong, Venezuela or other countries with U.S.-funded opposition groups get, I think of her.

And when I wonder, “What happens in the heart of a mother whose child was beheaded by our ‘enemies in Afghanistan,’ ISIL or by our ‘allies” (Saudi  Arabia),” I think about my friend, who lives not in the far-off Middle East, but in Mexico.

Like Ana María, the millions of us who refuse to be walled off from our families, friends and stories just south of us are on the verge of bursting the border of the Washington Consensusthat has long defined both U.S. immigration policy and U.S. foreign policy in Latin America. Here’s why:

  1. Mass graves and mass deportations both impact Latin@ bodies and are both rooted in the same massive problem-posing-as-a-solution: militarism. Bodies in Mexicans mass graves are directly and unambiguously rooted in U.S. policy solutions, centered in U.S. military aid and political support for Mexican security forces. These multibillion dollar policies have failed so badly that even former Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo has joined former Colombian presidents and others to no longer support the “trillion dollar failure” they were once charged with implementing. Similarly, the millions of bodies deported, the hundreds of thousands of bodies jailed and the many bodies killed as a result of U.S. immigration policy under Barack Obama (and his predecessors Bill Clinton and George W. Bush) are the direct result of a major militarization of migration policy. This “boots-on-the-ground,”  “border-security first” approach to policy makes the U.S. immigration bureaucracy a larger recipient of taxpayer dollars than the FBI, the DEA, ATF, the (very challenged) Secret Service and all other federal criminal law enforcement agencies—combined. As a result, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency is breaking deportation, Latino imprisonment and other records of all previous administrations—combined. These colossal failures of policy, the bodies of our loved ones murdered, deported and disappeared, connect in the most intimate way.
  1. Failed U.S. immigration and failed drug war policies are both premised on the same cheapening of human life that Mexicans, U.S. Latinos and others cannot and will not allow to continue. Throughout the region, more are understanding what some of us understood in the 1980′s, when we saw U.S.-backed military dictatorships using media to perpetually dehumanize youth and other opposition: you can’t pass devastating policy against or kill those you see as human. But now this most social media so interconnected of generations will continue to aggressively to expose the role of too many media outlets: the dehumanizing attack dog that cheapens the lives of migrants, the disenfranchised and the student-led movements that defend the voiceless. The selective editing out and framing that defines who is human and who is hated will soon become apparent to others besides policy wonks. Especially problematic for Obama, Enrique Peña Nieto and the Miami-based “Washington Consensus” on Latin America is this troublesome fact: Mexico’s government kills more students in a few days than Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia, Ecuador & other U.S. “enemies” do in the entire year—combined. “Ayotzinapa” is IndigeSpanglish for “U.S. Latin American policy is an abomination that must end.”
  1. Student-driven, mass mobilizations will force the hand of Presidents Obama, Peña Nieto and the U.S military—industrial interests behind the failed immigration and drug war policies. Historians of the Obama era in the U.S. and in Mexico will highlight one major commonality shared by youth in both countries: a total lack of faith in existing political parties and political systems. Youth activism on immigration and around what —before the current “age of (small group) terrorism– we used to call “state terror” reflects the increasingly deep-seated belief in pursuing social change beyond ballot box and on the streets. As a result, students on both sides of the border will start connecting their issues, as seen in immigration activism of more left-leaning DREAMers or during the 2012 Caravan for Peace, in which students and others from Mexico and the U.S. traveled to 26 U.S. cities to make incisive and unprecedented connections between the “drug war” and immigration, incarceration, police violence and other issues.

“I never saw myself speaking out,” Ana María sometimes tells me , adding “but all that changed after what they [the Mexican government] did to my daughter.”

Increasingly, many average Mexicans and even cross-border pop icons like the musical groupManá or soccer star Chicharito are following Ana María’s example, speaking out about immigration and mass murder. Sadly, Ana Maria and others say, U.S. policy continues to produce more Ana Marías.

The silver lining in this coming cloud is that more of us will encounter more voices that will remind us of what’s possible if we do the necessary and urgent work of linking the tragic dots of Latin American life in the region. And more of us will be inspired by people moved to transform and topple governments, people moved to do the impossible because they experienced the unimaginable.

Mass Murder in Mexico Demands Greater Awakening in US

October 8, 2014

NEWLOGO

Reading about Mexico reminds me of El Salvador. Older Salvadoran sensations —the smell of rotting flesh mixed with the sweet fragrance of almond trees, the sight of young faces burned into half skeletons that look like the masks our kids wear for Halloween, the unforgettably sad sound of a dead student’s mother screaming without ceasing—  insinuate themselves as I read other stories about the mass graves of Mexican students killed by their government. This news affects me differently from the nonstop reports about the more “sanitized” warfare of drone strikes against “terrorists.” One major difference: my stomach knots as I read the articles about this latest mass killing in Mexico, a country that barely had a military in the 1980′s, when those Salvadoran almond trees became the trees of the knowledge of good and evil.

The difference in reading experience mirrors the difference between our news and perceptions about Mexico and our news and perceptions about other Latin American countries. Even though no country is closer to us in terms of sharing both a border and a massive population of its nationals living here, mass murders by Mexico’s government are reported, read and treated far differently than real and alleged human rights violations in other countries in the hemisphere—all of which spells more terrible news for Mexico, and for many of us here.

jutsicia

In Mexico, our failure to recognize the real dimensions the Mexican crisis means we’re blind to an equally disturbing fact: our government’s continued use of our tax dollars in the Drug War pay for the training, guns and bullets that slaughtered those students. This despite the fact that some of the same former Mexican presidents who received billions to fight that same Drug War now say that that war is a trillion dollar failure of titanic proportions. Less heard are the cries of the families of the students buried in the mass graves of Guerrero, who join Mexico’s more than 80,000 Drug War dead, thousands of whom were journalists, priests, human rights advocates and others whom like the students, were killed by government security forces we help fund. Viewed through a regional hemispheric lens, the children and young people migrating here from Mexico and Central America are walking, talking reminders of our utterly failed and extremely biased policies in the region.

Earlier this year, I traveled to Venezuela several times to cover the widely-reported conflicts there. I did so because I sensed something was not quite kosher about U.S. media reporting on students in Venezuela, who, instead of following the tradition of fighting U.S.-funded projects like those in Mexico, are actually the recipients of U.S. funding. After reading this week’s violence in Mexico, the journalist in me couldn’t  help but ask, “What would happen if police or other security forces of the Venezuelan government killed 43 students and buried them in a mass grave?” 

The journalist’s answer I came up with is informed by what we saw during last summer’s upheavals: high profile denunciations by global human rights organizations, interviews with Venezuelans in Miami and front page headlines with the word “Killings” as the operative verbs next to sentence subjects and objects like “Students” and “Maduro Government.”

On one September day just two weeks ago, an estimated 43 students are alleged to have been disappeared and killed by Mexican police linked to drug cartels. That is equal to the total number of people killed in Venezuela during the 2014 protests—at least half were allegedly killed by paramilitaries and students opposed to the Venezuelan government. All 43 in Venezuela were killed over the course of not one day, but 160 days or four months. Looking at the media coverage and the official responses from government and non-governmental institutions, one would think that Venezuela was Mexico or wartime El Salvador. Such a distorted understanding of regional realities among the citizenry of such a powerful country enables those perpetrating slaughter in Mexico to continue doing so.

Despite all this terrible news, I do think that the radical disproportion in both reporting and policymaking circles will soon face a major challenge: students themselves. In line with the Salvadoran and U.S. youth who altered U.S. policy in El Salvador and following the dynamic activism of students leading social movements around the world, the young people of Mexico are showing great courage before their country’s critical situation. With millions of DREAMers and other U.S. students and others engaged with Mexico through familial relationships, it’s only a matter of time before the same kind of activism that fought and exposed the two million deportations and other devastating immigration policies of the Obama Administration starts to inform Obama and the next U.S. president’s foreign policy in Mexico.

Such a combination —Mexican and U.S. youth joining forces to stop the madness— has the potential to change not just Mexico, but the United States, as we are witnessing with the decline and fall of traditional Republican and Democratic party immigration politics. Increasingly, Latinos are and will continue engaging far and beyond the ballot box, beyond the sterile, suffocating smell of the militarized border as the winds of the south awaken us with a deeper knowledge of the good and evil hidden in the smell of almond trees.

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Roberto Lovato is a writer and a Visiting Scholar at UC Berkeley’s Center for Latino Policy Research. You can follow Roberto on Twitter @robvato.