Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Rigoberta Menchu Press Conference in Postville IA 11/8/08

Posted: Monday, November 10, 200,

As part of her fact finding mission, listening to “unique testimonies” of those impacted by the May 12 ICE raid at Agriprocessors, and providing support and advocacy for that group, Nobel Peace Prize recipient Rigoberta Menchu addressed members of the press in a special meeting Saturday afternoon in Postville. In an unlikely press conference setting, Menchu informally entertained press questions as she sat in the altar area of St. Bridget’s Catholic Church in Postville. Menchu indicated the Postville situation was her only reason for this visit to the United States.

Menchu was drawn to Postville as she heard reports of human rights violations and the treatment of detainees as if they were criminals of high risk. She said the Postville situation should awaken the curiosity of human rights defenders and that she would ask her colleagues in Amnesty International to become involved, adding that widespread knowledge of this case is the best way to prevent such abuses in the future.

Asked why there had been such a large influx of Guatemalans to the U.S., Menchu said that after years of civil war, peace agreements failed to address the post conflict issues related to massive populations of the neglected poor, widows and orphans. Two and one half million children suffer from severe malnutrition in a country that has a strong potential for the development of natural resources. Essentially there is no work, widespread poverty, and the U.S. allies in that country continue to make increasing profits while not being interested in the poor. She was asked if Free Trade agreements had contributed to the problem and she replied that Central and Latin American countries are governed by the elite who have exploited the poor, and don’t care about civilian populations - and that Free Trade essentially reinforces the wealth of the rich. She will be meeting soon with a group in Costa Rica to discuss new ways to think about Free Trade agreements.

Menchu emphasized that immigration is a global problem. She said the Postville problem runs even deeper and was a “pressure cooker” situation with many injustices occurring that were not known until everything exploded in the May 12 raid. On the positive side of things, because of the Postville situation, she noted that perhaps this is a “fortunate moment” for the United States to deal with its immigration policies.

Although she said that her visit to the U.S. did not include official diplomatic visits, she was doing some private visits in New York on Sunday. She added that January would bring her first request for an audience with the President of the United States. She agrees with President-elect Obama that the U.S. must demand respect for human rights by its allies.

Menchu is an indigenous Guatemalan who has dedicated her life to publicizing the plight of indigenous peoples, especially those victimized by the 1960-96 civil war. She was the recipient of the 1992 Nobel Peace Prize.

[I added the emphases throughout the article.]

The Postville situation is indeed dire to attract the attention of this world-renown advocate for human rights. Our outrage throughout the summer and fall, as we have kept abreast of this situation here, finds a real justification by the visit of Rigoberta Menchu. I imagine that the people of Postville were honored to enjoy her presence and appreciated her concern and attention.

With the U.S. economy on the decline, the plight of the immigrant in the U.S. will likely similarly decline. Still there is no plan on the horizon to deal with the need for comprehensive immigration reform. The (misplaced) focus is entirely on border protection. Comments from Monday's post ring true here, too: If you have money, you count in this world. If you don't, then you don't matter. You're invisible or--worse--you're in the way and need to be eliminated.


Mariamariacuchita said...

Yes, poverty does encourage invisibility and neglect.

And sometimes in the midst of an economic crisis, it brings out fear and retribution towards the poorest of the poor as the pecking order becomes less transparent and more obvious.

Bless her and you for keeping this issue in the forefront. Some days it seems like the fires that need attending are scattered so broadly.

Carol said...

Than yous to you and Rigoberta Menchu for shining the light on this so that we can't pretend it's not there.

Carol said...

Ummm... That was supposed to be "THANK yous", which I guess is really written "Thank-yous".

You know what I mean... ;-)

thailandchani said...

This kind of thing really does need worldwide attention from human rights activists.

The odd part, the part I'm having trouble understanding, is why people would choose to come to a country where exploiters have been exported to their country of origin.

Seems kind of like coming from the home of one's abuser to the home of the abuser's larger extended family.

Perhaps I'm misunderstanding something though.


Ruth Hull Chatlien said...

I think they just go where the jobs are.

BE, thanks for keeping us up to date. Menchu's comments were very thoughtful.

Randal Graves said...

It's disturbing how the fact -- the FACT -- that eliminating poverty would eliminate so many other problems, both real and the bizarre, fear-soaked fantasies of the wingnuts and freako corporatists.

Randal Graves said...

hasn't caught on in the wider world. Forgot the ending, now my comment actually makes sense!

Utah Savage said...

I am invisible. Disabled and living on social security after years of being unable to work because of illness. I did inherit a house, but I don't have enough income to get even a small loan against an unencumbered house in a prime location to make the most necessary repairs. I'm too poor to live in my neighborhood. I need dental work and can't afford it. And to make me more of a societal pariah, I'm old, female and mentally ill. Now, imagine if I were an immigrant? How much worse it would be. With a roof over my head, I realize that in almost every part of the world, I would be considered middle class.

I've worried that if the republicans had retained control of our government we invisible people would all be rounded up and put in camps. I could not survive if not for medicare. And whenever republicans talk about fiscal responsibility it's always to take crumbs from the poor and give them to the rich. Lower wages, take away rights, restrict, exclude.

Thank you for posting this. I had forgotten. It does need more attention.

D.K. Raed said...

I hadn't thought about Free Trade agreements reinforcing the rich against the poor of the subscribing countries. We need FAIR Trade agreements that take things like that into account, not just unfettered dollar profiteering. I wish Ms. Menchu big success in this endeavor. Just think, her country was in active civil war for 36-yrs! And in many ways, they are still at war because of the extreme poverty. I cannot think of a better ambassador to have visited Postville.

an average patriot said...

While I disagree with illegal immigration figuring if you want to visit use the front door but I do not like the heavy handed tactics employed by ICE! They use no tact whatsoever and as far as I am concerned the Business should pay the price not the people!

susan said...

Thanks for another excellent post about Postville. Randal's right that eliminating poverty in people's home countries would go a long way to repairing the situation. An essential part of the illegal immigration situation is exactly the same one that has made it impossible to have an American version of the EU - economic disparity. For example, Canadians aren't crossing the northern border illegally to take jobs here nobody wants.

Dusty said...

It all makes me cry. And it's ignored by the MSM.

I put this up at Sirens B.E.

ThomasLB said...

I wonder if the government really wants to do anything about it.

Businesses like having a tier of second-class human beings. You don't have to pay them minimum wage or provide benefits, and they stay out of sight when you don't want them around. Business gets big profits, immigrants get lives of quiet desperation.

The government built a big useless fence, and my guess is they'll call it a day and let things continue as they have been: "Don't cross our border, nudge-nudge wink-wink."