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.