Saturday, January 29, 2011

Bi-national demonstration for peace in the "War on Drugs" drew 100's in El Paso/Juarez


Two nations literally chanted one common cry for peace with justice as citizens from El Paso, Texas and Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua converged on the border fence that separated their nations at a demonstration for peace Saturday afternoon.

The unfunded, low-budget grassroots effort, organized by ordinary citizens who call themselves “Peace and Justice without Borders” (Paz y Justicia sin Fronteras), was publicized simply by word of mouth and social media. But hundreds gathered nevertheless on both sides of the border.

Together the groups, separated by a chain link fence, proclaimed “el pueblo unido hamas sera vencido/the people united will never be defeated” as they denounced the violence that curses Mexico. That violence is exponentially bloodier in Juarez who counts a murder toll of over 7,500 since 2007.
Holding sign of solidarity toward Mexican group..."United, never defeated."
The historical bi-national rally denounced the injustice that lies behind the unprecedented violence. Violence is but one result of increased border militarization, affecting both nations. In Ciudad Ju├írez, however, the effects are particularly dramatic: tragic loss of human life, massive population displacement, and violation of human rights. The U.S. citizens noted the unmet need for immigration reform and for granting political asylum to residents fleeing border violence, and the futility of the “war on drugs” which fuels organized crime.

The rally called upon both the U.S. and Mexican governments to take responsibility in alleviating the unparalleled wave of violence. It was one more in a series of grassroots rallies and demonstrations for peace seen in Juarez as violence escalates.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

How I got mixed up with the terrorist Luis Posada Carriles

I'd like to share with you just how I got involved with international terrorist Luis Posada Carriles. I'm still sorting it out. I hope that telling you the story will help me do that.

Luis Posada Carriles, on trial in El Paso, TX. Photo: Google images.

The Scene.
Yesterday morning: U.S. Marshals behind me, police on every corner, cop cars everywhere. Me? I'm standing on federal courthouse property, chanting loudly and repeatedly, part of a group of 40 or so who line the street. Our opponents, just a few yards away, are taunting and baiting us. The courthouse flags are at half-mast. A few days ago six people were killed, not so very far from here, at an event much less politically charged than this.
Posada supporters
The Event. 
A self-acknowledged terrorist, Luis Posada Carriles, trained by and then hired by the United States, the man who clearly blew an airplane out of the sky and killed 73 civilians onboard, is on trial here in El Paso, in the building right behind me.
"Jail Posada. Extradite Posada. Jail Posada. Extradite Posada."

"About time he's brought to justice!" one might say, since his airplane gig happened over 34 years ago. But, one would be wrong.

He isn't on trial for the tourist hotels that he bragged to the New York Times he exploded. He's not on trial for the Italian tourist he killed while masterminding those explosions. Since he knows too much about the CIA, it appears that U.S. indignation about terrorism only goes so far. It can't extend to a terrorist of our own.

Instead he is on trial for lying to U.S. immigration-about five years ago. In the meantime, he's been living the good life in Miami, a hobbyist painter. I once met an immigrant who was deported for jaywalking. But Luis Posada Carriles is not deported. Nor is he in detention. For his trial, he's staying at the downtown El Camino Real Hotel: swanky name, swanky place.

And, although two nations clamor for his extradition so they can try him for his crimes, he's still here. The U.S. protects him. This trial is a "show."

Our "war on terror" is hypocrisy.

As an ordinary U.S. citizen, I can't do much anything about the CIA. For that matter, I have little personal impact on the federal government at all. But I can yell. And that's why I'm here. Were it not for the protestations of thousands, in the U.S. and throughout the hemisphere, likely even this insignificant trial wouldn't have happened. My body, my voice can call attention to this travesty. Lots of news media reps filmed, photographed and interviewed us. This event will appear in newspapers throughout the hemisphere.

I like standing outside the courthouse, near the display of photos of the faces of the people Posada is responsible for killing. It is a wall of faces. And they are not forgotten. Not while I'm standing here.
Other people have detailed the story of Luis Posada Carriles. I won't repeat it. But I will do what I can to make sure that the story of Luis Posada Carriles is not just swept under the carpet.

That's how I got involved with the terrorist Luis Posada Carriles:
I can yell.
Short clip of one of the speeches delivered yesterday morining: speaking the truth about the hypocrisy that is the U.S. "war on terrorism"outside the court building that whitewashes the lie.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Christina Green's mom speaks: Her daughter's death, legacy

In the aftermath of horrific violence that robbed her of what was most precious in life, Roxanna Green, mother of Christina Green, courageously speaks words of love about her daughter's own legacy of love and courage. This beautiful girl--full of enthusiasm and life--was senselessly slain. Yet, a grieving, valiant mother shares the story in the hope that the memory of her daughter's life will continue into the future.

Yes, she is indeed a "face of hope" in a world too prone to hate.

Let us rise above the hate. Defeat hate with love.

Friday, January 7, 2011

We’re Becoming a Nation of Farm Workers

I've painfully watched many blogger friends lose their homes, file bankruptcy, get pushed into unemployment from downsizing and confront devastating medical expenses in the three years I've written Border Explorer. Bloggers are literate, educated and tech-connected, but none of that insures immunity from financial peril in today's economy. The gap between the rich and the poor widens with incredible speed.
l Iove the farm workers and, as it turns out, we are becoming a nation of farm workers, as the following report--dated January 7, 2011--illustrates. It is lengthy, but stay with it—the part that applies to you is at the conclusion. Somos todos agricultores.

A Nation of Farm Workers, FNS Special Feature by Kent Paterson

In New Mexico and the United States, farm work keeps undergoing historic transformations. Globalization, mechanization, technological innovation, and job outsourcing have eliminated or changed thousands of jobs in cotton, pecan, chile, pecan, onion and other crops.
At the same time, many of the long-time conditions of farm work-temporary or seasonal employment, minimum wage violations, sub-contracting, reduced or no benefits, wage theft, and lack of union representation now characterize broader sections of the job market. To borrow  a Spanish phrase, the “campesinizacion” of the working-class is arguably underway.

Interviewed this past harvest season, several workers and staff members at El Paso’s Agricultural Workers Center (CTAF), a shelter where farm workers stay while they work nearby fields in southern New Mexico and far west Texas, described difficult conditions facing laborers in the chile and onion harvests of 2010.

A 51-year-old worker who formerly worked in construction told Frontera NorteSur that some farm labor contractors do not pay workers for all the hours put in and/or deduct Social Security payments but fail to report them to the federal government.
“We’ve always had this problem,” the man originally from the Mexican state of Chihuahua charged. “(Contractors) put down less hours on the receipts than you work…it’s robbery. It’s fraud. There are no inspectors.”
The worker calculated that the average maximum for workers in the green chile harvest was $60 per day, but part-time work sometimes only netted harvesters between $12-$15 for a short day. For workers without wheels, quick rides to New Mexico fields that are frequently one hour or more from El Paso cost  five bucks in privately-owned vans, he added.

Two other workers who labored in the onion harvest reported making between $45-$80 per day, but a woman who was injured while working in a field said that she could previously earn more on a piece-rate basis from stuffing sacks with topped bulbs instead of filling the bigger boxes currently in use.  Fearful of retaliation, the three workers requested their names not be printed.
All my first photos 2006-2008 535Carlos Marentes, longtime CTAF director, said other developments accompanied long-standing grievances.  He said some onion harvest contractors in Dona Ana County, New Mexico, seemed to have added a “second shift” to the harvest season, employing workers who enter fields equipped with small lights attached to their caps while backed-up by vehicle headlights to harvest onions in the dead of the night.
“There continues being prosperity for the industry but pressure and exploitation for the workers,” Marentes maintained.
Traveling from Albuquerque, Maria Martinez, staff attorney for the non-profit New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty (NMCLP), met with groups of farm workers on multiple occasions last harvest season.
“Every time a person will stand up and say something,” Martinez said, in regards to the mystery of Social Security deductions. “We need to do something about this.” Last November, the NMCLP sent letters to five farm
labor contractors laying out  workers’ complaints on a host of issues covered under the Fair Labor Standards Act and Agricultural Workers Protection Act  but only one contractor answered a letter, Martinez said. The respondent wound up paying back money owned to a worker for injuries sustained several years ago, she said.
To inform farm labor employers of occupational law requirements, the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions has announced a January 25 forum in Las Cruces.
Increasingly, however, farm workers in the region are displaced by a combination of mechanization and the conquest of the chile market by producers in Mexico, China and other nations.
Currently a health promoter in southern New Mexico’s Hatch Valley, Dolores Antonio immigrated to the agricultural region in 1975 from Chihuahua. At the beginning of her residence, Antonio said she made about $2.50 per hour working the onion and chile crops.
Since then, crop mechanization has been the biggest change witnessed by Antonio.IMG_5613
“This last year was very hard for the people, because they worked very little,” Antonio told UTEP Anthropology Professor Gina Nunez-Mchiri in a 2010 interview.
“When I worked, there were not as many people. It was different. They divided you up according to rows. You grabbed your rows and could last the entire day picking chile or onions.” Today’s workers, Antonio said, find less ground to till and consequently less work and income.
“What is going to happen to all the people with machines?” asked the construction worker-turned-chile picker in El Paso. “We have family. There is no work in construction or anything.”
According to the El Paso Times, November’s official unemployment rate in the border city reached 10.7 percent, a number well above the national average of 9.8 percent.

Rose Garcia, executive director of the Tierra del Sol Housing Corporation, a non-profit organization based in New Mexico that builds farm worker housing, insisted that displaced farm workers have not left New Mexico. Many are trying to keep their heads above water by working odd jobs or picking pecans in smaller orchards that can’t afford mechanical harvesting, Garcia said in a phone interview with Frontera NorteSur.
“(Farm workers) are like beggars here, because they can’t find work,” said Garcia, who’s spent decades working on behalf of farm workers. “This is the worst I’ve ever seen it.”

To make matters worse, a chicken farm in southern Dona Ana County that employed upwards of 300 workers during its heyday closed last year, according to Garcia.

Garcia roughly estimated that as many as 30,000 farm workers are in the entire state of New Mexico, but getting a precise handle on the exact number of field hands in the southern New Mexico borderland and what has happened to them has proven a slippery exercise.

On May 29, 2009, a group of local farm worker advocates including Las Cruces Catholic Bishop Ricardo Ramirez wrote to New Mexico Senator Jeff Bingaman requesting his assistance in getting the United States Department of Labor to fund studies that would give a more accurate picture of the size of the farm worker population.
“Farm workers have a long and proud history in New Mexico…,” opened the letter. “But farm workers are aging. Their historical contributions and cultural heritage are being overlooked and becoming lost to history.
Moreover, farm workers have been and continue to be some of the most under-educated and under-compensated individuals in the US workforce, receiving low pay for physically strenuous manual work…”
A dearth of demographic data, noted the letter’s authors has greatly complicated efforts to provide workforce training, legal assistance, medical care and housing for farm workers. Besides Bishop Ramirez, the signatories of the letter included representatives of the Colonias Development Council, Tierra del Sol, New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty, and the Border Agricultural Workers Project of El Paso.

More than three years after the Great Recession struck the United States and nearly two years after the letter was sent, local farm worker advocates are still waiting for action from the US Department of Labor,
despite efforts from Senator Bingaman’s office, said Garcia, who was among the 2009 letter’s signatories.  “It’s kind of paralyzed getting any kind of housing or services for farm workers,” Garcia contended. “We can’t compete.“

Recently, Tierra del Sol lost out on United States Department of Agriculture support for 30 new apartments because of the New Mexico statistical gap she said. “It’s not that the money is not here,” Garcia added. “It’s that this system has failed us because we don’t have the data to plead the case.”

On the other hand, Garcia said her organization was able to get funding for a 40-unit apartment complex in Texas’ Panhandle region thanks to the availability of local data on the role of farm workers in the local economy.
The daughter of a migrant family that once traveled the lettuce trail between California and New Mexico, Dr. Nunez-Mchiri later returned to the Hatch Valley to do field work for the US Census and then her dissertation.
Displaced farm workers cope with their predicament in a variety of ways, some attempting to make a go at with small businesses or selling goods in the informal economy, Dr. Nunez-Mchiri said.
Older workers are less successful in managing displacement, according to Dr. Nunez-Mchiri. “They lose self-esteem….,” she added. “They enter into a great depression. I’ve seen a lot of sadness.”

Younger workers, the rural community expert said, have a better shot of transitioning to other jobs, with some able to land stable employment in local dairies.

“The dairies have been an alternative to field work but they have their risks,” Nunez-Mchiri said, adding that work accidents and exposure to animal infections are routine hazards encountered by the new farm workers.
“It’s just really dangerous work,” agreed farm labor attorney Maria Martinez. The NMCLP is suing the State of New Mexico in State District Court for excluding farm workers from mandatory workers’ compensation
coverage. Three of the five plaintiffs in the lawsuit are dairy workers, Martinez added.

mileyAlthough New Mexico’s historic chile crop declined in recent years, the Land of Enchantment’s dairy industry leaped from the lower rung of the national ladder to the country’s seventh biggest by 2010, according to former New Mexico Agriculture Secretary Miley Gonzalez. Additionally, the dairy industry spun off related businesses like cheese plants, Gonzalez said in an interview before leaving office last month.

Historically, farm workers have confronted cycles of mechanization, displacement, seasonal unemployment and then re-employment. Such trends swept cotton, sugar beets, chile, onions and other crops, said Dr. Dionico Valdes, professor of history and Chicano studies at Michigan State University. The upshot is a work life reminiscent of the “classic depression of the 1930s,”  Dr. Valdes said.

Nowadays, many others are getting  a taste of the sub-contracted employment, constant lay-offs and even institutionalized unemployment long endured by farm workers.  With underemployment factored in, approximately one-fourth of the US work force is either unemployed or involuntarily working part-time, according to many estimates.

Quoted in the Bloomberg News Service this month, a veteran labor market forecaster said he was skeptical the abundance of jobs like that experienced in the late 1990s would return anytime soon.
“I’m not sure we’ll ever return to the type of full employment we’ve had in the past,” said Charles McMillon, president and chief economist of the Washington, DC-based MBG Information Services firm.

For agricultural historian Dr. Dionicio Valdes, farm workers relegated to the shadows of society were among the first to tread a path where others now walk. “It seems like in this, it’s been perfected in agriculture first and then moved elsewhere,” the Midwestern scholar mused.
-by Kent Paterson
This story was made possible in part by a grant from the McCune Charitable Foundation. Used with permission.

Note: All Frontera NorteSur stories may be reprinted free of charge. Stories must be used unchanged, in their entirety, and Frontera NorteSur and ALL other sources must be credited.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Song for Bradley Manning by David Rovics

The talented and universally-minded David Rovics recorded this fresh song. I know not all agree with these sentiments, but I do.

Private Manning was an analyst if what they say is true
He was paid to read reports and find the patterns sifting through
As he read the data the patterns did emerge
Patterns that were clear  both before and since the Surge
Patterns of abuse of the most horrific kind
Gunning down civilians out of view and out of mind
Gunning down the opposition in the middle of the night
Sending off the scholars to be tortured out of sight
Sometimes you need desperate measures when you live in desperate times
And Private Manning saw he was looking at war crimes
He wondered what to do to allow the dead to speak
He finally decided to contact Wikileaks
Now it's all out on the table and everybody knows
The emperor is naked, he's not wearing any clothes

Now Adrian Lamo has to live within his skin
He stabbed Bradley in the back, called the cops and turned him in
But not before the soldier took half a million files
If you printed all the pages they'd stretch on for miles
Evidence against the state right from the horse's mouth
Machinations in the west, bombings in the south
A treasure trove of details for all the globe to see
How much they need to lie and kill for democracy
How many drone strikes have hit villages leaving everyone to die
They blamed on someone else – the official line, “Not I”
How many coups have been plotted by ambassadors who say
That free and fair elections be the order of the day
Now it's all out on the table and everybody knows
The emperor is naked, he's not wearing any clothes

Now the Genie's out of the bottle and they're trying to stuff it back
And stop it from illuminating everything we lack
Such as the rule of law or playing by the book
Look you can read it, it's right here, the ship of state is run by crooks
And they vilify the messengers, call them every name
For daring to blow the whistle on the nature of their game
The game of taking lives and endangering the rest
In order for the wealthy few to do what they do best
Dominate the world for the corporate elite
But now their cover's blown from their head down to their feet
And now the stars and stripes is looking much more like a rag
The lid is off the box, the cat's out of the bag
Now it's all out on the table and everybody knows
The emperor is naked, he's not wearing any clothes